Bikini-Body Eve, Problematic Curses, and Hugs from God (2 Nephi 1-5)

Monday, February 3, 2020

Welcome to our first full-length episode! This week we focus on 2 Nephi chapters 1-5 for February 3rd-9th 2020.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Eve and the Choice Made In Eden by Beverly Campbell. Read about it here.
Beyond God the Father by Mary Daly. Read about it here.
Quote for the translation of beguiled is outlined beautifully in this article.
Read more about the biblical meaning of justice in this article.
The Q.Noor Sisterhood Facebook Group
“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” - Elie Wiesel

Scriptures referenced in this episode:
  • Eve’s participation in the Fall - 2 Nephi 2:
  • Eve’s declaration of the wisdom of partaking of the fruit - Moses 5:11
  • Bridling passions - Alma 38:12
  • The natural man - Mosiah 3:19
  • Abundance in the Promised Land - 2 Nephi 1: 10
  • Commandment of Abundance - 2 Nephi 1: 20
  • Awake - 2 Nephi 1: 13-14, 23
  • The curse of the Lamanites - 2 Nephi 5: 
  • Act, not be acted upon - 2 Nephi  2:14
  • Encircled in arms of love - 2 Nephi 1:15

Transcribed by Maddie Daetwyler of @lightenprint

Hi, I'm Channing.

E: And I'm Elise.

C: And this is The Faithful Feminists podcast. We saved you a seat on the soft chairs. So join us today for a conversation about the chapters in Come Follow Me manual Second Nephi 1 through 5 for the dates February 3rd through 9th, 2020. We're so glad you're here today.

E: Welcome to our first episode. There's a lot to cover in these first 5 chapters of Second Nephi, and I think we see a different type of Nephi come out in Second Nephi, but we also see Eve and we're going to spend so much time talking about Eve, and exploring what she means to us.

C: I love Eve. I feel like if you think about recently, there've been a lot of conversations on Instagram that have talked about Eve. And I feel like, especially over the last couple of years, I've seen a real revival of celebration of Eve within the LDS community. And honestly, if I just stand back and look at all of the conversations being had about her, us Mormon women, we love Eve. There's no better way to say it.

E: Right. And I think that it's pretty distinct and different from even just the way that society, views Eve or other Christian religions view Eve, because I think the way that Eve is set up elsewhere is that she was really the one on who kind of messed up everything. Right? She was the one that got everyone, or I guess just her and Adam, kicked out of the Garden of Eden as if they were leaving something sacred to come to something that was such a let down.

C: Yeah. And I mean, even if you look at both historically and theologically, there are two different generally accepted approaches to the story of Eve. One is that she was evil and made a bad choice on purpose to get people kicked out of the garden because she was of weaker mind and less determination than Adam. And then on the flip side of that in the 1800s-ish, the belief became very popular that Eve was very passive and, again, weak of mind and will. And so when the opportunity was given to her, she wasn't smart enough to say no to the fruit. And so for Eve, for whatever reason, either she was purposefully evil or she was just passively ignorant, either way it's her fault. And so you can't win one way or the other.

E: I think one of the things we wanted to talk about is the fact that Eve really does play a really radical role in the Plan of Salvation, because without Eve, we would have never had the chance to come to earth. There would never be a chance for us to experience all of the joys and all of the sadness that life brings us.

C: Yeah, I agree. And I think a really prominent resource that has helped me in my understanding of that really radical role that Eve plays is the book Eve and the Choice Made in Eden. And that was authored by Beverly Campbell. And it's also come to see a revival, too. It wasn't super popular when it was first published, but within the last few years I've seen it everywhere. Even Deseret Book has a tiny pocket version, but yeah, she really did play a radical role. And I think even in Moses, do you remember off the top of your head with that scripture in Moses is where it's attributed to Eve, where she basically says, if we hadn't partaken of the fruit, then we would have forever been stuck in innocence and we would have never had the opportunity to come to earth and further the work of the Plan of Salvation. And so I think if we're even looking for straight from the scriptures example, it's right there in Moses.

E: I read this book a little while ago and there's a really good chapter about Eve, but it's a book called Beyond God the Father by Mary Daly. And it was the book that just broke me open to feminism in theology. And so I love this book and I love this author, but she has a really nice passage. It just says, “Rather than the fall from the sacred, the fall now initiated by women becomes a fall into the sacred and therefore into freedom.” Right? So instead of thinking about being kicked out of the garden as a punishment or falling from a more heavenly place, we might think of the fall, because of Eve's choice, as something that moves us into falling into freedom, or falling into a new sacred part of our life. Oh, that's beautiful.

E: The other thing that I think that we both really also like about Eve is that she acts, instead of being acted upon. We see a really prominent Eve, someone who is authentic, she's acting and she's speaking and she's creating new life, or creating a new life for not only her and Adam, but for everyone else to come

C: Yep. And I think the LDS church specifically has a really more open-minded or generous, I think generous is the better word there, a more generous viewpoint and acceptance of Eve because they do see her playing that active role. And one of the things that I really appreciated about Beverly Campbell's book was that she included a study of the word beguiled as it's used in the scriptures. And instead of beguiled meaning what we would think it to mean right now, which is that she was tricked or deceived or tempted into making this choice to eat the fruit, the actual Hebrew word for beguiled indicates that it was a real struggle. It was a traumatic experience for her on every level, physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, to kind of come to grips with the choice that was presented before her. And Beverly Campbell also says we have no idea really how long the decision between Eve being “tempted” with the fruit, and when she actually decided to eat it. And so there could have been a long time of deliberation. And with that viewpoint, I think it completely changes the story of Eve. She had forethought, she had foresight and she made an informed decision to eat the fruit. It wasn't like, “Oh, yeah, that's a good idea. I’m going to do it,” right there, right then. She spent time on it. And so I think, at least for me, when I think about Eve, that is one of the things that stands out most when I think of her being an active participant in her life and in her choices.

E: You said that really beautifully. And I think because Eve takes an active role, not only in the Plan of Salvation, but she is an active participant in her own becoming, she gets to decide what that becoming looks like for her. And part of what that looked like for her is coming to earth and gaining a body, which is so, I mean, for as much shame as women often feel having bodies or being told what our bodies need to look like or how they should, or shouldn't act, and behave and sit and dress, and all of those things, I think that Eve is a good reminder that the body liberates us. It's the thing that allows us to have experiences with others. It's the thing that allows us to be happy. And even if the body causes a sadness, it still is the thing that allows us to have a human experience, have a lived experience, here.

C: Right. I'm getting the tinglies listening to you say that, so good. And I think, too, in other faiths that I am aware of, a lot of times they think of the body as something that is a hindrance to your spiritual development, like in yoga traditions and according to the sutras of Patanjali, all of the sacred texts that those people who adhere to, there is so much talk about how you just do whatever you do gotta do, make your body do all of the right things. It doesn't matter if you're in pain, it doesn't matter how you feel about it. You're leaving your body behind when you die anyway. So it doesn't matter. Just get over it. Your body doesn't matter. It's your soul, and your body is the thing that's keeping you from an experience with God. And I think just by looking at the story of Eve, that's just not true. I feel like she worked so hard and risked so much to 1) for her to have the opportunity to have a body and 2) for the rest of us to have a body that I think it does her grand disservice to say bodies don't matter. And not only does her grand disservice, but does our own selves a grand disservice. I just really want the body to mean something, you know? Maybe I'm trying too hard.

E: No, not at all. And what you said before was so good, trying to break away or twist free from the idea that bodies are things that impede us from having a relationship with God I think is really, really painful. And it upholds types of power relations that say, “Oh, everyone, but particularly women, because Eve, you took the fruit in the first place, you are already or doubly at odds with becoming like God, and becoming closer to God.” But I believe that because we have bodies, we're allowed to be with other people. And for me, being with others or loving our neighbor, is loving God. And so, as we love others, which we can only do because we have bodies and because we're on the earth to be with other people, that is the way that we have a relationship with God. Not only through other people, but because we learn and we pray and we yearn and we seek, and we do all of these things that require a body and a mind and a heart. Recognizing that bodies liberate us and that Eve has pushed us into this fall toward freedom and toward new experiences, I think is a really generous way to approach the story of Eve. And hopefully one that the LDS theology has already kind of built up to welcome. I don't think we're making too big of a stretch to offer this type of retelling or reworking of all of the greatness that is Eve.

C: I agree. And I think, well, I hope that looking at Eve as a role model for women in this way also empowers women right now here in 2020 to feel like they can make decisions for their own body. And they do get to decide for themselves what freedom looks like, what they want their future and their life to look like, because if Eve can do it in the balance of the scales between eternal life or eternal ignorance, we can certainly do that now. Right? Because a really hard choice has already been made for us. And so, Eve just has the potential, if we really understand what her motivations were and what her hopes were, not just for her daughters, but for humankind, I think it shows the importance of women taking accountability, responsibility, and actionability in their own lives right now, which is exciting. And I think another thing that's important to note about Eve and her desire and relationship with her own body, but also with bodies in general, is body shame. I feel like in our culture today, even in church culture, there's still a lot of shame surrounding the female body that Eve worked so hard to get for us. And so I think, for example, the other night I was at just kind of a small party with a few friends, and I just noticed throughout the conversation that there were a lot of comments made, you know, it is a new year, so people were talking about their new diet that they were starting and passing around their before and after pictures and talking about, you know, good foods versus bad foods. And just a lot of the diet culture talk, but then right along behind it was like, “Oh man, I used to look so good 10 years ago, but look what's happened to me now.” And I feel like those messages are so ingrained in women that we feel like somehow there's some kind of standard that we have to meet when really, what is the most important part is that we have a body, and it's not good or bad. And the way that bodies look aren't good or bad, Eve didn't eat the fruit to say, “Oh my gosh, I am going to have a bikini body and I'm going to have no hair on my legs or under my arms.” You know, does that make sense? “I'm not going to have stretch marks.” She didn't eat the fruit to get the perfect body. She ate the fruit to get a body. And I feel like that's important to remember for all of us. We're not here to have the perfect body. We're here to have a body and have the experiences that that gives us. And so I think, and I talk about body shame so broadly, but for me, it's a real thing. It's an every day, I get up in the morning and I'm like, “Okay, I have to make a conscious commitment that I'm going to love myself today.” And I think maybe if I were to remember more that my body is meant to be lived in instead of decorated, I guess, I could act, I could be more of an agent of action in my own life, instead of worrying about what everybody else thinks about me. And I feel like, and not to take it too far, but I feel like in the LDS culture there even still is some of that attitude of “the body is meant to be conquered.” I specifically think of that verse from, I don't remember the chapter exactly, Alma, where he talks about bridling your passions. I'm not about to tell you that you shouldn't ever do that, but it does promote kind of a separation from the body and the spirit when really like the intention is for them to be one, I think.

E: Yes. I agree with you. And I think even if we turn to modesty culture in the church, that is absolutely about covering and hiding and being really embarrassed and ashamed of the body that was given to you by God. Right? And so everything that we experience, that we're supposed to bridle those passions, or don't be too carnal, that's exactly what this earth life is about. At least I think that's what this earth life is about. So if I feel lust or pride, or if I have sexual desires as a young woman, like those things, God gave me all of those feelings too.

C: I think in the same breath we can celebrate all of the unique and positive things that LDS belief has given us about understanding better the story of Eve while also looking critically at some of the underlying messages, or seemingly unrelated messages that maybe would undermine still her story, and her desires for us. E; Yeah. Praise be to Eve. I love Eve. And I think I'm really glad that in our first episode, we get to see her. And I hope that we get to spend more time with her throughout the rest of the episodes.

C: I think we will. She's in here quite a bit.

E: Yay. So the next thing that we did notice in these chapters was the idea of the land of promise or the land of Liberty. And this is an idea that keeps being brought up again and again. And so we were thinking, what does it mean for us to have this idea of a land of liberty or a land of promise? And I know that one thing that really struck you, Channing, was the idea of abundance, right?

C: Yes. So as I was reading through this chapter, one of the verses that stuck out to me most was verse 10. And I'm not going to read it to you because that's boring. But I do think some of the things that are good to note is a land of abundance, or even people who live in a land of abundance, God lists the following blessings that they could have -- so they would have a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men would know the great and marvelous works of the Lord, they would have power given them to do all things by faith, they would have commandments from the beginning, they would be brought by His infinite goodness into the precious land of promise. And so there, and I mean, if we think about all of the other promises that are referenced in the scriptures about the land of promise, it's a land of milk and honey, and it's prosperous, and free, and liberty, and all of those key words that have all that power behind them, that all very much strikes me as abundance.

E: No, I agree. And I think that's the word I was looking for, is they also talk about you shall prosper in the land. And so prosper to me, it looks like joy. It looks like plenty. And it also looks like so much that I have enough to share with others so that they might also prosper and have plenty.

C: Right. Right. And so I think, again, that goes back to verse 10. So what I didn't talk about last time was in verse 10, the Lord goes through and talks about a time in the future when His people will no longer be following His commandments. And so they will be losing all of those blessings. So He goes on to say, “They will reject the Holy one and all of His judgments will rest upon them.” And a lot of times we referenced that as justice, right? If we turn away from God, then we open ourselves up to the justice of God. Does that make sense? And even further, in verse 20, he talks about “Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, you shall prosper, but if you do not, then you will be cut off from my presence.” And so I think there we have yes, abundance, but then we also have, I don't want to say conditions, but that kind of what they are.

E: Yeah. I have a hard time, this is just my own qualms with reading the scriptures when they're very black and white, where it's very, “If you do this, then you'll get these things. But if you don’t, cast down into hell.” Right? There's not a whole lot of room for grace or forgiveness or for change. And so I like when we can just remember that God does want to lead us into the land of promise, and there might be some conditions, but I hope that God's grace fills in all of the gaps because God will meet us there regardless. Right? God will show up there for us because that's where God wants us to be.

C: Absolutely. And I think I have a lot of the same feelings about reading the scriptures. In next week's episode there's going to be a lot of, “Wo unto the liar, and wo…” And I'm always like, “Oh, this is all scary and terrifying. And I hate it.” But I always try to dig and look underneath what the author might actually be saying. And so I kind of tried to do the same thing with this chapter and with those verses of prosperity with conditions, specifically, and just as a little background about Nephi -- remember that this family came from Jerusalem. And so even though we think of the Book of Mormon and the Old Testament as separate testaments of Christ, which they are, they are also connected because the lineage comes straight from Jerusalem. And so we can look at the Book of Mormon through a lens of Hebrew. So a lot of times if you read, there's a lot of Isaiah in Second Nephi, you can read the scriptures and also use Hebrew definitions and interpretations of the Book of Mormon, because that is most likely the language that they were written in. And so that is my reference for this next upcoming part. So if you look at abundance, and I'm sorry, I don't have a specific reference for it because I didn't write it down. We can go back and link it in the show notes. But when God talks about abundance as a blessing, it is conditional, because what the Hebrews understood to be abundance or blessings from God arrived to them because of their righteousness, with the expectation that those blessings would be used righteously. And so when there's talk of prosperity, prosperity is meant to be used by sharing it with others. And so when we talk about, when in the scriptures God says, If you do not keep my commandments of prosperity (which is to share it with others), then yeah, you're going to be cut off, because you're not being responsible stewards of the blessings that you've been given.

E: I think, yeah, just like you were saying, when we have so much abundance and we do prosper in the land, I think we can turn back to one of the first and great commandments, right? To love others, and in loving others, we love God. And so if we want to show our gratitude and just our love for God with all of this abundance, it's not about making animal sacrifices to God, but it's about sharing what we have with others. And that looks like charity.

C: Yes. Yes. And so if we don't follow through with the commandment to be charitable, which is to love one another as Jesus would love us, then God has to step in. And that's called justice. And I think a lot of times when I personally think about justice, I'm like, “Oh, I hate that word. It's scary. It means all of the bad things that happen in Revelations, in the book of Revelations, all those things are gonna happen and there's terrifying.” And so a lot of times when I think of the just God, I think of an angry God. I think of a person who's mad that their gift wasn't used in the right way. And so they're coming with a fearful and all powerful vengeance to just wipe everybody off the face of the earth in a giant flood. Right? And so justice to me seems kind of scary. But if we understand that the Hebrews understood the commandment of charity as sharing with others, if you're not following a commandment of charity, God is stepping in. The part of this that's important is, a huge part of the legacy of the Hebrew faith is God is the God that liberated them from slavery in Egypt. And so the Hebrews had an understanding of justice that looks more like liberation than it does look like punishment. And so when God says, “Okay, you're not using the blessings charitably,” then justice needs to play a part. What God is really doing is not coming in and saying, “I'm going to punish you for not doing what you were supposed to do,” and instead He was saying, these resources or these blessings aren't being used in the ways they were meant to be. And so as God the liberator, I'm stepping into do a redistribution.” And so I think when I think of justice that way, as a redistribution of power or redistribution of privilege or resources, then the justice of God is a whole lot more loving than the previous interpretation, if that makes sense.

E: Yeah, it does. And we were just right on the same track because I was thinking, I think it depends on where you are in the social structure for what justice means, right? Because if I'm the oppressor, then absolutely justice will look like punishment. It will look like pain and torment, and me having to give up things that I really hold dear. But sometimes that redistribution, or the leveling out of the scale, feels like I'm really losing a lot of my ground if I'm the one who has had a lot to start with, but if I'm on the other side of the scale and I'm the one who is suffering, who is in pain, who has been oppressed, than justice, absolutely looks like liberation. It looks like freedom. It looks like gaining the things that I need to be my whole authentic self, to be a fully functioning human in society.

C: Right. Yeah. I have nothing to add to that. It's beautiful. Perfect.

E: Thank you. In this same chapter, we see so much repetition of awake. Verse 13 says, “Oh, that you would awake, awake from a deep sleep. Even the sleep of hell.” Verse 14 says, “Awake and arise from the dust.” Verse 23 says, “Awake my sons or my daughters.” Right? And so if we tied the idea of being awake to the idea of abundance, what does it mean? Or what does it look like to be awake to the abundance of God or to the goodness or the blessings of God?

C: I love that. I think we should just take a minute to really think about that question. What does it mean to be awake to the abundance of God? It's going to mean something different for everybody, I think. For me, it means that I am aware of the blessings in my life. That I am, along with that same breath, that I'm aware of the opportunities that I have to share those blessings. But you know, sometimes being awake to the abundance of God can simply be opening your blinds on a March morning and seeing that there's blossoms on the apricot tree. And you're like, “God is so good.” Have you ever had that experience where you're just like, “Man, God is so good.” And it's just the most moving and beautiful experience ever. I don't know. It's just, it's good.

E: I agree. And I think for me being awake to the abundance of God, it reminds me of the hymn Because I Have Been Given Much, right? Because of thy great bounty Lord, each day I live. And so, because I have been blessed and sheltered and fed, being awake to all of those things calls me to share that with others so that others might experience that same type of joy and happiness and fulfillment that I experience.

C: Right. And so I guess a good follow up question to that would be, how do you share the abundance with others?

E: And I think this is where we need to kind of do an inventory of what our abundance looks like, and what are some concrete ways that we can share that abundance with others? Because I think while we can talk about sharing it in the podcast, that only gets us so far. And so what are the ways that we can leave the podcast and concretely, or actually, share our abundance or our gifts or our blessings with other people?

C: Right. I mean, I think It doesn't have to be big things. A lot of times we're like, “Oh, I'm going to donate to a food bank at Thanksgiving.” And that's a great thing to do. That's a great way to share abundance, but personally for me, thoughts like that don't occur all of the time. But, for example, I'll just even think about my day -- today as I was driving home from Costco, I saw on the marquee outside of the city building that I drive by that says “Volunteers needed for Meals on Wheels immediately.” And I don't know that I have an abundance of time or availability to do that, but that would be an example of saying, you know what, I have an abundance of this particular thing, and there's the opportunity to do that. But, maybe you have an abundance of information, so you create a podcast, or maybe you are exceptionally passionate about Mother Eve. And so in this lesson that you have in Sunday School you might say, “Oh, I have so much love for this topic that I want to share it, so that it can bless others,” just in a comment in class. And so I think there are a lot of opportunities and even small opportunities during your day today that you can share abundance. And I think it is a balance between the big things that do make a big impact and the little things that make a little impact because they're still impactful one way or the other.

E: Right. And for me, so I teach at the university and there are a lot of meetings. And in certain meetings with certain people, I feel like I do have abundance of speaking time or speaking power. And so one thing that comes to mind for me is how can I share that abundance or invite others that may be don't have that same abundance or that same power in the meeting. How could I invite them to the table and take a step back from my own abundance? And that doesn't mean I don't have abundance, but it means that I am sharing that abundance with someone else, because I know what that abundance feels like. I know what that feels like to be able to speak my mind in that meeting. And I would love for someone else to feel that way too, right?

C: Yeah. Oh, I bet that feels good. For me, when I was called to teach gospel doctrine, I was like, this is the best thing. Finally, I've always wanted to have the opportunity to teach gospel doctrine. And I felt like, for me being on the receiving end of the abundance of time or opportunity, or maybe clout, I don't know, not that I'm a professional teacher by any means, but even the opportunity to share in that way felt like a huge blessing for me. And one of the other things I thought of about how we share abundance with others, a super easy way is social media. So right now, Australia is basically burning to a crisp, which is so sad, and what I've noticed and been so incredibly happy about is a lot of the really influential people that I follow on Instagram, like Brene Brown or Glennon Doyle, or a lot of the people that have a ton of followers are dedicating space in their Instagram feed and their Instagram stories to call for donations, to call for awareness and that means something. I mean, at the end of their fundraising, they raised something like $500,000 for relief effort for Australia. And it's, it's just a small thing. All they did was share and organize, and everyone just donated a tiny little bit, but all of the tiny little bits together makes a big deal. And so even if you can't go volunteer for Meals on Wheels, share something in your Instagram stories that's meaningful to you and that's how you share the abundance.

E: Yes. And finally we've saved the hardest and most problematic verse for last. This verse shows up in chapter 5 and it talks about the curse that comes upon the Lamanites and it's the curse of black skin, which, I hope that we know, has been the traditional reading of this verse, that sin has caused black skin. And so therefore, an easy jump to make, if you read this verse in the traditional way, is that black people are bad people. Right? And that is incredibly hurtful and absolutely incredibly racist. And I was really impressed with, there was a conversation that was going on on the Q.Noor Facebook page and people were just kind of chiming in and reminding everyone, “Hey, this versus going to come up. And so you need to remind your bishops and remind your Sunday school teachers to have a more generous reading of this verse and not to fall into this trap, or to reinforce this racist doctrine.”

C: Right. And I think too, along with that, I also noticed that there was some conversation about how in the printed version of the Come Follow Me manual for individuals and families, they did not make the correction. There are racist statements in the printed version. And they have since been edited on the online version in your LDS tools app. And so just as a side note of awareness, use the most updated version, which is going to be in your app and not in the printed manual.

E: Yeah, and reading from the online Come Follow Me manual, it says, “Prophets affirm in our day that dark skin is not a sign of divine disfavor or cursing. The church embraces Nephi’s teaching that the Lord, ‘Denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female.’”

C: Yep. That's such a good verse.

E: It is a good verse, and it's a good verse to pair with these verses. Particularly if you're teaching a lesson, and people have questions about these verses. I think the theme we want to talk about is what it means to be a responsible reader of the scriptures. So when we do come across verses like this, how do we respond to them? And I don't think the way to respond to them is to ignore them because by not making a decision, we're actually participating in this hurtful reading of the scriptures.

C: I agree, because I think, what is that quote that says silence is never in the assistance of the oppressed, it's always assisting the oppressor. And so if you're just ignoring it, it doesn't bring awareness to the issue, and it just contributes to one of two harmful ideas, one that this is something that's just awkward for everybody so it doesn't need to be addressed so we can just sweep it under the rug, or two, that it's not a problem anymore, which, neither are accurate. And so, yeah, I like the idea of just straight out addressing it, like man, this verse sucks. And it's been used really hurtfully. So, if I were teaching the lesson, I would hope that I would say something along the lines of, “This verse has been used to harm people in the past. And so I hope today as we go through and discuss it, that we can be mindful of that and have a more generous reading.”

E: I found a verse that I really liked in chapter 2, verse 14, and the last line says, “Both things to act and things to be acted upon.” And this should remind us of Eve, where she made the move to act and not be acted upon. And so as responsible readers, what do we do when we're faced with scriptures that are acting hurtfully on others? How can we step in and take that active role and move ourselves to action or to advocate or to reinterpret things that are acting hurtfully upon other people?

C: One of the things that I also think that we can draw from Mother Eve is her faith, and the scriptures are a gift and they've been given to us to enlighten our understanding of the nature of God. And so I think sometimes it requires a lot of faith for us to maybe step back from more traditional interpretations of the scriptures, and of this verse, because honestly that is the culturally accepted interpretation of that verse, unfortunately. And to make a comment in class about that can sometimes be a really scary and a really hard thing, but our faith compels us to read the scriptures personally, not just as “How do the scriptures apply to God's children generally,” but “How do these scriptures apply to me?” And so I think that goes really hand in hand with the idea of responsible readership. And as I thought about the idea of responsible readership, one of the things that came to my mind was the idea of a car. So when I was growing up, I didn't get my license when I turned 16, I waited for a little while because I was in a really bad accident just before my 16th birthday. And it scared the crap out of me. All of the sudden I had this realization that cars, they're great tools, they're super helpful, they get you to where you're going, but they can also be weapons if they're not used responsibly. And so we can think of scriptures in the same way, that scriptures are a tool to help us understand our relationship with God and our relationship with others. And so, we have a license to use the scriptures. We have to use them responsibly.

E: Yeah, I think it is our responsibility. And I would hope that one of the verses that can be highlighted here actually comes from chapter 1, verse 15, which was one of our favorite verses in this whole block of text. But it says, “I am encircled about eternally in the arms of His love.” And I think we can just remember that this verse means that everyone is encircled about in the arms of God's love. Right? And that is one way that we can twist free from those traditional interpretations of verse 20 and 21 in chapter 5, by saying, “No, God gives God's love freely to everyone, and everyone is welcome in God's arms.”

C: Right. Yeah. I agree. Because, just like that verse that was quoted in the Come Follow Me manual, God denies no one, male or female, rich or poor, bond or free. God loves all of us.

E: I think this is why I was so struck by Nephi’s psalm in verse in chapter 4, because Nephi is struggling with this exact thing that we're talking about. Nephi is trying to sort out for himself, or so it seems, how does he make sense of recognizing all of the ways that he is imperfect and unfinished and still struggling and still sinning and still trying to make things right? How does he take all of that and reconcile it with a God whom he knows will always love him, and a God who always extends Its arm. And I think this is a huge moment of transformation for Nephi, and it is so beautiful to read.

C: Oh, for sure. Because up until this point, I think I even texted you this once, where I was like, man, Nephi’s a jerk. Sometimes when I read the scriptures, like when I read First Nephi, I'm like -- I am the oldest sibling in my family. And I think about my youngest sister trying to tell me what to do. And I would be like, No, girl. I can see a lot of myself in Laman and Lemuel, as far as my relationship with what I imagine my relationship with Nephi would look like. And so even though that sounds kind of bad, part of me is like, no, I get it. I get why they were murmuring a little bit. And so it was quite pleasing to me to kind of see Nephi come to a new understanding of himself, and a new understanding of what it means to be loved by God, because we have Nephi in First Nephi, who's like, I will go and I will do all the things that the Lord commands. And, if I do all of those things, then I'll be okay. But then he gets the promised land. Everything's fine. And then his dad dies, and then he's completely broken open. And I think that it's in that openness that God was maybe able to teach him something new.

E: Yeah, absolutely. And even though it is Lehi’s the death that breaks him open, I think we were talking about how it's tricky because we don't want to say, “Oh, like all things happen for a reason. And hard times are blessings.” Because I think that is really dismissive of the suffering and pain at hand. But if we look at these passages, it does seem like it is Lehi’s death that breaks him open and causes Nephi to share with us some of the questions of his soul, and share with us some new loving interpretations of who Nephi understands God to be.

C: Right. And I think too, as someone who has been through that trauma and been through that suffering, I intimately know what it means to have to have faith and to have to just kind of trust in God's promises without having a lot of evidence in my life, if that makes sense. But maybe this is part of my rub with Nephi. I look at his story and I'm like, he has everything. He knows that God loves him. He knows he's his dad's favorite. He knows he's the golden child, but then all of the sudden after Lehi dies, he is at ground zero. And so he has that experience that maybe some of us have come by in a different way, or have like already experienced in our lives. And so I'm not saying like bad things happen for good reasons, but Nephi obviously used this bad thing that did happen to him as an opportunity to connect with God in a new way.

E: Yeah. And I think Nephi connects with God in this way of asking questions, even though a lot of the questions finished with exclamation points. They still are questions. Right? In verse 33, it says, “Oh Lord wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness? Oh Lord, wilt Thou make a way for mine escape? Wilt Though make a path, my path straight for me? Wilt Thou not place a stumbling block in my way?” Right? So he's saying, “God, can you please do all of these things for me, even though I, in my sorrow and in my moment of darkness, am feeling so lonely.” And I would think that it's hard for Nephi to understand how God continues to be merciful and loving in all aspects of life, in the times of sorrow and in the times of confusion and in the times of question.

C: Right. And I think what's especially beautiful here in Nephi’s psalm is that he suddenly realizes that he's not perfect. He suddenly has, is it in this chapter where he's like, “Oh, wo is me.” Yeah, here he goes. Verse 17. “Oh, wretched man that I am. Yea, my hearts sorroweth because of my flesh and my soul grieveth because of my inequities.” I feel like this is the first time that I've ever heard Nephi I admit that maybe he's done something wrong ever in his life. And so I feel like, even just for someone who struggles with perfectionism like I do, I can look at this and I can say, yeah, I get that, “Oh, wretched woman that I am.” He still has faith enough in that perfectionism mindset to say, “God, do you still love me? Will you still do all of these things for me, even though I've tried my super very hardest, it's not enough.” And I think that moment when you realize, wow, I need grace way more than I thought I did, can be a transformational moment in your faith development, or testimony growth, just recognizing that you can do everything right, always, but you still need your Heavenly Parents to just love you.

E: Right. And They always will. I think that this is a reminder that God's love sometimes can feel undeserved. And I think that's what Nephi is struggling with. How, God, can you still love me? How, God, can you still show up for me when I feel so undeserving of such great mercy and such great love? I think that his psalm is a beautiful, both plea to God and a praise to God.

C: And I like having it in the Book of Mormon because sometimes when I read Old Testament Psalms, David’s Psalms, I get overwhelmed. There's what, 120 of them or more? There's a ton. And I feel like I can never find just the right one, but I love this one here in Second Nephi, because it's short, short in comparison to all of the Psalms in the Old Testament, but it's also just poignant and powerful. And so if I “need a hit” of a Psalm, this is usually where I go.

E: So I hope that in our first episode we've provided some interpretations or some guidance of things that you might think about when you read or you teach. And one of the things we talked about was celebrating Eve and celebrating our bodies. And we talked about the land of promise and abundance.

C: And charity, sharing it with others. And justice.

E: Yes. And along with that justice, what does it mean to be a responsible reader of the scriptures, and how can we remember to find God's love even when we feel undeserving or unworthy of it?

C: Right. Oh, it's beautiful. These are such great chapters.

E: And we'd love to hear what you think about them or how your lessons went, or if from this podcast you decided to redirect your course, we would love to hear how it went for you.

C: Absolutely. And every Sunday on our Instagram page, you can find us on Instagram @TheFaithfulFeminists, we do a Sunday check-in, so that is the perfect time to share how your lessons went, what thoughts you had if you made a comment, or if there was a comment that you wish you had made, we want to create a space for conversation and safety, just so that we can all start connecting with each other, because you guys are all amazing. And this podcast is not just me and Elise talking and spewing stuff at you. We want to hear from you. We want to know what you think. We want to have a conversation around this. And so, yeah, let us know on Sunday. We want to know.

E: We want to know. So thank you. And we'll talk to you soon. Bye!
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