Messages From the Margins (Helaman 13-16)

Monday, August 31, 2020


C: Hi I’m Channing

E: And I’m Elise

C: And this is The Faithful Feminists podcast.

E: But this is not just any Come Follow Me podcast - we do things a little differently here. We offer approachable feminist interpretations of the Come Follow Me manual for those who want to study and understand the scriptures in a framework of equality, social justice, and sisterhood. We’re here to show you all the really good ways faith and feminism work together to illuminate and deepen the gospel experience.

C: We’ve saved you a seat on the soft chairs so join us today for a conversation about Helaman chapters 13-16 for the dates August 31st through September 6th. We’re so glad you’re here.

E: Welcome back everyone! Thanks for joining us on another episode of The Faithful Feminists. Channing and I are in rare form today, you might say.

C: Yeah I think we kind of want to put a disclaimer on this episode because today we're talking about Samuel the Lamanite and some listeners might listen to this podcast and think Wow, Channing and Elise are very angry about Samuel the Lamanite. Which actually is not true! We're just angry about all of the instagram comments and dms in our inbox. This is not about Samuel the Lamanite; we love him and he’s great.

E: Actually, like even more than that we feel like Samuel the Lamanite actually helps embody this kind of emotion and this rage; this like righteous rage that we’re feeling. Because I think, at least on my end, I'm feeling so worked up because I'm trying to center marginalized voices the best way I can. And I feel like Samuel the Lamanite is a marginalized voice and he like forces himself into the center of the Nephi community and says listen to me! And I feel like that is a powerful message especially coming off our Instagram post and just some conversations and experiences we've had today.

C: I agree. I'm excited to talk about him because I feel like he does really embody definitely the experience you and I have had today but overall like just everything I love about this radical idea of prophets and social justice theology and feminist theology. And honestly before we sat down to record this I kind of was like oh yeah like he's a great guy and now I'm sitting down on today with all my feelings and I’m like he's a freaking hero!

E: So now you can tell where we are in our love for the scriptures: it's a passionate fiery one, so we hope that you are along for the ride. Maybe you're feeling a similar type of way and if not don't worry there is still some clarity behind our message.

C: Like always, take what you love and leave what you don't. If it resonates with you, great! if it doesn't it's okay if you leave it. Like half the time we don't want to hear about it [laughing].

E: With all of that said, we are still going to try and channel goodness and uplifting thoughts and we're going to try and start off the episode Channing had a really beautiful idea to try and welcome in other voices to make sure that everyone feels welcome here.

C: Yeah this was an exercise that I actually learned from a mutual friend, her name is Amber Richardson, which some of you might be familiar with her. She is the host of the On Soverign Wings podcast has quite a few Herstory events that focus on women’s experiences in the scriptures and she does a lot of work with Womb Sisters and we just like love all of these people and they’re great and amazing. So, if you don’t follow Amber yet, go give her a follow. Because this is an exercise I learned from her at a retreat at the very like first meeting that we had as a group. And I found it to be a really radical and accepting way to welcome everyone in. And so what Amber did was she had written out some really beautiful statements naming the experiences and identities of the people within the group. Not necessarily by name, but by their social location or by their gender or their race and just really creating a space in this group for everyone. And so what she did was she would say all to all of the women in attendance today, I say ‘welcome.’ And then the whole group would also say welcome. So as we read these statements today, I would love for you to participate wherever you are. When we say welcome, I hope that in your heart you can make space and say welcome also.

C: To our new listeners on the podcast, we say welcome.

E: To our long time listeners, we say welcome.

C: To the youth we know are listening we see you and we say welcome.

E: Welcome wives, mothers, and empty-nesters.

C: Welcome single ladies, mothers of rainbow babies, and women wiser than we.

E: To the men, the women, the transitioned and the transitioning, the queer, and those who find themselves everywhere in between, we say welcome.

C: To our gay, lesbian, ace, and bisexual friends, we say welcome.

E: To our Black friends, our Mexican friends, our Latinx friends, and our Indigenous friends we say welcome.

C: Welcome friends of faith, welcome friends of no faith, welcome friends of foreign faiths, of questioning faith, welcome friends of many faiths.

E: Welcome liberal, conservative, Democrat, and Republican.

C: To the angry, the aching, the weary, the burdened, the lost, we say welcome.

E: To those still in quarantine, we say welcome.

C: To those protesting masks and distance learning, we say welcome.

E: To those protesting and rioting for our Black friends living and gone, we say welcome.

C: To those raising awareness for human trafficking, we say welcome.

E: Welcome friends, welcome haters, welcome lovers, welcome fence-sitters, welcome.

C: Beautiful. Thank you for doing that with me.

E: Thank you for organizing it.

C: Of course, I feel like this was a good way to start of this week’s episode because for me, this is the practice of expansion and acceptance. It kind of forces me to make room in my heart for people who don't look or believe the same that I do and some of those are really difficult for me. Like I don't, I didn't want to welcome everyone on that list. Ya know? Part of me is a little resistant, like...welcome haters? I don’t know! Are you sure? So it really is a practice for me of staying open and ready to receive the message. And I feel like this is a really important position to have when we're talking about the story of Samuel the Lamanite because what's important here is the message and not necessarily the messenger. We're going to do a couple of different readings of the story because there's a lot that we can learn and there's a lot of diversity in the ways that we can read his example into our daily lives and read the like radicalness of what he did at the time. So we're excited to talk about him, but yes, welcome. How was that experience for you Elise?

E: It was actually, it helped me feel a little at peace where at the beginning of the episode I was like I’m gonna lose it! But I feel like okay hang on let me recenter myself, let me remind myself why it is that we do this work and it's not for ourselves it's for everyone listening. And that means everyone because I do believe the deepest part of my heart that everyone is capable of learning and understanding in different ways.

C: Yes, yes I love that.

E: One of the first themes we wanted to talk about when we turned to Samuel the Lamanite is the difference between a prophet and the prophet. Because what we see here is like Nephi is still in the land and he is quote “the prophet.” He is the one who has been given institutional authority and is kind of recognized at the institutional level of being the prophet.

And yet, Samuel the Lamanite he doesn't have the institutional power or title or authority, but what he does have is that feeling in his heart where he knows he has to speak to me can't hold it back anymore. He knows that those words are from God.

C: And also I find it fascinating in the text because he just appears out of nowhere. Like she's like oh all the sudden here is Samuel the Lamanite and then after he like says his piece, the text says and he was never heard from ever again. So he just like shows up for this one experience and then is gone. And it’s just so fascinating to me. So we wanted to do a compare and contrast exercise between the difference that we see in Samuel the Lamanite as a prophet and what we see in Nephi as the prophet. So here we go. A prophet is someone who cries repentance to the people they remind people of what living in right relationship with God and other looks like. The prophet, at least as we understand it in an LDS context, is a position in church leadership.

I like the distinction here between the two between a prophet and the prophet as an action or an activity that someone participates in verses like a position of leadership. Because it kind of levels the playing field a little bit, Like everyone has authority right? Everyone has their own lived experience, which is something that I'm really passionate about, that gives them an understanding of the world that I think everyone should have opportunity to share. And that we can all learn from I think there is value in learning from other people's lived experience and ideas for the world.

E: The next thing we noticed is that a prophet may or may not worship within or identify with a structured institution whereas the prophet holds the highest position of leadership within the LDS church. And what I like about these two points is that it kind of breaks up prophet and prophecy from any type of like state-sanctioned religion and I think it moved us into a more like a religious sense of life. And I think that that's more of an expansive definition because being religious or being spiritual in a larger sense is not confined to a particular religion allows you to have new perspectives that are not prescribed by the particular religion.

C: Going along with that, another distinction that we have is that a prophet may or may not have recognized or sanctioned authority. Whereas the prophet holds all the keys of the priesthood and his power is sanctioned or their authority is recognized within the institution. And I think that the best way to explain this is everyone can bear their testimony right? We all have authority to share what’s on our heart, share testimony, share calls to repentance, or what's on our mind and heart. Whereas the prophet has a specific role and a specific message and they're given plenty of air time, like they have more talks than anyone else at General Conference. Like their words hold a lot a lot of weight.

E: Another distinction that I found powerful is that we can't forget that the people on the ground, like on the ground level of society, have been doing, experiencing, talking, and organizing like long before the prophet says anything. At least that's how I thought, that's one understanding that I have found meaningful. And so I like to think too that a prophet like emerges from the heart of the people, from the least of these, from those on the margins. Whereas the prophet, especially we see in the scriptures it depends on a bloodline and it depends on a title of authority.

C: And in the scriptures of bloodline, but now that you don't necessarily have to be a blood relative to receive the priesthood from someone. The prophet is not the son, like President Nelson is not the son of Thomas Monson. You know it's not like that anymore, but yeah I really like that perspective too Elise.

E: We also noticed that when Samuel the Lamanite appears he appears in the same time period as Nephi. Samuel the Lamanite is not trying to like take Nephi’s position. But there also isn't a whole lot of collaboration that goes on between the two. There is a verse that talks about Samuel the Lamanite kind of pointing the people to go to Nephi to like further their understanding of gospel-related things, but it kind of seems like they're almost operating independently from one another. And that makes me ask myself well, could a prophet and the prophet be in opposition to one another? Maybe not that they're preaching different things, but that their experience is different and their direction is different and maybe this could cause some friction.

And I bring this up because in 3rd Nephi chapter 23 verses 9 through 12 Jesus, I love this part, Jesus comes and he says to Nephi basically like what the heck Nephi? This is verse 9: I command my servants Samuel the Lamanite that he should testify unto this people that at the day that the father should glorify his name in me that there would be many saints who should arise from the dead and should appear unto many and should minister unto them. And he said unto them was it not so?

C: Jesus is like throwing it down!

E: Jesus is like, let me get this straight. I commanded Samuel to do this...right everyone? And then the disciples answer him, yea Lord Samuel did prophesy according to thy words and they were all fulfilled. And Jesus says back, Howbeit that you have not written this thing? That many saints did arise and appear unto many of them? Right? Then Jesus is like, then why didn’t you write it down?

C: [laughing] This is just too much keep going!

E: And then Nephi, okay this is 3 Nephi 23 verse 12, And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written. Like oh shoot, I forgot, I forgot that Samuel was around too. And it came to pass that Jesus commanded that it should be written therefore it was written according as He commanded. I love this little set, like I love this little scene! And I think it's kind of, at least in this story that we’re that we're working through right now, it might suggest that maybe Nephi left Samuel the Lamanite out on purpose. And Jesus is like nope!

C: He’s like, I'm sorry you made a mistake. Here let me fix this for you. I'm sorry you did that so well can you just like read the scriptures for us from here on out? Like I would pay to have you read the scriptures on the LDS tools apps. Like if I could just select speaker, I would choose Elise.

E: Which means you’d get like sassy, sarcastic, and a little dry.

C: I would pay for that!

E: Thanks. You’re a good friend! So, I don't know what this means about can a prophet and the prophet be at odds with one another but it also suggests that somehow they can also be reconciled in Jesus the Christ. Somehow Jesus can come make it all better and say hey don't forget these forgotten stories. And I think that's a hopeful message even as we look for women's experiences in the scriptures that I feel like Jesus and God always like hey, didn't Elise and Channing have this experience? Let's write that down.

C: Right? Like I hope it’s Rizzo Heavenly Mother! I’m sorry, I’m sassy today.

E: Yes exactly! She’s keeping note of us.

C: I love that though, that idea that like even if in humanity were kind of odds with each other that Jesus is like, it's alright we'll make it all better. Like everyone has room here. We’ll make sure that it all fits. That it all happens the way it needs to go. And yeah I agree that is really, really hopeful.

C: The second theme that we find striking from the story of Samuel the Lamanite is the idea of a prophet from the margins. And this is a phrase that I heard originally on the A Thoughtful Faith podcast; forgive me I don't remember the episode probably because there was a lot of them that talked about this. This idea of profits from the margin was really influential for me in my faith transition and faith journey. And so we're really excited to introduce this topic, or at least share our thoughts and viewpoints on what prophets from the margins are. So we’ve kind of defined prophets, a prophet and the prophet, so it might be beneficial here to offer a definition of a margin. So, a margin is defined as an edge or a border and if we take it one step further the word marginalized means a person treated as insignificant or peripheral.

So Samuel the Lamanite is a prophet from the margins of the Nephite community because he’s a Lamanite. Just by who he is he's already marginalized to the people that he's speaking to.

E: To bolster this point too in Helaman chapter 16 verse 7 it says that after like the people have ran Samuel the Lamanite out of the town forever it says that he went back to his own country and began to preach and to prophesy among his own people. And so you do have the sense that he is a stranger or an outsider in the Nephite community where he's doing his preaching and that when he gets ran out, he's returning to the margins or to his community. This also makes me think of something that's called standpoint theory which suggests that marginalized or oppressed people can help create kind of a more objective account of the world because they are outsiders within. They live and experience the world on the margins and yet they also have to participate in the dominant culture and group. And so they have to be fluent in both of these standpoints or both of these perspectives. And their unique position allows them to see and point out patterns of behavior that those who are immersed in the dominant culture can't recognize.

C: I think it relates really well to the conversation of privilege and how sometimes we can be blind to our own privilege. We need people to point out to us, hey it's not actually the way they think it is. And instead of getting defensive being like, what the heck what are you talking about? It’s valuable to recognize that prophets from the margin or welcoming in people with a differing perspective from ours can sometimes show us our blind spots. And that’s a really powerful and inclusive way to form a community. Prophets from the margins is a pretty radical concept, especially in a community like ours that relies really heavily on centralized structure and authority, so we wanted to explore some possibilities of what it might look like if we had a prophet from the margins come to us today. And this is going to require some imagination and some creativity and some radical welcoming and acceptance. So Elise, what do you think a modern day prophet from the margins would look like?

E: I feel like there are actually many all among us and I feel like it maybe if we thought of them as prophets then maybe we would heed their words more so than we are normally inclined to maybe? But I think a prophet on the margins would be someone who, again, emerges from a community that is not the center of attention that has been pushed aside. And yet as the prophet they're saying, you need to pay attention to us you need to listen to our words! This is what I'm experiencing and I'm sharing it with you because it's my lived experience I am a part of this community and so don't dismiss what I have to say because you don't live here. You don't have this experience, so you don't get to say what's best for us. We get to say what's best for us and I would think that maybe the prophet from the margin would do that. But what do you think?

C: I think really explicitly a prophet from the margins in our LDS community would be a Black woman. I think it would be the parents of a bisexual child. And I think of like Sistas in Zion and I think of our friends at Beyond the Block and I think of all of those people as prophets in some way, shape, or form because they're sharing their experience publicly, loudly, and in an effort to make a change. And it's up to us if we're going to listen or throw rocks at them. So this idea of prophets from the margins has really opened me up to recognize that people who are speaking from outside of the centralized institution hold so much more value and so much more wisdom than I had granted them previously and that the majority within the institution like still doesn't grant them. And I feel like Samuel the Lamanite is a really good example of that because the Nephites hate him. They hate him a lot.

E: And I also think that he shows that like the work of a prophet on the margins is like it's tiring and exhausting it is discouraging and yet, like he gets pushed out and it comes back in like gets up on the wall and he's like I still have more to say is like there's still so much that can be fixed here and then he gets pushed out again and I can only imagine that when he returns to his community they welcomed him and they help brush him off and they build up his courage and they help him practice speaking and they'll just give life into him. And I would guess that he continues doing the work. I think it's a life-long work, though it's exhausting.

C: When you said that I literally I could not help but think about the women. Like I could not help but think about Samuel the Lamanite’s wife, or his mom, or his sisters, or like the women who are like, did you get home and you're hungry? Like here we have all these leftovers! And not trying to play into gender norms right. But like there are people back home who love him. And it is really...Elise I’m so glad you brought that up because it is a really lovely like conclusion to the story to just imagine him being able to go home and have them say, we're so proud of you.

E: And I would like to think too that like Samuel the Lamanite is informed, his prophesy is informed by the experiences of his people and his community and that includes women. That includes the least of these. So I would hope that when Samuel the Lamanite goes to the Nephites and gets up on the wall it's not just, he’s not just speaking from his own experience. He's bringing with him stories and the woes of everyone in the community, the women included.

C: The other question that I thought, that I just love to have like a conversation and pick your brain on, is how do we think Jesus feels about prophets from the margins. I have my own opinions on this and I’m sure you do too so I'm excited to hear like what do you think?

E: I think Jesus is like, um hello I am a prophet from the margin. Is that what you think too?

C: Yep!

E: So, I think Jesus is all about that. I think Jesus is about the everyday-ness of prophets. I think Jesus is about encouraging people to listen to the words that come to their heart which is exactly what Samuel the Lamanite does and as you align yourself with God and goodness and godliness I think Jesus says like, yeah go for it. Speak out against these systems of oppression! Find least of these and care for them and make your voice heard.

C: I agree and I think going along with that like I never once saw Jesus going on his knees to the Pharasees and being like, please accept me. Please reconize my authority like don’t you know I’m the son of God? No. He’s like, I’m the song of God what is wrong with you *beep!* [laughing] I will bleep myself but.

E: Yeah it’s not a permission asking. And thinking about what you had shared last week about Heavenly Mother, it's not about asking for permission it's about recognizing that the power is already within us.

C: The final reading that we wanted to do of Samuel the Lamanite’s stories is do what we did a couple of episodes back and do an internalized reading because we think that the story also has implications for us personally. And we can kind of flipped the script and turn the tables to gain even more insight and depth from Samuel the Lamanite.

E: I know we just talked about like how the power is within you and there's a community to tend for you and I think we need to be careful to not like build up prophets on the margins as being this like glorious fantastic life that one might lead because it is hard. No one wants to listen to you, everyone rejects you, they hate you, they want to kill you like there is something about being a prophet on the margin that feels threatening to the people in the dominant culture, the people who are already privileged.

C: Right. And the Nephites hate Samuel the Lamanite so much that they like shot arrows and threw rocks at him on the wall and like they literally tried to kill him. That’s how much they hated him. And I personally like I don't hate anyone that much, but there are some people and there are some days like today where I’d really just like to punch them in the face. I’d really just just rather like given to my natural like woman side and say like nope, today I’m just mad and I’m going to do whatever the heck I want. But I think that it’s valuable to look at that story that way and recognize ourselves as the Nephites, to recognize in ourselves that tendency to resist messages and people that we don't necessarily like. So as you're reading the story this week I want to encourage you to come to the text with a couple of questions.

The first one maybe consider what people in my life do I strongly disagree with? Could they possibly have something to teach me? What messages do I have a hard time receiving?

E: I'm so glad that you're asking these questions because they should make us uncomfortable they should make us look at ourselves and our privilege and say where do I use my privilege to only listen to people that reaffirm my own understanding? Where do I push people away because they challenge me or because they remind me that my work is not done?

C: It also asked me to be really, really humble and consider that maybe I don't know everything. And maybe I do still have something to learn and maybe these people can teach me that. And that's a really difficult and uncomfortable place to be because it's just like rips your whole pride and ego iapart. It's really tough but it's important and it is, it's part of the work. It really is hard work.

E: And to be clear I don't always think that everyone who has like blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, and just violent ideologies and behaviors I don't think that those are the people that we should say I think you’re a prophet from the margin. Like I will invest my time in my energy into into hearing you out and listening to what you have to say so that maybe I can learn from you. Because I think what’s embedded in that type of ideology and rhetoric is intolerance and I don't necessarily think that I have time and space and energy to be tolerant of intolerance. I want to look the prophets on the margin who are saying here's how we can do better work. Here's how we can be more inclusive, here’s how we can build a more utopian worldview, here’s how we can right our wrongs and do better on all accounts to make this a safer world for everyone. I don't want to listen to people who are like, nope power and privilege for only the few. The rest need to suffer under the hands of the state.

C: That's a really, really, really excellent point because you’re right. We don't. We are busy. We have things to do and we don't have time to spend on hate. Like I just I really had to embody that this year as we've been doing the podcast to just get really, really clear about what I have time for and what I don't have time for. And yeah, you’re right, I don’t have time for hate. Like I don’t have time to tolerate intolerance. Right, it’s just a fact.

E: Yet it’s so hard it's like both of these things exist at the same time. How do I keep myself open and listening to the prophets on the margin and how do I keep remembering to welcome the stranger and how do I set boundaries that allow me to not have people in my life that are filled with hate and want to spread hate?

C: Yeah well I think one, it requires discernment. But I think you can be welcoming and discerning at the same time. I think you can stay open and you can also practice non-attachment. Like you can also say like I love you, I see what you're saying, I see like that you really believe this thing. I don't. It doesn't align with my values, but I still love you as a person. Even though I don't agree with you. And I think in that way we remain teachable, maybe not necessarily to the lessons that that person is trying to teach us but that we remain teachable to the lesson that God is trying to teach us through that interaction with that person. Does that make sense?

E: That’s so good. You said that so well. That’s just fantastic. And I think you're right. It can be both and at the same time. And I think what you're pointing to is a practice of holding these two things, that are seemingly so opposed, how do we cultivate that space in our self to hold these conflicting (air quotes) ideas at the same time so we can be humble and teachable and still practice love for everyone.

C: Well, God is love. I don't know like how else to say that except for God wants us to live in love. And that’s the only way that I can interpret like those interactions and still remains like in the constant flow of love. Is to just say what am I here to learn from this experience. And stay open to it.

E: And I think one of the sad things about Samuel the Lamanite is that he wants to come to the people and say, like, he has his goodness to share with them. Though the call to repentance might be hard to hear I think he’s advocating for repentance over punishment. I think he’s saying please, please, please like I'll try this a thousand times so that you change your behavior on your own so that you don't reep this big punishment on yourself. Like there is so much light and goodness and life in a different way than you're experiencing right now that could just be so beautiful and enriching.

C: Well it reminds me a lot of Moses who was like, let my people go or all these things will happen. And I feel like every time he was like please just do the thing. I don't want to send you the plague. I don't want to send you locusts. I don't want to do any of that! Just please do the thing alright? And they don't do the thing and it sucks for everyone. So I don't know, from my own experience when something is so heavy on my heart and I'm so passionate about it and I just like can you not see how simple the thing is? Like, I don't know how many different ways to say Black lives matter. I don't know how many different ways to say like, believe her. I don't know how many different ways to say stop building your temples on the farmland that grows my food. I don’t know how to say any of those things any different. Save yourselves because if you don’t stop what you’re doing, we're all going to die together. It’s gonna be miserable. We literally literally make our own hell, right? Like living in unrighteous relationship with each other is the worst thing that I can possibly imagine. Like I cannot imagine anything worse than a world where Black people live in fear every single day. Like I can't. I can't imagine that there's anything worse than the situation that we're living in right now. Like sure, volcanoes could be exploding or like an asteroid could hit the Earth or whatever. Right, like we could all be in war with each other, but honestly aren't we already? Like aren’t things already kind of bad? And all we would have to do is make some different choices. I know this is like a total rant, but like that's how I feel. Just everyone, be nice to each other and the whole world would be different. It's not that hard, come on.

E: It’s hard because on one level like it does seem that simple. Why can’t everyone just be nice to each other and yet there's like a gazillion systems at play that reward us for not being nice to each other. That reward us and make things safe and easy for us and only us. And not everyone.

C: Yeah, we have work to do. We all have work to do. I just want to remind you because I also have a tendency to do this, that these questions we want you to take them into your heart. Don't gift them to someone that you think needs them. And I'm laughing because I've done that before. Just remember that this practice is for you and you alone. Because like Gandhi says and like Samuel the Lamanite shows, we must be the change that we want to see in the world. And a movement toward grace and kindness, toward accepting and welcoming, is always in the right direction.

E: Thank you so much for joining us on this week's episode. Thanks for riding the emotional rollercoaster with us from calm peace to wild emotion and back again. We hope that you found this episode enlightening and we hope that if you listen to the episode before you read the scriptures, maybe you'll be able to read the scriptures with a different lens than you did before.

C: We always love hearing from you and we so appreciate being able to spend this time with you every single week. Honestly it's my favorite thing to log on Instagram on Sunday and see all these people being home church study today listening to The Faithful Feminist podcast. We are so honored to share this time with you every week we love you and we’ll see you next week.
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