High Horses at North Union (Doctrine & Covenants 49-50)

Monday, May 10, 2021


Big thank you to Mary for working on this transcript!

TFF 2021 D&C Episode 19 D&C 49-50

Channing: Hi! I’m Channing.

Elise: And I’m Elise.

Channing: And this is The Faithful Feminists podcast.

Elise: [00:00:12] 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 are here to show you all the really good ways faith and feminism work together to illuminate and deepen the gospel experience. 

Channing: We saved you a seat on the soft chairs. So join us today for a conversation about Doctrine and Covenants sections 49 through 50 for the dates May 10th through the 16th. We're so glad you're here.

Elise: [00:00:58] Welcome back. We've got two sections for this week, and we've got a lot of ideas because these sections are wild. But I think for today we're going to spend a lot of our time focusing on the relationship between the early Mormon saints and a Shaker community nearby focusing on some of the similarities, but also some of the differences. When we turn to the “Revelations in Context” book to get kind of the background story of what's going on for section 49, we encourage you to read the section because the story is well worth it, but we just want to summarize and pull out a few highlights here. This chapter introduces Leman Copley, who was a former Shaker, converted Mormon now, and they also introduced the Shakers. They make special note to say that the Mormons and the Shakers had a lot of things in common doctrinally, they believed in a general apostasy and agency, but they also had some differences that end up getting called out and condemned in section 49, such as this Shakers believed that baptism or any other ordinance wasn't essential for salvation. They believe that Jesus Christ had already returned to the earth in the form of mother Ann Lee, who was the early Shaker leader. They also encouraged vegetarianism and insisted on absolute celibacy. And up until section 49, the Mormons and the Shakers actually have a pretty good relationship with one another. The text says that they are kind of, like, neighbors, they trade and they share, and perhaps they were even friends, but the turning point happens when Leman Copley goes to Joseph Smith to talk about the Mormons in the Shakers and Joseph Smith asks God what's going on with the Shakers and receives this revelation, section 49. And in it Leman Copley, Sidney Rigdon, and Parley P Pratt are called to serve a mission to the Shakers and to take this revelation and to read it to them. When they arrive to the Shaker settlement, they start engaging in, like, a religious debate. But the next morning, the Shaker leader Ashfelt Kitchell says, look, like, let's not force our beliefs on one another. Let's just leave it. Let's keep good spirits. And so Sidney Rigdon actually decides not to share the revelation, section 49, with the congregation in their Sabbath day service. Like, he's trying to be respectful of what the leader is asking for. And then, oh my, Parley P Pratt comes in, like, storms in, on his high horse, literally a horse and basically says, Nope, do not listen to Kitchell. We came here with God's power and authority, and we have to read this revelation to the people. And so after the Sabbath day service, Sidney Rigdon gets up and reads it. And you can only imagine the sentiment and the tension that continues to grow during this encounter. Kitchell tries to keep his composure and basically says, like, look, don't worry about preaching to us. I'm going to take care of the people and more of his congregants stand up and say, yeah, you know what? We're happy with what we have. So thanks. But no thanks. But then here comes high horse Parley P Pratt who, like, stands up and, like, dusts off or shakes off his coattails and basically says, Oh, you're less than us because you've rejected the word, like, you've rejected the word of the Lord Jesus. And at this point, obviously Kitchell gets pissed off.

Channing:[00:04:24]  But Kitchell would not tolerate it. His forbearance at its limit, understandably, the Shaker leader, denounced Pratt in full sight of his congregation saying, “You filthy beast. Dare you presume to come in here and try to imitate a man of God by shaking your filthy tail. Confess your sins and purge your soul from your lusts and your other abominations before you ever presume to do the like again.”

Elise:[00:04:54]  Phew. So it continues to really go downhill from here and dissolve from here and revelations and context makes it clear that there's not a good relationship anymore between the Mormons and the Shakers after this event. And as for Leman Copley, he ends up having a complicated relationship with the Church and finally ends up leaving the Church around 1838. So I have some thoughts about the story and the first kind of image that comes to mind that I can't get out of my head is Parley P Pratt strolling up on his horse, storming up into the congregations meeting, the Sabbath service, and just, like, demanding that the Mormon missionaries call out or read this revelation that is in direct contrast or conflict with what the Shakers believe. Maybe people are familiar with that kind of phrase, like, oh, get off your high horse. That's literally what I keep thinking about, because I think it's a really good snapshot of a high horse moment, especially with Parley P Pratt, literally riding in on his horse to publicly call out the Shakers and their doctrine. But I think that this call-out is different than other conversations that we've had about calling out or getting called out in the past for a few reasons. The Shakers aren't doing anything violent or egregious or unlawful. And they're also not from what I can tell, actively hurting people in the process.  It also seems that the three missionaries went to north union with a clear purpose. That sounded, like, we’re, right and you're wrong. In fact, you're so wrong that we're showing up to your service and unleashing the wrath of God on you. There's not a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship where both religions or both groups of people can learn from one another and learn to understand one another in a spirit of discussion and conversation. Also the missionaries aren't even willing to look at their own doctrine and selves first, which is even more ironic when these same criticisms can be wielded at the Mormons when they institute the practice of polygamy, which we'll get to.  Yes. And then finally, I think that they fail to recognize all of the ways that Mormons and the Shakers are there to learn and share. Right? How could both communities have blessed each other? How could they have both shared resources? How could they have kept each other safe? How could they have, like, kept each other open to asking questions and receiving feedback, especially when we know what the relationship was like before this instance, right? It was friendly. They were kind of, like, neighbors. They traded, they shared, I think that this could have been a good relationship, but this high horse pride and thinking that we have all of the truth and it's our duty and we have the authority to kind of shoot people down. This is the attitude for me that, like, sours the whole story.

Channing: [00:07:47] Well, yeah, not just that, but after they delivered their whole sermon, which is section 49, you can go back and read it. They expect that they're just going to be allowed to come back and share more when really what they did was poopoo all over their, like, really strongly held beliefs. Like, what the heck?

Elise: [00:08:08] I also think that this is an example of both, like, religious supremacy, right? Thinking that our religion is better holier or more righteous than others religions. And therefore we have the right to basically do whatever we want. So it's an example of religious supremacy. I also think it's an example of religious saviorism or thinking that we know the needs and the wounds of a community better than they know themselves. And therefore it's, like, our duty to come in and save them or seeing people who are different from us as in need of saving. And then finally, I think it's an example of religious intolerance, which is this unwillingness to let other people act or believe in different ways than you, or hold different opinions from you, which can often turn really violent. We can see this echoed in section 49, verse two, which talks about the Shakers “desiring to know the truth, but not all of it”. And so, therefore they're “not right before God and they have to repent”. And in verse five that says, “he that received him not shall be damned”, speaking of people that don't receive Jesus Christ.

Channing: [00:09:07] Well, speaking of people that don't receive what they think is Jesus Christ, because the Shakers believed that Jesus Christ had already returned back to the Earth in the form of a woman named Ann Lee. And they, like, welcomed and embraced her into the community. So it's not even just, like, oh, they don't believe in Jesus, like, they believe in Jesus so hard that they think Jesus is already here and the Mormons are mad about it.

Elise: [00:09:37] Yeah. Yes. I'm so glad that you clarified that. Absolutely. So with this story, I've been thinking a lot about the ways that religious intolerance might show up. My own life or might show up like in myself. And there's a really great book that's titled “The New Religious Intolerance; Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age”, by Martha Nussbaum. And in this book, she sketches three principles for trying to address fear and religious intolerance. And I just want to share them briefly with you. The first thing that she suggests we can do is try to cultivate equal respect for human dignity. That means seeing people as complex humans with divine, right, and dignity, this means recognizing that we might actually move throughout the world with an underlying what she calls, “failure to welcome and respect people who are different.” That's to say that we don't always see dignity in other people. She continues to write, “The majority does not say I'm the norm, now you fit in. It says, I respect you as an equal. And I know that my own religious pursuits are not the only ones around, even if I'm more numerous and hence more powerful, I will try to make the world comfortable for you.” Which I think is a really loving sentiment. The second thing that she suggests is to take a good long look at ourselves and try to live what she calls an examined life. Or that is to say, why are we pointing at the mote in our sister's eye when we've got a giant beam in our own eyes, which I think that we can see really acutely in this story. It is interesting to me that the saints have been struggling with their own converts in Ohio, but missionaries are still being sent out to, like, go tell other religions what they're doing wrong. And that's pretty disheartening to me. And the final thing that Nussbaum suggests is that we need to practice shaping a really robust imagination or the capacity to see the world from the perspective of marginalized peoples. And this suggestion, she writes that what is being demanded of us is really the bare bones of friendship. “Curiosity, listening, responsiveness, a willingness to acknowledge a full life and world over there outside of ourselves.” She continues, “Friendship is rarely uncritical and friends may well differ in their evaluation and argue, sometimes fiercely, but to remain friends, they must take the first step of trying to see the situation from the other point of view. Only the inner eyes or our imagination can tell us that what we're seeing is a full human being with a wide range of human purposes and goals, rather than a weapon, assailing our safety or a disgusting piece of garbage.” And this is really striking to me because I think that we can see the deterioration of the relationship between the Shakers and the Mormons in this snapshot “high horse” event. And with the context story paired with Martha Nussbaum's work here are some things that have been rolling around in my mind, questions that I have, and I invite you to join me in thinking of them. First, who do I think I know better than? In what ways does our current church practice encourage this “high horse” mentality? In what situations do I feel the need to, like, metaphorically dust off my coat tails and a big “F-you” moment because someone doesn't agree with me? How can I better recognize when fear or worry or harmful stories about other people are moving me away from not toward a spirit of curiosity and friendship? And finally, how does my holding on so tightly to my own understanding of truth cloud my view of others, whom I might have had more in common with than I originally saw?

Channing: [00:13:43] I love that you asked these questions because some of these are really tough to answer. Who do I think I know better than? Off the top of my head. I can give you a list of at least five. And it's hard for me and I think it's probably hard for a lot of people to be vulnerable enough to do this level of self-examination. And I think that the ability to sit with and answer these questions indicate a level of, like, humility and maybe maturity that really could bless not just ourselves, but our whole entire community. If we're looking to find someone to blame for all of our problems. If we're looking around ourselves and all we see is pieces of garbage. If we're looking around and see that there's either nothing worth saving or too much to save, then we're either too tired or we're unmotivated to do anything to really participate in our community. And an attitude of, like, I don't know, saviorism or exceptionalism, I think with good intentions might at first seem, like, helpful, like, you're wanting to help these people become better, but really communities rely on reciprocity. And it's only in the spirit of communication and humility that we are really able to care for one another. And so I'm really grateful that you asked these questions because I think that they're an important part of what it means to experience Doctrine and Covenants section 49. 

Now that we've been able to set the context for section 49 and have a really dynamic conversation about what it means to be in community and what it means to examine ourselves in our own spirituality before looking outward. Now I want to spend some time looking at the content of section 49. And the way that I wanted to do this today is by picking apart some of the verses. And the first verse that I'd like to explore is section 49, verse eight. And this verse reads, “Wherefore, I will [and this is God speaking] that all men shall repent, for all are under sin, except those which I have reserved unto myself, holy men that you know not of.” And I think I'd like to play with this verse a little bit, mostly to demonstrate how poking holes in and turning a verse upside down on its head can offer us a few different perspectives and ways to understand even just the smallest snippet of text. So let's start with the first part of the verse. It says, “I will that all men shall repent.” Okay, this is pretty standard, if we excuse the sexist language. But as we get further into the verse, especially the part that says, “for all are under sin.” I have some more thoughts and questions about this one. I think the statement “for all are under sin” is kind of a yes and no. I mean, doesn't it depend on how we interpret it. As Mormons, do we believe that mortality is a sin? Do we buy into the idea that the garden of Eden was the most ideal place for us to be, and any action that takes us out from there is sin? I would argue that as a whole modern Mormonism does not believe this, but this verse does indicate some kind of original sin-esque attitudes. If we play with the verse some more I wonder again about the “all” qualifier. All? All are under sin? I can understand an approach of all mortals have sinned some, but everybody? All would have to include everyone, children too. And again, let's play with the word sin. The word sin sends a message to me that says sin is a very, like, capital, Very Bad Thing to do. And some may argue that sin is just an all encompassing catch all word that catches any mortal misdeed, big or little. And again, even though we believe that God does not have even the least allowance for sin. What qualifies as sin? Certainly murder, rape abuse, abduction, discrimination, stealing those definitely count. And they're easy to categorize and recognize as sin. But what about lying? Littering, dishonesty, cheating, bullying? Those are a little less easy, but still pretty distinguishable. But then we get into the really nitty-gritty. What about breaking the rules or going over the speed limit, running a stop sign, texting your friend saying I'm on my way, but you haven't actually left the house yet? What about calling sick into work for a day of hooky or sloughing or ditching school? Not keeping your promises, even if intentions were good? What about gossiping or tattling? What about that? I think my question here is at what point on the gray scale does the everyday condition of the natural man turn into sin? And do we truly believe ourselves mortal as we are to be qualified to discern between the two? We say on the outside, and I'm speaking generally about Mormons here, that we believe that “men are, that they might have joy” and “we believe men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam's transgression”. But then we also have statements like this, “all are under sin.” Which if you're Christian or Mormon for more than two seconds, you'll know, that means that you're headed to hell in a lace-Relief-Society-tablecloth-lined hand basket. And I'd like to pretend that I have an answer for you today, but I don't. Today, I'd like to act as a hole poker and a balloon popper, and let's see what falls out. If we continue on this first, let's explore some more. It reads, “Except those which I have reserved unto myself, holy men, that you know not of.” Holy men, not holy women, or maybe if they know not of them, perhaps they could be men or women or neither or both. Perhaps this was one way where God was like, all right, I'm going to work with you because you're all I've got. So what kind of work around can I offer here? And for all of our feminist readers who are looking at this first and section 49, let's use that rhetoric that we know so well, that the biblical word man and mankind also includes women, let's use it to our advantage. What would it mean to have holy women “that they know not of”? Why do they not know of them? What keeps us from knowing of these holy women? And these are just a couple of questions that I have about one verse. I really wanted to demonstrate to our listeners, look at what we can do with a single verse. And this is what we call on the podcast doing a close reading, but this is a valuable lens to take to the texts. It means that we don't, we don't have to overwhelm ourselves if we don't have the energy or the stamina to do an entire chapter. Even just picking apart one single verse can offer a wealth of questions and a wealth of perspectives and different directions for study. So I encourage you to try this out. If you are feeling up to it. And the other verses that I wanted to examine in this section come a little bit later, and these are verses 15 through 18. And we'll start in verse 15, this one reads, “And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife and they twain shall be one flesh.” And this verse, especially in the context of section 49, totally reminds me of that playground saying, “I am rubber and you are glue, whatever you say, bounces off me and sticks to you,” because this chapter is speaking directly to the Shakers. And it's funny, you know, because literally, and I'm not saying that in, like, valley girl way, literally three years later the early Saints begin practicing polygamy, which is distinctly, by definition, explicitly more than one wife and more than one flesh. You know what I mean? For a community that sure seems concerned about the sexual practices of others. It seems to me, just like you said earlier, that a little bit of self-examination of our sexual attitudes and practices might have been a better, more rewarding use of the early saints time and energy than preaching to the Shakers about how they should use their genitalia. And as if this wasn't enough, the verses go further saying, “and all this, that the earth might answer the end of its creation and that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation.” And so with a little bit deeper reading, it seems that the concern is even less about intercourse or the lack of it, but about reproduction. And who contributes the burden of labor to reproduce? Women do. And so to me, these verses aren't even about how God feels about having sex. It seems that this is how God feels about having babies. And as high and mighty as these verses seem to make the act of reproduction by throwing around language like “fill the measure of creation”, yada, yada, I also think it subtly illustrates the author's attitude about the role and value of women. And so I'd like to look at this verse in the context of the following verses, which interestingly enough, concern meat eating. Verse 18 reads, “And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God; For, behold, the beasts of the fields and the fouls of the air, and that which cometh of the Earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.” It's super interesting to see these two verses side by side, because I think what has happened here is that the Shakers simply by being themselves and living according to an ethic that they hold strongly has somehow upset or offended or worried these Mormon men into a perceived threat to their way of life over two explicitly mentioned hot button topics. The first, how they view and partake of food. And the second, how they view and partake of women. This conversation would definitely fall under the umbrella of eco-feminism, which we've talked about on the podcast before. And so I'll only briefly define it here as the intersection of the oppression of women and the abuse of the environment. Like I said, we've covered it on the podcast before so check out some of our other related conversations for context. But for now let's read verse 18 again and just change some wording around and see how it changes the meaning. “And who's so forbiddeth to abstain from women, that man should not partake of the same, is not ordained of God; For, behold, that which cometh of the earth is ordained for the use of man, that he might have an abundance.” And this reminded me of a passage that I read from an interview with author Carol J. Adams. And she wrote a book called “The Sexual Politics of Meat.” In her interview she says, “It seems to me that both meat eating and the oppression of other people are justified because the end result is something that people want.” In her book, “The Sexual Politics of Meat” she says, “I talk about how in the structure of meat eating, animals are made absent in the act because they're killed, and they're made to be absent conceptually. People don't really want to be reminded that they're eating a dead cow, a butchered lamb, or a slaughtered pig. And so the killed animal becomes a free floating thing. In this way, meat becomes a metaphor for what happens to women. Other beings who are not held in high regard may be equally victimized.” Additionally, Adams outlines the process that she believes contributes to this cycle. She says that, “Oppression requires violence and implements of violence. And this violence usually involves three things. The first; objectification of a being so that the being is seen as an object rather than as a living, breathing, suffering, being. The second; fragmentation or butchering so that the being’s existence as a complete being is destroyed one way or another. And finally; consumption either literal consumption of the non-human animal or consumption of the fragmented woman through pornography, through prostitution, through rape, through battering.” Adams continues, saying, “I see a structure that creates entitlement to abuse because within the structure where animals become meat the state of objectification and fragmentation disappear, and the consumed object is experienced without a past, without a history, without a biography, and without individuality.” And I really appreciate what Adams says because what she does here is that she outlines pretty explicitly how the eating of animals acts not just as a metaphor for the consumption of women, but that the process of objectification, fragmentation and consumption is the same for animals and women. The example she uses are on the extreme end of the spectrum, like, rape and pornography, prostitution and abuse. But these are not the only ways that the dominant culture of patriarchy enacts this process against women. If we begin with the first objectification, which Adams describes as, “the being is seen as an object, rather than as a living, breathing, suffering, being”. It's something that we see when women are valued for the look and the functions of their body. Including intercourse, pregnancy and nursing, yes. But also housekeeping and cooking and baking and child-rearing. And I have a quote that I feel like really illustrates this idea well. This is a quote from Violet Rose, she says, “It is illegal for women to go topless in most cities. Yet you can buy a magazine of a woman without her top on, at any 7-Eleven store. So you can sell breasts, but you cannot wear breasts in America.” If we move on to the next step in the process, which is “fragmentation or butchering so that the being's existence as a complete being is destroyed.” Again, we not only see women's contributions as less valuable, but also as less necessary. We pit her against her own body in its natural processes of puberty and aging.  And we categorize parts of her experience and way of being in the world as sinful, like naming menstruation is dirty and, like, shaming and banning women for nursing their babies in public. And finally that last step, consumption, which is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “the using up of a resource.” This is exactly what patriarchy does when it wears down and it wears out women. It erases them by demanding their silence, subordination and their sacrifice. It does this by absorbing women into the grander masculine purpose of progress and civilization and enlightenment by keeping women and their gifts and their talents and their labor and work and contributions, nameless and faceless. And patriarchy celebrates women only when they have betrayed themselves to uphold the harmful attitudes and practices of the male dominated culture. And I know that this is kind of an intense conversation, but what I'm trying to point out here is not that the authors of Doctrine and Covenants section 49 necessarily intended to enact harm and oppression against women, or even that they were aware of these harmful attitudes toward women and the environment. What I am trying to say is that regardless of any generosity we could offer the authors of the text, the location of, and the proximity to, and the way these verses talk to each other could potentially illuminate some of the attitudes toward, and the treatment of early Mormon women that eventually contributed to harmful practices against them, such as polygamy. And I'm really grateful as a feminist reader to have the freedom and give myself permission to play with the text in a way that requires me to separate it out, pull it apart, poke holes in it, and then find the pieces and put them back together, in a way that allows for new understandings, new relationships and new perspectives to come out. And so I just want to encourage our listeners to remember that you can do this. It's okay to play with the text. And when you do, sometimes you discover some new and pretty interesting things.

Elise: [00:31:56] Moving on to section 50, just a small bit of context. This is where Joseph Smith and the other Elders in the church are having a difficult time understanding if the manifestations of different spirits, like, spiritual gifts or spiritual manifestations, or, like, spiritual understandings brought from other traditions with the new converts, how do they understand if these are from God or if they're not from God and maybe from Satan? And as a side note, I think that I'm glad to see this pause on, on the side of Joseph Smith and the other leaders before just, like, throwing people out because the leaders don't understand their spiritual gifts or their worship practices. That said, I do think that what comes from section 50, might have resulted in more people, like, being escorted out of the practice or, like, having some disciplinary council meetings or, like, Bishop finger-wagging meetings. So I'm happy about the pause to ask, to ask God and say, like, Hey, we don't really understand all of these, like, spiritual manifestations or gifts, can you help? I think that I can honor that sacred pause there. And this theme of understanding what gifts are from God and what gifts are not from God reminds me of the question that I would hear growing up in church, like, well, how do I know if it's the Holy Ghost? That's, you know, in my thoughts or if it's just my own thoughts and often leaders would respond with some of these verses from section 50, especially verses 23 through 25 that say, “and that which doth not edify is not of God and his darkness. That which is of God is light. And he, that receiveth light and continueth in God receiveth with more light. And that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. And again, verily I say unto you, that you may know the truth that you may chase darkness from among you.” The word that stands out from these verses is the word edify. And what does it mean to edify? Because there seems to be a connection between understanding, edifying, and light being connected to, like, truth and God. And then on the flip side, things that don't edify or maybe things that can are confusing or things that happen in the dark being linked to Satan or hypocrites. Verse 31 says, “If you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, you shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus. And if you give not unto that spirit, then you may know it is not of God.” And this verse basically says, if you don't understand the spirit, just ask God. And then if after you've asked God, you still don't understand it, then it's not of God. And I think, okay, this is a, we are on the right path. But what I would consider, I don't know, a loving, compassionate path for trying to understand one another. But I also think that we might fall short and fall into some tricky territory. If we start lumping all of the things that we do not understand into the Satan category. Right? And I know this isn't exactly what the verses are saying, but I do think there's enough of a connection to explore the dangers of this thinking. This may even link us back to Leman Copley, Sidney Rigdon, and high horse Parley P Pratt showing up at north union. Did they not fully understand the Shaker ways and their doctrine and because they didn't understand, were they there for fearful, anxious and frustrated so much so that they declared that clearly the Shakers were not of God and that they needed to repent? We can start to see these dangerous connections being, if I don't understand something and I've asked God and I still don't understand, therefore it must not be of God. It must be bad or evil.

Channing: [00:35:50] I think that we actually encounter this a lot when we receive, like, criticism or pushback on the podcast. I think a lot of times people say, oh, because what they're saying makes me uncomfortable or because I don't understand it. Not that I think some people are willing to admit that. But sometimes I wonder if this equation between what makes us uncomfortable or what makes us feel unknowledgeable or when we encounter something that we don't understand, just like you're saying to push it away and say, like, oh, that's evil, that's of Satan, so I don't need to listen. I don't need to worry about it. And I don't need to examine it further to try and understand. And so I think what you're saying here is that you are outlining that sometimes when we hear people give us pushback or we hear a different perspective that maybe feels confusing or threatening, that it doesn't always necessarily mean that it's bad. And that a little bit, just like you mentioned earlier, that pause that holy pause between making a quick judgment and asking God, I think that in that perspective, that action can be just like you said, really sacred, really consecrated to ask yourself and ask the God within yourself; am I uncomfortable because I'm upset or am I uncomfortable because I'm in the presence of evil, right? And those are, that's a, I don't even want to say it's a subtle distinction because it's not. Like, you can't tell the difference between discomfort and evil. You've got some work to do, or you've been involved in a religion that conflates the two. I think that, I'm speaking very generally, but also for my own perspective, there's a lot of work and a lot of deconstruction that can happen around separating those two ideas, being, like, discomfort and evil. They are two very different things and it does take practice to be able to distinguish, but the more that we can lean into ourselves and trust our intuition and trust in our own relationship and experience with God, the distinction becomes a lot easier to make. 

Elise: [00:38:21] Absolutely. I also think that there's a little bit of, like, power that this gives God, because I'm wondering, like, what would happen if we believe that God is a God of miracle and majesty and compassion and love and fierce justice, like, what would really happen if everyone saying “all lives matter”, like, really paused and ask themselves the same questions that you're asking, like, am I uncomfortable? What am I not understanding? And then brought those questions sincerely and humbly to God. I think that God could work on their hearts if their hearts were ready to be worked on. So I think it's less about, like, God not being willing to guide us and more about, are we coming to other groups of people or coming to God in prayer truly wanting to understand, or are we just saying that we want to understand when in reality we already think we know better?

Channing: [00:39:20] While we're having this conversation. I'm also thinking that sometimes this, confusion or conflation between discomfort and evil, actually has something to do with some of our more, like, gendered understandings of what, like, enlightenment means. Right? We see an equation here where, like, God is related to, like, light and feeling good and, like, feeling peaceful and comfortable and, like, guided and the opposite of that is darkness, it's discomfort and unease.

Elise: [00:39:59] Yeah. I actually think we see that mirrored really well in some of the in section 50, verses 10 through 12, it says, “Let us reason together that you may understand; Let us reason even as a man reasoneth with one with another face to face. Now, when a man reasoneth he is understood of man, because he reasoneth as a man; even so even so will I, the Lord, reason with you that you may understand.” Verse 16 says, “He that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong.” And we see these very masculine elements coming out and then being paired or, like, labeled as truth and goodness and righteousness, the thing that we really should be striving for. But the masculine element sound, like, reason, logic, linear thinking, light, certainty, everything being illuminated. Moving from a state of weakness to a state of strength and being solid. And that makes me think, well, okay, what's left for the feminine then if that is all of the things that are the righteous things, those are the things that we understand the gifts that are from God. That means that the things that are not from God would be maybe feminine things. And that might look like confusion, questioning, winding paths, and maybe, like, spirals. It might look like instead of reason and logic maybe tapping into our emotions, to our intuition, drawing truth from art and beauty, instead of linear, logical thinking. And even more, we have darkness here.

Channing: [00:41:36] Yeah, you're right. In this chapter it does talk about the distinction between light, which is related to godliness and righteousness and goodness and darkness being related to, like, evil and Satan and unrighteousness. And when we think about darkness in this context, it is scary. But when we think about darkness outside of this context, I think that we discover a little bit more beauty and a little bit more complexity to darkness. What are the things that we do in the dark? We plant seeds in the soil. We see the stars in the night sky. We get to explore the uncertainty and the mystery of life. And we see even death and rebirth that happens in a dark, dark womb. And all of these elements are incredibly feminine. And so what's happening here in this chapter is that masculine elements of logic and reason are valued over what would be more like gendered stereotype norms of what would be more considered feminine elements. Darkness, uncertainty, like you said Elise, spiraling paths. But really I think that these two, just like the, Chinese Yin and Yang symbol can bring us more toward a balanced and inclusive understanding of God, rather than just saying, like, God is, has lightened good. And I think it all comes back to that question that you asked at the beginning, that question that we hear so much in our Young Women's classes in our Sunday School classes and our Relief Society classes. How do I know what is of God? Well, we want an easy answer. We want to be able to turn to Doctrine and Covenants section 50 and know. But what's harder is to sink into our body, to listen, to ask, to sit with it and to feel our way around in the dark. And so both of these practices are valuable, but one is a knowledge of God and one is an experience of God. Which one would you like? 

I just loved this conversation and I've loved all of the topics that we've been able to cover in this episode. I'm really grateful to sections 49 and 50 for giving us the opportunity to explore some of these deeper theological questions that I feel like really can inform what our experience of these scriptures are. We encourage you to read sections 49 and 50 for yourselves. Check out the wild west story in Revelations in Context. And we would love to hear your thoughts on Instagram. And friends if you've liked this episode or any of the episodes that we've done in the past or just us in general, cause we're pretty legit. We would love for you to leave us a review on iTunes. Let us know what you love about the podcast so that others can find us too. We love you so much, and we can't wait to see you next week.

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