Matriarchs and Imagination (Doctrine & Covenants 58-59)

Monday, May 24, 2021


Big thank you to Sarah for completing this transcript!

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 58 through 59 for the dates May 24th through the 30th. We're so glad you're here.

Elise: [00:00:57] Welcome back. We've got just two sections this week, and to set a bit of context, the Saints have started arriving in Missouri and are “eager to learn the will of the Lord concerning them in the new place of gathering.” Right, they've arrived in this new Jerusalem or the place where they're supposed to build and call Zion.

[00:01:16] And so you'll see in section 58, it's a very long chapter and there's a lot of instances where people are looking for answers to their questions. In section 59, the land is consecrated as God directed, and then the site for the future temple was dedicated. And in this episode today, we're going to be talking about agency and what it means to be anxiously engaged.

[00:01:39] We'll also spend some time talking about Polly Knight who shows up in section 59 and spend a little bit of time on the Sabbath. Now we actually want to start by highlighting Polly Knight. She appears in section 59. In the section header, it reads “preceding this revelation, the land was consecrated, as the Lord had directed, and the site for the future temple was dedicated. On the day this revelation was received, Polly Knight, the wife of Joseph Knight Sr., died, the first church member to die in Zion.” And the first two verses of section 59 to me really speak to the passing of Polly Knight. These verses say “behold, blessed saith the Lord, are they who have come up onto this land with an eye single to my glory, according to my commandments, for those that shall live inherit the earth, and those that shall die rest from all their labors and their works shall follow them; and they shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for them.” I think some of the things I appreciate about these two verses is that I can't even, first of all, imagine walking 1300 miles from Fayette, New York to arrive in Independence, Missouri. And we're going to talk a little bit more about Polly Knight's history and background, but really throughout this whole journey or trek, she becomes weaker and weaker and more ill.

[00:03:00] I think that she's becoming an elderly woman and walking 1300 miles is no easy thing. And so to hear in the verses God, like, do a loving nod to Polly by saying, “look - those that die shall rest from all of their labors.” Oh my gosh. That's what I would want. I want heaven to be rest for everyone and that they will receive a crown in the mansions of God that has been specifically prepared for them.

[00:03:28] It almost sounds like God and Jesus have prepared this special place-setting at the table in heaven. And when Polly arrives, she'll be crowned with this beautiful bit of glory and treasure. Now there's a lot of history about the Knight family, and we're just going to pull some of the highlights about Polly's story.

[00:03:46] And this is from Polly and her husband met Joseph Smith in 1826, and the Knights were a well-established family of landowners and farmers. They became friendly with Joseph Smith and they were actually there when the church was first organized in Fayette in April 1830. Polly and some of her other family members were baptized in 1830 on June 28th. And then this revelation comes in December of 1830, which says that the entire church is moving and that all of the Saints have to leave behind their lands and their farms. And that also meant that the Knight family had to leave behind everything that they owned, all of their land and their farm that they had lived on since 1811.

[00:04:31] When they arrive in Ohio, they stay on Leman Copley's farm for about three weeks. But then as we know about Leman Copley, he ends up kicking all of the Saints off of his property and the Knight family is left homeless, like so many of the other Saints, and then boom, another revelation comes where the Saints are now asked to move again to Missouri.

[00:04:52] And they finally arrive in Missouri on July 25th, 1831. And now this whole trek, like I was saying earlier, was really quite difficult for Polly. She grew weaker and weaker as they continued. At one point, her son actually, like, people thought that she was not going to make it to Missouri. And so her son was trying to gather all of this wood to build her a coffin in case she did die on the way to Zion.

[00:05:16]  But he says: “Yet she hung on, determined to make it to Zion and praying that she would.” Once in Zion, Polly was able to see and participate in the consecration of the land and the temple. And then she passed away on August 6th, 1831, which is only 12 days after they had arrived in Zion.

[00:05:36] The author writes, “She quietly fell asleep, rejoicing in the everlasting gospel and praising God that she was able to see the land of Zion. Polly gave her all in faith and journeyed 1300 miles to reach the Promised Land, the same distance that the later thousands would travel from Nauvoo to Salt Lake, becoming, as it were, the matriarch of the gathering, the first of thousands to sacrifice all and die on the journey to Zion. Honor and glory be to all those who followed and will yet follow her example.”

[00:06:09] So Channing, just hearing a little bit about Polly's story, what do you think of her? Like, how is she coming to life in your mind right now?

Channing: [00:06:17] Having, like, not seen a picture of her or knowing anything beyond what you've shared about her story here, honestly, I can picture her as being kind of tenacious. Like, to walk 1300 miles and be absolutely determined to make it there no matter what, that requires a level of tenacity and determination and just willingness to push through that I think is really admirable and it makes her story just stick out to me as something that is inspiring and just incredible. And the more that I hear these stories, especially about the early Saints, the more I'm like, okay, I can see what all the hype is about. 

[00:07:07] Making a journey like that… I have never walked 1300 miles in my entire life, like, I think all combined, of all of the miles that I’ve walked. And so I stand in awe of her story. I stand in awe of the way that she was so committed to her faith and her community that it's all she wanted. And I don't think in her mind that she was like, “I'm going to die, and my death is going to be a sacrifice.” I would think, and especially just hearing how much she just wanted to be there, I don't necessarily think that this was a lot about, like, an ideal of self-sacrifice or consecration. I just think that Polly knew what she wanted. And so she did what it took to get there. And I always have room in my heart for stories of women like that.

Elise: [00:08:02] I think this is one of the times where I'm, like, confronted because we do have all of these actual lived experience and written text stories about the Saints where I'm able to plug in and piece together their history with what is actually being written down in the Doctrine and Covenants.

[00:08:21] And this is just one of those reminders that, like, if I only read the Doctrine and Covenants as it was assigned every week and didn't try and like explore just a little bit behind the scenes, I think that sometimes I forget how absolutely difficult and trying this experience was for the Saints, not just in the manual labor of walking and moving, but also in the commandment to sacrifice all.

[00:08:48] And so there's a little bit of discomfort that arises in me because I love, love, love so much the law of consecration. And I think that we should live it and experience it here and now, but would I be willing and ready to sacrifice everything that I have? Give up all my land, everything that I own, if the church was moving, like if the church was really moving today, could I do this?

[00:09:14] My answer has always been sadly and unfortunately, no, like I could never be a pioneer. I wouldn't have made it.

Channing: [00:09:22] I think for me, my answer would be a little bit more complex just because I certainly have a different relationship with the church today than I think Polly Knight did in 1831. And that doesn't necessarily make how I feel or how she feels right or wrong, it's just different circumstances with different perspectives. But even though for me, I probably would not ever make this journey of 1300 miles, I definitely honor her sacrifice. I find her commitment and her love of the promise of the gospel to be so, so deep that it inspires me and that it definitely brings feelings of appreciation and honor, because like I said earlier, I love when people are true to what they feel and true to what they believe so much so that like that is what guides and leads their life. And so for me, my attraction or my love of Polly’s story comes more from her willingness to live in integrity, to live with authenticity and to follow what she feels God is calling her to do. That is where my, like, deepest love and appreciation for her story comes from.

[00:10:50] So even though she and I would make different choices, I still really, really love hearing about her. And I'm glad that we get to talk about her story today.

Elise: [00:10:59] Yeah, I appreciate that. Especially because one of the lines that was on the History of the Saints website talked about Polly being this, like, matriarch for everyone that has come and everyone that will come or make this journey. But I wanted to see her as more than like a symbol of only sacrifice and obedience, especially because I think that the burden of sacrifice and obedience can often be tied up with gender roles, like who is expected to do the most of the sacrificing and who is expected to, like, live in a almost like deprecating or selfless way. And oftentimes that is the work of women. That's not to say that men don't have the same call, but I think that the lived experience of the burden of workload and labor is placed on the backs of women. And so I really appreciate what you said about the honor and respect that you have for her story comes from her integrity and her hope and the promise of something better.

[00:12:01] And I like that if we can think of Polly as a matriarch or of matriarchs in general, who can see a possibility beyond what is happening here and now. Yes, that sometimes includes sacrifice or maybe it often includes sacrifice, but that's not the main focus. The main focus is a hope for a changed world, where everyone is centered, where all needs are met, and I like thinking of her in that light.

Channing: [00:12:26] The other thing that strikes me about Polly Knight's story is just that she is the first person to die when they get to this New Jerusalem in Missouri, this New Zion. And part of me wonders if the early Saints community might have experienced this death as maybe something kind of traumatic that they all hold in their shared emotional and spiritual experience of this huge move to Missouri.

[00:12:56] And I wonder how Polly Knight's death shaped their understanding of their experiences in Missouri. I just think it's really interesting to look at it from that perspective, but what do you think, Elise?

Elise: [00:13:09] No, I think that that's right, because I think we have to be careful and wary of glossing over the grief and the sorrow and the tragedy that is death and only focus on, like, the Saints website had said, right, “She quietly fell asleep, rejoicing in the everlasting gospel and praising God that she was able to see the land of Zion.” And on one hand that sounds like a really peaceful death. And maybe that is exactly the way she experienced it. But on the other hand, like you're saying, this is still like, Polly Knight was a huge, had a huge impact on a lot of the people, especially if she was being called something like a matriarch. So we can see her as a mother and a lover to a lot of the Saints that were probably making this trek over. And so to lose her in Zion, the place that is supposed to be a promise of milk and honey, and of new beginnings, like, it's not that yet.

[00:14:05] And so they arrive to the land and it's unbuilt. They have to do all of the work to make it the Zion that they want it to become, but it's not there yet. And so I would, I'm very appreciative that you brought up this like collective trauma lens, because, I don't know, I have a lot of anxiety and grief over death, and even if I arrived in Zion and I only had 12 days to spend there, even if I thought the promise was so hopeful and amazing and glorious, I would still feel so sorrowful to have to leave this Zion. Even if I believed in the promise of an afterlife, it's still a departure. It's still a leaving. It's still a letting go and leaving behind and that’s sad.

Channing: [00:14:51] Yeah. And I think too, you also speak to something that we see pretty commonly in record keeping from that time. I think that glossing over, or the tendency to gloss over, hardship is pretty common. When I go through and look at my own personal family history and read, like, journals and accounts of events that had happened from that time, there was a lot of this, like, “Yeah, she died, but it's all fine.” Like, “It was in the name of something good and it happened in just, like, the right time, the right place.” And like, “We were all sad, but only for a minute because we knew that for, like, the next best thing was on its way.” And I think that that was a common practice or a common tactic of just, you know…

Elise: [00:15:40] Shaping the narrative.

Channing: [00:15:43] Yeah. To shape the narrative of what was happening here. And I think that part of that was cultural, right? Like it probably wasn't accepted back then to have a full human experience. And I think that that can be said about a lot of things. But I also wonder just from my own perspective in the present day, how can I look back on these stories and see between the lines of what is actually being said, all of the grief and the pain that these events probably held for these people. And how do I hold that for my own narrative of what church history was like? How do I hold that from my own experience of what my pioneer ancestors or what my, you know, my heritage and my legacy is even just as a member of the church.

[00:16:32] How do I hold this pain and grief hand in hand with the celebration that is so apparent here in the text. I mean, Elise even highlighted some of those first few verses in section 59 that gave a lot of honor and glory to Polly and I think this is just yet another example of looking at the text and realizing that there's so much more that underscores what we read just in the assigned sections for the week. And that there's a lot more to dig through and gives us a depth of understanding that we wouldn't otherwise have in just reading it without any context. So I'm really grateful that you brought Polly's experience to us this week, because I think we all really benefit from hearing her story. 

[00:17:22] Moving on from the historical context into the content of this week's lesson, I wanted to highlight a quote from Dallin H Oaks that starts the very first sentence of the Come Follow Me manual.

[00:17:34] This quote says, “The scriptures will help us resolve all of our personal questions because by reading them, we invite and qualify ourselves for the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, which will guide us into all truth.” And I like this approach to scripture study for two reasons. The first is that it makes us a promise. It's the promise of the gift of the Holy Ghost, which provides us with personal revelation and our own personal experience with the divine. The other thing that I like about this quote is what it doesn't promise. I like that it doesn't promise that the scriptures themselves will always have the answers.

[00:18:14] I like that it doesn't regard the text as an instruction manual or as a legal contract. This quote frames scriptures and the study of them in something more nuanced and open-ended. The scriptures are a starting point. They're a trail-guide. A map. The scriptures are a door to walk into a bigger room, a bigger understanding of God, rather than being the whole room itself.

[00:18:39] And I love this approach to the scriptures in general, but I think it's especially poignant in context of the Doctrine and Covenants, because even though this text is canonized, it's like the Bible in that it is one side of one story of one people and sometimes even one person's relationship to the Divine at one time and in one place.

[00:19:03] And even though that can feel really confining once we realize that that's what we're working with, I think that that gives us room to grow into and a space to reflect on this text rather than a surety and a certainty. And that in and of itself is a gift because in this way it encourages us more toward faith.

[00:19:24] And I like that this quote also sets this week’s sections up really nicely because we come across verses that encourage the early Saints to be “anxiously engaged” and teaches about the freedom that we experience in this life. There's a verse in section 58 that I think showcases this really well.

[00:19:43] And this is verse 26, and this is the Lord speaking to the early Saints. It says, “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things, for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant, wherefore he receiveth no reward.” And I appreciate this verse because it offers so much wealth in just a few lines.

[00:20:07] I think it offers the perspective on some types of thinking about the text, specifically ones that consider it to be too holy or too sacred to look at critically. I think often the expectation is when we come to the scriptures that we take them at face value and perhaps consider everything within them to be of equal weight and worth.

[00:20:29] And I think that we do this even still with a lot of teachings, especially from modern day prophets and even our cultural traditions. Because they have been presented to us by men in power, we believe that we're supposed to accept them as sacred and holy and to never criticize and to consider everything to be of equal weight and worth.

[00:20:51] And if you know us on the podcast well at all, you know that we think that this is not the case. But most specifically here I am thinking about changes that are being asked for within the church. To be really explicit about it, I'm talking about acceptance of our LGBTQ siblings, accountability for racist policy and practices, inclusion of women, integrity, and the space between what the church claims to care about and then the concrete, the reparative and the equitable actions that need to occur to truly set us apart from a world that is characterized by inaction, fear and prejudice. Action and agency is the key in the verse that I just highlighted. I can just imagine God saying in this verse, “Seriously? You need my permission to do everything?”

[00:21:44] And when I read this verse, I think about my own experience as a mom. And one of the things that I pride myself in in my motherhood is being a very boring mom. I don't really take it upon myself to entertain my kids at all. Instead, I provide them with everything that they need to shape an incredible childhood, like food, like a home, clothes and a wild amount of popsicles and art supplies and plenty of free time. And for everyone listening to this episode in real time, the summer is soon upon us. And I just know that those first few weeks will be full of: “Mom, I'm so bored. Can we go to the store? Can we go to the park? Can I go to a friend's house? Can we go see a movie?” And I mean, I say yes as much as I can, but at some point you really have to give the dollar store time to turn over their inventory. And so I look all around the house and I'm like, “Kids, you have all this paper, all this paint, all these toys I bought you, and that nice playset in the backyard, all the dress up, you have everything that you need to have fun- Go do it.” And if you had kids, you know that they'll whine for a long time, but eventually I look out the window and they've made their own kites from paper and some yarn that they stole from my office and my daughter and her friend have made their own fairy protection squad. And my son has discovered that if he keeps coming inside to tell me how thirsty he is, I will give him a full cup of water that he can pour down the slide when I'm not looking and make his very own waterpark.

[00:23:23] All this time, they've had everything they needed. The only thing missing was their imagination and the belief that they really did have the power to change their circumstances. And this is what I think of when I hear people say things along the lines of, “Well, if God wanted something to change in the church, God would change it.”

[00:23:43] And I think that this verse encourages us to consider another option. What if God is looking at our church that is stocked with art supplies and popsicles and is thinking: Do it yourself, because I'm busy. And so part of me wonders if a lack of inclusive and loving policy change is largely due to the lack of our own imagination and not necessarily because God just can't be motivated. We have so much more power than we’re conditioned to think that we do. Verse 27 says, “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them wherein they are agents unto themselves.”

[00:24:29] And I think that that verse right there gives us plenty to work with. And I can't think of anything more righteous and in line with God's greatest commandments than ensuring that our LGBTQ siblings can participate fully, than to secure the safety and true welcome of our BIPOC members, to be certain that women have a place in the room where it happens.

[00:24:51] Because God has asked us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and this means that we act in advocacy of all those around us receiving all that we have, not just some, not just a little bit, not just a justified portion and not just the crumbs that fall from the table, but everything. Everything. And so I think that these verses are a really powerful perspective when we're talking about wide systemic change in the institution of the church.

[00:25:21] And some of the imagined roadblocks that we think we're waiting on, like permission or revelation from God, and I think that these verses indicate that change can happen just as easily from within ourselves here on earth, as it can if we just sit around and wait for something to fall down from the heavens above. But I would love to hear what you think about this, Elise. 

Elise: [00:25:46] I am a huge fan of literally everything that you said, not just because it touches on one of my favorite topics, which is imagination, but it also talks about, as we've said on other podcasts, building a longer table, so that all are included. And it reminds me of the verse just before verse 26 that you read, it says, “Wherefore, let them bring their families to this land as they shall counsel between themselves and me.”

[00:26:11] And then the verse that follows is, is God saying, “look, I can't, I'm not going to tell you everything to do, but the verse before it says, you can figure this out. But you only can figure it out as you counsel together with one another.” And I think that counseling together is a huge piece of it, because then it requires us to look at our church institution and structures and say, “Who is included in the conversation? Who's included in the rooms where it happens and who isn't included in these conversations? And how different things could be if, especially, people from the margins not just were included, but had voice and space and were listened to and understood in these spaces where we could counsel one with another, instead of, like you're saying, just kind of twiddling our thumbs and saying, “Okay, I'll just wait until God says, go ahead and do something.” And for me, that is something that I struggle with because I have a hard time making decisions and I can often become overwhelmed. Or like, the phrase “anxiously engaged in a good cause…” mostly the word ‘anxiously’ stands out for me. I can find myself feeling like there are lots of different options and opportunities or lots of different imaginings that I can sketch up in my mind. But sometimes I can stall and sometimes I can wait too long. Right? Sometimes the waiting turns into procrastination, which then removes me or absolves me from accountability and responsibility, because if I counseled with others, if we collaborated and planned something together, and then we executed it, then the weight would be on our shoulders.

[00:27:53] Right, I would need to stand accountable and say, “Yeah, this is the change that we wanted to make. Even if that means we have to change things. Or even if that means it's not, we didn't get it right the first time.” But counseling together instead of stalling and waiting to be told what to do, I think that's a fantastic take-home message here.

Channing: [00:28:15] Yeah, I really appreciate what you said. And I think too, it aligns us with something else that we read in the Come Follow Me manual. It talks about how the Saints kind of expected to arrive to this New Jerusalem or this New Zion as if it had been prepared for them but when they get there, it's literally just this wide open plain with a couple of trees. And the Come Follow Me manual actually says, “no, they arrived there to understand that they were to build Zion.” And I think that just, like you said, Elise, that does highlight a certain measure of responsibility and accountability in the present, like, right here, right now that's immediate and necessary that can't be put off by inaction or indecision or stalling, right? Zion is waiting to be built and all of the materials and supplies are around us, if we are willing to use our hands and work together to build something really, really incredible. And so I was really grateful for these chapters to kind of give this perspective that we hadn’t really seen yet.

[00:29:22] And the other verse that's coming to my mind too, is from a couple of weeks past, how the Lord was talking to some of the elders in the church and just said, “You can reason with me, face to face, as you do, like, man to man or woman to woman.” And I think that even here that has some relevancy, because I think for both of us, we have a really strongly held belief that if God is divine and we're divine, then God is within us.

[00:29:52] And I think that using that verse in context of this week's chapters, maybe perhaps working together in a community is also working with God. And so it's just, there's so much richness and so much potential here in these chapters that I can't help but be really excited about it.

Elise: [00:30:12] Well, the other thing that's standing out to me from what you said about, look, it hasn't been built for us or prepared for us. We have been called to build and create and imagine what Zion looks like or what the church institution looks like. I love that idea. And I also think that it puts us in a tricky spot with the church structure that we have today, because it's not like the church's unbuilt, right? It has been built, but who has it been built by and for whom?

[00:30:40] Right. Because the church structure and institution works well for particular groups of people, right? Like, because it was built by and for them. Right. If I am on a faith journey that looks like deferring to outward authority, like prophets and bishops, the church structure. Boom. Right. That's exactly for me. If I am a straight white man, and particularly a straight white married return missionary man, the church probably works really well for me or has the possibility of working really well for me. But if I'm not, if I don't fall into these very particular categories, or if I haven't been a part of building the process, or even if I've been actively excluded from building and creating the structure or Zion, then of course there's not room for me. And so it's not just a creating; I think it's also a destruction and then a recreation. 

Channing: [00:31:38] Yes, absolutely, Elise. And I think that when we're looking at these sections and looking at using our agency to act in the world and create and build Zion and being anxiously engaged, or maybe intentionally or consciously engaged in a good cause I think that we have to ask ourselves some questions.

[00:32:01] Some of these questions might be: Am I anxiously or consciously or intentionally engaged in good works? What does good work look like for me? How am I using my spiritual gifts I learned about from previous sections to bless the lives of those around me? How will I take initiative to better my community? What work am I being called to? And these are the kinds of questions that we can look at internally and then move outside into our communities to continue building the Zion that the early Saints worked so hard to create a foundation for us.

Elise: [00:32:39] Moving on from section 58, if we turn to section 59, I have almost this whole section highlighted because it talks about the Sabbath.

[00:32:47] And if you've listened to other podcasts, you know that I really like playing with the words rest like R-E-S-T, which we often find paired with Sabbath and the word W-R-E-S-T, wrest like to wrestle or twist free from. And so section 59 is almost all highlighted and I wanted to focus a little bit on the Sabbath day.

[00:33:09] Starting in verse 10, the Lord is characterizing or giving a brief summary of what the Sabbath day could or should look like. It says, “For verily, this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High; nevertheless, thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times.” The verses that follow continue kind of outlining offerings and sacraments, confessing our sins and also prayer and fasting. And just a quick note, they talk about having a perfect fast, and if I didn't read this verse, I think I would still think that perfect fasting meant like literally not eating two meals for a particular amount of time on fast Sunday, but verse 13 actually stops me in my tracks and says something different. It says that a perfect fast means fasting that our “joy may be full.” Fasting and prayer equals rejoicing and prayer. And that changes things for me.

[00:34:11] Right? Like I can have a fast that is focused on rejoicing and joy and not necessarily about how hungry I am. A few verses down in verse 16, we find what I think here is the promise of keeping the Sabbath or the promise of the Sabbath. It says, “Inasmuch as ye do this, the fullness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth.”

[00:34:38] And again, if you've listened to other podcasts, you might pick up on some of the language here that would lean us towards an eco-feminism type of reading. Right? We don't want it to sound like domination, owning, or having control over the earth as if we are the center of the earth. And if we keep the Sabbath day, God says, “Okay, I will make the earth for you, and then you just get to use it and abuse it however you see fit.” That is not the reading that I'm hoping for. But it is a reading worth being critical of through an eco feminist lens. However, I want the promise to be a bit more metaphorical and we see the phrase “fullness of the earth,” right? It says, “Inasmuch as you do this, the fullness of the earth is yours.”

[00:35:22] And there's a footnote here that says “abundant life.” So fullness of the earth being an abundant life or abundance. Some of the other footnotes under this “abundant life” section come from John chapter 10, verse 10 that says “I am come, that they might have life, that they might have it more abundantly.” And in 2nd Nephi chapter 4, verse 35: “Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh, yea, my God will give, if I ask not amiss.” And I think with this abundant life, I hear the echo of sacrifice, right? If I rest and if I give up and if I confess and I fast, then I will be given so much more than I ever could have anticipated. I will be given liberally an abundant life.

[00:36:10] And this is not to say that I will be given control and domination over our physical, tangible earth or the beast of the field and the fowls of the air. But that in some way, God will prepare or make my life abundant for me. And some of the questions I have around the Sabbath day, like how can I reconcile the promise or the outline of the Sabbath with my real lived experience of so many Sabbath days. Often my Sabbath day is, like, one of the busiest days of the week, honestly. And I find myself not eating very well on that day because I'm going to meetings and I'm giving rides and I'm just really kind of scattered. I have a difficult time focusing or showing up fully to sacrament meeting or even to lessons because I'm planning or doing the next thing or trying to, I don't know, tend to the youth that are sitting next to me on the pews.

[00:37:06] And unfortunately for my partner and I, this can really easily turn into a day where we have short tempers with one another, because we have felt like we were being spread so thin. And so if this is my lived experience, it's not really matching up with what I see in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 59; it doesn't feel like a promise of abundant life. It doesn't feel like a day of devotion or holiness or sacredness. And it certainly hasn't felt like a day of rest for me. So how can I transform my Sabbath practice to feel more like the Sabbath that I desire? What are your thoughts? What does your Sabbath look like?

Channing: [00:37:44] I think my Sabbaths have changed, mostly due to the pandemic and having home church. I will tell you what, my Sabbaths have been so much nicer, not having to go to church. And I hate saying that because I genuinely really do love attending in a community, and I really do miss that. But it also has been so nice to not have to do the Sunday morning rush of trying to get my kids, like, bathed and dressed and like hair combed and perfectly coiffed, and then get myself dressed and get everyone to church on time and pack the snack and activity bag and like just worry the whole time. Right. And I think, especially for anyone who's in any kind of, like, leadership position or an auxiliary calling, your Sunday isn't really a day of rest. It's another day of work. And so, you know, I think some suggestions are like, “Oh, try to find a quiet moment in this time, to reflect and meditate and be close.”

[00:38:51] And I think that, like in theory, that's a great idea, but in practice, like you said, it's so often difficult to do that because you're pulled in so many different directions. And so some of the ideas that I've played with, you know, through the years have been not considering Sunday to be my Sabbath.

[00:39:11] Like, sometimes I do treat other days as more holy and more sacred because there is no one pulling at my time. There is no one that needs me. I don't have to show up to church like defensively or reactively because I don't have to show up to church at all. I can just focus on me and my relationship to God.

[00:39:37] And so I think in some ways the pandemic has been an opportunity for us to learn a different idea of what the Sabbath could look like. And I wonder if there are lessons that we could take forward into, you know, our continual practice of Sabbath, with that perspective. Not saying that the pandemic has been good at all, but to say that perhaps it might be an opportunity to show us that there might be a different way, one that doesn't look like as many meetings and as many responsibilities. So I don't know, those are just some of my initial thoughts, but what do you think? 

Elise: [00:40:16] I like that, especially like what you said about the Sabbath not being, having to be on Sunday. And that made me think, like, “Wow, I wonder if my Sabbath is in the evenings when I spend half an hour lying down in the bathtub.” Like, I think that might be my Sabbath as well, like, that's where I spend a lot of my time communing with the Divine. And so I love that re-interpretation of the Sabbath. But I think that you're right, like, the pandemic has forced us into a different interpretation of the Sabbath and maybe for some people that has looked like a shedding away of all of the to do list items or to do lists checklists and felt boards and snack bags, right? And I like the possibility of us creating Sabbath anywhere as opposed to only ever creating it in this two or three hour block on Sundays with this specific congregation.

[00:41:13] I wanted to end this conversation about the Sabbath reading a passage from one of my mentors, whom I love. Her name is Dr. Lisa Watrous. She wrote an essay titled “Speaking Sabbath: The Invitation to Wrest.” And I just wanted to read some of her words and mixed in with the philosopher Heschel's words here.

[00:41:33] She writes, “Indeed, at the end of the work week, people in nearly every industry can be found celebrating the weekend, the temporary cessation of labor. Sabbath has come to mean rest from everyday work and the opening of time for a different kind of relation to the world. This common understanding of Sabbath bears witness to the harsh reality of our everyday life.”

[00:41:57] And this is my words, not hers - of our everyday life. Just this kind of constant bombardment of information, overload of shallow conversations that don't help us reflect on the divine or our deeper being. And also affirms the hopeful possibility of rest within and against the restless structure of existence.

[00:42:20] “In other words,” she writes, “Sabbath brings us first to a basic understanding of rest, but then once borrowed back, it offers a bridge to a different kind of language and a different kind of being in the world.” Heschel writes that “while the whole of the Hebrew sacred text has been translated into English, as well as other languages, Sabbath is the Hebrew word for which there is no English equivalent. Sabbath refuses translation. And in so doing also refuses a rigid literal rendering of the concept. Sabbath is rest, but it is also more than that. It teaches us to sense the delights of spirit, the joys of the good, the grandeur of living in the face of eternity. Sabbath is about eternity. It is about sacred moments. It is about a whole week and then a year, and then a whole life. Sabbath is a kind of work, a communal celebration and an individual solemn awareness of time.” Heschel writes, “What we are depends on what the Sabbath is to us.” And so this is just a final bit of encouragement that says, “yes, of course the Sabbath is a day of rest, but how can we implement that in a tangible way that invites us to experience the divine, to experience eternity?”

[00:43:39] And this is something, like Dr. Watrous says that we can do every day. And those days start to remind us that we are part of an ongoing becoming. We are humans that are becoming, and if we can work towards this devotion, this reverence, this living differently than the world asks us to live, maybe in a higher, holier way or in a more poetic, deepened understanding of ourselves type of way, if we can do that, I think that's part of the way that we can bring in Zion or sacredness to our everyday experience.

Channing: [00:44:27] Friends, thank you so much for joining us in this episode, for talking about the story of Polly Knight, for talking about our agency and our responsibility to continue to build Zion and be anxiously engaged in a good cause. And finally for our beautiful, insightful discussion about what it means to rest, to wrest, and to rest on the Sabbath.

[00:44:53] We love you so much and are so honored to have been able to spend this time with you. We look forward to seeing you again next week. Bye.

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