Although we may not be able to top black history month, which had a stellar lineup of contributors, posts, and CFPs and then ended with a major change to the LDS scriptures concerning the church’s conscious remembering (literally, re-membering) its early African American priesthood holders and rejecting any revelatory basis for the priesthood ban – and here, let me interject a hearty hallelujah! – we would like to begin (lamb-like) with some thoughts, questions, and considerations for women’s history month in March. My tongue-in-cheek hope would be that, if our mojo is similar, Joseph Smith’s 1842 revelation to the Relief Society recorded in Eliza R. Snow’s Minute Book becomes D&C 139. By April 1st.
A year in which Mormons churchwide are studying the Doctrine and Covenants is a really good opportunity to connect to Mormon women’s history, since there a number of named women in those revelations and a growing number of histories that consider the importance of women to the Mormon movement. Also, I’d say 2013 is perhaps the best year yet to celebrate a resurgence of interest in the history and role of Mormon women. Specific resources recently enhanced under the Church’s auspices include expanding of its young division of women’s history at the Church History Library following on the outstanding conference organized by Kate Holbrook there in summer 2012; publication of the Relief Society papers as part of the JSPP; and the release of not only an additional volume in the Women of Faith in the Latter Days series but a significant new book by Deseret reprinting and contextualizing and rethinking Smith’s revelation to the Relief Society, The Beginning of Better Days. Our ward RS now uses Daughters in My Kingdom as an occasional Sunday manual – I only wish the priesthood quorums did the same, but maybe that’s coming in 2014. From where I sit, it seems we really are at the beginning of better days.
All that is addition to the history-making activism of the third-wave feminist sector of Mormondom in recent months, which has been speaking out, showing up, and instigating grassroots collective action. They have also been on the march making memes, petitions, manifestos, videos, and other materials that will keep 21st-century digital historians looking back on the 2010s busy for some time to come – as well as using traditional Mormon forms (eg the quilt and the donation form) in entirely new ways. Add that to what feels like heightened visibility of some Mormon women in the public sphere and media (which does not entirely balance the disappearance of the General Relief Society president from that same sphere following the release of one of the most doctrinally thoughtful presidents that society has had in a long time), and the Mormon moment is very much not over yet.
We look forward to exploring the world of women (well-behaved or not) during March and invite your questions and suggestions as we engage with the complex and intertwined history of women in Mormon thought, lived history, scripture and doctrine.
Photo credit: Rachel Emma Woolley Simmons (1836 – 1926), from the cover of Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Vol 2