Reflections on how Sister Beck’s work has affected me

Today I might have the chance to sit in a presentation by Sis. Beck so I thought I’d take some time this morning to review the reasons why I have been impressed with her.

I reread this post I did in 2013:

One thing I appreciate about Sis. Beck is that she can respond to a heated question in two ways at the same time: 1, she opens up new ways of thinking, and 2, she cuts passed the contentious aspect by pointing out what’s really important. I think I have liked both of those approaches a lot. The second approach speaks to me quite deeply, and the first approach is fun and engaging.

For example, think of this statement: “Relief Society is the organizer of the combined gifts of women.” What do you make of that statement? I immediately think of D&C 46, which says that each person has spiritual gifts, if they seek them, and seek to do good with them. It goes on to point out how many gifts come in pairs: some have faith to heal, some have faith to be healed; some speak in tongues, some interpret tongues; some have testimonies so strong they know, some have faith to believe on their words; some have gift of knowledge, some are taught to have wisdom and knowledge. From this I understand that gifts are (often? always?) meant to benefit others, and put us in a situation where we need each other.

So when I hear Sis. Beck’s idea about Relief Society, it makes sense. It makes sense of past Relief Society groups as well as current Relief Society groups. It is a place where women can be together and experience spiritual gifts together. It is a place where some have testimony and others have believe those with testimony. It is a place where some have gifts to heal spiritually and others have faith to be healed spiritually. It is a place where some have knowledge and others learn to be wise. In past groups, it was also a place where some had gifts to heal physically and others had faith to be healed physically. It was a place where some spoke in tongues and others interpreted.

The question perhaps after this is why it would be important for women to have a place where they experienced this together. Why have a gendered meeting?

One could say that it is to parallel the meeting of men, but that doesn’t account for the fact that not all men hold the priesthood. The group of men who hold the priesthood is a sub-group within the group of men in the Church.

Perhaps nowadays, since we welcome all men into the quorum meetings whether they hold priesthood or not, we could say that those meetings are a gathering of the spiritual gifts of men. But I don’t think we could say that this is what they are as the scriptures describe them. As I’m thinking about this, I’m also thinking that originally, women who were in Relief Society was a sub-group within the group of women in the Church. So perhaps these are more closely parallel than I was starting to think.

These questions are so interesting to me because of what has and hasn’t changed in history. The number of people with the priesthood has changed so radically. I imagine if we had enough documents, journals, and insights we’d see how the gifts given to women has changed too (kinds, intensity, number of women involved, etc.).

And with each change, the culture and community is affected and changed, but of course something remains the same. I like to look at both…why do I like to look at both? I don’t know, but I find both interesting and fun. Really, fun. I think it’s fulfilling and edifying to think of how communities grow and find ways to do good (and yes I know there’s a ton of negative to every community configuration). And I am deeply invested in learning what it is that hasn’t changed about the priesthood through all these thousands of years.

Anyway, this is why I find Sis. Beck’s talks interesting. They hit on both of these. I think my own thoughts aren’t completely overlapping with hers and she doesn’t answer close to all of my questions. But I feel like she’s another explorer in the same jungle, and I like learning from her field notes.

Sis. Camille Fronk (Olson) was that way for me too. I took two of her classes at BYU and I am so grateful I did. The first was a New Testament class (2nd half) and I fell in love with Paul’s poetic and interesting ways of talking about the gospel. I also enjoyed how she highlighted the women in the story (without making it a distraction). I’ll always remember that Paul’s “yolk-fellow” may have been his wife. Camille’s approach made me feel that Paul considered her his equal in the work of the kingdom, and her work locally among the saints was something he saw as just as vital as his work traveling. I liked the way she protrayed being yolked together.

Later I took her Pearl of Great Price class. Man, I loved that class. Her enthusiasm for figuring things out in scripture was contagious, first off. But I learned a lot from how the Book of Moses describes Adam and Eve’s relationship. From looking at this blog, you can see how deeply that affected me.

I think perhaps that Joe, Sis. Beck, and Camille have affected me the most within the topics that I care about the most. I’ve learned a lot from many people and I have had many important conversations with many people. But within the scriptural topics that run to my center, I think these three people have affected me the most.

Anyhoo, it will be interesting to see if I get to go to this meeting (there’s a chance she can’t come, and it snowed a good deal yesterday and last night so travel is an issue now), and if I do, interesting to see what she decides to share with a group of newly hired BYU Religion professors. I don’t know if I will be able to even say a word to her, but if I did, it will be interesting to see what I decide to say. What would I say? Thanks? Have you written anything lately? Do you have an hour where I can share my thoughts and hear your responses?? Probably not that one. But any way, it will be interesting!

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