I did actually start reading The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. I'm already two hundred pages into it because it's a fairly easy read. It's fun, though, to read about places I know, such as Cedar City and St. George. And Udall made the distinction between the LDS and fLDS churches, and that's all I need to approve anything written about polygamy ever.
Because I'm a Mormon who is fucking sick of polygamy jokes. Grrrr.
But the reason why I bring this book up is because there was a line in it about the Relief Society. Something about gossiping while hiding behind quilting and emergency preparedness. This was said about the fLDS church, but I feel like it also applies to the LDS church, too - applies in two ways: (1) of course a gaggle of women who meet together are definitely going to gossip, and (2) this reflects the poor attitude that many have towards the Relief Society.
This started me on a long thought process of how the Relief Society is often looked down on. I remember once when I was probably about twelve, a Sunday School teacher of mine made the comment about all the Relief Society does is get together and cry. I was old enough to be offended, but not old enough to be able to say anything.
It feels like in some ways, by some people, this poor attitude of looking down on the weak, emotional women still exists. Of course, I do not feel like all men in the Church feel that way. I mean, those are their wives, and many of them publicly praise their spouses for their strength and spirit (though many only mean their strength and spirit in the home, being a wife, mother, and homemaker). I have met many LDS men whom I have come to admire because they have a deep respect for their wives.
But that doesn't mean that people still don't look down at the Relief Society. And I wonder why that is. I'm in a new ward now, a married BYU ward (yikes!), and might be going somewhat regularly, so maybe I'll figure it out.
I think possibly one of the reasons, and this applies for the Young Women's program as well, is the things the women choose to concentrate on. Generally, the Relief Society is taught the same lessons from the same manuals as the Elder's Quorums. Same goes for the Young Women and Young Men. The difference in the lessons for the YW and YM is that the YW's lessons always go back to marriage, chastity, and motherhood, while the YM concentrate on going on a mission, respecting their priesthood responsibilities, and leadership.
My RS lesson yesterday was on getting as much education as possible, which is a great lesson. I was happy about it. Except most of the "education" they were using as examples (as well as their majors, since most are still students), was learning instruments or how to crochet. At different times, it was brought up all the ways that children are affected by your education, and how to teach children to love learning.
None of those things are inherently wrong. Having skills like playing an instrument or crocheting is awesome and useful. Thinking about your children, especially when a large number of these women had infants or are pregnant, is not a bad thing.
I'm just wondering if any of that factored into the lesson that the men had. Do they somehow involve fatherhood or being a husband in every single lesson they have? I hope they do, considering that the Church wants to emphasize the importance of family over anything else to both sexes.
The Relief Society was started by strong pioneer women to be a place where the women of the church could be together to learn about their divine heritage and become stronger with the help of one another. It really shouldn't be looked down on just because they are a group of women.