Sunday, July 16, 2017

#WhataProphetessLooksLike


Huldah was a prophet,
last one that we hear about


In the medical world there's a big push to represent women in the field. Too often people assume a woman couldn't possibly be a MD/DO and defer to calling her 'Miss,' instead. Part of the campaign to change these preconceptions is to show women doctors in their element and share that imagery on the internet under the hashtag #whatadoctorlookslike. (This also applies to doctors of color.)

A while back I posted about roles for women in the Church and I included prophetess among those. I had written a bit about this, but cut a chunk of it out and put it aside because the original post had gotten on the long side. I just came back to this and thought I should bring these ideas back to light with the theme #WhataProphetessLooksLike, because we are sorely lacking their representation today.

So here we go!

What Does Being a Prophetess Look Like?

Here are some examples:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks in his talk, Witnesses of Christ (1990) explained that Anna, a prophetess, had spiritual confirmation that Jesus is the Christ and thus had a "prophetic duty to testify to those around [her]." We can then envision her sharing her convictions with power and authority. Likewise, Mary, the mother of Jesus, shared bold revelations about what was to come into her life as she bore testimony as recorded in Luke.

Rebekah is an interesting case because she prophesied that it was Jacob, not Esau, who should receive the birthright, and she took matters into her own hands --even deceiving Isaac-- to make things so. Similarly, Elisabeth prophesied that her son would be named John, and she came to this conclusion independent of her husband. Keeping this pattern, Hannah knew to dedicate her son, and only child, to the Lord in His temple as he would later become a prophet. In all three cases, I believe it's important to note that when future generations hinge on foretold knowledge, it is woman's distinguished place to set things right.

In the temple account, Eve is contrasted to Adam in the garden as one who has a recollection of many things and has profound insights not afforded to someone who is starting out life from scratch. As a prophetess, she can easily discern who is of the Lord, and who is of the devil. She can warn Adam.
As an aside, I believe we often overlook the term "helpmeet." So often people think this means that Eve and her daughters have a duty to stand out of the way of the righteous "priesthood holder" while keeping things afloat with dinner ready and clothes washed. Such notions miss the point entirely. A helpmeet, as I see it, is like a tutor. And a tutor is someone who has already passed certain tests and can offer her knowledge accordingly. She is lifting up, not keeping up
In 2nd Kings and Chronicles, we also learn of Huldah, who is petitioned by the new King of Judah (Josiah) to clarify scripture. At this time, the covenant people had largely become ignorant to the things of God and so it came down to the prophethood of this one woman to get things back on track and foresee danger tied to not keeping the commandments. (Imagine if all women today thought of themselves as preservationists of truth and righteousness while they search the scriptures.)

During times of war, women like Deborah and the mothers of the two thousand stripling warriors could prophesy battle outcomes contingent upon faith. Today, we see men receiving priesthood blessings prior to deployment, but it is unclear to me how many receive prophetic counsel from their mothers, too.

OK, We Have Prophetesses, but What's the Point if No One Acknowledges Them?

Though we casually state that Mary was the first to see the risen Savior, we rarely reflect on the fact that she was charged with informing the Peter and the other disciples about this (see). In most depictions of this moment, we see Peter, James, and John hearing Mary's words and then racing to the tomb to see what's actually going on. It's as though her word means little, so what was the point of her heralding the occasion? And yet, could you imagine a woman today going up to the First Presidency and informing them about the Lord, and being in the right to do so? Having her revelation (which granted is not the same as prophecy, but in the same "presidential package," if you will) confirmed, too?

So often I feel that being female is like being able to see color while the rest of humanity is colorblind. Just because it's hard to explain what it is we're seeing, what it is we've been blessed with, doesn't mean the gift doesn't exist. The gift is, in fact, quite astounding. Now how do we get others to accept that?

I don't have that answer. But I do know what needs to get addressed first...

Can we, as a church, handle nuances? "Capital P versus little p" priesthood. The prophet, not prophetess. If I commend my friend Laura for being a righteous prophetess, will people know that I'm not trying to undermine Thomas S. Monson? Will others say we should be satisfied with being mothers in Zion and not "seek" for something more?

To me it seems that since 1830, Church efforts have been spent on restoring and preserving the priesthood structure. Now that it's settled and fortified, perhaps we can unwrap the untold story of women. I desire this word 'prophetess' to come back into our lexicon, not for the power is connotes, but for the potential it has to raise women from being in the shadows to having a divine role. In this, I believe, the family unit can be glorified with both Father and Mother ruling righteously.



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