Monday, August 11, 2008

Teaching to the Women

I just had the most fascinating experience in a BYU student ward.

I'm visiting with my daughter in Provo, and I attended Church with her ward yesterday. After Sacrament Meeting, she urged me to attend her Social Relations class. It was taught by the Bishop's wife, and they were going to discuss the Temple. Several couples in the ward plan to be married by the end of the month, and some will be going on missions. Sister R took it upon herself to prepare them for this major event that they would soon be experiencing.

I knew things would be different when I saw that she had her temple packet with her on the table. Sister R gave the most amazing presentation I have ever seen. I found myself wishing that a video would be made and sent around to show all teachers of the Temple Prep class how it was done. She unapologetically described each part of the Temple experience, from the symbolism of entering past the first "gate" with your Temple recommend (which she waved in the air), to how to recover your new name if you forget it. She had some of the young men in the room squirming as she explained a relatively new policy that you could wear your bra under your garment top, or your underwear underneath the bottoms in the case of periods or yeast infections. Everything was presented in a faithful, testimony-building, no-nonsense way. The young people were enthralled. And what's more, she presented her remarks to the women.

Although the class consisted of an equal amount of college-aged young men and women, her remarks were completely female oriented. Continually she referred to your escort as "she," talked about the woman who would lay her hands on your head, discussing the authority she held, and the woman who would take you through the veil. Sister R's husband, the Bishop, who was sitting in the back of the room, stood several times to add to her remarks, and twice noted that, "for the men, of course, they will have a male escort," and similar clarifications.

I was fascinated by this turn-around in teaching style. The Bishop seemed just a tad annoyed that his wife was presenting a female perspective on the Temple to a mixed audience. But I was eating it up! Although the men don't always realize it, this is the experience we women have each Sunday as we are presented a male view of the scriptures, a male view of the priesthood, a male view of life. I contrasted the experience with last Sunday's SS lesson, in which I was taught about Alma, Amulek, and male missionary work with never a thought to how a woman might fit in to the scene. Sister R's lesson, on the other hand, had the females in the room actively engaged in their relationship to the temple and the males in the periphery.

This was a great object lesson to both men and women on how teaching directed to a particular gender tends to marginalize and silence the other. Try it! As an experiment next time you teach, style the lesson so that it is addressed entirely to the female gender. Does this make a difference in how males are included?

Optimally we will come closer to a style in our teaching which will include all of our audience, males and females, single and married, parents and childless, old and young. Let's strive for this ideal!

17 comments:

Susanne Pappan said...

Fabulous post!!
Praise and great Blessings wished to the Sister who taught that class!
There are three things here that have lifted me up this morning:

1. If a sister had taught what she did to me before I went to the temple the experience would have been completely different for me. I was freaked out and confused instead of being able to understand the holy experience. When I asked my Bishop, RS Pres., Stake Pres., they all said I would understand some day. I ended up leaving the Church, believing what Anti Morms said, for over 20 years.
I am so thankful HEavenly Father never gives up on us. He brought me back home, slowly cracking through my barriers, which started at the Temple. Satan did his job on me, and well. Jesus in turn,truly saved me from the depths of Hell.

2. How wonderful it is, that you see the difference in how we are taught. I wonder if that incident will cause you to teach in a different way? I will bet it does:)

3. The Church is growing spiritually, just as we are.
The time has come, when we will be more aware of the Fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is so much we don't know, and so much Satan has blinded us with.
The time has come for us to truly live the Gospel in love and love Christ as Heavenly Father would have us love him. Not with fear.

I think The Church in growing...shall show us why she is called She.

Sally said...

Wonderful! I loved the turn around. Also, I wish I could get some clearer directive about what is appropriate to teach about temple prep. I teach Laurels and would love to better prepare them and my own young adult children about what to expect in the temple. I would love to explain things as she did, but err on the side of caution.

Susanne Pappan said...

Thanks again for this post. It was a tool for healing work I am doing and turned into a whole post for me.
Blessed Be Sister.

callgirl said...

Thank you for the post! I agree wholeheartedly about both issues presented: teaching more openly about the temple experience and being inclusive of all when we teach, speak,etc. in church.

What about hymns? It seems acceptable for a mixed congregation to sing "The world has need of wil-ling men..." and even, "Ye el-ders of Is-real...", yet I've NEVER heard "As sis-ters in Zi-on..." sung by anyone but females.

It's not supposed to "matter" that the male gender is used almost exclusively in much of our church literature. (That's what I have been told, anyway. Just make the transition in your own mind from male to female.)

If I ever have an opportunity to teach a class other than nursery or Sunbeams, maybe I'll take your suggestion to heart.

Pinto said...

BiV! I think that is just a fantastic idea! I can't wait to try it out!

And thank you for adding another verification point to a rumor that I've heard from a few very excited people: a bra UNDER the garments! yes!

And I'm SO GLAD I got to see you on Friday! You're just pretty amazing. You know that?

Angie said...

This reminds me of Carol Lynn Pearson's "A Walk in the Pink Moccasins". It's been posted at fMh. IMO, a must read for everyone because it so accurately describes the gender issues we deal with everyday.

S.Faux said...

Temple preparation class has such vast possibilities seldom realized. Thanks.

Maraiya said...

I'm terrible at placing the female perspective first - perhaps a fallout from a religious upbringing? But I still remember a HS English teacher forever harping at the girls in the class that when we were writing about an ambiguous "one," that the gender should always be female because we were female. She would even red mark any references to "he" (unless a particular character) made by a female student. I still remember that lesson. But I'm still horrible about it, despite my feelings of woman power.

I was pleased to hear about the content as well. My last lesson on the temple to YW (a few years ago), I left feeling uncertain if I had shared too much. I'm always uncertain as to where to draw the line but I'm convinced we need to be more liberal about it then we are now.

backandthen said...

Bra under?????????? I love this new policy!

Eve said...

Great post, BinV. I especially like your point about the power of rhetorically including women in talks, lessons, and presentations. I always love it when speakers and teachers do.

Anonymous said...

So, that picture of the bride in front of the Temple. In a post about greater openness about the temple experience isn't it misleading, at the very least, to have a picture of a dress that isn't sufficiently modest for the temple? Aren't you abetting the secrecy you are otherwise decrying?

--djinn

Bored in Vernal said...

lol, Djinn, guess you aren't aware of the "inserts" provided in the temple for young brides who arrive in dresses like this!

djinn said...

No, BiV; the pic is deceptive, oh what the heck.....

Ronda said...

Very interesting!

Question: Did she explain what the covenants would be?
I have always thought that we should know in advance what we will be covenanting and be able to make an informed decision prior to being in the temple. But since I asked numerous people and could get no one to tell me anything in advance except read the creation story, I have assumed you are not allowed to say much. But it is hard to define exactly what the limits are.

Bored in Vernal said...

Ronda, No, she didn't explain what the covenants would be. You make a very good point. In the ceremony, it is not specifically stated that these promises are not to be repeated. I think it's important for a candidate to know what they will be covenanting in advance.

Brit said...

I just stumbled upon this post! Wow, such a great thing, and I wish I had more people teaching me like this in Sunday School, perhaps I wouldn't struggle so much to relate to the lesson.

You can wear the bra under your garments? Really? Can you give me direction where I could go to verify that?

I never really got any direction in how to "properly wear" my garmets, even though I'm repeatedly asked in temple interviews if I'm wearing them properly, and I have no idea what that means.

Bored in Vernal said...

Brit, I'm glad you liked it..
You can ask the temple matron questions about underwear the next time you go to the temple. I'm thinking that when a change like this is made, all female endowed members should be made aware of it, but I'm not sure how this would be done--I can't imagine a directive being read over the pulpit! :)