Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thoughts from the Shower

I was reading a post from an LDS blog my brother sent me a while back about how we teach modesty to young women in the church. I'm not sure I agreed with all the issues the author raised or agreed with her solution but it definitely got me thinking about some of my own 'tick inducing' teachings from my YW days. There is one in particular that has grated on me for some time but I could never exactly pin down what it was about it that bothered me.
Enter the shower.
I do a lot of my thinking in the shower. This morning I think I had a breakthrough.

I think I should preface this with a few disclaimers with the hope that I offend as few people as possible. If you still find yourself offended, please realize I am not so much concerned with some person as I am with a long-standing idea/way of teaching and the point of this post is certainly not to offend but rather to grabble with the idea and way of teaching. So, if for some reason you still find yourself offended, tell me and I'll make you cookies.

Disclaimer 1: I do not have any female children, however I have been around them and I am a female myself.

Disclaimer 2: I was never taught the idea I take issue with at home so I do not have experience with how it is taught in the home, so perhaps in the home its made more clear than in 1 hour lessons on Sundays.

So now that everyone is dying to know what I'm talking about and totally ready to be offended, lets do this.

I really, really find a frequent way of teaching about the temple to young women problematic. Here is how I reacted every time I heard temple marriage talked about in terms of castles and princesses before this morning's shower,

"No, the temple is NOT a 'castle' and you, young woman, are NOT a 'princess.'"

Then the more I thought about it this morning, I realized the problem, or reaction I had come to, ie don't call the temple a castle and don't call young women princesses, was also wrong because, while the temple still isn't really a 'castle' young women actually are princesses in a sense.

Alright then, what gives? Why still the annoyance with the teaching?

Because we teach girls they are princesses and then we don't teach them what a princess is. We leave that, very foolishly, to Disney or fairytales. We need to distinguish between what the world teaches about princesses and what the gospel teaches.*

Could we perhaps teach the relationship between the temple and their 'royal' responsibilities and inheritance a little more clearly and doctrinally? Could we teach them that the role of a princess and potential queen and priestess is far more similar to that of Ester-to rescue, to be courageous in the face of persecution and to follow God than it is of Cinderella-get a make over, fall in love, have the perfect castle wedding and live happily ever after? We could even talk about King Benjamin who worked all his days even as, or rather, especially as, king versus King Noah who did no work and glutted himself on the backs of the people. Could we teach them that what truly makes them a princess and potential queen and priestess is not looks, grace, charm or a 'prince charming' but their willingness to make and keep sacred covenants even when they feel and look more like Cinderella pre-makeover? Could we teach them that marriage in the temple is the beginning and not the culmination of their royal coronation? That there is learning to be done, stewardship to be justly, mercifully and righteously performed and covenants to honor?

I realize it is a lot to teach. I realize its much more of an investment than a few trite, sugary phrases left in the ears of our young women who then supplement them with worldly understandings and images from childhood. I realize that perhaps they won't understand it all at once. But wouldn't it be worth it to give them a foundation not just for temple marriage but for living life as one who has a temple marriage?

My main hope is that we consider how we as leaders of young women and parents to young women teach them about their royal nature and its relation to the temple. That we teach their temple marriage not as the culmination and crowning proof of their royalty but as the beginning of their learning, working and practicing how to become queens and priestesses so that one day they can be queens and priestess whose inheritance is eternal life, lives, and all the Father hath.

*Now, don't get me wrong, I have no problem with little girls playing Disney princesses. I do however have a problem with girls 18 and on playing Disney princesses.


Anonymous said...

First, I love your writing and your thoughts. It's so nice to read intelligent opinions and to discuss our views. I'm glad you wrote this!

Second, I've never heard that analogy before, of the castle and princess. So I may be at a disadvantage to address this issue.

Third, I think you hit the problem neatly - we just have a vague idea that a princess is someone who's recognized as being special. Of course we could get into what the world teaches us "special" means, but I suggest it might be simply beautiful or, in a less cynical sense, a girl's unique personality. After reflecting on your thoughts I came to the conclusion that to a large extent, we draw a strong comparison between LDS brides and the temple, and for the wedding day, perhaps it's good to feel like a princess, with all eyes focused on the bride. Because over the next decade of the bride's life she'll (hopefully) learn that in reality, NOTHING is about her. I believe that much of the gospel is about us changing ourselves through the way we interact with - and even think about - others. Marriage and motherhood are wonderful opportunities to focus on others first, putting our own desires second. Even King Benjamin, as you brought up, is a great example of dedication to others. He seemed to understand the real purpose of his kingship - it wasn't about being recognized as someone "special," it was about helping others.

And June is starting to kick the keyboard now, so I'll end my thoughts there.

Jeff and Lauren said...

Haha! I loved this post! I have actually never heard of this analogy either, but I liked your points. I totally agree. With a little "princess" in our house and one on the way, we really try to distinguish the difference between a spoiled brat and a "real princess." We tell Ava that real Princesses are modest, share, are always nice and polite, etc. You'll be a great mom for a girl! And by the way, I am not offended but you can make me cookies anyway if you want too :)

Joshua and Rachel said...

It is really interesting that you posted this. My visiting teachers just left and we talked a little bit about the way women are taught about the temple. I really enjoy reading your thoughts.

SSToone said...

I haven't heard the analogy used much in my time but no doubt it has been.

AMEN about the 18+ princesses comment. I actually LOATHE the word princess to be honest. It is supremely cringe worthy. I will not call McKelle that but she can wear the dresses and pretend. I just hate all that girls who call themselves 'princesses' represents - eye rolling and "gag me" come into play.

I'm a hater I suppose!

Totally with ya on this - not sure how someone could be offended though I only did a more thorough skimming.

Kelly & Nate said...

If I'm not offended can I still get a cookie?

Brooke Self said...

I like this post and I completely agree. Yes, it is nice and fun to pretend we are princesses.. but that could denote a whole strew of things or attributes/qualities. I think the analogy is used quite often. Most frequently at girls camp and such. I think it is empowering to think that you are truly royalty, and Daughter's of a King.. but like you said, understanding what that really means in a gospel sense is the necessary follow-up lesson.