Eschew

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been overwhelmed by a lot of questions, especially in regards to my religion lately. Last week, we were taught a beautiful lesson in Relief Society about the prophetesses in the book of Judges. As soon as the topic was brought up, I knew I’d have to do some separation between the patriarchal position in which a lesson of this sort would inevitably be taught, and the literal interpretation of what is actually present in the scriptures.

The prophetesses found in the book of Judges were discussed with great admiration and respect within our little group of Relief Society sisters. Finally, there were prominent, inspired leaders that were easy to connect with and relate to. I was ecstatic- at last, I was feeling empowered during a church meeting, and as consequence, was actually engaged in the lesson (after I shared my excitement on the Young Mormon Feminists Facebook page).

I was so ecstatic because never in my 19 and a half years of membership in the LDS church had I even heard of these inspired women in the Bible. Admittedly, that’s partly due to my slack in scripture study, especially the Bible. If I’m honest, I don’t feel that we as a church focus enough on the bible. We have the Book of Mormon, ANOTHER testament of Jesus Christ, but I feel that sometimes we treat it as the only testament of Jesus Christ. Even so, I had Seminary classes in High School that were Bible based. We even had a whole year dedicated to the Old Testament. Even within that class, I can’t say I recall ever discussing the Prophetesses of the book of Judges.

Why? Because of the patriarchal structure of religion. Call me crazy, but it seems to me that these women have been purposely disregarded from Sunday school discussion, or any religious discussion for that matter. The discussion and recognition of powerful, inspired female leaders is so rare that it takes some of us two decades to even learn that they existed.

My testimony has been hanging by a thread these past few years as I realize more and more how misogynistic and patriarchal the church’s structure (perhaps, more fairly, culture) is. However, had I known of these prophetesses and been versed in what divine roles they played, and felt like I was in an atmosphere that was willing to help me investigate and answer my questions in regard to inspired women, perhaps my attitudes toward my church would be different.

I want to know why the term ‘prophetess’ is now extinct from our vocabulary. I want to know why the title of prophetess no longer exists, and if it will ever return.

I posted similar questions to these on my Facebook page, looking for others’ insights on the matter, and not surprisingly, the idea of a female prophet was instantly shot down. One ‘friend’ gave me the answer that ‘prophetess’ in Hebrew means “wife of the prophet.” However, we have no record that Deborah was even married, so I’m disregarding that explanation entirely.

Even throughout the lesson, the teacher (female) reinstated that these women were not literal prophets. However, their prophecies were fulfilled, and they received inspiration from God, so what about that makes them not literal prophets? The only way these women differ from ancient prophets is the fact that they were female.

Although it is frustrating and disheartening that female prophetesship is impermissible within my religion, and female leadership is very limited, I am choosing to believe that these women were literal prophetesses of God, in the purest sense of the word, and that gives me strength.

M.

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3 thoughts on “Eschew

  1. Miss Maddie

    If I may, I would like to offer an answer.
    These women were indeed prophetesses. They were inspired women who had the gift of prophecy and were relied on by the those around them for their guidance and connection to the Lord.
    What they were not was members of the Priesthood, and thus cannot be called prophets in the same sense that the Apostles and the Seventy are prophets. In this sense a prophet is an ordained minister, which these women were not.
    This in no way detracts from their great spirit and leadership in ancient Israel. Deborah was a judge, the highest political position at the time. She was a great woman, and no one should ever try to detract from either her leadership ability or her spiritual gifts. We even read about similar prophetesses in the New Testament. Anna, who met Joseph and Mary in the Temple when Christ was eight days old is called a prophetess and is honored for her service to God. In Acts 29 we are told that all four of Philip’s daughters prophesied.
    I am not sure of any woman of this dispensation being called a prophetess, but I do know of many stories of women of great faith. Joseph Smith’s mother once parted the ice of the river so that the boat she was on could sail on the water. A mother was inspired on how to heal her injured son after the Huan’s Mill Massacre.

    I think the word is not generally used anymore because we have entered an age when such gifts are not on general display as they were in the past. Even those ordained as prophets in the church rarely display such gifts openly. This does not mean that such women do not exist or that one cannot aspire to be one. It means that the modern culture (not just in the church) views such things in a different way than the ancient people did.

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  2. Kelcey,
    Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. It is really difficult for me to just accept that things are the way they are because that’s the way they are. It is very distracting to me, and really makes me question other parts of my religion, leaving me with an internal battle. The struggle is real.

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  3. Miss Maddie,
    You certainly have much deeper questions than I did at your age, but be patient with the process. There are still things I don’t understand that don’t necessarily have to do with my testimony. Keep asking questions but don’t let them distract you from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think you’ll find someday that temple ordinances can answer many of your questions. I have to trust that sometimes the answers are too big for me to carry. Now put that in your pipe and smoke it 🙂

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