Sunday, June 05, 2016

Book of Mormon Stories (for the laaaadies)

At the behest of my sweet son, I'm going to be brave and talk about gender-inclusivity in church songs once again. I suppose he didn't ask me to write a blog post, per se, but on the way to church we were singing Book of Mormon Stories and he requested "a verse about Mary!"

"There's no verse about Mary," I informed him.

And then I thought, "There's no verse about any woman. That's...lame."

So when I came home from church I started composing a few verses about women in the Book of Mormon. Due to historical incident (ie. men controlled the narrative), there aren't many named women in the Book of Mormon, but here are a few verses that I came up with (I admit they could still use some tweaking):


When Sariah’s sons were gone for longer than was planned
It seemed like a tri-al too great for her to withstand.
They returned with the brass plates; Sariah’s faith was fanned.
She had learned to trust God righteously.

In a vision Nephi saw the birth of Jesus Christ
Born to virgin Mary, her whole life she sacrificed
To carry, raise and love this child who’d die to pay the price
For our sins though He lived righteously.

When Lamoni and his queen had fallen to the ground
Abish ran to tell her friends; she did not stand around.
She raised the queen, who then began to joyously expound
How her people could live righteously. 

Bonus points for getting two women in one verse!

Perhaps later I'll attempt to write verses about the lesser-known, unnamed women in the Book of Mormon ("Do Nephi's wife!" Andrew suggested), but for now I'm happy with these. When Miriam stopped by my desk to read over my shoulder she said, "There are verses about women! Why haven't we learned these yet?!"

"Because I'm just writing them now," I said.

"You wrote Book of Mormon Stories?!" she said.

"No! I'm just writing these verses."

It didn't help her confusion to see my name on the screen. The first two verses were written by Elizabeth Fetzer Bates. The six optional verses were written by Nancy K. Daines Carter.

I don't feel too bad suggesting a few more optional verses (though I don't really know how my verses fit in to the sequence of the other verses, necessarily (not that they're official optional verses because they're not (but they could be))) since there were already optional verses offered. And because my name is also Nancy.

I also have a few tiny suggestions on how to change existing verses to be a teensy bit more inclusive. I know change is hard for a lot of people to swallow. If it ain't broke don't fix it, and all that. But the problem is that it is broken. "The solution," you may be saying to yourself, "is to not be offended by such a trivial thing; after all, I'm not offended by it." Truthfully, I'm not offended by it either.

In fact, as I sit here, fully embracing both womanhood and motherhood (I'm even nursing my baby as I type) I can honestly say that I'm not feeling an iota of annoyance, anger, resentment, indignation, irritation, exasperation, wrath, displeasure, ill will, disgruntlement, pique, vexation, or animosity toward anyone. So I'm not offended.

I do, however, see a hole that can be filled.

If it makes a little girl's face light up to see a Book of Mormon Stories verse about a woman, then a hole has been filled. Girls like to feel included, too, and as our current historical narrative is becoming more gender-inclusive holes like these are going to be noticed more by our little girls (and boys!), and so our narrative needs to be changed. When change means improvement, change is not bad. Change is good. Change is healthy.

And with that little preamble, here are the changes I'd suggest if I were actually in any sort of capacity to suggest a change of this nature (which...I'm kind of not)...

Verse two currently says:

2. Lamanites met others who were seeking liberty,
And the land soon welcomed all who wanted to be free.
Book of Mormon stories say that we must brothers be,
Giv'n the land if we live righteously.

I propose that the verse be something more along the lines of:

2. Lamanites met others who were seeking liberty,
And the land soon welcomed all who wanted to be free.
Book of Mormon stories say we must live peacefully,
Giv'n the land if we live righteously.

Verse six currently says:

6. Once two thousand sons of God were called to fight the foe.
Marching as an army into battle they did go.
They believed that Christ the Lord their guardian would be.
They had learned they should live righteously.

I propose that we put women back into that verse. I almost tried writing a verse about the mothers of the stripling warriors but, honestly, a lot of that story does have to do with those young men. But their mothers are the ones who taught them, the scriptures are pretty clear about that, so why the use of passive voice? Put the mothers back in the narrative. My proposed change:

6. Once two thousand sons of God were called to fight the foe.
Marching as an army into battle they did go.
Their mothers taught them Christ the Lord their guardian would be.
They had learned they should live righteously.

Who would you write a verse about if you were writing a verse about women for Book of Mormon Stories?

6 comments:

  1. When I saw this title I wondered if you had thrown in a verse about Abish. It is hard because we have so few stories and even fewer names. And yes I wish we had more!!!

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  2. Heroes of the scriptures mentions women--Queen Esther, Ruth, Sariah and Mary. (Still not equal representation, though.)I have not done it, but would like to sing Heroes of the Scriptures as verses to Scripture Power because it has a more compelling tune. https://www.lds.org/friend/1998/06/heroes-of-the-scriptures?lang=eng

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    1. How have I never heard that song?! I love it! And it works to the tune of Scripture Power really well! I see FHE coming on...

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  3. Maybe I will send this blog post to Vanja. Since she has 27 songs in the Primary book and was on the church music committee for years, SHE knows people who can do something about it, don't you think?

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    1. YES!!! Nancy, I love that you've written these verses and Myrna, I love that you're doing something about it. Maybe nothing will come of it, but doesn't mean you can't try!

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