Thursday, December 31, 2015

book review: Sheri Dew's "Women and the Priesthood"

Every time I walked into Deseret Book in Rexburg the last month or so, which was quite frequent because I actually just love walking around inside Deseret Book for some reason, something stuck out to me. I'm not talking about the Florence's chocolates that are super duper tasty that they have on display at the registers, though that is often the most difficult temptation to overcome in that store. It was a book by Sheri Dew titled Women and the Priesthood.

I'm a young woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a church that gets a lot of attention from the world for being full of peculiar people. Issues about homosexuality and women's rights within the church are particularly heard about and very very much misunderstood. I'll have to bypass the homosexuality topic today, though you should know that your perception of how the church views homosexuality is probably incorrect and you are welcome to send me an email or something and we can talk about it. Women and the Priesthood is a book that explores the essential, vital, and incredibly divine role of women in God's restored church on the earth today. It was completely worth reading and better established how I feel about being a woman in the Mormon church.

What shaped my view of this book was knowing who the author was. Sheri Dew is 62 years old, has served in Relief Society at the stake level and as the second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, meaning she oversaw the Relief Society organization over the whole church, which is the gathering place, alongside priesthood quorums for men, for all the adult women of the church. But what stuck out to me most in her personal and very spiritual writings about women, marriage, motherhood, callings, and everything else was that she has never been given the opportunity to marry and have children in her life here on Earth. That's right; a working woman who never mothered children of her own wrote a deeply inspired book about women in a church deemed sexist, patriarchal, and unfair by the world. In fact, from the start, she talks about how she doesn't understand such claims and tears them down with her own arguments.

Now, on to Women and the Priesthood itself. Sister Dew organized this book into eight chapters, and it's a reasonably short one, too, under 200 pages. The first chapter, "The Question of Perception", discusses how the perception the world has of the role of women in the LDS church is completely wrong. She clears up any misunderstandings the reader may have about the church. From there, she moves on to discuss the divine errand women have without telling us what that is, because each woman on Earth has a different one. We each have personal purposes from God, and she discusses how we are each tasked with discovering what ours is, and the help we have been given in that task. She segues right into "God Expects Women to Receive Revelation", which is essential to finding our divine errand and performing it, but also writes about the importance of this in auxiliary callings and how women are blessed to be naturally receptive to the spirit. The next chapter details the perfection of God and His Son, which gives us security in following the revelation we receive. Chapter 5 discusses the sincere importance of women in the Lord's church and how it would never be successful without our participation. In chapter 6, Sister Dew talks about how men and women have access to the greatest blessings God has offered us, really focusing on the temple ordinances in a sacred way. She describes how no man or woman alone can receive the greatest ordinance of temple marriage; it requires one man and one woman together in unity. Chapter 7, for me, was the most touching chapter; Sister Dew writes about motherhood from her own unique perspective and how God has given us as women His greatest gift, which is to be co-creators with Him to give His children bodies of their own. She is not insensitive to those who have not had motherhood in its literal sense made available to them in this life, either. Sister Dew concludes the book with a chapter all about how "Converted Women Can Change the World".

I feel that there are some great aspects to this book. First, Sister Dew wrote using some personal anecdotes, but most of her writing referenced a few stories from women around the world and a great wealth of doctrine given by apostles and prophets from all dispensations of the Earth. She backed all of her writing with proof and included in the beginning that she had sections checked many times by scholars and leaders in the church. Second, this book was not written to a single specific particular audience, but rather it applies to men and women and it applies no matter where the reader is in their journey of developing a testimony. She described things with detail to make sure you understand things exactly the way they are, which is so important when it comes to talking about the priesthood and related things. She teaches you, whether you are building knowledge or whether you may have had some misunderstandings that needed clearing up.

Women and the Priesthood was such an awesome read. I felt empowered as a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while also recognizing the broad spectrum of how much work I have to do to improve myself! And at the same time, I don't feel abandoned in my work. I understand the importance of Relief Society, the greatness of my personal purpose on Earth (whatever that is), and I feel even more on equal ground with priesthood-holding Latter-day Saint men. The way Sister Dew explained the Priesthood itself cleared up questions I never knew I had. Her description of divine errands and motherhood and the temple make me want to learn so much more about why Heavenly Father has me on Earth at this very moment. I better understand the kind of person God would have me be. 

I have learned from this book, and I have a place to go back and reference when things look confusing. I could write about this book for hours, but then there wouldn't be a point in having you read it too, would there? So if you're looking for a good book to read, whether male or female, whether your testimony is huge and strong or (especially) if it's small and barely growing, I recommend this book.

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