by name

01.07.13 | Being Mormon, feminism, LDS Church, mothering daughters | 6 Comments

Today in Primary the theme was “God is my Heavenly Father. He knows and loves me.” Evidence for this personal relationship and paternal love were three scriptures in which God (or Jesus) calls a person by name. Those people were Enos (Enos 1:5), Moses (Moses 1:6) and Joseph Smith (Joseph Smith–History 1:17). We were then asked, “If Heavenly Father visited you, what would He call you?” This is perfectly fine, of course, and definitely something I want my own children to learn, something that, if we could get each person in this world to believe about themselves, and about each other, would theoretically solve every problem, right?

But is sharing those three scriptures the best way to teach children (all children) that they are the offspring of God? The primary presidency’s mandate is to each week “1) identify the doctrine, (2) help the children understand it, and (3) help them apply it in their lives.” They are also told to “Supplement the ideas provided here with some of your own.” So I think it’s valid, even necessary, to think, to actually ponder, how to best teach our beautiful doctrine.

I sat in Primary today wondering if/why I am the only person in the room to see anything wrong with a lesson whose sole purpose is to convince children that they are known personally and by name to God and yet the only examples given are of men that God knows? Does God only know men? Does He know His daughters and simply prefer His Sons? Does He respect His daughters so much He would not approach them personally? Does God wish to know and love me as a female or does He prefer to be inscrutable to me?

I would like to see this lesson taught with both male and female examples. The most easily parallel female example happens to be in the book of scripture we’re studying in class this year. Can you guess? Do you know? (Tom didn’t. And I’ll admit it took me a while to think of her, and now I am more heartsore than ever.) In Doctrine and Covenants 25 :1, the Lord says “Hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, while I speak unto you, Emma Smith, my daughter; for verily I say unto you, all those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom.

The only other textually comparable example I could think of off the top of my head was the Annunciation — in Luke 1:30 the Angel Gabriel (sent by God) says “Fear not Mary, for thou hast found favor with God.” The angel also mentions Elisabeth to both Mary and Zachariah byname. There are several scriptures about the Lord “remembering” women by name (Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Hannah, Ruth) and allowing them to conceive.

In the temple we learn that God and Jesus spoke to Eve by name (and in Moses 4:19 it reads: “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living; for thus have I, the Lord God, called the first of all women, which are many.”)

And, speaking of names, when the Lord changes Abram’s name to Abraham He also changes the man’s wife’s name. Genesis 17:15 reads ”And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.” So not only did God know Sarah by name (and remember her eventually in conception), but it was important to Him to change her name as part of the Abrahamic covenant.

Finally, beyond the personal, loving relationships Jesus* had with His female disciples while on earth (e.g. Mary and Martha), in John 20:14-17 there is this beautiful exchange after the crucifixion:

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

in which Jesus both comforts Mary and makes Himself known to her by saying simply her name.

When I was first lamenting about Sharing Time to Tom, he apologetically reminded me that there are just not that many women in the scriptures, we just live in an unfair world, it’s just the unfortunate way things are.

But that isn’t true! There are women in the scriptures! Of course I wish there were more, and that more were known by name, and that they were more often discussed in terms outside their maternal function. But they are there! They are known by name to God and Jesus, even if they aren’t known by name to us!

I want my daughters to know that God knows them, and all other people, male and female, by name.


*I am a little stumped as to whether there is a doctrinal issue with saying Heavenly Father (Elohim) knows us versus Jesus (Jehovah) knowing us, but  for the purposes of instilling a sense of divinity and divine love in children, I’m going to say it doesn’t matter. In the original examples, Moses and Joseph Smith are pretty clearly addressed by God the Father, but I have always understood Enos’s interlocutor to be Jesus Christ.