24 April 2016

Anacostia Trail

I loved this trail and I think it's an important one to do because there are so many pieces of DC history here.  You'll read about the Bonus Army, the first mental hospital in DC, segregation, Barry Farm, redevelopment, and so much more.  Totally fascinating.

Anacostia isn't the safest part of DC and its reputation is probably worse than the area actually is.  I decided that since we're running out of time to do everything I want to do, I wouldn't try to fit it in with my son's weekly field trips and to go with my husband on another day instead.  It was such a good walk that I want to go back with my son, but if we don't have time to do the entire walk, we will definitely go back to the Anacostia Community Museum because they have an amazing exhibit on DC history from 1963-1975 (it replaced the DC after the Civil War exhibit we went to last fall that was so good).

23 April 2016

Mt Pleasant Trail

This was a lovely walk to do in the spring because the area is so nice and it was interesting.  However, it wouldn't be at the top of my list of most important heritage trails to do in DC, especially if you'd done others in the area.

22 April 2016

Georgetown Alleys

My son isn't quite as interested in alleys as I am, so I got my husband to come with me on this one.  We started at Pomander Walk (south off Volta between 33rd and 34th), then went to Cashell Alley (which was just named and doesn't really have older buildings or homes on it so you could skip it, but it's right there north off Volta between Wisconsin and 33rd).  Then we went up Wisconsin to Caton/Scott Place (Reservoir and 32nd- you can walk through it on Google street view) and over to Orchard Alley (NW of P and 30th), then down to Corcoran and Oak Alleys (between 31st and Wisconsin and M and N).  We crossed the canal to go to Cady Alley and Cecil Place, then into Georgetown University and back to the car.

I loved it.

If you think alleys are interesting, you might like this pdf about alleys in DC.

12 April 2016

The Choir, Updated

I was reading the other day about Miriam (the sister of Aaron) and her chorus of female musicians and dancers who celebrated after the Israelites crossed the Red Sea/Sea of Reeds.  Miriam leads a group of women who are carrying frame drums (tof) and dancing which is similar to women celebrating David's victory in 1 Samuel 18 and Jephthah's daughter's doomed celebration of her father's victory in Judges 11 (and also, likely, Deborah's song in Judges 5 and a mention of Philistine women singing to celebrate a military victory in 2 Samuel 1).  It's also reminiscent of Jeremiah 31:4, "Again you shall take your tambourines [hand drums], and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers." The reference to Philistine women performing musical celebrations, and quite a bit of archaeological evidence that shows women as the primary players of hand-drums throughout the Mediterranean suggests that playing these instruments was a specifically female role in the ancient Near East.

So, if this assumption that the tof was a woman's instrument is accurate, it implies that women were present when that instrument is mentioned.  For example, Psalms 68:25 ("The singers in front, the musicians last, between them girls playing tambourines...") uses a grammatically feminine construction for the drum players.  Psalms 81:2, 149:3, and 150:4 likely include women since they all refer to the tof.  All of these psalms aren't merely hymns or nice-sounding collections, but part of Israelite ritual processions and celebrations in praise of Yahweh.  

The point here is that it appears that this is another piece of evidence (and I was sure I'd written somewhere about women serving in the temple in ancient Israel but I cannot find it so I'll link to that later) that women were part of public religious events in ancient Israel.  "Gathering to rehearse, compose, and perform provided women with the opportunity to experience leadership and camaraderie, as well as the esteem of their colleagues and also of their audiences. Such experience is empowering." (Carol Meyers)

It was that quote that reminded me strongly of the choir that sang at the Women's Meeting a couple of weeks ago.  It wasn't just a nice group of people to listen to, their performance allowed those women to do all the things Meyers mentions, plus give them the opportunity to take a prominent part in a major religious observance.  It would not have been the same without them and their role was as necessary as anyone else's.

11 April 2016

Lincoln Memorial, Watergate, and Hughes Mews and Snows Court

Last week's field trip was stuffed in with other DC appointments and ACT prep so we didn't have much flexibility and we ended up going to the Lincoln Memorial, Watergate, and Hughes Mews and Snows Court.  None of those are in the right time period (with one exception) but they were all in the right location so that will have to do.

There's not much to do at Watergate except look at it, at least right now.  There is supposed to be a Foggy Bottom Trail in progress but the signs aren't up yet.  I'd recommend doing that trail when it opens, hopefully later this year.

We went to the Lincoln Memorial to talk about the March on Washington, of course, and also Marian Anderson's concert on its steps in 1939 when the Daughters of the American Revolution wouldn't allow her to sing in Constitution Hall.

Hughes Mews and Snows Court are some of the only places left in DC where you can still see how the old alleys and interiors of the city blocks were used for housing.  Definitely worth a stop.

Stuff

Two things from the last week.

Another defining point of Trumpism is petulant ignorance. Trump's complaining about the unfairness of the delegate rules is another reason why Trump would make a terrible president.  There are plenty of people in the US who view the party nomination system as a democratic process that's simply based on a popular vote (sort of as if we had a two-round system), but for a candidate to not understand that isn't the case is not acceptable.  Trump has consistently campaigned on not caring about how the system works, but sometimes the POTUS actually needs to understand how things work.  If you want to change the system, don't tell us it's unfair, give us concrete and practical ways to fix it.  Trump completely ignores most issues, spouts half-baked ideas when pressed, rarely outlines workable proposals to fix the few problems he actually cares about, and sulks and whines when get doesn't get his way or people point out his misconceptions. Petulant ignorance.

Sanders' complaining is in a different category- just irritating, not a symptom of a serious underlying problem.  If you're going to run as a Democrat, and Sanders freely admits that he chose to run as a Democrat because "in terms of media coverage, you had to run within the Democratic Party."  Bernie has benefited greatly from running as a Democrat and I think that's okay.  But it's not all good things when you choose to run as a Democrat.  You also accept the nomination process which includes superdelegates which may well choose someone who's definitely a Democrat (and raises lots of money for Democrats). This is the system Bernie signed up for.

Honestly, I think both Trump and Sanders could run as independents at this point and I'm not sure either or both won't.  That would be an election to remember.

And the other thing.  I'm concerned about these religious freedom laws that have been passed in the South.

In many ways they are unnecessary because sexual orientation isn't a protected class in most states, and in many of those states it's only protected in housing and employment.  Obviously, none of the states passing these laws designate sexual orientation and/or gender identity as a protected class.  When people talk about a wedding photographer in New Mexico in 2013 who was required to photograph a same-sex wedding, they often forget that New Mexico state law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity "in matters of employment, housing, credit, public accommodations and union membership."  The New Mexico Court of Appeals made the ruling based on New Mexico law and it only can apply in New Mexico.

People in North Carolina and Tennessee and every other state are already been free to turn away business for pretty much any reason. Laws that specifically say you can discriminate based on marital status, gender identity, and sexual orientation (while ignoring all the other ways you can discriminate, like how you treat your children, or whether you contribute financially to worthy causes, or if you're wearing shoes and a shirt, or most anything else) are insulting and harmful.  They contribute to an atmosphere of distrust and miscommunication that can easily make life hard or dangerous for some people and that is not what I want to see happen.  I also think that laws like these make it much more likely that gender identity and sexual orientation will become protected in the future and I'm pretty sure that's as far from the goal as possible for the people passing these laws.

However, these laws are much more than unnecessary in many ways.  They're actively harmful when, for example, they mandate which bathroom anyone uses rather than allowing flexibility on that point.  I understand that there is a lot of concern over this issue, but the worst way to deal with this is to mandate from the top that people use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate. This solves nothing.

And one final point- I think it would be helpful for religious people to reframe at least some of the discussion around religious freedom today to empowering us to take responsibility for our religious choices rather shifting the blame to someone else.  If a religious school isn't able to participate in a national sports tournament because some games are scheduled on Sunday, say that the school chooses not to participate rather than saying it's barred from participating (or, to be especially positive, say the school chooses to uphold its principles and not participate).  If you are a religious person and choose to incorporate a business, realize that you will need to follow state and federal discrimination law- don't frame it as an undue religious burden to do so.

(Also, can we please remember that official religious institutions like churches and religious universities already can ignore most discrimination laws?  An extreme example is that a pastor can still refuse to marry an interracial couple in a religious ceremony.  I hope no pastor would ever do that, but it wouldn't be illegal.  I truly do not foresee a time when participation in private religious ceremonies is controlled by the government.)

04 April 2016

U Street Trail

This is a good walk to do for the first half of the 20th century.  It does cover some of the second half but it's more about the first half.  This was a lovely and interesting walk.

Also, there are lots of signs from the African American  Heritage Trail in this area so look for those too.

01 April 2016

Cherry Blossoms and Pearl Harbor

We couldn't do our regular field trip last week because of spring break, but the entire family did see the cherry blossoms right when they first bloomed (and before the massive Easter weekend crowds).  We walked down to the spot where this photo was taken (this is an AP photo).


We talked about the way Japanese, including US citizens, were treated in the US during WWII. That's more a story on from the west coast rather than the east coast, but people were constantly writing to DC during WWII demanding that the cherry trees all be destroyed.  This photo and all it symbolizes is a lot more relevant this year than it ought to be.

There are new trees planted on the spot where this one was cut down.




31 March 2016

Adams Morgan Trail

This was a thoroughly interesting and lovely walk.  It's not really close to Metro, but you can take the bus or walk a bit, as we did.  We went now because the Knickerbocker Theater (1920s) was along this trail, but it could also be done later.

Also, since we had time and we ended near the zoo, we went there afterward.

30 March 2016

Blah

So I haven't written about politics in a bit but I'm still thinking about it. Since I'm not in the group of people who thinks there are no good candidates, I'm not worried about who I'm going to vote for.  All of my energy is going into wanting Trump to be kept as far from the White House as possible. Here's the latest example of why I don't what him there that actually has to do with policy rather than how Trump treats people.*

I was very bothered by the way Trump answered many of his town hall questions last night.  I think this was the first time I've seen him in a town hall (he's usually on after I go to bed to keep people watching) so I hadn't seen how differently he interacts with the audience than the other candidates do.  He's obviously nothing like Kasich in his personal interaction, or Hillary who is also very good, or even Bernie or Cruz, but I thought that he handled the questions from the audience very poorly.  He completely misunderstood one very basic question which meant his answer was worthless (and laughable); he honestly couldn't think of anything he has ever apologized for or even something specific he'd learned from- until he finally came up with the obvious answer of apologizing to family members; but I thought his response to one question in particular was insulting to the questioner and dangerous to anyone who isn't a white American Christian and I don't think Trump would even recognize that.

The man who asked the question was a law enforcement officer, Brian Murphy, who was shot 15 times while responding to the 2012 shooting of a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin.  It wasn't mentioned explicitly that the shooting was by a white supremacist against people wearing turbans, but presumably Trump knew that (I hope I am not giving him too much credit, although there was absolutely nothing in what he said that indicated that he did know that).  Murphy asked "How would you suggest we help educate the public and not alienate these groups and, at the same time, how do we protect the constitutional rights of minority groups like the Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and Jews, while still addressing radical Islamization?"

To me, Trump's obvious first response should have been to thank Murphy for the sacrifice he made because that context matters greatly in this question.  This is not a man who is unfamiliar with the dangers of marginalizing these groups because he himself was shot 15 times because of it.  Not only did Trump not thank him, he didn't ever acknowledge the shooting in his answer, nor did he respond to the question about protecting constitutional rights of minorities in any way.  Instead he talked about Obama's using different terms than Trump does when describing some terrorist attacks, how saying that he would ban Muslims helped him in the polls, defending second amendment rights, banning Muslims again, wiping out ISIS while saying he was against the war in Iraq and Obama's pullout from there, and finally adding some inaccurate things about refugees. I feel like Kasich and Hillary do a good job of connecting with people who ask questions, but Trump used Murphy as a platform to spew hate. It was awful.

Anderson Cooper finally was able to elbow in and ask about protecting rights again and Trump finally said, "I want to do that also, and I do want to do that, but I at the same time we have to recognize we have a serious problem" which is no answer at all to the question of *how* he would protect those rights.  Cooper went on to ask about Cruz's proposal to "patrol Muslim neighborhoods" which has serious constitutional implications and Trump cheered on that idea.  It was appalling.

*As for the campaign manager incident, I am also appalled that Trump not only is denying that anything happened, but also trying to say the reporter was the real perpetrator.  No wonder women often don't report violence.  Everyone agrees this incident was relatively minor, but even after the charge Trump is trying to dismiss her by saying she didn't yell, that she made up the story, that there is no proof that the bruises weren't already there.  That she touched him first, that she might have been carrying a knife.  That she caused the problem by reporting what happened.

29 March 2016

Holy Saturday, the Harrowing of Hades, and Susa Gates Young

I think this is going to be my new Holy Saturday post.

A few months ago I asked some online friends, many of whom are Christian from all different denominations, about the harrowing of Hades (or Christ's descent into hell) between His death and resurrection.  It's a major theological point for Mormons- basically, the entire reason why we do temple work for the dead with a short summary of what Jesus did in Doctrine and Covenants 138- but I didn't know what other Christians thought about it.  Most said that they either had never heard of it or rarely talked about it, but a few (especially Orthodox) explained how important a doctrine it is for them.

In particular, Holy Saturday is a very significant day for Orthodox Christians because of Jesus' victory over death and hell. During the 40-day Paschal season, Orthodox Christians sing several times a day, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tomb, bestowing life!"

Ezekiel 37:1-14, Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 25:8 and 26:19, and Ephesians 4:7-10 were all used to help explain the doctrine.  One Anglican women said, "The idea is that what is needful isn't someone to declare us not-guilty as in a court of law, but rather someone to bring healing to our wounded and dying souls (as in a hospital). The harrowing of Hades conquered death, thereby providing communion with God, which brings healing."  This is a rather different different and much older atonement model than the substitutionary/satisfaction model many western Christians use (including, to a large extent, Mormons) because Jesus' conquering of death is the point, not His redeeming us from or paying for sin. She went on to say, "They [these two models] suggest a God of a somewhat different character.  Not one who demands what is due to him, but one who pays a ransom demanded by another for the good of others, or one who enters into a battle on behalf of the weak."

I really do need to do a better job of observing Holy Saturday and doing temple work or family history seems like the best way to do that, but I also want to remember what Orthodox and Anglican Christians have told me about this day.

And now for the Susa Gates Young part of this discussion. The article I just linked is from lds.org and talks about her commitment to family history and temple work:

She [Susa Gates Young] wrote countless newspaper and magazine articles, taught class after class, and took the message on the road to many stakes and wards. She visited genealogical libraries in the eastern United States and England and corresponded with genealogists from many other countries, seeking greater knowledge and expertise. She served on the general board of the Relief Society, where she succeeded in having lessons on genealogy (most of which she also wrote) incorporated into the [Relief Society] curriculum. She published a 600-page reference book on surnames and contributed frequently to a new magazine devoted to genealogical research.
Susa and [Joseph F.] Smith spoke together at genealogical meetings—she provided practical instruction in methodology, and he laid out the theological foundations of the work.

The article goes on to describe the general indifference of many church members to the topic- the lessons she'd written were almost scrapped by the Relief Society General Board from the curriculum, partly because doing genealogy was so difficult (and it was a lot harder to do in the 1910s than the 2010s). But she said, “All the desired inspiration in the world will not save our dead. We must also have information in order to consummate that noble work.”

So, with that background, Susa visited her friend Joseph F. Smith just after he had written what would become D&C 138.  After she read it she wrote in her journal, "In it he tells of his view of Eternity; the Savior when He visited the spirits in prison—how His servants minister to them; he saw the Prophet and all his associate Brethren laboring in the Prison Houses; Mother Eve & her noble daughters engaged in the same holy cause!"  Susa was a women's rights supporter and was glad "to have Eve and her daughters remembered" and wrote later, "This is unusual—the mention of women’s labors on the Other Side...the direct view of [women] associated with the ancient and modern prophets and elders confirms the noble standard of equality between the sexes which has always been a feature of this Church”  She also wrote, "Above all to have this given at a time when our Temple work and workers & our genealogy need such encouragement. No words of mine can express my joy and gratitude."

So think a little about Susa Gates Young when you think about Doctrine and Covenants 138.  Her enthusiasm for the cause made a difference.

Early Spring Food

I keep adding new things to eat during early spring after living in different places.  We've had laghman on Nooruz for years.  Hamantaschen is always good and I found the perfect filling this year (not that this is really a spring food- and most years it's really early spring).  And I made empanadas this year for Holy Week because Mexico.

Hamantaschen:

This calls for a lot of poppy seeds- more than a whole grocery store jar- so it's worth getting it in bulk somewhere.  Or just buy the jar and do your best.

Coconut poppyseed filling

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons sugar (the original calls for 6, but I think you could do less than 3)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup poppy seeds

Melt the butter in a small pot and whisk in the coconut milk, honey, and sugar.  Simmer over lowish heat till the sugar dissolves.  Slowly add half of the hot mixture to the egg, whisking constantly.  Pour the egg into the pot, still whisking constantly.  Simmer a bit longer till the mixture thickens.  Whisk in the poppy seeds, let cool, and refrigerate a bit. I made the filling a few hours in advance, but I think an hour should be enough, or even less if you're in a rush.

Dough:

1/4 cup softened butter (or oil)
1/4 cup sugar (the original calls for 1/2 if you want more sugar)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350/175. Cream the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Add the flour and baking powder to make a soft dough.  You can add a little more flour if you need to.  I used whole wheat flour and didn't need to add more.  Roll the dough out, cut into circles (a large glass was just right for this), put 1 tsp of filling in the middle and pinch the edges closed to make a triangle.  You can make neat triangles or have little wings on the points (wings are easier in my opinion).  Pinch them tightly so they don't flop open.

Bake for about 12 minutes. This should make around 20, depending on how thin you roll the cookies.  If you overfill the first ones and run out of filling, you can use jam if you like.

Semana Santa Empanadas:

These are really easy.  Use either store-bought or homemade puff pastry (it's not hard to make, although easy puff pastry isn't all that puffy, especially whole wheat, but it is tender) and whatever filling floats your boat.  I used slightly sweetened coconut milk because I loved the coconut empanadas in Mexico.  Roll out the pastry, cut into circles or squares, plop on some filling, pinch closed, and bake till golden.  Easy as can be.

Filling ideas: Any kind of jam, any kind of fruit (you can cook it and sweeten it if you like), sweetened crema/creme fraiche, sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, tuna fish, and so much more.  Really, you can put just about anything in these and they're really easy.

27 March 2016

The Choir

I woke up early today thinking about the choir that sang last night at the LDS women's session and what an amazing and unique thing it was. Many of the women singing were not native English speakers (some don't speak much English at all) and it would have been much more difficult than usual to teach the songs to such a large and diverse group of women. The women must have worked hard to learn the songs. Since many of the women are converts with a wide variety of family support for their conversions and with a wide variety of socioeconomic challenges, I imagine that it would have been difficult for many of them to even go to the practices, much less to go often enough that they were able to learn the songs well.

Also, when choirs like these are organized (this was 350 women from 7 stakes), it's usually easy for each ward to find 5-7 women who are willing and able to participate and who have musical experience.  But in this case, there would have been a much smaller pool of women to select from and everyone would have been needed, no matter her language ability or musical background.  A lot of support would have been necessary.

I am thinking that there was a great deal of sacrifice involved in that choir singing last night and I am so grateful that the women singing felt that creating such a diverse choir was worth what must have been significant hurdles.

ETA: Here's an article talking about some of the challenges.

Easter Sunday

I usually don't have much to write about on Easter because I go to church rather than going anywhere else.  But don't

Old Easter posts:
2005
2007

And I wanted to make sure this Easter story was posted again:

That very day two of them [I like to think they were Mary and her husband Cleopas] were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

26 March 2016

Holy Saturday

I don't post much about this day, mostly because it's a Saturday with things happening.  But here's an old post about it.

25 March 2016

Good Friday

We watched the Good Friday procession from Our Lady Queen of the Americas through Dupont Circle to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.  I'd guess there were about 200 people, mostly Latino, and it felt very much like processions we'd see in Mexico.  It was lovely to watch. I'm calling it Good Friday today because that's what it is here.

Also, 200 people walking through Dupont Circle on a Friday afternoon is going to cause some serious traffic delays.  There was a police escort who cleared the roads for the procession and made sure they arrived safely.  I know it's common for people to think that religious freedom is under attack or whatever, but religious accommodation is alive and well in the US and I'd rather focus on what I saw today instead of worrying about cashiers than say Happy Holidays.

We walked alongside the procession some of the time and were ahead of it sometimes.  It was interesting to see people's reactions and the expressions on their faces when they found out what it was.  It was a good afternoon.

Other Good Friday posts:
2015
2014
2006
2005
Stations of the Cross at the Templo Expiatorio in Guadalajara 

24 March 2016

Maundy Thursday

I went into DC today to go to seven churches like I did in Mexico, but I wasn't able to stay as long as I'd hoped so it didn't go very well.  But we did visit the Basilica of the National Shrine so that was nice.  Next year we'll have to be someplace other than Saudi Arabia during Holy Week.  Jerusalem? Rome?

Here are some old Maundy Thursday posts:
2005
2006
Women on the roof
Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Also, here's a link to the background of Reverently and Meekly Now with some interesting things to say.

The Anointing Woman

I meant to post this on Saturday but didn't get a chance to then and I still don't have time to write a decent post.  But fortunately, Julie Smith has written a lot so I'll just direct you there.

The anointing woman's story is especially good to read on Lazarus Saturday or Holy Wednesday.

ETA later that both President Burton and President Eyring talked about this women in their talks at the women's meeting on March 26th.

20 March 2016

Palm Sunday

This morning my husband and I drove into DC to go to the early Palm Sunday service at the National Cathedral.  They had palm fronds for everyone (which were, I'm sure, harder to get than in Mexico where there were palm branches everyone) and we very much enjoyed the service.  It was so good to be there. We also drove around the tidal basin after to see the almost-out cherry blossoms.

I searched all over lds.org to see if I could find something good to link to about Palm Sunday.  There are certainly some mentions of it and some brief activities in the Friend, but little that is very in depth. So I'll stick with reading the different accounts from the gospels about this day and listening All Glory, Laud and Honor since we didn't sing it or any other praise song at church.  Also, check out what Eric Huntsman has online

I did find a couple of things I liked about Holy Week in general though. There's a 44-year-old article from Daniel Ludlow about Holy Week, but the best thing I found was this quilt that represents Holy Week. Please click through to see it.

Here are some of my past posts about Palm Sunday:

16 March 2016

Huldah

Huldah is a very interesting person from 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34. Her basic story centers around her prophecy about the destruction of the wicked if they do not repent.  She is a woman who is called a prophet and she is consulted by religious and political leaders after a copy of the book of the law (probably Deuteronomy or what would become Deuteronomy) was found while the temple was being restored.  We know almost nothing about her but she is well worth talking about.

First, I want to talk about the problems with the way LDS manuals deal with Huldah, either now or in the past.  For the record, it isn't generally my intention to pick on the manuals with these posts, but instead to highlight positive things or omissions in what we teach.  But in this case, the way we've taught about Huldah is problematic and not only do we need to talk about her differently, we need to realize that what we've been doing isn't right.

The current Institute manual says this about Huldah:

Nothing further is known of the prophetess Huldah than what is mentioned here. All that we can infer from the fact that the king sent to her is, that she was highly distinguished on account of her prophetical gifts, and that none of the prophets of renown, such as Jeremiah and Zephaniah, were at that time in Jerusalem. Her [husband] Shallum was keeper of the clothes, i.e. superintendent over either the priests’ dresses that were kept in the temple … or the king’s wardrobe. 
This is from Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch's 1866 Commentary.  Besides the obvious concern of using a reference from a Bible commentary that is 150 (!) years old, the assumptions made in this statement are insulting to Huldah and not supported by the text.  There is no reason to assume that Jeremiah and Zephaniah were unavailable, leaving the religious and political leaders with no other option than to consult a woman.  Their going to her is mentioned without comment, excuse, or explanation.  Since we might expect an explanation, its absence highlights the fact that it didn't need to be explained.  The Bible gives us no reason to assume that was astonishing. This paragraph of Huldah is harmful. That is the only mention of Huldah in that manual.

I can't quote from the old seminary manual that was replaced 2 years ago because it makes no mention at all of Huldah.  That manual details Josiah's actions but the verses about Huldah are quite blatantly skipped.  Unless a seminary teacher chose to teach about Huldah, seminary students didn't hear anything about her.

The current seminary manual says this:

Summarize 2 Kings 22:14–20 by explaining that a prophetess named Huldah recounted the scriptural prophecy of judgment against the wicked. She also prophesied that Josiah would be blessed because of his faithfulness to the Lord. Huldah was a prophetess in the sense that she had the gift of prophecy. This gift is available to all members of the Lord’s Church.
This is an improvement over the other two manuals and I hope seminary teachers now take the time to talk about Huldah. However, that isn't necessarily going to happen because there is also a 12-minute church video about Josiah which makes no mention of Huldah.  Of course any video will leave things out, but when women are so often ignored, including the women we do read about in the Old Testament, it is concerning to me that she is entirely left out in favor of a character who was created for the video.

The Old Testament gospel doctrine lesson makes no comment on Huldah's gender or the fact that she was consulted and there are questions that refer to her prophecies. That's obviously an improvement over the other three options.

Second, as with so many people in the Old Testament, there really isn't any way to be sure Huldah was a historical figure or not.  Usually I don't worry too much about that (unless someone insists that, say, Job's being a historical figure makes a huge difference today), but there are some interesting issues that come up if Huldah wasn't historical precisely because she is a woman.  It is possible that she was created to help justify the suppression of the worship of Asherah (more on that soon). Her being a woman and a prophet who promoted the book of Deuteronomy would have been significant because Asherah's worship was popular among women. I don't have strong feelings on this theory one way or the other and it's not something I'd bring up in a class about Josiah- it's hard enough just getting people to acknowledge Huldah's existence in the chapter and that gets into too much relatively obscure Biblical history. But it's interesting.

So, why should we talk about Huldah and how?  First, I think it's important to talk about nearly any woman in the scriptures because we ignore so many or assume they aren't there.  If we consistently talk about them in lessons, maybe we could at least stop saying there aren't any women (something that has been stated almost weekly in a women's OT scripture class I've been going to while we skip over all the women except Esther and Deborah).

Huldah is especially important to talk about because she is a prophet (and I prefer the translation prophet rather than prophetess- it's already been stated that she is a woman).  There are only a few women in the scriptures described as prophets and we should talk about them. Also, as I mentioned above, the leading religious and political figures of the came to her for prophecy, not just for advice.  We need to talk about that too.

I assume that one reason why some manuals dismiss Huldah or completely ignore her is that we don't really acknowledge that women can be prophets and we don't know how to deal with the ensuing questions that might be asked.  We shouldn't worry that talking about Huldah's role as a prophet will diminish anyone else who is a prophet, whether male or female.  In fact, it could be empowering for teenagers and adults to learn about Huldah and her prophecies.  This isn't "dangerous" in any way, especially if we understand how prophets and prophesying differed in the OT.  It's always good to talk about how different women have effected change and Huldah is an excellent example of this.  We can tell the stories from the Old Testament and talk about them and learn from them.

So let's read the verses about Huldah, talk about her role and her prophecies, discuss why she is important, and make sure that teenagers in particular hear that women in the Old Testament were influential leaders.