I don’t really know how to categorize this book. It’s decidedly not a novel of any sort. The book is distributed (for free!) to members of the Relief Society, the women’s service organization in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the subheading is “The History and Work of Relief Society.” But, speaking as a history major, this is not what I would call a history. Maybe a mini-history, or a historical overview. But it’s not all history; it’s also a “what we learn from history” text, as well as a “how to be an awesome participant in Relief Society” manual. It’s kind of like trying to describe the Boy Scout manual in a literary sense.
At any rate, despite my complete inability to categorize this book (manual?), it’s one of my favorite sources for “today’s spiritual insight.” It’s completely dedicated to uplifting stories and suggestions, and almost exclusively about Mormon women. As a Mormon woman, I find it quite fitting, helpful, and inspiring.
I would encourage Mormon women to read this book, especially if they have questions regarding the role of women in the gospel. I’m not promising it will answer your specific questions – it probably won’t – but it’s provided me with a really good insight as to the real doctrine behind women’s roles in the Church. It’s helped me figure out some differences between Mormon doctrine and Mormon culture, which has helped me figure out how to live the doctrine even when my personality sometimes clashes with “expectations.” (You know “that mom” – the one who always has home-made bread out of the oven by the time the kids are awake? Yeah, not happening, people.)
I would encourage Mormon men to read this book, so they can better understand the women they know. Also, so they can better understand how the men’s Priesthood organizations are supposed to work in harmony with the Relief Society. The better we all work together, the better everything works, yes?
I would encourage men and women outside the LDS Church to read this book, simply because it gives a snapshot of what Mormon women really believe and strive for. I have a friend who was told – by a Mormon man – that Mormon women are basically expected to sit down, shut up, and do what a man tells them. Clearly, some of our Church members are misinformed, and I pointed her to this book as a means of finding out – for reals this time – the kind of standard Mormon women are really trying for. And I hope the man in question also reads this book at some point, as he might find it enlightening.
At any rate, while not exactly a “beach read,” this is a very easy read (it’s a history specifically designed for people who may not like to read history), it’s inspiring, it forwards the cause and points out the incredible power of women, and all-around, it makes me pretty proud of being one. And, overall, it shows that the purpose of all programs in the Church – men’s and women’s – is to point people toward Christ. ♦
For free, online! Click here.