On several occasions, I have asked rooms full of adults if anyone could relate the story of the daughters of Zelophehad to us. No one has ever been able to do it. That’s a shame. This story needs to be brought forth out of obscurity, to grace the flannel boards in Primary, to star in Family Home Evening (it does in the Smith house!), and to take its rightful place in the cozy canon alongside Jonah, Daniel and his lions, and Nephi.
On the odd chance that you aren’t familiar with this story, here ya go. It is Numbers 27:1-11:
THEN came the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph: and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah.
2 And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
3 Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons.
4 Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.
5 And Moses brought their cause before the LORD.
6 ¶ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
7 The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them.
8 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.
9 And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren.
10 And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father’s brethren.
11 And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it: and it shall be unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the LORD commanded Moses.
And here’s why it is important:
(1) sustaining Church leaders is a difficult concept to teach and to live in a world where we don’t trust (and probably shouldn’t trust) any secular authority or experts. My generation gets on the net for a second opinion if a doctor tells us we are sick, we second guess teachers, politicians, lawyers, and everyone else who claims to any authority. This is probably for the best, except then we show up at Church with no experience whatsoever in sustaining leaders. How do we do it? Does it mean that we never question what they say?
Numbers 27 provides an excellent example of handling disagreements with Church leaders, especially when you compare this story with Numbers 12, where Miriam is given leprosy for speaking against Moses. In each case, a person has a problem with the actions of a Church leader. But the outcome is so different. Why? Because Miriam spoke to others, the daughters of Z. spoke to Moses. Speaking behind or around is not helpful, open communication is. By the same token, the d. of Z. did not squelch, ignore, or ‘learn to live with’ their problem. They addressed it openly. Our model here is simple: when you have a problem with a Church leader, you speak to that person open and directly.
But this story is also a model for leaders. Did Moses tell them that the issue was already settled by the Law so go away? Did he castigate them for questioning the Lord? Did he chastize them for approaching a prophet? Read verse 5 again; he took their concern to the Lord. Moses recognized that he was not the head of the Church–he was the Lord’s mouthpiece. He sought the will of the Lord in prayer.
The story also teaches an important lesson about the Law: it is subject to change. The next time some hostile anti-Mormon asks why the WoW prohibits wine when Jesus began his ministry by turning water into wine, send ’em to Numbers 27.
And, by the way, we really did have a FHE about this story. You will be, as I was, shocked and saddened to hear that neither in the Church not out could I find pictures, puppets, or teaching ideas for this story. So we made our own. Good thing my husband can draw.
Plus, it’s got a great feminist sort of feel to it — the women seek to do away with a sexist rule, and the Lord and his leaders agree with them. Not a bad story at all.
Well…I’m not sad, but it is a great story. Any attempt to make it more just because it is re: women though is I think a mistake. I’d use it as a FHE example though. :)
I love this story, too. I actually spent a lot of time trying to figure out if one of the names of the daughters could be adapted to some form that would not lead to hours of playground torture for my daughter. (I couldn’t, so she’s named for the founding editor of the Exponent–Louisa Greene Richards–instead)
Another detail about how they went about discussing with Moses is that they prepared–they carefully laid out their reasoning for Moses, instead of just complaining, and they proposed a solution.
[Finally, a word to the wise, from painful personal experience–should you ever have the pleasure of teaching this story in Gospel Doctrine, do not title your lesson “Jehovah is a Feminist.” People get mad.]
One of my mission companions had a girlfriend named Tirsa, which is a version of one of those names (I don’t know if that’s where it came from for her, but my comp was quite surprised when we found her name in the scriptures — in Spanish, it was even spelled the same).
One of my brothers is expecting a baby soon–if it’s a girl, perhaps I’ll suggest that they name her Hoglah Haglund!
You know, we didn’t use this example in our Sunday school lesson, but we did have one on sustaining Church leaders. Especially with local leaders the point was made to not go bad-talking about them to others when disagreeing with what they do, but to go straight to them and tell them up front. Maybe they will realize they’re wrong and change their ways, maybe you will realize that there is actually something to the way they’re doing things. Constructive criticism is allowed, it’s just not those sarcastic and open bashing campaigns you will find in politics that have place in Church. Dallin H. Oaks gave a good talk named “Criticism” in which that point is laid out quite well. So yeah, I agree with you, and I think the story is a great example and good for FHE. Our first counselor in the branch by the way, pleads almost every fast Sunday to come to him and tell him when he does soemthing wrong, so that he can change and improve. With general authorities it’s not that easy, considering I live in Belgium, but I guess they have close ones that would do the same.
Wahoo! This story is as good as the one where Nephi asks Lehi where to hunt food (forcing Lehi to go get his tongue lashing from the Lord for murmuring over the broken bow)
I guess I ignored the story because it made me mad that they even had to ask ;-) It seems to me to be an excellent rendition of how prophecy works. An unrelated question…if one was to start an LDS woman’s website..what should it address. What do women have to deal with within the church that makes them unique?
This isn’t what you asked, exactly, but if I had a more adventurous soul, I have always thought it would be interesting to do a Women’s Day type magazine for LDS. It would be called MIZ (Mothers in Zion–get it?!?!) and have useful things, like how to make a decent meal on Sunday when you are gone all day, etiquitte column, like do we really need baby showers for people on their fourth kid, and a heritage column, where something like canning or handicrafts would be explained, not with the idea that women would actually do them, but that they might want to know how to do them. (In other words, the theory behind the Martha Stewart magazine, where the sidebar contains a ad for Campbell’s Two Step Chicken but the text is a nineteen step process for some recipe that takes three hours and I can’t even pronounce.) There could be a magnify your calling column, etc. Of course, there would be a scripture column, and I’d write that (grin). Basically, not a deeply intellectual magazine, but one that would address some of the LDS cultural issues that come up in real life. And unlike LDS Living, which I hate, the tone of the magazine would *not* imply that whatever the problem, you can buy something sold by Church members to solve it.
End of soapbox.
I would not have found this scripture now when I need it, nor understood its meaning so well, if you had not posted this thread. Thank you.
MIZ? Oh, I *love* it!!!! FAIR has had good success with our LDSblack website…I want to do one for us. We bought some domain names and it’s just sitting there waiting to be filled up.
A great story assuming that you can speak directly to the chief presiding priesthood officer like the daughters did. If your problem is with a decision by the bishop or stake president, this may be a useful example. But it’s quite useless when your issue is with a decision from “Salt Lake.”
Yes, it’s hard to think of how this story might practically apply to a group of sisters today in a comparable situation, i.e. they’ve got a complaint & want to go directly to the head of the Church with it. I can see, of course, that with a little tweaking you can apply it to bishops, stake presidents, etc., but even then I wonder how well it’d go over, approaching Pres. X en masse to disagree with something he’s done. I hope it’d go over well!
So, Kingsley, do you draw any conclusions based on your surmise that a contemporary leader might not be as amenable to revising a policy as Moses? Should leaders change? Should the sisters just suck it up?
An “average leader” probably is not going to be the same as Moses in many respects. For one, Moses was “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3)
So “should leaders change?” As long as they’re not perfect. But then, who could disagree with that?
Kristine: “Should leaders change? Should the sisters just suck it up?” Yes & yes, depending on the situation, obviously. I’m not sure that Num. 27:1-11 yields the rich doctrinal harvest claimed for it, or that it has great practical applicability for the modern Church beyond the most general truisms: it’s better to be open than furtive, better to patiently listen than to condemn outright, etc. Which current Church policy would you equate with the policy that the daughters of Zelophehad challenged?
I’m basically agreeing with zeezrom, that as far as going to Pres. Hinckley (Moses in the case of the daughters of Z) goes, the Num. story is “useless”; & as far as going to your bishop or stake pres. goes, it’s only useful insofar as it yields general, commonsense principles about what makes ideal leaders & followers (all subject to debate, of course).
Which current Church policy would you equate with the policy that the daughters of Zelophehad challenged?
Well, in the words of Susa Young Gates: “The priveleges and powers outlined by the Prophet [JS] have never been granted to women in full even yet.” She was talking about the priesthood power delegated to women at the founding of the Relief Society.
So you think the Daughters of Z story provides a practical example of how a modern group of sister Saints might approach Pres. Hinckley about granting women the priesthood, & also how Pres. Hinckley might ideally respond? Interesting.
Was Gates right? Sounds like a post topic for you, Kristine.
Um, no. Notice how carefully I left the possibilities dangling… Draw your own conclusions.
Frank, I don’t know. I think there are a lot of interesting questions around women and priesthood, but I don’t have many answers.
Kristine: Sorry, didn’t notice the dangling–thought it was a direct answer to my question. Still, I think shock & sadness over the daughters of Z’s lack of flannelity might be an overreaction: it’s just not easy to find practical lessons in the story, at least not the kind that are readily available in Daniel, Jonah, Nephi.
Well, Julie was the one who expressed shock and sadness. Myself, I would only have been sad. I think there are plenty of practical lessons here on how to lead and how to follow. Moreover, I think it’s really important to make sure our kids know as many stories about girls/women from the scriptures as we can find–even contemporary Primary manuals are heavily skewed in favor of male heroes. Here’s a fine story about resourceful, respectful, intelligent, thoughtful, etc. women, and we teach it neither to the adults nor to the children in the church. That is a shame.
And, btw, *JONAH?* What’s practical about that? Are our children more likely to be swallowed by large fish than to need to discuss points of doctrine and policy with their leaders?
Kristine: You have clearly spent too much time in New England. Don’t they have big river catfish in Tennessee too?
Nate, what do you mean? New England is as fishy a place as anywhere–how many monuments to fish are there in the Arkansas capital, huh??
But, yeah, I’ve seen some pretty scary catfish in my day. Still, I think it’s scarier to have to EAT them than to imagine being eaten by them :)
Kristine: EXACTLY. That’s exactly what’s practical about the Jonah story–not “it’s better to obey God the first time He makes a request of you,” but “what to do in case of sudden submersion in a whale’s guts.”
But Kingsley, isn’t requiring the daughters of Z. story to apply exactly to the modern church (i.e., relevant only if one has an audience with the prophet) precisely that kind of misreading??
I’m afraid to stick my toe into the can of worms that Kristine opened (or something), but Kingsley wrote,
“So you think the Daughters of Z story provides a practical example of how a modern group of sister Saints might approach Pres. Hinckley about granting women the priesthood, & also how Pres. Hinckley might ideally respond? Interesting”
Actually, yes, and it already happened (or close to it). A talk he gave (Nov 1991 Ensign) contains a letter from a young women raising questions about women in the Church, and the entire talk is basically Pres. Hinckley’s response (which, I think it is safe to assume, he prayed over before delivering), so I think we have something darn close to the Numbers 27 pattern at work here: (young) woman takes concerns to prophet, prophet prays about it, and responds. In this case, Church policy was not changed, but it was clarified, and I think that counts.
By the way, this is one of the best talks ever about women in the Church, and all of you should read it.
Okay, so I was reading that talk by President Hinckley . . .
And I noticed that one of the issues he had to address (because the young woman asked about it) was what we now call gendered language, in the scriptures. But isn’t it just ignorance to call it gendered language? Isn’t it just false as a matter of history? I do think it is unfortunate if somebody says, “So, who’s the chairman of that committee,” assuming that it must be a man, when it may well not be, but why suppose that the word implies such an assumption? It seems to me just as unfair to assume sexism based on a word like that as it would be to use it in a sexist way. And just as goofy to suppose “man” in the scriptures is referring to just males as supposing that when Shelley uses the word “intercourse” he is talking about making babies? Anybody have a favorite article on this?
In French and Spanish, all language is gendered. Is there some big feminist revolution in language there? I suspect there isn’t because the grammatical gendering of language there is so routine that everybody knows it’s a matter of grammar, with no substantive implications. There’s no gender-neutral “they” exactly, except that the third person masculine pronoun is what you use whether you are refering to a bunch of males or a mixed group, so in effect it *is* gender-neutral. In Japanese, when you ask someone if they have any siblings, there are just the words for brother and sister, not a third, neutral word, so you ask if they have any brothers, and it is perfectly normal to respond, “Yes, I have two sisters.” What is our problem as American-speakers?
Julie, I enjoyed that talk too. It does differ from the Z story in that this girl was clearly pretty confused about some basic doctrine. So President Hinckley took the time to clarify these basic points based on the principle that where one student is confused, others are too.
The sisters of Z did not seem to be so confused; they saw the status quo and thought it should be modified. I am not knowledgeable enough about the Law of Moses to know if this revelation directly modified some explicit part of the Law, or modified a tradition that grew out of the Law. The prophet agreed that the case was worth presenting to the Lord, which he did and the Lord responded. A classic case of revelation in response to a question, as is the pattern in many of the revelations we have in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Kristine: Where did I “[require that] the daughters of Z. story apply exactly to the modern church (i.e., relevant only if one has an audience with the prophet)”? I wrote that such application was useless, I think. I said that you could perhaps take very general, very obvious principles from the story & apply them at the stake & ward level practically (don’t skulk; be open), but that its usefulness stops there: that’s why I asked for an example of a current policy that matches the policy challenged by the daughters of Z. You gave me women don’t hold the priesthood as Joseph Smith originally intended, which, all dangling-ness aside, doesn’t seem to showcase Numbers 27:1-11’s practical adaptability to the modern Church on any level. Jonah & Daniel, on the other hand, are adaptable (no, I’m not talking about whale attacks or lion feedings—I’m talking about don’t run away from callings, don’t cave to the world’s demands, etc.), & thus flannel-worthy. Plus, they’re fun stories with fleshed-out personalities, drama, etc. It’s not at all scandalous or shocking that the Num. story isn’t given equal billing, or that Sunday School classes aren’t familiar with it—at least it’s not more scandalous or shocking than the average Sunday School’s unfamiliarity with the OT in general. We all wish that women were more prominent in Scripture, but it’s probably better to fill the void with stories from Church history, which is teeming with brave, intelligent, heroic LDS sisters, than with scriptural scraps blown all out of proportion. Pres. Hinckley explaining doctrine at the request of a young woman isn’t the same thing as Pres. Hinckley changing doctrine at the request of a young woman. The Num. story is simply, as Frank writes, “A classic case of revelation in response to a question, as is the pattern in many [!] of the revelations we have in the Doctrine and Covenants,” & nothing more.
Well, I’ve been instructed by my stake president to write to the prophet about my family’s situation. That seems equivalent to an audience with the prophet to me.
It’s hard to write the letter right now, now that I know he’s mourning his temporal separation from his eternal companion. I’m on the second draft. I know the letter ought not be too long. I wish I could be as concise as the Daughters of Z.
Sheri Lynn: Hope that goes well for you (I’m sure it will). My father wrote to Elder Oaks on a political matter & received a great response.
Sheri Lynn: Hope that goes well for you (I’m sure it will). My father wrote to Elder Oaks on a political matter & received a great response.
My youngest was supposed to be named Dallin Robert. She came out with the wrong plumbing, so we named her Alexandra Dallin instead. :-) I do love Dallin Oakes. His talks always seem to be aimed right to me. But I was instructed to write to the Prophet himself. It really brings home how seriously your stake president regards your problem when that is his counsel. And it makes me sorry I couldn’t find any way at all to solve it ourselves….
“Where did I “[require that] the daughters of Z. story apply exactly to the modern church (i.e., relevant only if one has an audience with the prophet)”? I wrote that such application was useless, I think. I said that you could perhaps take very general, very obvious principles from the story & apply them at the stake & ward level practically (don’t skulk; be open), but that its usefulness stops there”
I would like to know where any Scripture story relates to members’ association with the modern (or, to be more exact to your meaning the “Corporate”) Church? Seems to me that all scripture stories are meant for a practical application to our lives and associations. What you seem to be saying is that what happened with Moses and the “Z sisters” couldn’t happen now. True enough, as we are a larger and more structured organization than during his days. On the other hand, we probably won’t be thrown to the Lions or a fire filled hole (thank goodness) any time soon.
On the other hand, we still learn practical lessons from all of them at a very personal (and historically detached) level. That, I think, is what good Scripture does; draws us to a personal relationship with God.
Jettboy: Agreed. I was responding to what I saw as excessive glorification of the Num. story due more to the gender of the story’s protagonists than the merits of the story itself. “It’s shocking that this story isn’t front & center more often,” etc. I think the general lessons in the story are, as Frank points out, typical enough in LDS lore—revelations to Joseph often began as questions asked by “regular” members—to temper angst over the obscurity of the daughters of Z, & especially if said angst is a result of the idea that the daughters fill an important doctrinal void. Doctrinal significance aside, the story is just too brief, too scanty on detail & personality, to be vaulted into the realm of the “classics”—is it really especially surprising that people are unfamiliar with it?
I have to disagree. You’ll notice in my original post that I made absolutely no point about the gender of the d. of Z. (It was Kaimi who pointed out that he thinks this is a good feminist story). I think this would work equally well if they were the sons of Z. who for some reason weren’t inhereting.
And, no, I don’t think we do a good job *at all* of teaching ‘What to do when you disagree with a Church leader.’ I can’t tell you how many people have expressed relief when I have shared this story with them; it has never occured to them that there is a ‘right way’ to go about disagreeing.
I’m not sure what you want fleshed out or what you see lacking in this story: no, we don’t here about the second daughter’s unfortunate marriage to the guy with the gout problem, but that really isn’t relevant. I think all of the crucial details are here. Any more would obscure the point.
Julie: All sarcasm aside (gout, etc.), would you agree that scriptural stories deemed worthy of “pictures, puppets, or teaching ideas” are generally a little more fleshed out than Num. 27:1-11? That they usually contain exciting “hooks” such as killer whales, hungry lions, broken bows?
I just reread your original post and so maybe you can clarify something for me. Is the Numbers revelation a modification to previous revelation or does it only modify previous tradition? I am not familiar enough with the Law of Moses to know chapter and verse as to what the Lord was changing.
Incidentally, a great proponent of Old Testament stories for a long time was President Hinckley. I say this because it seemed like many of his talks or messages used a story from that volume to illustrate his point. I don’t know if that is still true now, I noticed the phenomenon mostly in his talks in the early 90’s.
Lastly, you don’t mention gender in your original post, that is very true. Should we believe, then, that had the story had no gender implications you’d have posted it anyway (with a suitable change in title)? Is it the case that one of the reasons you do like this story is because of gender issues? Perhaps you are truly indifferent to the gender of the supplicants, but since you seem to find gender important other places in the scriptures, your claim seems disingenuous. I may be wrong. It’s happenned before.
By the way, I have no doubt that the comments section of “the Sons of Z” would be very different :)
Indulging in a little sacrasm of my own, pictures & puppets in Gospel Doctrine generally aren’t the most effective ways of getting across a subtle point.
Kingsley, what about the “exciting hooks” of washing feet, or cooking dinner? Are you sure there’s not something else you don’t like about this story?
Hee hee hee—“sacrasm”—smooooth, Kingsley. Randy B.: What are you implying? All I’m saying is, it’s no big shock the story hasn’t been a favorite amongst people trying to capture the imaginations of children. Washing feet & cooking dinner?
Certainly it is no shock that a story in the Book of Numbers gets little play. I am also not sure that D of Z would hold as much excitement for my son as the Jonah tale, which he loves, or the story of Enoch smiting the wicke and the city of Zion rising up to heaven before the flood. The story revolves around a conversation about the correct distribution of inheritance property, but without all the fun of the Prodigal Son eating with pigs.
These issues aside, I think D of Z is a decent example of an important principle. There are other examples of the same principle, but I think we would be blessed by expanding our reportoire of stories taken from the Old Testament, Church History, and the rest of the canon. I love the stories we currently tell again and again, but repeating the same story many times leaves listeners with the mistaken impression that they know all the book has in the way of stories. And this is simply false. So maybe we could sacrifice one more telling of the story of Naaman, which is a great story, for a telling of the D of Z, which is a pretty good story, because the D of Z is fresh and will encourage people to look into the book for more gems.
Or not. There are also benefits to repetition of the familiar and a common core of stories that can get diluted by adding many stories.
Not implying anything. Just curious if there is something else causing you to pooh pooh this story. My point as to washing feet (Savior washing the Apostles’) and cooking dinner (Mary & Martha) is that important gospel stories –even those we teach children — don’t aways involve getting swallowed by a whale or some other exciting event.
I would have no trouble at all getting my kids excited about a lesson involving washing feet.
Cooking dinner is an important part of their lives with which they are very familiar and quite interested; so I could do that one too.
Details about the inheritance law are also doable, but by no means as easy as the one about cooking dinner.
Let me save everyone the trouble of coyness.
I think Randy actually was implying something, namely that he thinks Kingsley doesn’t like the story because other people get all gushy about stories whenever they involve women.
I think Kingsley probably knew this when he said “what are you implying”.
Feel free to tell me I’m wrong.
Frank, we actually talked about this story in FHE a couple days ago. I found it was not hard at all to get my girls (6 and 4) interested in the story. Father dies in the wildernes. Children are left with nothing because of an unfair rule. Faced with these challenging circumstances, they go talk to Moses to see if he might change the rule. We used puppets to tell the story. We also talked about how crazy the different names of the daughters are.
Your right Frank–getting kids excited about washing feet and cooking dinner isn’t that hard, but it’s not hard getting them involved in this story either.
One other note. It might be that our kids were more easily excited about this story given the way we talk about rules in our house. Each Sunday, we hold family council. As part of our council, everyone gets a chance to talk about our family rules–both the parents and the kids. This gives us as parents a chance to remind our kids about rules they are having hard time with and to make new rules to address new circumstances and developments. This also gives the kids the opportunity to offer suggestions to revise the rules. It is amazing how even at 6 and 4 our kids have come up with some great ideas for changing the rules to be more logical, fair, etc. (Of course, they also have some crazy ideas that immediately get shot down, but hey, they’re kids.) It’s been my experience that our kids do a better job of obeying our family rules when they have some say in what the rules are. I thought it was great to be able to follow up our family council with my daughters with a story from the Bible about how five daughters went to Moses to solve a problem they were having. To me, this is good stuff.
Kingsley says the story doesn’t do much for him. I’m still not sure I really understand why, but I’ve not intended any sinister motives. Just seems to me that there is something else going on. Perhaps not.
Like most everyone, I’m not surprised that the story is not well known. I don’t think it is a result of people ignoring women in the Bible–the prose just doesn’t read that well. But the story–in my opinion–is great.
Well, Randy, I think that sounds like you gave a great lesson. Like I said, I think the story isn’t bad. I think it could use the occasional telling. But can anybody blame me if I use the puppets first to tell the story of the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, Jonah, Naaman, or Christ in the Garden of Gethsamane?
I mean, your story is about dealing with a bad rule. In general, our problem in the Church is a failure to obey good rules, even when we don’t understand them. So, for example, I find Naaman to a more relevant moral for me and for my children.
I think it is far rarer that we need to teach children to question authority figures in order to get exceptions. This is something they do instinctively and needn’t be overly emphasized. I’m not saying we should never question. And when we do, it should be done in the right way like the D of Z. Hence the occasional telling.
But I don’t believe that the Church is characterized by bad rules and misguided leaders that our children need to correct. I think we have good rules and good leaders who are typically right. Thus the skill we need to teach to get kids through their teenage years is obedience and faith that following the system set up by the Church is the right way to go.
The D of Z example doesn’t teach that. It shows petitioners going to the prophet and getting what they want. Great! But the real lessons are what to do when the protagaonist doesn’t get what he wants. What do you do when you don’t like a rule and nobody is willing to change it? What if the cup does not pass, despite faithful petitions? This is what we need help with. These are the stories to emphasize.
Frank, Randy B.: I was overreacting to what I thought was an overreaction about the merits of the daughters of Z story & of the implied demerits of those in the Church unfamiliar with the story, & of the Church itself for not providing puppets, pictures, etc. It’s not that the “story doesn’t do much for” me; I like the story, & am grateful to Julie for pointing it out; I just found her “You will be, as I was, shocked & saddened” at the lack of Hoglah dolls a little much. Randy B., I concur with you exactly when you write, “Like most people, I’m not surprised that the story is not well known. I don’t think it is a result of people ignorant women in the Bible—the prose just doesn’t read that well.” I also heartily Amen what Frank wrote:
“But I don’t believe that the Church is characterized by bad rules and misguided leaders that our children need to correct. I think we have good rules and good leaders who are typically right. Thus the skill we need to teach to get kids through their teenage years is obedience and faith that following the system set up by the Church is the right way to go.
“The D of Z example doesn’t teach that. It shows petitioners going to the prophet and getting what they want. Great! But the real lessons are what to do when the protagaonist doesn’t get what he wants. What do you do when you don’t like a rule and nobody is willing to change it? What if the cup does not pass, despite faithful petitions? This is what we need help with. These are the stories to emphasize.”
Julie: I’m hypersensitive to academics who find some obscure passage in a text they specialize in, interpret it cleverly in a way that’s not obvious to a “lay” reader, & point it out to said reader with “How dare you not notice this”-type rhetoric which is really serving to highlight their subtlety & superiority as readers & interpreters. I apologize if my neurosis led me to read your post uncharitably, use over-the-top rhetoric (e.g. “scriptural scraps”), etc.
Frank, you make an interesting comment: “But the real lessons are what to do when the protagaonist doesn’t get what he wants.” That is, in fact, the point of our family council discussions regarding rules (see above)–you (the kids) can make suggestions to change the rules; we (the parents) promise to listen to your suggestions and fairly consider them; in exchange, you promise to keep them, whatever the end result. The fact that the story of D of Z has a happy ending doesn’t lessen its value. Of course getting what you want is not the only possible outcome. Of course we often have to do things that are not fun and don’t necessarily make sense. Our kids know that first hand!
The issue, as always, is one of balance. I’m not advocating imbalance, and I certainly won’t begrudge your teaching the story of Naaman, as we have taught that story too. The point is that the story provides an important framework for handling problems–either within the church or without. We should teach obedience, but we should also teach our kids to try and make the world a better place.
I’ve not crossed this river yet, but I don’t think I’ll stop teaching our kids about the D of Z when they become teenagers. Seems like that is when they would need this story the most. Teenagers will question; the issue is how we direct that questioning. Perhaps others are different, but “Just Say No” never really worked for me.
Kingsley–If your point is that the Primary-teacher crowd often selects stories based on ease of convincing three year olds to listen then, yes, this story is lacking in the large mammal department.
If you are selecting stories based on *what* they teach, even if you need to be a little more creative in *how* to teach them, then this one is a winner. If I recall, the way we did this in FHE is that I announced to the family that from now on, we’d only eat broccoli and dirt. (As you may have predicted, the children were more horrified at the brocolli than the dirt.) Then, my husband took the boys aside and they discussed ways of going about convincing me to change my mind–yelling at me, not saying anything, refusing to eat, talking politely, asking Dad for help, etc.
Frank–not an expert, but I *think* the law, not just tradition, did not have any provisions for women to inherit. Can anyone correct me?
As for gender, I won’t pretend that I am not thrilled that this story is the d. and not the sons of Z. However, I don’t think this story is “what women should do when they don’t agree . . .” but rather “what everyone should do when they don’t agree . . .” That is, I do not think that their gender is essential to their mission in this story. However, their gender does make the point that *everyone* has the right to approach leaders like this. (My fear is that if this were about the sons of Z., we would read the story as saying, “This is how a p’hood holder should approach another p’hood holder with a disagreement’ instead of emphasizing the member-leader dynamic.
I am interested in your comment about the hypothetical sons of Z post–how do you think the comments would differ?
Kingsley–Yeah, but I think you need pictures and puppets with little kids, and my point is that instead of this story being obscure to scripturally-literate adults, it should and could be well-known to primary kids.
Frank wrote, “But I don’t believe that the Church is characterized by bad rules and misguided leaders that our children need to correct. I think we have good rules and good leaders who are typically right. Thus the skill we need to teach to get kids through their teenage years is obedience and faith that following the system set up by the Church is the right way to go.”
I dunno, Frank, this is a tough one. Let me tell you why. Let’s say we have ten stakes worth of kids that just need to be taught to be more obedient to their leaders, who are decent people doing the right thing. ANd let’s say, in the eleventh stake, we have a YW being s*xually abused by her father, who tells her bishop, who says, “Your father would never do that. Go home and keep your mouth shut.” (not a fictional story, by the way)
I think I am willing to make the lives of those ten stakes worth of kids a little more complicated for the sake of protecting that one girl, who later became my friend in high school, from the extremely screwed up view of church authority that she had developed, on top of everything else.
Kinglsey wrote, “I just found her “You will be, as I was, shocked & saddened” at the lack of Hoglah dolls a little much.”
Just to be clear, that was completely tongue-in-cheek.
Kingsley, do you really think that my reading of this story is ‘not obvious to the lay reader’? As someone who spent the hour during an oil change this afternoon wading through a theory that Sarah was a Mesopotamian priestess who sent Hagar away for her own good, I appreciate your point about scholars and their obtuse interpretations (believe me, I do), but I wonder where you draw the line–are scholars ever allowed to point out new things to you without getting your hackles up?
Julie: “[A]re scholars ever allowed to point out new things to [me] without getting [my] hackles up?” As I wrote before, I like the story & am grateful that you pointed it out. I misinterpreted your tongue-in-cheek for something else.
As far as “do you really think that my reading of this story is ‘not obvious to the lay reader’?” goes, I think your idea of the story’s importance might pass the average reader by. I think the fact that leaders make mistakes, etc., is pretty commonplace in the Church. I doubt that most members have an “extremely screwed up view of church authority” which the daughters of Z would go a long way to fix.
Kingsley, while, yes, we do pay lip service to church leaders making mistakes, etc., my impression is that the recommended way to deal with those mistakes is to grin and bear it. One might get the impression that is the only way — at least this story shows another alternative.
Seems like this story is at least as useful as the advice Jethro gives to Moses about delegating. Yet I’ve heard the Jethro story dozens of times at church.
As you may have noticed, probably at least half the comments are in some way related to gender. These would not be so prominent in a boring old post about the Sons of Z. On the other hand, as you correctly point out, the story has a message in it that is independent of gender. So some of the surely at least some of the comments would be the same.
As for your abuse example. Abuse is a serious issue best dealt with by talking about abuse: counseling Bishops and other leaders on dealing with such issues (as the Church seems to be doing) and making clear to youth and others that certain actions are never okay.
If I asked you to give a lesson to the primary on how to deal with abuse and you used D of Z as your major prop, I would think that nuts. Moses was not abusive. No one was abusing the daughters. This story has no abuse. A more modern story, like that of your friend, carefully and discreetly told would be far more useful at explaining what people need to know about abuse.
So I reject that explanation. But I doubt that there is much daylight between all of us here on this issue. Its a fine little story. Both you and Randy have found ways to spice it up beyond the rather sparse and terse accounting in the text. All the better, it needs the help. But it teaches a lesson that is just not of first order importance for kids. You present it as “making life a little more complicated for kids” but perhaps this downplays just how many youth, especially young men, wander off the path because they don’t hold fast to the Church.
So let’s all teach more stories to kids, including the D of Z. I’m fine with that. But this happy little story is never going to make the first round playbook for me. It lacks the drama and the lesson it teaches is important but secondary. I think Randy tacitly accepts this as well when he says:
“Of course we often have to do things that are not fun and don’t necessarily make sense. Our kids know that first hand!”
because Randy has to drill that message home to his kids all the time (I do with mine anyway, maybe Randy has angels :) ). That lesson is a message of first-order importance.
We will all be delighted to know that there is a sequel to the D of Z story. Who knew what legs this thing had?! The daughters reappear in Numbers 36 (and briefly in Joshua 17).
The Numbers 36 account is actually a parallel to the earlier one, except this time it’s to fix a grievance caused by the D of Z ruling. The whole chapter is 13 verses. This time, the daughters are the object of the petition, rather than the petitioners:
1 AND the chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of the sons of Joseph, came near, and spake before Moses, and before the princes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel:
2 And they said, The LORD commanded my lord to give the land for an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel: and my lord was commanded by the LORD to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother unto his daughters.
3 And if they be married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then shall their inheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and shall be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall it be taken from the lot of our inheritance.
4 And when the jubile of the children of Israel shall be, then shall their inheritance be put unto the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.
5 And Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying, The tribe of the sons of Joseph hath said well.
6 This is the thing which the LORD doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry.
7 So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.
8 And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers.
9 Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe to another tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himself to his own inheritance.
10 Even as the LORD commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad:
11 For Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their father’s brothers’ sons:
12 And they were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father.
13 These are the commandments and the judgments, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.
In this example, the property given to the daughters would leave the tribe of Joseph, should they marry outside the tribe. The tribe of Joseph thought this wrong. Moses went to the Lord and the Lord agreed. So the daughters were free to marry anyone as long as that person was of the tribe of Joseph. The rule is applied to all daughters with inheritances. The daughters obeyed the law, and married in the tribe.
So here’s a second FHE lesson for ya’ll. If we can find a couple more, one might be able to squeeze a month or more of FHE out of just the D of Z!
First, I think it is critical that we begin to make gender an “issue”. Margaret Toscano said something that rang true in a lecture that I largely found unappealing…that our girls had to grow up asking themselves if they could insert themselves into that male space. As much as I like to carry the banner of “one for all and all for one” when it comes to the church, she is dead right…and this is something that our boys never have to ask.
Ben said: And I noticed that one of the issues he had to address (because the young woman asked about it) was what we now call gendered language, in the scriptures. But isn’t it just ignorance to call it gendered language?
No…it is gendered language. And it was meant to be that way. Some of the newer translations have changed it to inclusive language (which I object to).
This may be a poor analogy…but what if everything you read as an American caucasion male was addressing a European black woman? Can you take a moment to understand the implications of this over a lifetime even though there was no intent to exclude?
Kingsley said: We all wish that women were more prominent in Scripture, but it’s probably better to fill the void with stories from Church history, which is teeming with brave, intelligent, heroic LDS sisters, than with scriptural scraps blown all out of proportion.
It may be teeming but how much do we really know because of our culture of allowing women to remain out of the public realm? I found this quote profounding disturbing if Van Wagenen’s theory is correct. Women are literally disappearing in modern LDS history just as the D of Z disappeared.
“Although minutes from the meeting show solid evidence of the increasing political activism of Mormon women, the exclusion of both motions from the public record obscured the women’s efforts from public (and historical) scrutiny. Several possible reasons exist for the omission. The sisters may have been fearful of apearing too aggressive, or they may have wanted to discuss their resolutions with the brethren before making them public. Both possibilities also suggest why the activities of Mormon women are so difficult to trace: they may have been more interested in being effective than in attracting attention, and thought a low profile was critical to their success. What the minutes show is that Mormon women were talking privately about woman sufferage, and prior to their enfranchisement they proposed a means to secure it.”
Lola VanWagenen, _Sister-Wives and Suffragists: Polygamy and the Politics of Woman Suffrage 1870-1896_(Provo: JFS Institute for Latter-day Saint History and BYU Studies, 2003), 6-7.
[LVW does add a third possibility but it seems more of an afterthought: Another possible reason for not highlighting their woman suffrage action was that preparations for the “Great Indignation Meeting” required immediate priority.”]
My girls are angles, but that doesn’t keep them from getting into trouble all the time. ;>)
I agree that teaching our kids to keep the commandments, obey the family rules, etc., is a message of first order importance. With all due respect, it is also a message of first order importance to teach them how to resolve problems and disagreements. In my experience (both personally and observing my kids and others), people are more likely to obey the rules–even rules they don’t like–when they feel involved in the process, when they understand the purpose of the rules, and when their concerns and questions regarding the rules are fairly heard. We have a lot of rules in our house. We expect our girls to keep them. But we also solicit their input and welcome their questions, provided it is done in the proper way. I think Heavenly Father is the same way, as demonstrated by the story of the D of Z.
You note that kids are naturally inclined to question so there is no reason to encourage them to do so. Kids ARE naturally inclined to question. That is why it is so important that we teach them how to do it the right way. The story of the D of Z does not glorify challenging our church leaders. (See the original post as to what happened when Miriam challenged Moses.) It is a story about how we should go about resolving problems and concerns. Of course, we could just teach our girls to just be quite and suck it up, regardless of whether there is a better way. To me, that is a wholly unsatisfactory answer.
You say that our church leaders are generally good people who make good decisions. So was Moses. But there is plenty of room for improvement in all of us. Why would we (as parents and leaders) not welcome ideas and suggestions for improvement? Take the teenage years (as you reference above). One of the central purposes of the YM/YW program is to teach the youth to be leaders. When the time comes, I want my girls to strive to make their beehive and mia maid classes better than they were when my girls got there. If they happen to have a disagreement with one of their leaders about how to make an activity better, I want them to know how to go about making suggestions for improvement. Assuming they become leaders in the YW presidencies, I hope they learn that they should listen and prayerfully consider the counsel they hear from the other girls.
To me, these are lessons are first order importance.
Go right ahead and teach the D of Z. Perhaps God gave you children for whom that approach will be of the most worth to them. But I think you could apply most of your comments about leading/following skills to the story about Moses and Jethro. Yet I don’t see anyone going to the barricades to make that story part of the 8 year old curriculum.
I see no need to adjust Church curricula for the D of Z story (maybe one run though along the way in Primary would be good). The D of Z story says, when you have a problem go talk to your leader. Then you’ll get what you want. End of story. This is pretty straightforward stuff. There is little challenge here. I do not have to change who I am in any fundamental way. I do not have to wonder, “gee, would I have the nerve to do what they did?” It does not call one to be more than perhaps we imagine we could be. It is comparable, as noted above, to the Jethro delegation story. Which I also think probably doesn’t deserve huge air time in Primary.
Compare these two to Naaman. The prophet tells you to do something which is ludicrous on its face. You do it and are blessed. Now that is a story with meat. Or Jonah, which shows that we can be very wrong about how others will accept the gospel AND it gets in a lesson about obedience. Or Daniel defying earthly authority to be true to God. Miracles ensue. Or Elisha telling the widow to make the cake of bread, and it will last her through the famine. Or Joseph, faithfully working in prison and slavery, repeatedly suffering ill fortune but persevering in faith. Did I mention suffering? Oh, so we must include Job, because he certainly suffered a long time before he was justified. Or Joshua telling the people to march around the city walls, because then God will make them fall down. Or Abraham and Isaac. All of these are stories where (with the possible exception of Jonah) we hope that we could be as good as these men were, but perhaps we wonder if we’ve got enough fiath. We strive to achieve a more faithful relationship so that we can be like them.
The D of Z story is about common sense and good following/leading skills, just like the Jethro story. The other stories are about more than that. They are about doing things with an eye of faith. They are about trusting God and obeying when it is hard. I see a distinction between the importance of the two categories. Apparently you don’t. Since you will be teaching different kids than me, maybe you’ll get the ones that need D of Z and I’ll get the ones that don’t. And all will be well in the kingdom.
I am not so sure I agree with you about your approach to teaching about abuse. Here’s why: if a YW gets the message “Abuse is wrong” and also “Be obedient to your leaders” there is a disconnect there if the leaders are culpable in the abuse. What’s a YW to do? She has to resolve the conundrum on her own. Can a 12yo do this? I don’t know.
On the other hand, if the message is, “When you think someone is messing up, approach them openly–they should seek the Spirit in their answer to you. Maybe you are wrong (Naaman), maybe they are wrong (inherit. law).” I see less of a dilemma here for a YW. Admittedly, it isn’t crystal clear in this case either.
You also wrote, “You present it as “making life a little more complicated for kids” but perhaps this downplays just how many youth, especially young men, wander off the path because they don’t hold fast to the Church.”
Yeah, but, sometimes they aren’t holding fast because their leaders are messing up. (True story: met a student in a college class with me who told me he was Mormon ‘once.’ Once, I asked, what happened? He then told me all of the crap his seminary teacher has told him (mark of Cain, dinosaurs dying because they weren’t on the ark, etc. etc. etc.) He had been given no template for dealing with a leader making a mistake, so he left. On the other hand, someone well versed in the principles of the d. of Z. could have a better attitude about people messing up and a template for sticking it out.
Frank–thanks for the follow-up story, I had forgotten about that. QUestion: what is the lesson? Maybe that they did have obedient souls, and when the Lord told the prophet to tell them whom to marry, they did willingly? Or something else? I am having a hard time pulling a moral out of this one . . .
Juliann wrote, “No…it is gendered language. And it was meant to be that way. Some of the newer translations have changed it to inclusive language (which I object to). ”
I think it may be a little more complicated than that–unless you can prove that every instance of a plural in scriptures applies only to men, I think we need to explore (maybe on a case by case basis, ugh) who constitutes the audience.
“Do not be disturbed, my dear young friend, by the fact that the word man and the word men are used in scripture without also mentioning the words woman and women. I emphasize that these terms are generic, including both sexes. They are so used in the scripture and have been used in other writings through the centuries of time.”
–President Gordon B. Hinckley
➂ “Some scriptures are couched in masculine language due to the nature of the languages they were derived from. For example, in Hebrew [and in Greek], if one is addressing an audience of all females, feminine forms of verbs and pronouns are used. If the audience is mixed, however, then the masculine forms are always used. . . . teachers need to be sensitive to gender-specific language and remind students that some masculine terms refer to both males and females. When Adam was told that “all men, everywhere, must repent” (Moses 6:57), the Lord was certainly speaking of both men and women. . . . And Job’s statement that the “morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7) at the creation of the earth was not meant to imply it was an all male chorus!”
–CES Handbook for Teachers and Leaders
There is no good solution for translators, since the decision to go neutral or masc. is an interpretive one. That’s why everyone should learn to read Greek and Hebrew (grin).
Randy B.–amen, brother. You made the case better than I could
Frank–I don’t think the comparison with Naaman, as if this were a zero-sum game, is fair. This isn’t about one or the other. However, reading both stories together makes a very good point. (And, for you gender-aware readers out there, don’t forget to point out that Naamna’s wife’s slave girl is the *real* hero of the story–what a brave little thing!)
Matt Jacobsen: I guess my impressions have been different. As far as grinning & bearing it goes, I like Joseph Smith’s take on the leader-follower conundrum: “I’ll bear with your faults if you’ll bear with mine.” As far as the daughters of Z story goes, I’ll say it again: I like it, it’s pretty neat, you can learn the same (basic) lesson from a dozen D&C stories: revelations have often come as a result of “ordinary” members approaching prophets with concerns, questions, etc. The idea that it’ll help kids deal with catastrophic experiences like Julie mentioned I seriously doubt.
I have written a book based around the story of the Daughters of Zelophehad and the hidden meanings in their names and how their story relates to the story of Christ’s birth. Anyone who is interested is welcome to visit my website for more information. Blessings!
You may be interested to know that I have written a book on the lives of the daughters of Zelophehad. It looks into the significance of each girl’s name as well as the themes of boldness, courage and determination their story highlights for us.
There is a rich inheritance for us all, male and female alike. There is help for those who are facing tragedy and difficulties in the dark seasons of their lives. Let the daughters of Zelophehad show you why it is worth risking everything to get that inheritance!