Concubines!

19 May

Whats-The-Deal-With-3Hey! Let’s talk about concubines! Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Here’s the story: Whilst casually browsing Twitter one day, I came across a tweet by Bronwyn Lea, who has a lovely blog about faith, family, and life, asking for help to understand concubines and their place in the history of God’s people. Though polygamy is part of my Mormon religious history and even my family history, I hadn’t given too much thought to polygamy, but after the recent essays on polygamy by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, combined with my growing interest in girl power, I had started exploring the issue (including this excellent podcast).

You can read the result of my explorations on Bronlea’s blog. My answer to the question of concubines is very much a work in progress–I am sure my understanding will evolve and grow over time, as human understanding is wont to do. I look forward to the day that I can fully understand difficult issues like this, but for now, I wanted to share what I’ve learned–and welcome you to share anything you have thought about or learned. Please feel free to weigh in with comments here or on Bronwyn’s blog.

I also wanted to add a few thoughts to my initial answer. (Because I am never, ever brief.) Namely, what can we do?

What More Can We Do?

For me, making peace with difficult elements like concubines in the Old Testament is not simply a matter of saying “OK, I’m fine with this,” and shelving the matter. There are things we can do while we wait for further understanding.

First, we can confront the manifestations of inequality in our own time. As you mentioned, sex trafficking is tragically prevalent today. The Half the Sky Movement advises that we put pressure on officials worldwide “to shut down jail-like brothels, investigate criminals buying underage girls, and crack down on corruption and trafficking across borders.” You could start with writing to your elected officials to let them know what you think, and consider supporting an organization that helps victims of trafficking.

Second, we can remember and ponder about the women we read about in the scriptures—like Sarah and Hagar or Rachel and Bilhah. Their stories deserve more than to be glossed over or explained away. We can consider what their lives were actually like, what their relationships were like, what they might have struggled with and how they found joy. (I am also discovering wonderful resources that explore women in the scriptures, like this blog and this book.)

Third, we can draw closer to Jesus Christ. Whenever I struggle with something—in the scriptures, in church, in life—Christ is what gives me the greatest hope. He is hope; he is the light and the life of the world.

Christ gives me hope specifically in regards to women. The first person to whom he declared His role as the Messiah was a Samaritan woman. He showed compassion for the woman taken in adultery. The first witness of his resurrection was not an apostle but a female disciple, Mary Magdalene. I believe what James E. Talmage wrote in Jesus the Christ: “The world’s greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus the Christ.”

And Christ gives me hope in all things. The good news of the gospel is that Christ allowed himself to be broken, and in doing so overcame this broken world (concubines and all!) and wants to help us do the same. As we invite him into our hearts and our relationships, we can be healed and united: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

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4 Responses to “Concubines!”

  1. thefoodcharlatan1 May 20, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    I loved your article Holly! Very well articulated. I was reading it last night after my friend Sarah sent it to me. (I assume she got it from Jessi Olsen, a mutual friend of ours) Interesting food for thought, thanks for writing!

    • Holly May 20, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

      Thank you! Yes, Jessi is a good friend!

  2. Dad May 21, 2015 at 1:42 am #

    Holly: I really enjoyed your article (blog) and your insights. I appreciated your vision of the Savior’s inclusion and tenderness to women. You really nailed it when you said, “Whenever I struggle with something….Christ gives me the greatest hope.” It made me think of one of my favorite scriptures from the New Testament, Phillipians 4:13 which says: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” You have a real gift for asking great questions and yet being ok with it if you do not yet have all the answers. Some of the most intellectual people I have known and studied about have realized they sometimes have to wait for further information, or sometimes more importantly, a different perspective, before they got the answer they were looking for. I really admire you more and more as you continue to look with great curiosity at the world around you. All my love, Dad

    • Holly May 21, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

      Thanks, Dad! I’m grateful to have your example of both faith and searching for understanding. Love you too! 🙂

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