Monday, November 7, 2011

Daughters in my Kingdom III, the War Chapters

When I began to write about this book, it was with the hope and expectation that my predictions about it would be wrong, that my perspective would change from it. I have found it surprisingly difficult to read and to write, and the chapters about the war have been the hardest so far.

About the time I began to read about war in Daughters in my Kingdom, I began a book called Behind the Iron Curtain: Recollections of Latter-Day Saints in East Germany. This is a subject near to my heart because, no matter that I was born in America, and grew up in America, my soul lives in Germany. I don't tell people this when they ask me where I am from, because it requires too much explanation, but Germany is where I consider myself home.

The German people are stoic, with dry senses of humor. They are friendly, but private, only letting select people into their lives. More than anything, they have an inner strength mixed with a willingness to sacrifice that is unparalleled. They are rooted deeply in reality, and have learned to find beauty and humor in the harshness that life can bring. Their stories of the war can't help but betray this tender-hearted, unflinching nature.

It is this same spirit which permeates the accounts of women during the World Wars. Daughters in my Kingdom paints an image of a world where sisters wove their strength into the fabric of their crumbling worlds. Work, sacrifice, self-reliance and charity make up the core of what Relief Society should be.

My fear is that it is nearly impossible to reclaim that sense of unity. With increasing numbers of mothers joining fathers in the workforce, there is a heavy price paid which society has been able to largely ignore. When the wars rocked the economic world, when the gardens out back became an essential source of food to Americans, it was women who were able to step up to the plate and make things work. I fear that our country—and the world—cannot again absorb a similar catastrophe with as much grace.

It is obvious that these "war chapters" are setting us up to recognize Relief Society as an organization which can reestablish the skills and resources which we need. But can we meet it? I know that I, as a single working mom, just don't have the capacity to do more than I am doing. I can't participate in bonding Relief Society meetings, because they all happen during the time I must get my children ready for bed, and get myself in bed in time to get enough sleep to survive another day. I can't perform the heroic deeds these women were able to accomplish, I can barely perform the heroic deed of remembering to pack my daughter's school lunch.

This book, so far, is awakening the sleeping dragon of need which I try to keep pacified, the urge to truly bond with people in my ward, in my Relief Society. But there is nowhere for that dragon to fly. I am hoping that there will be some answers for me, but it is a hope without much faith.

I was recently told that the way I see the world (particularly male/female relations) is too harsh, incompatible with individuals who have been blessed to afford a more optimistic viewpoint. I feel the truth of that. I do not dream of a white picket fence future. Having gone through my own personal apocalypse once already, my outlook is more one that needs to prepare to face the harsh realities of life, to conserve resources, to be emotionally and physically self-reliant. I truly have little to offer the Church, or this grand vision of Relief Society which Sister Beck has sponsored. So what is the point of yearning for it?

Hopefully, future chapters will answer that question for me.


  1. "It is obvious that these "war chapters" are setting us up to recognize Relief Society as an organization which can reestablish the skills and resources which we need."

    That insight right there is brilliant.

    As for not having the opportunity to go to evening Relief Society meetings, what if you were to ask your visiting teachers to hold down the fort? You need some down time.

  2. I have always been fascinated by the fact that the Book of Mormon was written for our day and that the majority of the book deal with war and converting enemies. I highly doubt that is a coincidence.


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