Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Book Review: Daughters of Light by Carol Lynn Pearson

In this slim but important volume, first published in 1973, the inestimable Carol Lynn Pearson gathers dozens of accounts of women in the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints using their spiritual gifts. What a powerful spiritual heritage we have!

Each chapter focuses on a single gift - the gift of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues, the gift of prophecy, the gift of revelation, the gift of faith to heal, the gift of faith to be healed, and the gift of power over evil spirits - some of which will be familiar to those of us in the Church today and some may seem strange because they are no longer prevalent. The perspective this provides is helpful to me; the way things are done now is not the only way they have ever been done. And by extension, the way things are done now is not, or at least should not be, a straitjacket restricting change.

In particular, I love reading about the gifts of prophecy and healing demonstrated by women in these early days. Both Lucy Mack Smith and Mary Fielding Smith are highlighted as examples of modern prophetesses. The story about Mary Fielding Smith is, once again, the one where my illustrious ancestor Cornelius Peter Lott as the captain of the company encourages Widow Smith to remain behind in Winter Quarters until she has sufficient oxen to not be a burden on those traveling with her to the Salt Lake Valley. She rebuffs him, prophesying, "I will beat you to the valley, and will ask no help from you, either!" Seemingly "nettle[d]" by this response, he "lost no opportunity to vent his spleen on the widow and her family." On the final day before reaching the valley, Widow Smith's cows were lost and Captain Lott ordered the company to start earlier than usual, knowing it would leave her behind. And then the heavens opened with a torrential downpour and the company was delayed taking shelter. In the mean time, the cattle found and hitched up, Widow Smith traveled into the valley arriving 20 hours ahead of the company. "And thus was her prophecy fulfilled." Now, there are more charitable interpretations of the series of events that don't cast poor Cornelius in quite as bad a light, but I do have to shake my head at his hubris which may very well have been passed down through a few generations of descendants.

The specific accounts of women healing are numerous and powerful. I loved the stories of Emma Smith and the great midwife Patty Sessions. The eighth General Relief Society President Amy Brown Lyman recalls Eliza R. Snow and Zina D.H. Young administering to her "semi-invalid mother" and her subsequent return to health. Mothers called on the powers of heaven to heal their children, fellow Saints, and others under their charge frequently.

I appreciate the balance of well-known women like Lucy Mack Smith, Eliza R. Snow, and Jane Elizabeth Manning James with near anonymous figures in the "rank and file" of the early Church, including global pioneers such as native Hawaiians and New Zealanders. Many of the stories are told in the women's own words, or through the lens of other women who witnessed the miracles performed by faith and through spiritual gifts.

Daughters of Light is a simple and powerful testament to the truth that "It is, in fact, not only the privilege, but the solemn duty of every Latter-day Saint woman, married or unmarried, to cultivate the spiritual powers that lie within her own soul."

Daughters of Light
by Carol Lynn Pearson
ISBN: 9780884944454
Buy it from Amazon here: (hardcover)
Find it at a local independent bookseller.
Look it up on Goodreads.
Check it out at your local library (find the nearest one here).

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