The September Ensign rocks. No two ways about it. As regular readers probably know, the Ensign sometimes takes flak in the bloggernacle for its shortcomings. Some of the perennial complaints are that it does not portray strong women and that it does not pay sufficient attention to single (particularly divorced) members. This month’s Ensign addresses both of those prongs very well. Two of its features are sufficiently strong that it’s hard to decide where to start.
One of the items that really stands out the gorgeous six-page, fifteen-picture spread on Women of the Old Testament. It features paintings of different kinds, as well as carvings. The paintings branch out significantly from the Old Testament usual suspects — Eve, Sariah, Ruth-and-Naomi, Esther, maybe Rebekah — and include depictions of Hagar, Rahab, Abigail, the widow of Zarephath as well, and even two different paintings of Puah and Shiphrah (extra credit if you can say who those two are without looking it up). The exhibit draws heavily on the work of Elspeth Young — extra props for displaying the work of a female artist — and includes work from several other artists, both male and female. Each work includes a small caption and tie to scripture.
If this were the only thing that really struck me about this month’s Ensign, I probably would have written it up. The pictorial is a great way to point out women in the scriptures. It’s given on-the-cover billing, too. Kudos to the Ensign for this exhibit on Old Testament women. (My only criticism — a small one — is that I would have liked to have seen a bit more description of the art itself; e.g., “oil on canvas, 1982” or the like. This is a minor criticism, though; the pictorial is really a good one.)
The Ensign then covers more traditionally underserved ground in Kaye Terry Hanson’s lengthy, analytical, and thoughtful article, For the Divorced Single Parent. As with the women pictorial, there is a lot to like here.
The article avoids stigmatization of divorce or any focus on messy details, and instead focuses on how to make the best of the situation. I loved the fact that it does not condemn the divorced parent; divorce is reality for many church members, and this article goes a long way towards recognizing that.
I loved the article’s length and throughness. It clocks in at six pages, eighteen different suggestions, of one to three paragraphs each. This is a nod to the reality that there are no quick-and-easy answers. This article could have been really bad — a one-page piece saying “I got divorced, then I said a quick prayer, and everything sudenly got better.” Instead, it is really good. It makes no claims to quick or easy solutions, and focuses on long-term ideas and strategies.
I enjoyed the substance of the suggestions. Parts may not work for everyone — I don’t know how many divorced single parents get super-home-teacher, for instance. But other portions were quite strong and broadly applicable. The suggestions on time for oneself and on forgiveness were thoughtfully done. The point about the reality of continuing contact with a divorced spouse matches many cases I know. And I have to love an Ensign article that extols the value of a single mother returning to graduate school to better support her family.
When it rains, it pours: This month’s Ensign also brings an article written by a member of the General Primary Presidency — we have women leaders in the church, too, and they can and do speak on doctrinal matters — as well as a nice article on fatherhood that contained a lot of material I liked. Top it all off with a nice four-page historical article, with multiple photos, about the Relief Society building and the women who made it possible.
If you haven’t yet opened your copy of the September Ensign, let me recommend that you do so.