BYU Women’s Conference Presentation: Come Unto Christ and Be Perfected in Him

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I am posting a link to listen to my presentation from BYU Women’s Conference 2014. I tried to put it on my Facebook Author page, but the .mp3 file wouldn’t upload, so I decided to stick it up here on my blog graveyard instead. :)

The title of the presentation is “Come Unto Christ and Be Perfected in Him” and is based on Moroni 10:32 from the Book of Mormon.

>>> Click here to download the .mp3 audio file<<<

(When I tested it, it worked, but it showed a warning script that the file was too large to virus scan on Google Drive, so you download at your own risk. I don’t forsee any risk since it’s just an .mp3 file, but now you know.)

BYU Women’s conference gave me permission to share the presentation, but if you do quote it, please give the proper credit to the conference and the speakers, and if you wish to use it in any other way, please ask. Thanks.

What do the prophets say about [insert your hot-button issue of choice here]?

Listen to the prophet[image credit: jordanandemily.com]

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that every once in a while I get fire in my bones about something and I have to let it out. I have to write my thoughts “out loud” and I have to bear my testimony about it and promise the things that I know to be true. Usually it’s about one issue in particular (for example, see the previous catharses about pornography, the power of women , and the sanctity of family). Today it’s about all of those issues and many more. I don’t know about you, but lately my Internet content has been flooded, and I mean overwhelmingly filled, with discussions and commentary and articles and studies and arguments and status updates and diatribes about these issues and many more like them– gay marriage, abortion, vaccination, alcohol laws, government corruption… fill in the blank. The list goes on (painfully so).

If you feel confused and overwhelmed by some of these issues, I just want to tell you that this is the very reason that God gave us prophets. We have a living prophet and apostles, called to the whole world, to speak on behalf of the Lord and make His will known to us. The words of living prophets, like the iron rod in the vision of the Tree of Life, help us have a safe and clear pathway of truth even when surrounded by dark mists and pointing, mocking fingers. Lately, I have felt sadness when I see people I love and admire post things online that are contrary to what the prophets have taught us. I know these people love the Lord, and I think they love and try to sustain the prophet, but I fear they may not be paying attention to him.

This morning my family read from 2 Nephi 32. Verse 7 jumped out at me.  I’ve never marked it or paid attention to it before, but today, Nephi’s words captured the way I feel and reaffirmed to me the importance of practicing due diligence in our study of these issues.

I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.

This is what I know to be true: Many people have many different opinions on many different issues, but so does God, and He “revealeth his secret unto to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7) Do you want to know what God thinks about marriage or abortion or pornography? Find out. Take the challenge from Nephi: search knowledge. Sure there are plenty of “experts” and websites out there who are happy to tell you more than you want to know. The answers–the true answers, the right answers–are there for the taking if we do the asking.

Type the “issue” into the search engine at gc.lds.org (collection of general conference talks) and see what the prophets and apostles–whom we’ve sustained as prophets, seers and revelators–have said. A lot of talks and resources will pop up. You may be surprised how much is available. Read all of them. Study them. Ponder them. Invite the Spirit to help you see the issue through spiritual eyes. Like Nephi said, the knowledge is given “in plainness, even as plain as word can be.” Trust that God is using his prophets to help you know the truth. Then cling to those truths. Let them be an anchor to you in a constantly shifting and angry world.

Please. Pretty please. Even the not pretty, begging kind of please. Before you speak out on a major social or political or societal issue, study what the prophets have said about it. The knowledge you find will give you confidence to speak out in truth, and the people in your circle of influence will be pointed in the right direction by your words.

I testify that peace is found and sustained by hearing and studying and following the words of the prophets. I know that living prophets are completely in touch with the issues of our day and that the Lord is not silent on these matters. I cannot articulate how much comfort it gives me to understand how the Lord feels about things that the world is constantly fighting about. I promise that the prophets and apostles are teaching the same things Jesus would teach if He were here, so until He comes again, He has promised that “whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

I know it and believe it so much it puts fire in my bones.

The Moral Force of Women: Some connections

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I’m supposed to be working on my class for tomorrow. I actually am, but I made a cool research discovery, so I wanted to share. For the last couple of days, I’ve been studying Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s most recent conference talk, “The Moral Force of Women.” I’ve long felt that women have a certain power (beyond childbearing) that cannot be duplicated or replaced. It’s not just nurturing (especially in the too-narrow ways we often define it), but it’s more like a binding power. I recently listened to a radio interview with M. Russell Ballard where he claimed that women have a special gift with one-on-one relationships. I’d never thought of that before but I think it’s true, and he said that men can learn a lot from women about that subject if they will watch and listen. Anyway, back to Elder Christofferson’s talk. He said,

“As grandmothers, mothers, and role models, women have been the guardians of the wellspring of life, teaching each generation the importance of sexual purity—of chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. In this way, they have been a civilizing influence in society; they have brought out the best in men; they have perpetuated wholesome environments in which to raise secure and healthy children.”*

Something about that quote rang really familiar to me, mostly the phrase “civilizing influence.” Little by little, my old and tired brain started putting pieces together and I remembered it had something to do with Australia. I know. Weird.

So I’ve been trying to research it out and track it down, and–tonight–I found the connection. The whole thing is pretty amazing, but just read this one very cool account as told by Elder Bruce R. Hafen at the World Congress of Families in 1999. By no small coincidence, the title of his speech was “Motherhood and the Moral Influence of Women.”

Consider now, in summary, a true story from Australian history that illustrates the power of women’s moral influence as mothers of hope, women of fidelity, wives of commitment, and nurturers of human ties. In its early decades as a British colony, Australia was a vast wilderness designated as a jail for exiled convicts. Until 1850, six of every seven people who went “down under” from Britain were men. And the few women who went were often convicts or social outcasts themselves. The men ruthlessly exploited them, sexually and in other ways. With few exceptions, these women without hope were powerless to change their conditions.

In about 1840, a reformer named Caroline Chisholm urged that more women would stabilize the culture. She told the British government the best way to establish a community of “great and good people” in Australia: “For all the clergy you can dispatch, all the schoolmasters you can appoint, all the churches you can build, and all the books you can export, will never do much good without . . . ‘God’s police’– wives and little children–good and virtuous women.”

Chisholm searched for women who would raise “the moral standard of the people.” She spent twenty years traveling to England, recruiting young women and young couples who believed in the common sense principles of family life. Over time, these women tamed the men who were taming the wild land; and civil society in Australia gradually emerged. Also, the colonial governments enacted policies that elevated women’s status and reinforced family life.[23] As one historian said, “the initial reluctance of the wild colonial boys to marry was eroded fairly quickly.” Eventually, thousands of new immigrants who shared the vision of these “good and virtuous women” established stable families as the basic unit of Australian society more quickly than had occurred “anywhere else in the Western world.”[24]

This striking story of women’s moral influence grew from a conscious design to replace “the penal colony’s rough and wild ways” with “a more moral civilization.” The reformers intentionally capitalized on women’s innate “civilizing” capacity. [25] These women made Australia a promised land that flowed with a healthy ecosystem of milk and honey. And the milk, literally and figuratively, was mother’s milk–the milk of human kindness. That milk nurtures those habits of the heart without which no civil society can sustain itself.”

I. LOVE. THAT. Innate civilizing capacity. The milk of human kindness. Power. Force. Influence. Elder Christofferson quoted Elder Maxwell (he and this quote are both long-time favorites for me).

“When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?”

Sigh. I love being a woman. God has made His sons and His daughters powerful. He needs us both, and we can both do more with His help.

*Lest anyone get all worked up into a tizzy about women not being responsible for the morality of men, let’s agree to agree. Later on in his talk, Elder Christofferson acknowledges, “In these exhortations to women, let no one willfully misunderstand. By praising and encouraging the moral force in women, I am not saying that men and boys are somehow excused from their own duty to stand for truth and righteousness, that their responsibility to serve, sacrifice, and minister is somehow less than that of women or can be left to women. Brethren, let us stand with women, share their burdens, and cultivate our own companion moral authority. Dear sisters, we rely on the moral force you bring to the world, to marriage, to family, to the Church.”

Busy brain, idle hands?

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Do you ever have a mind full of ideas and wishes and goals and projects, but get hung up in the execution?

It’s so easy to get distracted. In some ways, I guess I’m like my own kids, and when there’s too much to do, I shut down a little bit and do … too little. That’s what I’ve been struggling with lately. I am getting things done, but we know ourselves and know when we can and should do more. Then we get frustrated.

I think it’s important to forgive ourselves in these situations and pat ourselves on the back just for being aware and being willing. I loved Elder Scott’s recent general conference talk when he said that the Lord sees weakness differently than he sees sin. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. When we sin, He wants us to remove it from our lives. Get rid of it. Go clean. With weakness, though, we have to stare it in the face and work on it. Like repentance, work is hard, and in both cases, we need the help of the Atonement.

I recently found this talk by Elder Maxwell (love him!) about weaknesses. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Now may I speak, not to the slackers in the Kingdom, but to those who carry their own load and more; not to those lulled into false security, but to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short. … Even prophets notice their weaknesses. Nephi persisted in a major task “notwithstanding my weakness.” (2 Ne. 33:11.) … Thus the feelings of inadequacy are common. So are the feelings of fatigue; hence, the needed warning about our becoming weary of well-doing. (See D&C 64:33.)

And then, he said some of the coolest things ever about how to deal with those common feelings and yearnings to do and be better. So the rest of the credit for this post goes completely to Elder Neal A. Maxwell whose inspiration helped me out again today.

What can we do to manage these vexing feelings of inadequacy? Here are but a few suggestions:

1. We can distinguish more clearly between divine discontent and the devil’s dissonance, between dissatisfaction with self and disdain for self. We need the first and must shun the second, remembering that when conscience calls to us from the next ridge, it is not solely to scold but also to beckon.
2. We can contemplate how far we have already come in the climb along the pathway to perfection; it is usually much farther than we acknowledge. True, we are “unprofitable servants,” but partly because when “we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10), with every ounce of such obedience comes a bushel of blessings.
3. We can accept help as well as gladly give it. Happily, General Naaman received honest but helpful feedback, not from fellow generals, but from his orderlies. (See 2 Kgs. 5:1–14.) In the economy of heaven, God does not send thunder if a still, small voice is enough, or a prophet if a priest can do the job.
4. We can allow for the agency of others (including our children) before we assess our adequacy. Often our deliberate best is less effectual because of someone else’s worst.
5. We can write down, and act upon, more of those accumulating resolutions for self-improvement that we so often leave, unrecovered, at the edge of sleep.
6. We can admit that if we were to die today, we would be genuinely and deeply missed. Perhaps parliaments would not praise us, but no human circle is so small that it does not touch another, and another.
7. We can put our hand to the plow, looking neither back nor around, comparatively. Our gifts and opportunities differ; some are more visible and impactful. The historian Moroni felt inadequate as a writer beside the mighty Mahonri Moriancumer, who wrote overpoweringly. We all have at least one gift and an open invitation to seek “earnestly the best gifts.” (D&C 46:8.)
8. We can make quiet but more honest inventories of our strengths, since, in this connection, most of us are dishonest bookkeepers and need confirming “outside auditors.” He who was thrust down in the first estate delights to have us put ourselves down. Self-contempt is of Satan; there is none of it in heaven. We should, of course, learn from our mistakes, but without forever studying the instant replays as if these were the game of life itself.
9. We can add to each other’s storehouse of self-esteem by giving deserved, specific commendation more often, remembering, too, that those who are breathless from going the second mile need deserved praise just as the fallen need to be lifted up.
10. We can also keep moving. Only the Lord can compare crosses, but all crosses are easier to carry when we keep moving. Men finally climbed Mount Everest, not by standing at its base in consuming awe, but by shouldering their packs and by placing one foot in front of another. Feet are made to move forward—not backward!
11. We can know that when we have truly given what we have, it is like paying a full tithe; it is, in that respect, all that was asked. The widow who cast in her two mites was neither self-conscious nor searching for mortal approval.
12. We can allow for the reality that God is more concerned with growth than with geography. Thus, those who marched in Zion’s Camp were not exploring the Missouri countryside but their own possibilities.
13. We can learn that at the center of our agency is our freedom to form a healthy attitude toward whatever circumstances we are placed in! Those, for instance, who stretch themselves in service—though laced with limiting diseases—are often the healthiest among us! The Spirit can drive the flesh beyond where the body first agrees to go!
14. Finally, we can accept this stunning, irrevocable truth: Our Lord can lift us from deep despair and cradle us midst any care. We cannot tell Him anything about aloneness or nearness!

And that is why we should read something from the scriptures or words of the prophets every day. My busy brain feels so much better.

I hope it makes you feel better, too.

General Conference Scripture Mastery, October 2013

GCSM

Well, we have some new scriptures to study.

Really. Remember general conference? (Wasn’t it so great???) The talks are all available for study now. You can find them here. President Howard W. Hunter said this about general conference:

“Much inspired counsel by prophets, seers, revelators, and other General Authorities of the Church is given during general conference. Our modern-day prophets have encouraged us to make the reading of the conference editions of our Church magazines an important and regular part of our personal study. Thus, general conference becomes, in a sense, a supplement to or an extension of the Doctrine and Covenants. In addition to the conference issues of the Church magazines, the First Presidency writes monthly articles that contain inspired counsel for our welfare” (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1997], 212; emphasis added).

Oh, and President Joseph Fielding Smith said this:

When one of the brethren stands before a congregation of the people today, and the inspiration of the Lord is upon him, he speaks that which the Lord would have him speak. It is just as much scripture as anything you will find written in any of these records, and yet we call these the standard works of the Church. We depend, of course, upon the guidance of the brethren who are entitled to inspiration.

Elder Richard G. Scott has talked a lot about the importance of memorizing scriptures. Here’s one of my recent favorites:

If you young people would review a verse of scripture as often as some of you send text messages, you could soon have hundreds of passages of scripture memorized. Those passages would prove to be a powerful source of inspiration and guidance by the Holy Ghost in times of need.

So in light of all this new scripture a.k.a. general conference and “let’s memorize more scriptures” business, I put together some scripture mastery of simple and powerful statements that we’re going to try and study in my family over the next six months. Did you ever notice before that there are always just about the exact number of talks from the four general sessions of general conference that if you study one talk a week, you’ll finish up right in time for the next general conference?  I love that. So here are some quotes from each talk. I chose one to memorize with my kids each week. (Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I think the effort is worthy.)

Elder Robert D. Hales If you will listen [to general conference,] you will feel the Spirit well up within you. The Lord will tell you what He wants you to do with your life.
Elder Ulisses Soares Meekness is vital for us to become more Christlike… Being meek does not mean weakness, but it does mean behaving with goodness and kindness
Sister Carole M. Stephens We all need each other. Sons of God need daughters of God, and daughters of God need sons of God.
Elder Edward Dube In the sight of the Lord, it is not so much what we have done or where we have been but much more where we are willing to go.
Elder David A. Bednar Spiritual and temporal blessings come into our lives as we live the law of tithing.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the …gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
President Boyd K. Packer The scriptures hold the keys to spiritual protection. They contain the doctrine and laws and ordinances that will bring each child of God to a testimony of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson It is your relationship with God, your Heavenly Father, who is the source of your moral power, that you must always put first in your life.
Elder S. Gifford Nielsen We each must develop and carry out our own personal game plan to serve with enthusiasm alongside the full-time missionaries.
Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela Let us reach out to others with faith and with love.
Elder Timothy J. Dyches As we repent and become converted to the Lord, we become whole, and our guilt is swept away.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend.
Elder M. Russell Ballard It is impossible for us to fail when we do our best when we are on the Lord’s errand.
President Henry B. Eyring The miracle of becoming one requires the help of heaven, and it takes time.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks We must not set our hearts so much on the things of the world and aspire to the honors of men that we stop trying to achieve our eternal destiny.
Sister Bonnie Oscarson True conversion occurs as you continue to act upon the doctrines you know are true and keep the commandments, day after day, month after month.
Elder Richard J. Maynes We need to study and learn the fundamental principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then we must do our very best to live them.
Elder Richard G. Scott Remember, repentance is not punishment. It is the hope-filled path to a more glorious future.
President Thomas S. Monson We learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass.
Elder Quentin L. Cook We must always remember that we do not save ourselves. We are liberated by the love, grace, and atoning sacrifice of the Savior.
Elder Neil L. Andersen The priesthood is the power and authority of God given for the salvation and blessing of all—men, women, and children.
Brother David M. McConkie Our first and foremost responsibility is to live so that we can have the Holy Ghost as our guide and companion.
Elder Kevin S. Hamilton As we continually hold fast to the rod by keeping our covenants, we will be strengthened to resist the temptations and perils of the world.
Elder Adrian Ochoa If you ever come across anything that causes you to question your testimony of the gospel, I plead with you to look up. … Let us cherish and strengthen our testimonies every day.
Elder Terence Vinson The Lord wants us to develop the faith that will help us rely upon Him in solving our problems and trust Him.
Elder Russell M. Nelson True change—permanent change—can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Here is a link to download the document if you want to print it out or tweak it: General Conference Scripture Mastery Oct13

I focused on quotes with principles that I thought were meaningful and age-appropriate for my children.

And here is a .pdf you can print out with each quote on one page that you can hang up by your dinner table or in your kids’ rooms or wherever:  Quotes from conference  We like to practice repeating ours at morning and dinner prayers.

So if you’re like me, and are already feeling a little bit of general conference withdrawal, this is one way to keep the messages alive in your heart and home until the next conference rolls around. Enjoy.

Some thoughts on General Conference and the joy I feel to be a Mormon woman

General conference is upon us in two days. Two days, people. Around here this is as exciting as Christmas. The other day, Grant (10) said, “Mom, I wish we could blip ahead 3 days so it would be general conference already.” Me too, son, me too.

I have two things I want to say about general conference because they are the ideas that are burning the brightest in my heart right now every time I think about this biannual event.

1. We have a living prophet! A. LIVING. PROPHET. I just can’t wrap my heart around how blessed I feel to know that our Father in Heaven still communicates with us today. He knows our day, our times, and the circumstances of our lives. He loves us and wants to help us navigate this scary world with the tools that will help us to succeed and to avoid sorrow and sin. And when I say “We” have a living prophet, I don’t just mean the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I mean THE WORLD. Just as in ancient days, God sends prophets and apostles to declare his gospel to the whole world. Just yesterday I read this quote and a “Wow!” went off in my brain:

“In the [several] two-hour sessions … , truths were taught, doctrines expounded, exhortations given, enough to save the whole world from all its ills—and I mean from ALL its ills. A rather complete education in eternal verities was given to millions with a great hope that there were ‘ears a’hearing and eyes a’seeing and hearts a’throbing,’ convinced of truth.” –President Spencer W. Kimball

In the class I teach, we recently read this story about Hugh B. Brown. My students loved the way he logically drew attention to the need for continuing revelation:

President Hugh B. Brown (1883–1975) of the First Presidency described a conversation he had with a member of the British House of Commons and former justice of the Supreme Court of England, who was not a member of the Church, about the need for living prophets and the revelation they receive:

“[I said,] ‘I am submitting to you in all seriousness that it was standard procedure in Bible times for God to talk to men.’

“[He responded,] ‘I think I will admit that, but it stopped shortly after the first century of the Christian era.’

President Hugh B. Brown

President Hugh B. Brown

“‘Why do you think it stopped?’

“‘I can’t say.’

“‘You think that God hasn’t spoken since then?’

“‘Not to my knowledge.’

“‘May I suggest some possible reasons why he has not spoken. Perhaps it is because he cannot. He has lost the power.’

“He said, ‘Of course that would be blasphemous.’

“‘Well, then, if you don’t accept that, perhaps he doesn’t speak to men because he doesn’t love us anymore. He is no longer interested in the affairs of men.’

“‘No,’ he said, ‘God loves all men, and he is no respecter of persons.’

“‘Well, … then the only other possible answer as I see it is that we don’t need him. We have made such rapid strides in education and science that we don’t need God anymore.’

“And then he said, and his voice trembled as he thought of impending war [World War II], ‘Mr. Brown, there never was a time in the history of the world when the voice of God was needed as it is needed now. Perhaps you can tell me why he doesn’t speak.’

“My answer was, ‘He does speak, he has spoken; but men need faith to hear him.’

“Then we proceeded to examine what I may call a ‘profile of a prophet.’ …

“The judge sat and listened intently. He asked some very pointed and searching questions, and at the end of the interview he said, ‘Mr. Brown, I wonder if your people appreciate the import of your message. Do you?’ He said, ‘If what you have told me is true, it is the greatest message that has come to this earth since the angels announced the birth of Christ’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1967, 118, 120; emphasis added; see also The Profile of a Prophet, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Oct. 4, 1955], 4–5, 8; or “The Profile of a Prophet,” Ensign, June 2006, 36–37, 39).

I invite you to tune in to what God is saying in our day by listening to prophets and apostles. General Conference is this weekend, Oct. 5 and 6, and will be broadcast live on KSL, BYUTV (available via Dish and DirectTV), and streamed on mormonchannel.org and lds.org. The four general sessions will be both days at 10 am and 2 pm, Mountain Daylight Time. (1 hour earlier in California, 2 hours later for east coast.) If you just want to tune in to one session, the Sunday morning one is your best bet because the prophet and president of the Church will give his address during that session.

Come listen to living prophets

2. We can get answers to our prayers and the concerns of our hearts as we listen to general conference. One of the reasons I love conference so much is that it recharges my spiritual batteries and prepares me to face the challenges of my life with more courage and determination. In the days leading up to conference, I spend time thinking about and praying about things I want to learn and questions I want to have answered. I can testify that, without exception, I have found what I need in the words of the conference speakers– sometimes the answers come in direct counsel, other times in quiet whisperings in my mind and heart as I listen, but the answers always come. I love this promise by Elder Holland and I believe it with all my heart.

conferenceisforyou-conference[See a two minute video about conference that includes this quote here.]

Finally, I love being a woman and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You may have caught wind of some noise in the news lately of a small faction of LDS women who feel some discontent because the men of the Church are ordained to the priesthood and they are not. I do not wish to disparage them or assume anything evil of them, but I want to state for the record that they represent a small minority among LDS women. The great majority of the millions and millions of women in the Church feel that their contributions, with or without any formal ordination, are equal and significant. We know of our value to God, His kingdom, and His church. We feel the great responsibility of our influence and power both within the Church, in our families, and in our communities. God’s daughters are no weaklings; He knows how to use us and puts great faith in us to further His work. And even though this small faction of dissent is a minority within the Church, they have every right to find answers to their questions, just as I do to my own personal questions. I can only assume that at general conference this weekend, whether directly or indirectly, the mind and will of God on this issue will be revealed as it has been many times in the past*. His doctrines will be reiterated and made clear. I hope that we can all listen with “ears to hear” and look for ways to apply these principles in our lives and personal testimonies. I recently came upon this quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley, and in light of some of these recent conversations, I was struck by how we are each given an equal opportunity to choose to sustain our leaders or not:

When President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) was sustained as the President of the Church, he explained the commitment we make when we sustain our Church leaders: “This morning we all participated in a solemn assembly. That is just what the name indicates. It is a gathering of the membership where every individual stands equal with every other in exercising with soberness and in solemnity his or her right to sustain or not to sustain those who, under the procedures that arise out of the revelations, have been chosen to lead.

“The procedure of sustaining is much more than a ritualistic raising of the hand. It is a commitment to uphold, to support, to assist those who have been selected.  …

“Your uplifted hands in the solemn assembly this morning became an expression of your willingness and desire to uphold us, your brethren and your servants, with your confidence, faith, and prayer” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 70–71; or Ensign, May 1995, 51; emphasis added).

This past weekend, we had the opportunity to hear from our general Relief Society presidency (the women’s organization of the Church) and they reiterated the great power and eternal blessings that come into women’s lives as we make and keep our covenants and participate in temple service. Our prophet, Thomas S. Monson, emphasized the love of our Heavenly Father and testified that it never changes. I personally have felt in my own life the power, the blessings, and the love that He offers to His daughters, and I am proud to be a woman in His Church.

*There are several talks that have addressed the matter of women and the priesthood directly, but this most recent one is my favorite as it concisely summarizes the doctrines and policies, as well as states clearly the importance and value of women in God’s work. It is called “Let Us Think Straight,” by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, given in August of this year. (You can read or watch the talk in its entirety here.)

Women as Gospel Scholars

Women as Gospel Scholars

I am a gospel scholar. Not by the definition that means I’m some kind of an expert, but I am a student of the gospel. I love to study the scriptures and especially the words of living prophets. I love to take questions and issues and concerns in my life and do exhaustive research of all I can find that has been said by prophets about that particular topic. I am constantly amazed at how many of the answers I seek are THERE. They are just there if we look and study. Almost 20 years ago, I was walking through the BYU Bookstore on my way to class and I overheard Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s voice coming out of the speakers in the LDS book section. It was some kind of talk on tape (yep, tape) and this phrase jumped out at me and has remained with me ever since:

“We need more women who are gospel scholars and more men who are Christians.”

That charge has given me the reassurance that women can absolutely be gospel scholars– they can understand and teach the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ; they can be wise scriptorians. And not only can we be gospel scholars, we should be.

Why study the gospel?

“Even though the eternal roles of men and women differ,… this leaves much to be done by way of parallel personal development—for both men and women. In this connection, I stress again the deep need each woman has to study the scriptures. We want our homes to be blessed with sister scriptorians—whether you are single or married, young or old, widowed or living in a family.

“Regardless of your particular circumstances, as you become more and more familiar with the truths of the scriptures, you will be more and more effective in keeping the second great commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself. Become scholars of the scriptures—not to put others down, but to lift them up! After all, who has any greater need to “treasure up” the truths of the gospel (on which they may call in their moments of need) than do women and mothers who do so much nurturing and teaching?” –President Spencer W. Kimball,” The Role of Righteous Women,” Oct. 1979

Or would you like some more recent encouragement? How about President Thomas S. Monson?

“You young women ask silently, ‘What can I do to insure my eternal joy? Can you help me?’ I offer [some] suggestions:

First, study diligently. All that has been said this evening points to the holy scriptures as an unfailing guide in our lives. Become acquainted with the lessons the scriptures teach. Learn the background and setting of the Master’s parables and the prophets’ admonitions. Study them as though each were speaking to you, for such is the truth. … Crash courses on scripture study are not nearly so effective as the day-to-day reading and application of the scriptures in our lives.” –“A Time to Choose,” April 1995

What to study?

Women as Gospel Scholars(1)

Don’t get me wrong. I have an unnatural love affair with the Internet and it is not inherently evil, nor does it need to be altogether avoided, but Google and blogs and forums should not be our primary resources when looking for truth. God is the source of all truth and He has promised us over and over and over again that if we knock we shall receive. He communicates with us through prayer and through his authorized servants (prophets, apostles, and leaders with stewardship to teach us). Start there. Search there. Authorized sources include:

    1. Scriptures/Standard Works (+ Related Church curriculum: Guides, Study Helps, Manuals). Watch the first few minutes of this talk by Elder Richard G. Scott and really think about the power that comes through scriptures. A great activity is making a list with two columns and fill them in as you listen:  1) What Scriptures Are, and 2) What Scriptures Do.Elder Hugh W. Pinnock instructed,

      What can we do to keep ourselves more in tune doctrinally with our Heavenly Father? There are [some] simple steps:

      … Second, study the scriptures with our family, with other members, and with friends, but also search the words of God in private contemplation. Search the scriptures as they relate to our priesthood, Relief Society, Sunday School, Young Women, and Primary lessons. Study the scriptures for additional enlightenment on how to be more happy and less frustrated in what only too often is at least temporarily a sad and dreary world. Every four years we are guided carefully through all of the scriptures in the adult curriculum of the Church. In a lifetime, each member can become a spiritual scriptorian instead of remaining a scriptural simpleton. How blessed we are to have our four books of scripture in editions that include efficient indexes, chapter headings, and other study helps such as the Topical Guide. –“Learning Our Father’s Will,” Oct. 1984

    2. Words of Living Prophets and Apostles. Sister Julie B. Beck taught the women of the Church the importance of knowing our heritage and understanding the strength of the women that preceded us. She testified,

      “Just as the sisters in the first Relief Society meetings received instruction from prophets and apostles, we study the words of Church leaders today.” — “Relief Society: A Sacred Work,” Oct. 2009

      I like to consider that the most recent conference edition of the Ensign is actually an extra section at the end of my Doctrine and Covenants and I should read it carefully. And often. I can’t say enough about how much I love and appreciate the general conference messages. Their teachings are timely, personal, and true. President Monson challenged each of us to study them:”May we long remember that which we have heard during this conference. I remind you that the messages will be printed in next month’s Ensign and Liahona magazines. I urge you to study the messages and to ponder their teachings and then to apply them in your life.” –“Until We Meet Again,” GC Oct. 2009

    3. (Here are a few of my favorite online resources for enhanced scripture study.) I think I’ll do a follow-up post and show the nitty-gritty of the kinds of information you can find on these sites. Here’s a hint: LOTS of awesome. But for now, I give you a list with links to some excellent gospel study sites.

      lds.org [search*]

      scriptures.lds.org

      gc.lds.org

      speeches.byu.edu

      scriptures.byu.edu

      mormonchannel.org (archives)

      byutv.org (search: discussions)

      si.lds.org

How to study?

  1. With faith. It’s okay to have questions. Questions begin the quest for answers; they make us knock. Moroni promises us that when we ask with real intent, we will know the truth. I love this discussion with Sister Beck where she sets forth an example of faith-based pattern for study and research.
  2. Obey. This is the hard part, but I’ve found that the more we obey what we learn, our capacity to learn even more is increased. Consider these scriptures:

    Alma 31:5          …The word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.

    Alma 32:27        But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

    John 7:16-17    Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

  3. Sacrifice. The best way I know how to describe this is simply making the time to study. The Red-Headed Hostess offered the following excellent suggestions on her blog, where she explains each one in greater detail:

Women as Gospel Scholars(2)

God has big plans for His daughters. I just know it. I believe there is great spiritual power in women that is sometimes latent inside us because we are not (to borrow an Elder Holland quote) “fanning the flame of our faith” as much as we can. But of this I am sure: Our power and influence is multiplied as we learn and apply the doctrines of Jesus Christ in our lives. President Kimball boldly shared a glimpse of what Heavenly Father expects of us:

“Study the scriptures. Thus you may gain strength through the understanding of eternal things. You young women need this close relationship with the mind and will of our Eternal Father. We want our sisters to be scholars of the scriptures as well as our men. You need an acquaintanceship with his eternal truths for your own well being, and for the purposes of teaching your own children and all others who come within your influence.” –“Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters,” Oct. 1978

and finally,

“Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world. . . . Thus it will be that female exemplars of the Church will be a significant force in both the numerical and the spiritual growth of the Church in the last days.”–The Role of Righteous Women,” Oct. 1979

So, my sisters, get your study on. We have a work to do and we need the Spirit to get it done.

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{This has been a collection of thoughts and resources I gathered as I prepared to teach one of my classes at BYU Education Week. I know it’s long. I hope it’s helpful.}