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.}

The Manner of Happiness: A Lesson from the Book of Mormon

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Yesterday in Sunday School, we were studying 2 Nephi chapter 5, which describes what happened to Nephi, his family, and all those who followed him after they separated themselves from Laman, Lemuel, and their families.  This was a short time after the death of their father, Lehi, right after he had exhorted his children to listen to and follow the counsel of Nephi.  However, a few days after his death, Laman and Lemuel were again complaining against Nephi and threatening his life.  And so their family broke in half, and they started over.  This was probably not an easy time for them.  They had lost Lehi, who had guided them on this amazing journey across the wilderness, across the sea, and into a new land.  Their future probably seemed uncertain, and they must have worried for their lives and safety, especially under the threat of the angry half of the family.  I’m sure there was mourning and anxiety.  But here’s the fascinating part– in verse 27:

And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.

I attended a CES workshop once where the teacher broke down this chapter into ingredients for that happiness.  Here are some of the notes I have in the margins:

(from 2 Nephi 5)

1 Behold, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God, because of the anger of my brethren.

PRAYER +

5 And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me.

PERSONAL REVELATION and FLEE FROM EVIL +

6 Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words.

FOLLOW THE PROPHET +

10 And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses.

OBEDIENCE +

11 And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind. (see also verse 17)

WORK +

12 And I, Nephi, had also brought the records which were engraven upon the aplates of brass; and also the bball, or ccompass, which was prepared for my father by the hand of the Lord, according to that which is written.

SCRIPTURES +

13 And it came to pass that we began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land.

MARRY AND RAISE FAMILIES +

16 And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.

TEMPLE =

27 And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.

THE MANNER OF HAPPINESS.

The world is a complicated place, but I really think the answers are this simple.  I’m not naive enough to think that their lives were free of pain or suffering or difficult times, but these ingredients can bring us peace of mind and a steadiness of character, and the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.  Just one more reason I love the Book of Mormon and know that it’s true.

GCBC Week 16: “The Book of Mormon—a Book from God” by Elder Tad R. Callister

I love my scriptures like a friend.  If they were ever lost, I would be devastated.  I know that other scriptures without all my notes in the margins would be true too, but still.  I have not committed as much time to that friendship as I’d like, and I’ve been feeling stirrings in my soul to really go back to the Book of Mormon and rekindle that love for the word of God.  Those of us who have The Book of Mormon and love it often take for granted how valuable it is.  So much that we understand about God’s plan for his children and the doctrine of Jesus Christ are formed and founded upon the words of the Book of Mormon.  Together with the Holy Bible, it trumpets out the reality of a living Christ who has provided a way for us to be perfected in Him, and to return to our Father’s presence.  So mostly this talk by Elder Callister helped me to remember something again:  I know the Book of Mormon is true.  I’m so grateful for its teachings and how it is a conduit (for me) to the Holy Ghost and personal inspiration.

The Book of Mormon—a Book from God by Elder Tad R. Callister

“[The Book of Mormon] is either the word of God as professed, or it is a total fraud. This book does not merely claim to be a moral treatise or theological commentary or collection of insightful writings. It claims to be the word of God—every sentence, every verse, every page. . . .

Together with the Bible, the Book of Mormon is an indispensable witness of the doctrines of Christ and His divinity. Together with the Bible, it “teach[es] all men that they should do good” (2 Nephi 33:10). And together with the Bible, it brings us to “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” That is why the Book of Mormon is so crucial in our lives.”

What stood out to you as you studied this talk? What did the message make you want to do or change?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.” If you want to learn more, go here, and join the discussion here each week.

GCBC Week 14: “A Witness” by President Henry B. Eyring

Happy New Year!  I know your resolutions are really none of my business, but I have two suggestions:  1)  GCBC.  Do it.  2) The Book of Mormon.  Study it.

Having said that, this week we will be studying President Eyring’s talk about the using the Book of Mormon to facilitate personal conversion.

A Witness  by President Henry B. Eyring

“The Book of Mormon is the best guide to learn how well we are doing and how to do better. . . . The doctrine and the valiant examples in that book will lift, guide, and embolden you.  . . . Parents who struggle to get a witness of the Savior into the heart of a child will be helped as they seek for a way to bring the words and the spirit of the Book of Mormon into the home and all the lives in their family. “

What about this talk stood out to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.” If you want to learn more, go here, and join the discussion.

GCBC Week 2: “The Power of Scripture” by Elder Richard G. Scott

First, a small item of business:  The General Conference photo contest actually ended in a tie.  Diane and Amanda both got exactly 35% of the vote.  I hadn’t anticipated a tie, so I had to resort to a highly-scientific method to determine the winner:  a coin toss.  So, congratulations to both of you, but the coin determined that Amanda was the winner.  Please send me an email with your mailing address and I’ll drop your prize in the mail.

“My daughter spent an entire session making this.”

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The general conference talks are all posted online now, so let the studying begin.  I decided that we’ll just go through them one-by-one in the same order they were given.  That means this week, we’ll tackle Elder Scott’s excellent talk about scripture study:

The Power of Scripture by Richard G. Scott

What stood out to you as you studied this talk?  His counsel seemed heavy with action items; what kind of goals did you walk away with?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

And are you up to a little GCBC challenge this week?  Pick a scripture to memorize and come back here to report when you’ve done it.  Then we’ll have a “new friend” that will act like a “packet of light” in our lives.

To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.”  If you want more information about how it works, go here.  And then join us.

Some days probably shouldn’t be journaled.

My first clue that today wasn’t going to be great was my Facebook status at 7 a.m.: “I made the mistake of reading the morning news headlines. People are stupid. And now I’m in a bad mood.” Note to self: Don’t do that anymore. It totally sucks the positive energy out of your day. From that point on, everything bugged me. The weather, the Cheerios on the floor, the last-minute scrambles for gloves/coats/boots on the way out the door to the bus, the lame breakfast options, the fact that I live here, and my friends all seem far away (because they ARE), old people shouldn’t be allowed to drive, etc. You get the point —–> Grumpy!

I’ve never struggled with any serious depression or anything (and don’t worry, I don’t credit myself for that other than luck), but I’ve noticed that I do have a lot more “bad days” in the wintertime. Today was one of those. I volunteered at Clark’s school with some very nice people who were kind and helpful, but I still couldn’t shake off the negative energy. So by the time I picked up Natalie from preschool, I could tell I needed to be more proactive about my mood status, so we went to a bakery and I bought a peanut butter brownie. That helped a little, except that there was this woman there who had obviously done so much plastic surgery to herself that she looked awful, and then I started hating the universe again. (I can already tell I’m going to regret this post.) I started having conversations with myself that were half-pathetic and half-existential. “I wonder if everyone in the world is weird, and I’m the only normal one?, or maybe everyone else is normal and I’m just weird?” (Remember I had read bad headlines this morning and I was already mad at those people.) So in a moment of self-pity, I said to Natalie, who was happily munching her cupcake, “Natalie, are you glad I’m your mommy?” She quickly replied, “I like daddy.” “I know you like daddy, but are you glad I’m your mommy?” She kept her head still but pointed her eyeballs up at the ceiling, “N-O, no.” She said something like, “Alright, alright, I’m just kidding…. yeeesss,” but overall, my trip to the bakery wasn’t that helpful either.

My next attempt at improvement was a little less stellar, but overall more effective.  When we got back to the house, I stuck “Olivia Takes Ballet” in the DVD player and selected “Play All.”  I told Natalie I was going to go lie down, and I did.  I quickly dozed off (Oh, how I love a nap!) and slept for about 40 minutes.  I heard Clark come home from school and I opened my eyes and knew I needed to get up and face the music.  (Music is a code word for a chaotic blend of snacks, chores, homework, squabbling, and other kid-induced discomfort.) I stared out the window for a minute and my eyes fell on my scriptures on the bedside table.  I thought, “Maybe I should read my five pages now instead of waiting until bedtime.”  It helped a lot.  I read about Lehi’s dream and how he found himself in a “dark and dreary world,” and I thought about how it really is dark and dreary sometimes, but then he prayed to the Lord and pleaded for mercy and was brought out of that darkness into a spacious field where he could see the Tree of Life and find his way to the joy that it offered.  So I thought about how we don’t have to get stuck in that dreary part or get tricked into thinking that’s all there is because the Lord can help us find bright open spots with a better view and blessings in sight.  By that time, Grant was home from school, too, and Clark burst in the room yelling about something, so I still have one page left to finish tonight.  And that’s pretty much when my day started over.  Thank goodness.

So I’m going to try to think of a bright, spacious field with a glowy, shiny tree full of joy-fruit the next time things seem dark and dreary, which happens sometimes in the winter. Peanut butter brownies, naps, and exotic beachfront getaways are nice, too.  Two out of three ‘aint bad.

GCBC Week 8: The Blessing of Scripture

General Conference Book Club Week 8:


“The Blessing of Scripture” by Elder D. Todd Christofferson

Elder Christofferson summarizes the history of scripture and how blessed we are to have such a great quantity of holy words within our reach, more so than any previous generation.

“The central purpose of all scripture is to fill our souls with faith in God the Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ—faith that They exist; faith in the Father’s plan for our immortality and eternal life; faith in the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which animates this plan of happiness; faith to make the gospel of Jesus Christ our way of life; and faith to come to know ‘the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent’ (John 17:3).”

This talk makes me grateful for the abundance of truth and guidance that sits right on my nightstand table.  It makes me realize how much more I can do with what I’ve been given.  What does Elder Christofferson’s talk say to you?

Go here to find the media versions of the talk (audio, video, mp3, etc.).  If this is your first visit to the General Conference Book Club,  click here to learn more about it.