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.}

Book reviews: A regency romance and a middle-grade series

When Deseret Book contacted me about reviewing Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson and Books 2 and 3 of the Janitors series by Tyler Whitesides, there was some excitement at our house. I loved Donaldson’s first book Edenbrooke, and my sons Grant and Clark had already read Janitors book 1 and liked it. So we all agreed to read the books and collaborate on the reviews.

I’ll go first.

Blackmoore, by Julianne Donaldson

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This is the story of Kate Worthington and Henry Delafield. She’s determined to not marry and travel the world, but her friendship with Henry has some unfinished business, and seems to be meddled with on all sides. She takes advantage of a long-awaited opportunity to spend the summer with Henry’s family at Blackmoore, their vacation home since childhood. It’s just as magical and mysterious as she always dreamed, but she’ll have to face both her feelings and her fears before she can truly figure out her future.

I liked this story, but found it much more predictable and regency-cliché than Edenbrooke. There were story elements reminiscent of Wuthering Heights, Emma, and even Jane Eyre–with some gothic undertones and a flawed, sometimes misinformed main character. I occasionally lost patience with Kate, and were she my friend in real life, I would think she cries too much, but I still cared enough about her and liked the story enough to be interested in how everything resolved itself in the end. It was an entertaining read, and can be easily recommended as a clean, “proper romance.”

Janitors series by Tyler Whitesides

Janitors 2: Secrets of New Forest Academy

review by Grant, age 10

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The Elementary school Spencer and Daisy go to is no longer safe for them! It’s crawling with toxites (little monsters that breathe in student brain waves and breathe out drowsiness, distraction, and confusion)! The Bureau of Educational Maintenance is taking over the school and Spencer and Daisy must leave. There is only one place to go. New Forest Academy. Walter Jamison says a man named Robert Monroe is there. He’s a janitor. They must go to that school. It’s the only place that’s safe. They go to New Forest Academy, and but it has some of its own problems. Spencer and Daisy must work on staying alive more than passing tests!

Janitors: Secrets of New Forest Academy is full of danger, toxites, weapons, clues, glop, mystery, adventure, action, dumpsters, and glopified toilet plungers! The book has no swear words. I hope you enjoy the book!

Janitors 3: Curse of the Broomstaff

review by Clark, age 9

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When my mom first told me we were getting a free copy of janitors 3, I was really excited. Not just because I like the series, mostly because my, ok let me get this right, my friend’s sister has a friend whose uncle is Tyler Whitesides. For those of you who are reading this, you have probably already read Janitors, and Secrets Of New Forest Academy (Janitors book 1 and 2). In Curse of the Broomstaff, Spencer, Daisy and their rebel friends, Walter, Penny, Alan, and Bernard must destroy all Glop, before it destroys education. It leads them to the Aurans, guardians of the source of the magical Glop. As it turns out, Spencer discovers his true powers as an Auran, and finally discovers how to get Marv out of the Vortex.

In my opinion, this book is for kids ages 8 – 12 (grades 3 – 6).  I liked this book because it’s creative, original, and magical. This is the best book in the Janitors series, but I’m sure book 4 will be better.

And there you have it, straight from the readers’ mouths.

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blackmoore janitors 3

In which President Monson turned my stressful week around

Gas-CanIt’s early in the morning and I can’t sleep very well. I think I have Back-to-school jitters because it’s the first day of classes at BYU today. I get to teach two sections of Teachings of the Living Prophets and I’m so excited about that, but there’s always some anticipation and restlessness when it begins. As I lay in bed sleepless, I recalled an experience I had a couple weeks ago and felt like I should write it down before all the details elude me. I thought I should write it in my journal or something, but then I remembered I don’t have a journal. (I know, for shame.) Plus, the combination of my paltry blogging habits and the death of Google Reader in July has pretty much left me with a dozen readers who drop in occasionally to browse my archives. So to the few of you and my posterity when this blog eventually gets printed out in a pseudo-journal, here’s my story. It’s a cool one.

I taught at Education Week this year at BYU and it was a beautiful experience. Stressful, to be sure, but it stretched me in some important ways and reminded me how Heavenly Father can step in and do great things when we remember how much we need Him. On day two of teaching, I was still juggling all my preparation and nerves with all the responsibilities of getting my kids settled in to their first week of school. I was feeling overwhelmed but trying my best. I dropped them off at school, late again. Two for two so far. My gas light was on in the car and I had some serious doubts about whether I would make it to the school and back before I could hit the gas station. I rolled in on fumes and filled up and then headed to Provo, but even more behind schedule. I was just kind of in a wound-up state and my mind was busy with the frustrations and the obligations.

On my way down State Street, I moved into the left lane to turn towards Provo. On the right side of the road, I saw a man walking through the gas station parking lot with a gas can in his hand. Something about the way he was carrying himself made me think he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. My brain said, “you should go help that guy.” Now let me flash back a couple weeks when I was walking with my good friend and mentioned to her that one of the frustrating things about the world we live in is that sometimes it feels too dangerous to help people, especially as a woman. I might be driving along with my kids and see a man struggling in the rain, but the part of me who watches the news and wants to live says it’s just not wise for me to offer him a hand. The age of lodging strangers and picking up hitchhikers is past, you know. So when my brain told me to help him, I started rationalizing why that wouldn’t be a good idea. But the thought/feeling (let’s call a spade a spade: it was a prompting) came back, I felt a reassurance that it was okay and I would be safe. So I crossed the three lanes of traffic, pulled my car around into the parking lot, and pulled up to the surprised young man, now seated dejectedly on the grass by the road.

I rolled down my window. “Do you need any help?”

He just looked at me with some confusion, and mumbled, “No. I’m fine.” He was dressed in a mechanic’s jumpsuit and I’m guessing he was in his mid-twenties. He struck me as shy or soft-spoken.

“Are you sure?,” I asked. “You have a gas can in your hand. Do you need some gas?”

Still looking down, he shook his head no, and then said, “Well, I do, but I don’t have any money.”

Relieved that this was a very fixable problem, I told him, “Let me get you some gas.” He looked up with disbelief. “What?”

“Come on over to the pump and let me get you some gas. Meet me over there.” I pulled the car around. I watched him walk over to meet me, but he was incredulous. “Are you sure about this?” “Of course,” and I swiped my debit card and handed him the pump, “Here. Fill it all the way up.” He bent down to the ground and sat silently while the empty can took a drink. In my mind, I wished I had some cash to offer him so he could fill up his tank once he got back to the car, but I didn’t. I never have cash; I’m a mess. As he finished up, I heard myself offer him a ride to his car, but he declined. He screwed on the lid, and still without looking up, he said, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” I said, “God told me stop, so He must have been thinking about you.” It just came out like that. There was a long pause, and then he spoke up, “Can I ask you a question?” Of course.

I don’t know what I expected him to say. Maybe “Did God really ask you to stop?” or “Why would you do that?,” but his actual question took me by surprise.

He asked quietly, “Do you think people can change?”

“Absolutely.”

Another pause. “Okay. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” And with that, he carried his gas can back across the parking lot, and I turned to my car. As I walked around the back and climbed into the driver’s seat, I felt the Spirit wash over me and I just knew I’d done something important. I climbed in, shut the door, and thought to myself, “Whoa. I just had a President Monson moment!”

You know how he’s always telling stories of doing and saying small things and being in the right place at the right time and how he learned to “never delay a prompting”? Well, I’ve had several simple experiences with that principle, but this was the clincher for me. I felt so . . . grateful, honored that Heavenly Father would use me as an instrument in that moment. I loved Him and I loved that man, and I could just feel God’s love all over myself. It was awesome.

The rest of the drive to campus was a totally different mindset. No more stress. No more worrying about my schedule. No more frustration. Just gratitude.

Since I was late and had already missed the first class I had planned to attend, I hurried to campus and went straight to the classroom I thought I wanted next. Once it got going, I realized that this wasn’t my intended class, but decided to just sit it out and see how it went. Part way through her class, the teacher mentioned, “Today is President Monson’s birthday.” Really? Whoa. I had no idea. And then she said, “This is how we are going to celebrate.” A few years ago, a reporter had asked President Monson what he wanted for his eightieth birthday from the members of the church. Her power point put this quote up on the screen.

“Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely, and do something for him or her.”

I don’t think my gas station experience was a coincidence. It was a way for me to unknowingly honor President Monson on his birthday and gain a testimony of his prophetic influence and the power behind his sometimes simple counsel.

Happy birthday, indeed, President Monson, and thank you for reminding a stressed-out mom what really matters.