Relief Society Lesson 23: Strengthen Thy Stakes

by Diego F. Garcia P.

by Diego F. Garcia P.

I would begin this lesson by reading this quote from Ezra Taft Benson.

“The stakes and districts of Zion are symbolic of the holy places spoken of by the Lord where His Saints are to gather in the last days as a refuge from the storm.”

I would draw a picture of a storm and a tent that is staked down on the board and begin a discussion about the purpose of stakes.  What is the storm that Ezra Taft Benson is talking about?  What is the tent and how do we hold it down with our stakes?

The Storm:

The storm is illustrated for us in D&C 45: 26-27:

“And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth. And the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound.”

This image has been repeated many times over the last year, in Beirut, Syria, Kenya, Egypt, Paris, Oregon, on social media, and in our own governments and communities.  The world is aching because of this storm of judgment, hate, unconsciousness, misunderstanding, and anything that causes people’s hearts to grow cold.  A beautiful poem that expresses the anguish over this hate that riddles the earth was written by a woman named Warsan Shire:

later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered


The Tent:

The recent violence has caused me to reflect on the beautiful image of a tent that covers and protects the earth from this hate filled storm.

“Picture in your mind a great tent held up by cords extended to many stakes that are firmly secured in the ground. The prophets likened latter-day Zion to a great tent encompassing the earth [see Isaiah 54:2;3 Nephi 22:2].” ETB Manual

What does the tent represent and how is it going to cover the whole earth and bring all of humanity together in protection from the storm?

“Yet another revelation from the Lord gives this explanation of the purpose of stakes: “Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations; and that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.” (Doctrine and Covenants 115:5–6.) In this revelation is a command to let our light so shine that it becomes a standard for the nations. A standard is a rule of measure by which one determines exactness or perfection. The Saints are to be a standard of holiness for the world to see. That is the beauty of Zion.”

How can we be this light to the world that this scripture and Ezra Taft Benson talk about?

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12

In this scripture Jesus is making a declaration to the world.  He was the light of the world because he chose to be a flame that all people, including the sinners and the self-righteous were drawn to as a refuge for warmth.  By being the light, he sent pure love into the world which deflected hate and misunderstanding, and built a tent or a place of refuge for protection.  Then he asked us to also be the light of the world through our good works.  When we all choose to be a light like Christ did, the tent that surrounds the world will be bigger and stronger than the storm of hate.

“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

What can we do as individuals and as a faith community to be the light of the world?

 The Stakes:

The stakes are our small communities around the world in which we build this love, unity, and light to hold down the tent.

“As the church grows, it is very important that we build solidly and well, and that our prospective stakes have the basic ingredients that are necessary for success and that existing stakes work tirelessly for full stakehood in the sense of spiritual achievement. The stakes are to be the gathering spots for the Zion of today, and they need to be spiritual sanctuaries and to be self-sufficient in as many ways as possible.” ETB Manual

In what ways can we make our gathering places a sanctuary for spiritual edification?

” The stakes and disctricts of Zion are symbolic of the holy places spoken of by the Lord where His Saints are to gather in the last days as a refuge from the storm. You and your children will gather here to worship, to do sacred ordinances, to socialize, to learn, to perform in music, dance, drama, athletics, and to generally improve yourselves and one another. It is often thought significant that our chapels have on them a steeple, with spires toward the heavens symbolic of how our lives ought to be ever moving upward toward God.” ETB Manual

How does our communal worship, socialization, and enjoyment together of music, athletics, and dance help us to strengthen our stakes?

Unfortunately, even in our faith communities we are not immune from the fear and the cold hearts that plague the world.  I love what Aileen H. Clyde said about this:

“Amidst the danger, our love waxes cold, and we may seek a defense in the very weapons that threaten us. Worse yet, we may be turned by fear to looking for protection from one another rather than keeping our promise to be a light and a protection for one another…He said, “If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee” (Matt. 18:8). He was not suggesting our mutilation, but rather showing his awareness of how painful clearing ourselves of such offenses could be.” Aileen H. Clyde, Relief Society Presidency “Covenant of Love,” Ensign, May 1995

This quote feels appropriate for what our world and our faith community has been experiencing lately. How are we doing in our effort to be a light and protection for each other?  Are we turning from each other in fear, looking for protection from each other?  How do we go about the painful process of clearing ourselves of this fear so that we can move forward in love?  How will our individual efforts to do this in our stakes affect the rest of the world?

“Such a circle of support has no end, because there is no end to the good works of righteous men and women who respect each other and who thrust in their sickles and reap, side by side, in the Lord’s vineyard, if we are going to build the kingdom of God, we as men and women of God must build each other. There is no challenge—with activation, retention, families, or anything—that we can’t solve when we counsel together in councils and help each other lift the load.” Sheri L. Dew, Relief Society Presidency. “It is Not Good for Man or Woman to be Alone.” Ensign, November 2001
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Book Review Series: Mormon Feminism

Today’s review is of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, edited by Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, and Hannah Wheelwright. Rachel, has already written about this book, but it gets its own review in this series today.Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings

My only reading time is the time I spend coming home from work on public transit. This means, I get about 20-25 minutes of reading in before I put the book down. This book, being an anthology of lots of essays, is really great for that kind of reading. Read a little here, read a little there.

I like the chronological ordering of the essays in the book. It starts in the 1970s and slowly progresses to the current day Bloggernacle. Many of the essays in the first couple of sections of the book are from old copies of Mormon magazines that I don’t have access to, so compiling them here makes them available to me. There are even newer writings, like Neylan McBaine’s recent book To Do the Business of the Church, that I haven’t read yet.

I found myself thinking, “Oh yeah, I agree with that.” “Nope, I can see where they are coming from, but I’m not sure about that.” “Ooh, that’s a good point.” There was a particular pairing of essays, almost one right after another, that was really hard for me to get through. It was heavy and made my heart hurt. They were Lynn Matthews Anderson’s excerpts from “Toward a Feminist Interpretation of Latter-day Saint Scripture” and Carol Lynn Pearson’s “Could Feminism Have Saved the Nephites?” Having the inequality of women in scripture laid out so plainly is hard.

I mostly rate books based on how much of the book I find myself reading out loud to my husband. There was a good amount here that I wanted to read to him (can’t do that on my commute!), so I’m going to give it lots of stars for that. And thumbs up. And likes. +1.

I’ve seen some criticism of this book related to what essays they’ve left out. I especially felt in the last section with the Bloggernacle, there are lots of essays that belong in the “Essential Writings” category for Mormon Feminism, but this is a good start. There are probably tons of articles from old Exponent IIs, Dialogue, and others that belong here, but I simply haven’t heard about them. I think there is plenty of room for a second volume.

Another criticism I have heard is the lack of writings from voices outside the Unites states and from women of color. The last section attempts to address this a bit, but I’m sure there is room for more.

Ultimately, this will be a great one to have on your shelf. I was the kind of kid who would read books from my parent’s shelves while eating breakfast and I look forward to when my kids pick this one up at breakfast 10 years from now.

This is a part of the Exponent Book Review Series and Cyber Monday Giveaway. By making a thoughtful comment on this post, subscribing to the Exponent, or making a donation to Exponent II by sending a PayPal donation to, you will be entered into a drawing to win one of many books being reviewed! Check the intro post for information and terms. Entries accepted until the 5th of December 2015.

Exponent Bookstore Buy books by Exponent bloggers, Exponent contributors and books reviewed at the Exponent.

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Lessons from the Margins: More Thoughts on “The Policy”

MarginWith the rest of Mormonism, I’ve been thinking a lot about “The Policy”. This has led me to think more deeply about the Plan of Salvation – and where we all fit.

As a single woman in the church, it is moments like these that lead me to reassert (again) that I do fit in and that I am essential – just as all Saints are essential: queer saints, childless saints, single parent saints, etc.

In recent years there has been more and more talk from church leaders of “the family”; talk that leaves little doubt as to what sort of family our church leaders see as “ideal”. I love families and the idea of families, but I see the Mormon ideal of families as too tidy to be useful. (I’m quoting Kristine Haglund here.)

The reality is that we live in a world and in a church where we have a range of families. Families that cannot be changed into the ideal simply for the wishing or the wanting: single families, single parent families, queer families, childless families. These are the people and the families in the margins.

So, I propose to my reader four lessons that we can learn from those who live in these margins – and why, in fact, we are essential to the Mormon Body of Christ.

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Book Review Series: The Candyman Christmas

The Candyman Christmas

Based on a true story in 1906, The Candyman Christmas is a lovely, short story about a family struggling with poverty and grief at Christmas time. They live in a rural town in Canada, without much connection to their families nor their ward. They left two buried sons behind in Utah, and Catherine in particular is stricken with grief. Simply put, they are struggling to put one foot in front of the other, both economically and emotionally. And they are left with few resources to provide Christmas for themselves, their remaining three children, and their boarder and friend, Mr. Campbell.

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Book Review Series: Everything You Need to Know About Girls Camp

Guest post by one of our Spanish translators, Lindsay.

Everything You Need to Know About Girls Camp: The Essential Planning Guide for Leaders

Though I’ve been involved with the Young Women’s program through callings over the last couple of years, I haven’t been to Girls Camp since I was a young woman myself. I have distant memories of hiking, waking up in leaky tents, cooking eggs and bacon in brown paper bags, singing silly songs, and maybe some good-natured pranking (who’s to say?). These are things I think back fondly on as a sort of right of passage of being in YW.

I have a good friend, however, who has been the Stake YW Camp Food Coordinator for a few years now. Watching her plan menus, budget, and collect and prepare food for just that part of the Camp experience was eye opening for me to see just how much work goes into preparing for the entire thing. A manual with specific tips and ideas for organizing it would be invaluable. That is exactly what Stephanie Connelley Worlton’s book, Everything You Need to Know about Girls Camp: The Essential Planning Guide for Leaders is about.

Stephanie Connelly Worlton clearly loves Girls Camp. She writes about it with fondness and excitement, both for the girls that attend and for camp itself. She also shows herself to be a knowledgeable and competent Camp Director, taking into account the challenges of planning and executing camp and walking leaders through the process step by step. She discusses all the parts of camp to plan and includes a timeline and charts for planning. She also offers specific ideas for meals, example supply lists and schedules, and guidance for developing meaningful activities and crafts.

Having been involved in the Young Women’s program in my last couple of wards, it’s important to me that we not only teach our girls to develop spiritual qualities and testimonies, but also that we guide them in discovering who they are as individuals and empower them to use their gifts and talents to do good, both for themselves and in their communities. I believe that self-actualization is what will help ground the girls in their beliefs and anchor them as they make decisions for their own lives. What I appreciated in this manual was the focus on creating a Girls Camp “for girls, by girls”. Ms. Worlton emphasizes the involvement of Youth Camp Leaders (YCLs) in the camp planning and execution: “As a leader, I find it beneficial to give the YCLs ownership of “their” camp.

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Book Review Series: The Strength of Ballerinas

BallerinaBy Jenny

The Strength of Ballerinas by Nancy Lorenz is a charming story that I enjoyed mostly curled up under a blanket with a cup of tea.  The author’s beautiful writing style instantly brings the reader into the heart and mind of a passionate sixteen-year-old ballerina.  This book brought me back to my own youth, as I identified with the main character Kendra, a perfectionistic teenage girl with body image issues who wants to keep her problems to herself and do it all on her own.

Kendra has her life laid out before her and knows exactly what she wants.  She is disciplined and dedicated to only one path, dancing for the Manhatten Dance Company as a professional ballerina.  In her daily life, she is surrounded by mirrors which each give her a different image of herself.  Which one is telling the truth?  She worries about the mirrors that make her look less than perfect.  She is disciplined in her dancing, counts her calories obsessively, and is absolutely dedicated to her goal.

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Book Review Series: Powerful Perennials

Review of Powerful Perennials: Enduring Flower Gardens that Thrive in Any Climate by Nedra Secrist

Guest Post by Kalliope. Kalliope is a former college instructor in both written and oral communications courses. She earned an MA in Linguistics from BYU and recently began a PhD program at University of London. She has two naughty kitties that fill her days with glares and snuggles. You can read another post by her here

Powerful Perennials: Enduring Flower Gardens That Thrive in Any Climate


Powerful Perennials is a gardening book focusing on the needs of gardeners in hardier zones, and particularly focusing on the Intermountain West. Nedra Secrist hones in on the needs of garden lovers that live in this harsh, sometimes unpredictable region, which is high in elevation, short of growing season, and experiences sudden and extreme temperature changes.

This book organizes its topics with extremely useful categorizations, with sections dedicated to Cold-Hardy Perennials, Drought-Tolerant Perennials, and Wildlife-Resistant plants. All of these are vital considerations for gardeners in this region, where day-to-night temperature changes can vary by more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, summer months are a long march of blistering heat with the promise of a bit of rain in the autumn, and deer and other wildlife venture into suburban gardens to score a ready meal in the dark of night.

Like many gardening books, the first page dedicated to each species includes pictures, physical description, species name and pronunciation, zoning and light information, and more. But on the second page, each plant is given its own unique voice and introduces itself to the reader! Every plant takes a page to introduce the reader/gardener to its history, medicinal uses, the story behind its name, care instructions, and much more. It was not an approach I had seen before, and certainly not one I was expecting, but I found it truly charming.

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