An Invitation to Celebrate Mormon Women in Sacrament Meeting

Posted by on January 15, 2013 in feminism, Mormon women, Relief Society, Relief Society Lessons, Sacrament talks, sisterhood, Teaching, women | 19 comments

This year, the 171st anniversary of the establishment of the first Relief Society falls on Sunday, 17 March 2013. With this, an opportunity is created for branches and wards throughout the world to have sacrament meeting on this day devoted to Mormon women and the Relief Society. What’s that you say? Mother’s Day is all about women? No. It is not. Mother’s Day is about mothers. Although all mothers are women, not all women are mothers. This is a chance for all church members to gather, teach and learn about the contribution of women who are devoted to Christ.

True to my conscience, I emailed my Relief Society president with this suggestion. She responded by asking my for listed talks and special musical numbers that I thought would be fitting. I was happily surprised that my email had been noticed so quickly, so spent a day asking what others thought about topics for talks about women. My response is included below, and although it is specific to my ward, the same topics can be adapted to any ward or branch in the church.

Please join us in encouraging leaders at a local level to enlist Sunday, 17 March 2013 with a Sacrament Meeting program dedicated to Mormon women of the Relief Society.

 

Dear President S,

I have been thinking all day and trying to be prayerful about suggested topics for a woman-focused sacrament meeting. Not an easy task! Especially the hymns! None the less, here are my thoughts:

 

It would be nice to have a program printed for the day, showing that it is an extra special day dedicated to recognising the faithful members of the Relief Society. (information such as who Zara Sabin is, and why singing to Now Let Us Rejoice sounds familiar but different, etc. could be included in the program in brevity). I also suggest that all of the speakers be women. I have two formats that I think would work well, 3 talks or 2 talks:

 

Charity Never Faileth as an over-riding theme- 3 talks:

5-10 minute talk: Zina Diantha Huntington Young, 3rd General RS President-she served when Lorenzo Snow was prophet, so I think the connection of her charity-inspired work in companionship to the scope of Lorenzo Snow would be important.

10 minute talk: (if it has not already been done, I can’t recall) a general overview of the Daughters in My Kingdom book. Men as well as women of the church should know that it is an important resource of church material celebrates the significant contribution of women in church history.

15-20 minute talk: Establishment of the original Relief Society, its focus on serving Christ through the support of women, and therefore families. The original meeting minutes of the first Relief Society meeting are here. Also, Women of Covenant is an excellent book to use as a resource (I have a copy, Daughters in My Kingdom quotes this text.) I also have a copy of Women of Mormondom about the women of the church and is a great resource.

-OR-

Charity Never Faileth as an over-riding theme- 2 talks:

15-20 minute talk: Establishment of the original Relief Society, its focus on serving Christ through the support of women, and therefore families. The original meeting minutes of the first Relief Society meeting are here.

15-20 minute talk: The dedication of Australian women in establishing the church in Australia, look at the history of Relief Society in Brisbane and Australia (Southern Cross Saints is a good resource for this, I have a copy). I would suggest that someone younger who has some time to do this talk so they can ask some of the older women in the ward/stake about their memories of the first chapels in Brisbane (as a part of the 1958 building project and opening of stakes rather than missions by David O. McKay—there are women in the ward/stake who remember this, I love talking with them about it!) (I have an original copy of the 1942 100-year Relief Society anniversary celebratory poetry book. I don’t loan it out. Ever. BUT. There are 2 poems in there by an Australian Mormon Poetess that are awesome. I also have copies of many of the Relief Society Magazines- some of which it highlights Australian Mormon Women – as per was the custom of the mag at the time to highlight Mormon women often outside of Utah. Also a good resource for local info. Some of the magazines have been digitized here.)

 

Musical suggestions:

Open: Have a Choir of sisters offer the opening hymn #311 We Meet Again As Sisters (in place of a congregational opening hymn- I have been in wards in the States that have done this for special program days).

Sacrament: #171 With Humble Heart (written by Zara Sabin)

Special Musical Number: #3 Now Let Us Rejoice, but sung to the tune of #2 The Spirit of God. The notes from the first Relief Society meeting indicate that the closing hymn for this very first meeting as Now Let Us Rejoice, but it was sung to the tune of The Spirit of God.

Close: #30, Come, Come Ye Saints (for an added feeling of enlistment and community at the end of the meeting)

 

What hymns and/or topics would you like to see presented in an all-female speakers, all Mormon Women and Relief Society themed Sacrament meeting?

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19 Comments

  1. Love this! I wish I could be in your ward on March 17th.

  2. Love it! But what about the part when Saint Patricia cast out the snakes? Followed by the annual gummy worm toss? Or am I confusing my celebrations? I will work on getting enough courage to ask.

    • I meant ask my bishop about the sacrament meeting. The gummy worm tossing will proceed as planned, as it does ever St. Patrick’s day around my house.

    • Update: My Bishop said it was a fabulous idea.

      • Yay, Em! (You meant the women-focused sacrament meeting, not the gummy worm thing in sacrament meeting thing, right?)

      • Yes, I mean the sacrament meeting. He even asked for my ideas for talks. I used some of yours plus some thoughts rattling in my head. I’ll be casting out the snakes on my own time. It is a tradition that is considerably more delicious than corned beef and cabbage, which is straight up disgusting.

  3. I attended a ward in Lehi, Utah last Sunday where they had an all female sacrament meeting – two youth speakers, a new missionary and an older sister speak. I was so impressed with the depth of spirituality of the youth speakers. I sat behind a man who was thoroughly disgusted when he said to his wife that there should have been a priesthood speaker to end the meeting. I couldn’t help but chuckle at that one.

    • I’ve been in all-female speaker meetings, too, Em. Once, when I was in a small branch- small enough that they showed old conference or other talks in place of “live” speakers, I was the only “live” speaker, because I was one of two who showed up that Sunday. I’ve also been the “3rd speaker” before. But from what I gather, this is more common outside of the U.S., or at least out of the “Jello-O Belt.”

      That being said, I have been to countless sacrament meetings where only males have been quoted (modern GA’s or biblical prophets), “The priesthood”- which is interperated as “boy’s club” is a topic, and “how to support the preisthood,” is the theme. I cannot recall EVER being in a sacrament meeting where there was one– much less three– talks all themed around LDS female leaders, and/or women of the bible. Its sad when you think about it– not a single talk about Emma Smith? Or Eliza Snow? Or Ruth? Or Ester? Or Mary? I have heard these women discussed in Sunday School and Relief Society, but never in sacrament meeting. Seems wrong to me. Hence, why March 17, 2013, the anniversary of the establishment of the Relief Society seems the perfect opportunity to celebrate women (“Although the name may be of modern date, the institution is of ancient origin. We were told by our martyred prophet that the same organization existed in the church anciently.”- Eliza R. Snow)

      I wish I could have been at that meeting with you! I might have accidentally had to refer the man in front of you to D. Michael Quinn’s contribution to Women and Authority, “Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843.”

  4. Great post. Love this idea. I think I’ll mention this to my RS president too. Thanks for the great resources too.

  5. .

    I had thought this was common practice.

    It needs to become such.

  6. Long time listener, first time caller…

    I proposed this in a quick email to my RS president, who was really excited about the idea. She told me today that she presented it to the bishop and he is on-board. She told me I’ll be giving one of the talks (exciting!), and that we would be having a ward linger longer with birthday cake following the block. Cake! I’m curious to see how this will pan-out, and see if our bishop will follow through on the original vision. Thanks for the suggestion — I’m excited!

    Now, if I can only muster the courage to suggest that one of the TFOT lessons per 6 month cycle can come from either the Young Women or Relief Society Broadcasts. And that the brethren have to teach it to, just as we always have a talk from the priesthood session we need to teach. Baby steps…

    • Thanks for commenting, KJOH. I did the same thing and it felt a little scary. Good luck with your talk!

  7. I think this sacrament meeting is an excellent time to do two things: 1) emphasize the powerful spiritual history of Relief Society and 2) tell the stories of our RS presidents.

    I’ve seen some people suggest talking about Mormon women they admire, which is great, but I hope if my ward is able to do this, we’ll tell stories about Amy Brown Lyman or Belle Spafford and what they did during their presidencies. I hope we’ll quote from the Relief Society Nauvoo minutes and reference Daughters in My Kingdom. There’s so much great stuff that the Church is putting out right now, and I worry that many (myself included) don’t know about all these resources.

    I was thinking some other favorite hymns by women that I’d love to see in the program are “Where Can I Turn for Peace” by Emma Lou Thayne, and anything by Eliza R Snow or something from the first hymnal compiled by Emma Smith.

    Thanks for getting this conversation started, Spunky! I think this is such an exciting opportunity!

  8. I am 2nd counselor in our RS and at our presidency meeting made your suggestion. I was shocked by how fast they ditched it in favor of just having refreshments after RS. Well, I tried.

  9. My ward is on board! Thanks for spurring on the idea! I am in the ward council (in YW) but jumped on the idea and am working on planning it with the counselor in charge. The RS president said she was excited but that her presidency is scared they’ll have to speak. “I’ll speak!” I told the ward council. It drives me crazy when women won’t talk…I’m trying to teach my YW to speak up!

    • Merkat, I am so happy for you!! And- I am so happy that the YW in your ward have you setting such an excellent example! They will be grateful to you for years to come!

      My ward update: The RS presidency seems on board, the topics I suggested weren’t fitting. I suspect that Zina Young might be in the “too hard” basket, and the DiMK talk was given by the RS presient a week or so after I emailed this to her (great minds think alike?) She also said that she didn’t think that a sacrament meeting was enough time to really talk about the history of the Relief Society in Australia, so asked me to teach the combined RS/PH on the 5th Sunday in March on that topic. I am THRILLED with that invitation, but am a little wary– it is Easter, so fear that I might get replaced…. I hope not! I am really excited to teach the men and women of the ward about the Australian Relief Society and why it is important to us as a church, a ward and individuals.

  10. I just found out our ward is having ward conference that day and the stake has sacrament meeting filled up. No RS-themed sacrament for us. Oh well. The next ward over is having one, though.

    • Bummer, Tophat. Maybe the week before? Its a bit lame, but perhaps better than nothing? (or just go to the next ward over that day :) )

  11. Any news from anyone? We are doing ours tomorrow because of High Council Sunday next week (all the better for me since I’ll be in Hawaii next Sunday, yeah!). I’m speaking on DIMK briefly but there is an RS choir singing, three other women giving talks, hooray! I’ll try to let you know how it goes! Excited for you to speak on the 5th Sunday, Spunky! Sounds great, but it is hard due to Easter! But we’re having some lame priesthood topic or something, so that would be better!

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