Book Review Series: Rhino Trouble

Rhino_Trouble_CoverPicture books are among my favorite books, so I was delighted when Spunky suggested I read Cedar Fort’s Rhino Trouble for Exponent’s book review series. I was even more delighted when I realized it was written by an old friend of mine, Grant Olsen. He is a truly good person, and that goodness shines bright here. The story itself was inspired by some village children Grant metGrant_Nepal while traveling through a Nepal jungle, and because of that/because of them, he is donating every penny he would otherwise make from Rhino Trouble to a nonprofit called The Umbrella Foundation, which helps vulnerable children in Nepal get housing and education.

Rhino Trouble begins with a young child explaining that his village is in trouble, because the rhinos come and eat all of their crops. Soon after, the boy’s father gives him and his younger brother sticks, and asks them to protect the potatoes. The child is nervous, because he and his brother are small, and the rhinos are big. The father is encouraging. He says, “You’re stronger than you think,” and tells them, “This is your chance to help the village.”

The boys try and fail.

The father responds with kindness. “I know you did your best.” He asks them to try again, this time to protect the radishes. He uses the word, “Please.”

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On RS Lessons, Vulnerability, and Love

Lost LambPreface

I taught Relief Society this Sunday, with a fully broken heart. It was extremely painful, but it was also moving, to be vulnerable before my sisters, and to witness moments of light, and grace, and burden sharing.

It was Ezra Taft Benson’s lesson 20, “Feed My Sheep,” which Suzette previously posted about here.


We began by singing “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd,” as per a good tip from TopHat and her own excellent RS teacher. I told the sisters that my favorite line in the hymn, and the part I wanted to focus on was this: “Make us thy true under- shepherd[esse]s.” Because it is, and was.

President Ezra Taft Benson suggested that

Sisters also have callings of “shepherding” in the charitable and loving service they render to one another, and to others. Thus, we must all learn to be true shepherds. We must manifest the same love to others that the Good Shepherd has for all of us. Each soul is precious to Him. His invitation beckons every member—every son and daughter of God.

After reading this, I asked a few simple questions, and the sisters answered.

Who are the sheep?

The first said simply, “We are.” Two more added, “Our Relief Society.” “Our Ward family.” Still another said, “Everyone.” I agreed. Lambs are like neighbors, and Jesus showed us who the neighbors are, that we are commanded to love as ourselves.

What then, do they need to be fed?

Again, various responses flooded in: “The love of God.” The word of God.” “Not always, but sometimes, real food.” I paused at the last one, because 1) Jesus did this, when he gave loaves and fishes, and recognized that people could not be fed spiritually until they were fed physically, and 2) I’ve experienced it, when my daughter was born, when Mormon Feminism was due to the publisher, and the very night I taught this lesson, though I had no way of knowing it, then.

What if they don’t want to be fed, or the food doesn’t seem nourishing to them?

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Relief Society Lesson 22: Carry the Gospel to the World


The manual lesson may be found here. It gives us a glimpse of the heritage of missionary service President Ezra Taft Benson inherited, and the importance he places on the work, both for himself, and for all of us. His teachings offer calls for more (and better) missionaries, from full-time young men, young women, and senior couples, to non-full-time member missionaries. He also offers suggestions for preparing children to serve missions, and for four things we all need, as we engage in the work.

If you are going to teach this lesson, pause for a moment, and consider the makeup of your Relief Society. Maybe it has several young sisters who are eager and ready to serve full-time missions. Maybe it has several older sisters, who are preparing to go by themselves or with their spouses. Maybe it has several mothers who hope their children might go, who could use tips for encouraging them without unduly pressuring them. Maybe it has several mothers who despite hopes and encouragement, have children who didn’t go, and feel undue pressure and guilt, themselves. Maybe it has some combination. Your Relief Society, ward, or stake might also have a strong emphasis on member missionary work. These considerations will help you know how to allocate your time during the lesson.

A Missionary Heritage

As mentioned, President Benson came from a family with a strong missionary ethic. He was old enough to live at a time when fathers could still be called away from their family’s for full-time missionary service. His own father was one of those fathers. “As the eldest son,” President Benson remembered “the letters that [his father] wrote from the mission field in the Midwest. There came into that home a spirit of missionary work that has never left it.” Perhaps because of this, he and all ten of his siblings “filled missions,” as did his wife, who “had the pleasure of her widowed mother serving with her for the last six months.”

That he mentioned his wife serving a mission is important to me, for two reasons. 1) When I was preparing to go on a mission in 2004 and 2005, I always appreciated hearing Elder Richard G. Scott talk about his wife, Jeanene Watkins Scott’s, missionary service, and how much it meant to her, to him, and to their children. 2) There is a history of discourse from male General Authorities going back and back, that essentially tells men that it is their priesthood duty to go, while women are “not invited, but welcome.” I embrace any discourse that highlights and encourages female missionary service, and believe such speech is even more crucial as the age change has shifted the percentages of male and female missionaries. (I rejoiced the day my friend text me, that for the first time ever, there were more female missionaries entering the Provo MTC than elders.)

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Teaching, No Greater Call: How To Teach Like An Exponent Blogger

Words of WisdomThere are a few general recommendations all of us try to keep in mind as we prepare lesson plans for the Exponent blog, or for our own ward communities.

They are:

  • Include quotes from women, both from within and without the church. One of my favorite resources for finding quotes from female general leaders is WAVE’s Words of Wisdom: A Collection of Quotes for LDS Women. The Table of Contents is extremely helpful when looking for quotes on a specific topic, and the PDF is searchable as well, which makes looking for a specific word a dream. I have also had some luck searching on, though recall it previously being simpler to find talks and articles just from female speakers. Sometimes I’ve tried to use words from the General Relief Society President serving alongside the current manual’s Church President. Other times I’ve tried to learn more about–and use the words of–the Church President’s wife. More often though, I rely on women like Chieko Okazaki, Elaine Jack, and Aileen Clyde. For incorporating thoughts and ideas from women outside of the church, I’ve drawn upon Mother Teresa and Malala Yousafzai, but there are so many other wise women to choose from.
  • Add historical context. What else was going on when these words were spoken?
  • Make the lesson applicable to as many women as possible, including women in varying family circumstances. Stay at home mothering is a valuable and valid choice, but stay at home mothers should not be the only ones walking away from the lesson feeling fulfilled, heard, or understood. I recently gave a lesson in my ward’s Relief Society on “The Sacred Calling of Mothers and Fathers.” I reflected on the specific women who would be there, and after starting with a quote from President Benson, I said this:
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November Young Women Lesson: Why is it important for me to gain an education and develop skills?

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From Tracy M.’s remarkable BCC post, “Young Women Values: Not Princesses & Not for the Faint of Heart Personal Progress Cards”

The manual may be found here.

When I was a junior in high school, I sat in a cozy room with a few of my friends, and listened as Gordon B. Hinckley encouraged us to “get A grades in [our] various courses,” and then told us that he would give us the B’s. The second of those B’s was to “be smart.”

Among other things, President Hinckley said,

You need all the education you can get…You belong to a church that teaches the importance of education. You have a mandate from the Lord to educate your minds and your hearts and your hands. The Lord has said, “Teach ye diligently … of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—that ye may be prepared in all things” (D&C 88:78–80).

…These are the words of the Lord who loves you. He wants you to train your minds and hands to become an influence for good as you go forward with your lives. And as you do so and as you perform honorably and with excellence, you will bring honor to the Church, for you will be regarded as a man or woman of integrity and ability and conscientious workmanship.


Be smart. The Lord wants you to educate your minds and hands, whatever your chosen field. Whether it be repairing refrigerators, or the work of a skilled surgeon, you must train yourselves. Seek for the best schooling available. Become a workman of integrity in the world that lies ahead of you. I repeat, you will bring honor to the Church and you will be generously blessed because of that training. (“A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for the Youth,” Ensign, January 2001.)

It meant so much to me then to have a President of the Church encourage me as a young woman to be smart, and to seek the best education possible. I knew he wasn’t just talking to the young men, because he said if I followed his counsel, I would “be regarded as a man or woman of integrity.” He further suggested that while seeking a strong education would be good for the church, it would also be good for mewould “be generously blessed, because of that training.” There was crucially no mention of my future children or husband. Just the church and me, and the Lord’s mandate to seek knowledge.

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