General Relief Society Broadcast Review
Two weeks ago, I trekked the small drive to our stake center, armed with some yarn for my daughter’s mittens and a notebook for the General Relief Society Broadcast. Today, I share with you my reactions.
President Julie B. Beck
President Beck started her talk stating that her topic was, “What I Hope My Granddaughters Will Understand about Relief Society,” a beautiful and personal way to address her audience. She began with something of a history of women in the Church, starting with the Primitive Church with a reference to Mary and Martha, though technically, Christ didn’t start a church while he was alive; that was done post-resurrection. She continued with the female disciples mentioned in the Pauline epistles and I was secretly hoping she’d mention female “apostles” as well, especially following up as she did, “But as the Lord’s Church was lost in apostasy, this pattern of discipleship was also lost.”
She continued this history with the organization of the Relief Society in Nauvoo, “I hope my granddaughters will understand that the Lord inspired the Prophet Joseph Smith to organize the women of the Church…. [Emma Smith] was named as president of the organization, with two counselors to serve with her in a presidency. Rather than being selected by popular vote, as was common in organizations outside of the Church, this presidency was called by revelation, sustained by those they would lead, and set apart by priesthood leaders to serve in their callings.” While a nice way to present the birth of Relief Society, I found it to be disappointing and historically misleading. The Relief Society was created and initiated by the women of Nauvoo seeing a need they could fill. Yes, Joseph Smith did say that the Lord had something better for them, but it never would have started had it not been for the insight and forthrightness of the women in bringing the idea to Joseph Smith. Additionally, by the minutes taken by Eliza R. Snow of the first Relief Society meeting, the Nauvoo women did, in fact, choose and vote upon Emma Smith’s position as president. After the vote, she is referred to as the “Presidentess Elect.” Beck’s presentation is confusing in that she presents a picture that sounded like Joseph Smith came up with the idea, prayed about who should be the president, and then organized the Relief Society in the manner callings are chosen today. Leaving out these details, Beck missed a chance to demonstrate the genius, power, and ability of women.
Other parts I found confusing included “Being organized under the priesthood made it possible for the presidency to receive direction from the Lord and His prophet for a specific work.” Does this mean that a presidency doesn’t receive their own revelation for their callings?And I wondered if her statement, “the sisters of Relief Society have at times imposed many written and unwritten rules upon themselves in their desire to understand how to strengthen one another,” was an apologetic nod to her own written rules from the Mothers Who Know talk.
On the other hand, I really enjoyed the nods to the Nauvoo women who, “sustained homes and business and earned income for families and missionaries” and her later shout out to the diverse and unique lives and situations of women today, something that some have argued that she hasn’t acknowledged well in the past. She used strong words like “impressive” and “heroic” to describe our work as women, quoted that Relief Society is “the head, not the tail”, and I appreciated her statement that the purpose of Relief Society is to “lift [us] above all that hinders the joy and progress of woman.”
Sister Silvia H. Allred
Sister Allred spoke on charity. The first thing I noticed about her talk was that all of her references to charity in the scriptures came from male voices, which is no fault of her own, as female voices on charity are few (nonexistent?). She quoted Paul, Mormon, and Nephi. Then she continued on to give examples of people who show charity and used Christ, Joseph Smith, and President Monson. I think there was a lost opportunity there to give examples of women who exhibit charity, though, at the end of her talk, she did mention three visiting teachers, Rosa, Kathy, Cali, and their efforts to lift the people they visited.
While listening to this talk, I kept thinking about Whoa-man’s post, To Some it is Given, where she wrote about faith being a gift of the Spirit and perhaps not everyone has it. Charity is also a gift of the Spirit, so I kept trying to mesh that with the idea that charity is something we can all obtain, as given in this talk. Two quotations that made me think a lot about charity as a gift versus actively trying to obtain charity were, “As we choose to be kind, caring, generous, patient, accepting, forgiving, inclusive, and selfless, we discover we are abounding in charity,” and, “This society is composed of women whose feelings of charity spring from hearts changed by qualifying for and by keeping covenants offered only in the Lord’s true Church. Their feelings of charity come from Him through His Atonement. Their acts of charity are guided by His example—and come out of gratitude for His infinite gift of mercy—and by the Holy Spirit, which He sends to accompany His servants on their missions of mercy. Because of that, they have done and are able to do uncommon things for others and to find joy even when their own unmet needs are great.”
I loved the quotation by President Monson she used, “Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others.”
Sister Barbara Thompson
I really loved the way she started with a story from her family and life. Having been in the position of packing up and throwing away the things of someone who has died, I could easily put myself in that place. I also loved her widespread use of stories of women: Maria Speidel, Sarah Rich, Mercy Fielding Thompson (related, perhaps?), and her grandmother. I did wish that Sister Thompson, and all the other speakers, would use female-oriented language. It was a little off-putting to hear, “A covenant is a contract made between God and man,” when saying “woman” would have been just as easy and more accurate for the audience.
Presiden Dieter F. Uchtdorf
The first thing I loved about President Uchtdorf’s talk was when he turned around to thank the Relief Society Presidency. He didn’t have to physically acknowledge them more than saying a few words, but he did anyway. And his thanks were repeated to the whole audience at the end: gratitude chiasmus! In fact, one of my favorite parts of his ending thank you’s were, “Thank you for who you are.” I loved the message that we are acceptable as we are now. I believe our Heavenly Parents feel so, too.
President Uchtdorf knows how to write a talk: personal story and connection, thorough background information, easy to remember pneumonic device, inclusive “we” with the audience; it’s really well-written.
His five messages, if you haven’t read, were:
- Be patient with yourself.
- Know the difference between a good sacrifice and a foolish sacrifice.
- Be happy now.
- Understand the “why” of the gospel.
- The Lord loves us.
These are good messages to share and I wish talks like this were given to the whole church. We all need these reminders. There were beautiful sentiments:
“Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It’s wonderful that you have strengths. And it is part of your mortal experience that you do have weaknesses.”
In this next one, I liked the mention that this life is for happiness and peace.
“[The gospel] is a pathway, marked by our loving Father in Heaven, leading to happiness and peace in this life and glory and inexpressible fulfillment in the life to come.
like emphasis on happiness and peace in this life.”
There was one part that didn’t sit well with me and that was the examples of “good” sacrifices and “foolish” sacrifices. For me, the moment that explicit examples with labels of un/acceptance are introduced, judgment enters the picture. I know he meant the examples to be over-reaching and funny, but I felt for the possible women in the audience who may have spent hours working on handouts for their classes the next day who might suddenly wonder, “If my ward sees my handouts, will they judge me a poor manager in my lesson planning time?” I know a woman who did stay up all night working on an accessory for her daughter because she was being deployed the next day and wasn’t going to see her for months (she had to finish the one for her other daughter and mail it to her after reaching her base). I felt for the woman whose love language might be gift giving, who might now feel that the way she shows love to others would be looked down on. Additionally, his examples were of women who were probably trying to follow his previous counsel to be creators and felt belittling of hobbies traditionally associated with women. I loved the message to be judicious with our time and efforts, but felt like it might have been better to emphasize that only we can determine if something is worth it.
So that’s it! I think it’s possible to find the perfect message for ourselves from one of these talks and I hope everyone left feeling closer to our Heavenly Parents. I, at the very least, got a little knitting done.
What do you think? Am I off on my reactions? Did you notice something different? Were there parts that stood out to you?