I thought her talk was worth the wait. The thesis of her talk and the chosen focus of her presidency is the Atonement. She repeated this powerful statement a few times in her talk, “all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” I love that this is a message of hope, love, and acceptance. I love that it is doctrinally-deep and universally-applicable.
I’m also excited because this past Easter, I gave a talk on the Atonement. I had to search long and hard on LDS.org for women speaking about this topic. (I also learned in my research that those searches are skewed towards the members of the First Presidency and apostles.) After tonight, I hope that these three women’s talks will come up earlier in that lds.org search. We need more women speaking authoritatively and deeply about important aspects of our doctrine like the Atonement. Brava to President Burton for showing us how to do that.
President Burton began her talk with a scripture from Jeremiah and relating the troubled times he lived in to our own. Then, she talked about the things she plans to carry in her Relief Society handcart: an understanding of the Atonement, strengthening family and homes through keeping our covenants, and working with the other auxiliaries and the priesthood. I thought the third item was particularly interesting. What would that work look like?
Then, she went to describe the three ways that we can achieve an understanding of the Atonement.
1) Faith. This is where President Burton first spoke the excerpt I used above. She also gave a lengthy story about Mary Lois Walker, a convert from the 19th century. I’m not usually a fan of pioneer stories, but I loved the quote from Mary about what she learned about depression and the Atonement after suffering so much loss at the age of 19. (President Burton’s talk isn’t on lds.org yet, but I’ll link to it when it’s available.)
2) The power of the Atonement helps us overcome the natural man or natural woman. Yay for using gender-inclusive language! She went on to give an analogy of sin being a pit that a woman falls into, used a quote of Elder Bednar that I have always loved, and a story about a Chilean sister.
3) The Atonement is the greatest evidence we have of God’s love. I appreciate that President Burton focused on the crucial role love plays in the Atonement. She spoke also of how we are all beloved daughters of God, but I liked that she took it a step further in asking a few questions about how that knowledge helps us progress.
President Burton ended her talk using the example of King Benjamin’s people and their understanding of the Atonement and how we can hope to become like them.
So, overall, I was impressed. There was some of the same rhetoric that we see in female Church leaders’ talks, but President Burton showed an understanding of doctrine and inclusivity that I found exciting and refreshing.
I look forward to hearing more from this presidency, but maybe next time, we could skip the Primary songs?