Series: #Visiblewomen: You Can’t Be What You Can’t See : Generous Quotes From Women in Relief Society Lessons

President Linda K. Burton
Relief Society General Office
76 North Main
Salt Lake City, Utah 84150

Dear Sister Burton,

Would you please consider increased and generous quotes by women in Relief Society and Priesthood Manuals?  As an educator, I know the importance of having relatable examples in the stories and quotes used to illustrate and teach a topic. As a learner attaches a teaching to one of their own experiences, long-term learning and profound change occurs.

Years ago in my teacher training  program I was assigned to count examples of men and women and people of color in textbooks. The counting helped me to notice and reflect on who was likely to connect with the material of the text and who was likely to be left out of the experience of relating, connecting, and learning. Applying the same exercise to our Relief Society and Priesthood curriculum, voices of women are noticeably absent. I believe both women and men are harmed by the absence of women’s voices.

I remember two years of Relief Society after I left the Young Women’s program when it seemed every Relief Society lesson helped me to connect my experiences as a young adult to the legacy of LDS women who came before me. Then I went on a mission and when I came home we began utilizing the Presidents of the Church manuals. Quotes and examples of women became sparse, I liked Relief Society a little less but didn’t know why. For the past seventeen years, our Relief Society and Priesthood curriculum has lacked the wisdom, diversity, and incredible strength of LDS women.

As a Relief Society Instructor, Relief Society President, and Relief Society Secretary I’ve had the opportunity to repeatedly observe how women light up and share precious examples of the atonement working in their lives when quotes from women are included in our lessons. Men do too! My father has received a wonderful response from his High Priest Group as he has supplemented his lessons with material from Daughters of my Kingdom and examples of women from scriptures, General Conference, and our family.

This year as we study the life and teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, I have enjoyed my own independent reading on the remarkable Flora Benson. Sadly, no teacher has included her in a lesson thus far. Yet, President Benson was always quick to recognize the essential support of Flora and his children in all of his achievements.

Too many women and men are adversely impacted by worldly portrayals of women as objects. We need more examples of multidimensional women who have led good and meaningful lives. Please consider incorporating the words of more wise women in our Relief Society and Priesthood curriculum.

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9 Responses

  1. Ziff says:

    Great points, Cruelest Month! I’m sure many people would say that quotes from men work just fine because they can apply equally to women and men. I suspect these people would be disturbed, though, by the thought of having only quotes from women, with the same defense. Because we just love having our authoritative Mormon male voices. Ugh!

    Also, I love your concluding point:

    “Too many women and men are adversely impacted by worldly portrayals of women as objects. We need more examples of multidimensional women who have led good and meaningful lives.”

    A thousand times amen. This is a problem the Church shares with “the world,” but just in different flavors. In the Church women are tantalizing objects that should be covered; in the world, women are tantalizing objects that should be uncovered. Let’s move past the whole thing and consider women as people.

    • Patty says:

      Women as people. Yes, yes, yes! No more angel/whore dichotomy! I’m in. And I also think it’s a wonderful letter, Cruelest Month.

    • Cruelest Month says:

      Ziff,
      Love your point about tantalizing objects. It was a little disappointing as a young woman to realize that my leaders were wrong. Wearing short shorts and a tank top allowed me to subvert the will and utterly dominate zero men. Turns out men have free will and can’t be controlled by visible shoulders. Turns out my power and influence as a multidimensional human is greater than my power as a tantalizing object.

  2. Rachel says:

    I would love love love to see voices of women included in Relief Society and Priesthood lessons, too. It feels so important to me. Thank you for writing (and sharing) this thoughtful letter.

  3. Jason K. says:

    I love this, too. Perversely, however, it may be addressed to the wrong person. According to Chieko Okazaki (in the interview published in Dialogue a few years back), the RS Presidency had come up with some ideas for a new RS curriculum, but when they went to present these to the curriculum department, they learned that a new series of manuals was already in production. This would be the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church series. So, apparently the RS presidency wasn’t even consulted. One can hope that things have changed in the last 20 years and that they’ll have more input in whatever comes next. It’d be amazing if the Church as a whole took some cues from old RS curriculum, like when Clarissa Smith Williams was training all the sisters in modern methods of social work or having a literature course where everyone read A Doll’s House.

    • Cruelest Month says:

      I am sadly aware of the manner in which the General Relief Society is overlooked or ignored. But, I also know they read letters. If I continue to assume they will be ignored and address the Quorum of the 12 or First Presidency, then I become a participant in derailing the General Presidency from communicating and providing pastoral care for those under their stewardship. It is likely that a member of the First Presidency or the 12 could help assure that generous quotes from women are included in our curriculum. But any letter I direct to them would just be returned to my Stake President and Bishop. I’ll take my chances with Sister Burton and hope that she can be a mouthpiece for the many that are hurt by the exclusion of quotes from women in our curriculum.

      Modern methods of social work and reading literature as part of RS, sign me up!

      • Jason K. says:

        That sounds like a good strategy, and I wish it all success. I love your point that assuming they will continue to be ignored is unfaithful!

  4. Jenny says:

    Great letter! I think your personal struggle with the Relief Society lessons will have a strong impact on your request. I also love how you bring up Flora Benson. For so long I have heard that the prophet’s wife is just as important as the prophet. She influences the church through her influence with him. Yet rarely do we even remember her name or read any of her thoughts on spiritual things.

  1. March 13, 2015

    […] President Linda K. Burton Relief Society General Office 76 North Main Salt Lake City, Utah 84150 Dear Sister Burton, Would …read more       […]

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