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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One More Example of ETB Lesson 15 (AKA: What Motherhood Looks Like For Me)

Connecticut, Family

I said this to my Relief Society sisters Sunday, more or less. (Not included are the beautiful, thoughtful answers they said back.) (If you happen to still be teaching Lesson 15, please check out Spunky’s inclusive and thorough plan.)

Divinity of Parenthood

What I hope that you will get from this lesson is that both fatherhood and motherhood are godly, and that cooperative parenting is the most godly of all.

Benson said, “A mother’s role is ordained by God. [Mothers] are, or should be, the very heart and soul of the family. No more sacred word exists in secular or holy writ than that of mother.”

Our Differences

Before I go further, I want to acknowledge that this topic can be sensitive. While we are all daughters of God and sisters in the gospel, we have different lived experiences. Some of us have never married, and never had children. Some of us have married, but now carry the load of parenthood by ourselves. Some of us are stepmothers. Some of us are adoptive or foster mothers. Some of us who do not have children, desperately wish to. Some of us who have children, at times desperately wish not to. Some of us are expectant mothers. Some of us are new, new mothers. Some of us are just pretty new. Some of us are seasoned. Some of us are empty nesters. Some of us are grandmothers. Some of us have difficult relationships with our own mothers. Some of us have no desire to be mothers. Some of us are mothers to everyone we meet.

I honor these differences. My hope is that we can draw upon them, and speak honestly and openly from our own experiences, to better learn from each other, and increase in charity and understanding.

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Relief Society Lesson 12: Seek the Spirit in All You Do

Baltimore Sunrise by Aimee HickmanGuest Post by Trudy Rushforth

I was excited when I was asked to write this lesson plan. Seeking and living by the Spirit is one of the parts of the gospel that I really love. I think that it’s remarkable that we each have a direct line to the Almighty, unimpeded by any human intermediary.

With all of the varied expectations (family, friends, ourselves, our employers, church culture, etc.) pulling us in different directions, seeking the Spirit is essential. Also essential is allowing others the space to seek the Spirit for direction in their lives. Joyce Meyer, a pastor in the Midwest, has this to say on the subject: “Many people feel so pressured by the expectations of others that it causes them to be frustrated, miserable and confused about what they should do. But there is a way to live a simple, joy-filled, peaceful life, and the key is learning how to be led by the Holy Spirit, not the traditions or expectations of man.” [1]

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Relief Society Lesson 7: Joseph Smith, An Instrument in the Hands of the Lord

Relief Society Lesson 7: Joseph Smith, An Instrument in the Hands of the Lord

Traduction en français/Click for French Translation


As I prepared this lesson an inspired tangent led me to delightful readings from the Church History Department on the first sister missionaries and their role in testifying of Joseph Smith and the restored gospel. The trying experiences of ETB in England illustrate the need for sister missionaries. I have used his experiences as a launching point for a deeper discussion of women as instruments in the hands of the Lord and the origins of sister missionaries. I have provided links and resources from the Church History Department to help you share the lives of Elizabeth McCune, Inez Knight, Jennie Brimhall, and Flora Benson (if you have time). Throughout the lesson, I return to the topic of Joseph Smith and provide questions for a discussion tying the voices of women to a testimony of Joseph Smith.

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Relief Society Lesson 2: Pray Always

Due to a scheduling snafu (my bad) this lesson was due to go up next week, but I’ve learned that many Relief Societies are teaching this lesson tomorrow. So, I wanted to throw up a few thoughts, quotes, and links gathered from the collected input of Exponent bloggers on the subject of prayer, in the hopes that something here might be useful. We would love your input as well! Please comment if you have ideas on how to teach this lesson. Let’s use this post as a chance to share thoughts and approaches.

EmilyCC suggests that a great place to go for thoughts about how to teach on prayer is the Exponent archives. This is what I’ve found.


I read the manual version today, and was interested in ETB’s remark that “After making a request through prayer, we have a responsibility to assist in its being granted. We should listen. Perhaps while we are on our knees, the Lord wants to counsel us.” It reminded me of something the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said about the lily in the field:

“But the lily who is the teacher is profound. It does not enter into conversation with thee, it keeps silent, and by keeping silent it would signify to thee that thou art before God, that thou shouldst remember that thou art before God—that thou also in seriousness and truth mightest become silent before God.”

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