Relief Society Lesson: The Life and Ministry of Ezra Taft Benson

A challenge with all of the Presidents of the Church manuals is to relate male life and leadership experiences to the life of the sisters in a local and modern day Relief Society.  The overview of the life of President Benson provided in the manual contains sufficient information for multiple lessons. In an attempt to manage the extensive material and relate it to the lives of women I have highlighted favorite stories from most subsections of the overview and have also provided links and summaries to supplemental lesson resources that provide additional insight into the marriage partnership of Flora and Ezra Benson.

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An Open Letter to Claus Inc. North Pole

dear santaDear Mr. and Mrs. Claus,

A recent video mashup  of male LDS leaders providing instructions to LDS women on how to be LDS women, left me longing for gender parity in General Conference speakers. The ratio of two female speakers to 36 male speakers documented here  is devastating to those like me that hunger for messages from Heavenly Parents spoken in a female voice of leadership.

An English speaking woman of modest means or a non-English speaker is restricted to the meager rations of LDS female leader voices doled out in increments of two every six months (with a once a year bonus of three additional talks by women in the Women’s Session of General Conference). That’s an annual total of seven talks by women translated in a variety of languages and available for free. Half the membership of my church is represented by seven voices in a year!

Those privileged as English language speakers with money and means may hear from the female auxiliary leaders and some other LDS female role models at BYU’s Women’s Conference sponsored by BYU and the Relief Society. Last year over 11,000 women attended. Early registration for 2015 will cost $52 for two days of predominantly female voices with additional costs for transportation and lodging ($92 for a stay in Helaman/Heritage Halls). That’s half a million US dollars in registration fees for 11,000 attendees! I wasn’t part of the elect 11,000 this year, but I caught most of the talks for free online.

Thank goodness I speak English! My Spanish speaking grandmother struggles to understand spoken English, but has no trouble with a written English language copy of a talk. Sadly, no free transcripts of the 2014 BYU Women’s Conference are available for printing at home. You might want to pay the $24.99 to buy a copy of the 2014 talks from Deseret Book. I think she’d really like this gift, but this is not what I want for Christmas.

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Relief Society Lesson 7: Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Witnesses for Christ

Joseph and Hyrum 2I still remember on my mission, one particular day when one particular investigator told my companion and me that he admired many things about our church, and had many LDS friends whose families and lives he respected, but that there was one thing he could not get over: we worshipped Joseph Smith. We tried to explain the distinction, that we worship God and Jesus Christ, but are grateful for Joseph Smith because he helped us know Them more. We also brought in ancient prophets who helped us do the same.

And then my companion said a prayer. She began it, “Dear Heavenly Father,” and closed it, “In the name of Joseph Smith. Amen.” I was mortified, and thought this guy would never believe the story we just told, or that 99.99999999999% of Mormon prayers end, “In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” My companion told me later that she was nervous. I told her that it was fine. And it was, mostly, but the issue that the man raised is an important one, because it is a real concern for many people.

I thought of it again when I first read the 7th chapter in the Joseph Fielding Smith manual: “Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Witnesses for Christ.” And I thought of some questions. Let us keep them in mind as we consider this lesson.

  • Why do we sometimes focus so much on Joseph Smith?
  • What can we learn from his life, that can help us in our own?
  • What can we learn from Hyrum’s life? (He is included in this lesson too.)
  • What can we learn from their relationship.
  • What can we learn from their willingness to be martyrs for Christ’s sake?
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Relief Society Lesson #23 The Prophet Joseph Smith

Every manual in the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manuals has at least one lesson on Joseph Smith. Before going into the lesson, I’ll link to a few other RS lessons we’ve done here at the Exponent on Joseph Smith.

The Prophet Joseph Smith from the Spencer W. Kimball manual
The Prophet Joseph Smith, God’s Instrument in Restoring the Truth from the George Albert Smith manual
Relief Society Lesson 47: “Praise To The Man”: Latter-Day Prophets Bear Witness Of The Prophet Joseph Smith from the Joseph Smith manual

I would like to start with a quick personal story and some feelings I had while first skimming the lesson to get a sense of it.

Last year when I was meeting with my stake president to renew my temple recommend and going through the appropriate “yes” and “no” responses, there was one question where I stopped and said, “Well, I try…” The stake president looked at me and said, “I don’t want any answers other than ‘yes’ or ‘no.’” So I rephrased my answer into “yes” and was given a recommend. What was the question? “Are you honest in your dealings…?” The honesty question feels a bit like a trick question- who really is 100% honest in everything? Saying you are is obviously a lie! It’s a catch-22. I  am not honest with my fellow people at all times, though like I originally stated, I do try.

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Relief Society Lesson 8: “Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart”

heart-in-handsPresident Snow once closed a funeral address by asking the “Lord of Israel to bless the Latter-day Saints” to “be prepared for the events of the near future,” with their “hearts right before the Lord.” And, as we might expect from a man of sound integrity, he sought for this goal himself.

In the same speech, he told a story about he and Franklin D. Richards approaching Brigham Young with the sole purpose of resigning their Priesthood, if their president saw fit. As we also might expect, President Young didn’t see fit, but instead told them tearfully, “Brother Lorenzo, Brother Franklin, you have magnified your Priesthood satisfactorily to the Lord. God bless you.”

So what did Lorenzo Snow mean when he encouraged others (and himself) to have their “hearts right before the Lord”?

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