The Power of President Nelson’s Talk in October General Conference

NelsonPresident Nelson, the new President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave a paradigm shifting talk in the last conference – on women.

I’ve had several discussions about this talk with friends and family – and I know there are a variety of view points. Here are my five reasons for believing this talk is powerful, timely, and paradigm shifting.

  1. A Bigger Broader Audience than we usually see in talks regarding women.

 He speaks to broad scope of women; he speaks to EVERY woman. He doesn’t only talk to mothers and nurturers (the usual); instead he calls out all the gifts of women. He calls to wives, mother, aunts, sisters, and “all women regardless of circumstance” – and references the following list of gifts, attributes, and characteristics.

  • Women who can speak with the power and authority of God
  • Women who can make things happen with their faith
  • Women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ
  • Women who understand the power of the endowment
  • Women who know how to call down the powers of heaven – to protect and strengthen children
  • Women who know how to receive personal revelation
  • Devout defenders of the faith
  • Courageous defenders of the family
  • Women who organize and can organize
  • Women with executive ability
  • Women who can plan, direct, administer
  • Women who can teach fearlessly and speak out
  • Women with the gift of discernment
  • Women who express beliefs with confidence and charity

  1. Partnership in “the Kingdom of God”

He calls for true partnership in this talk – like I’ve never heard before. He creates a space next to “man” and tells women they need to fill it.

  • “You are our vital associates in this winding up scene …”
  • “The kingdom of God cannot be complete without the women.”
  • “We will walk arm in arm in this sacred work.”

He also speaks one line to married sisters, which I think is important: “Each married sister to speak as a contributing and full partner as you unite with your husband in governing your family.”

  1. The Vital Role of Women

He did not say women are valued, but that we were literally vital.

  • “We need your voices, your conversion, and your ability to lead.”
  • We need your vision, grit, and love.
  • We need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration – especially in the counsels of the church.

He also speaks of Eve, who is no shrinking violet herself when he says, “We need women who have the courage and vision of Eve.” I think adding Eve as an example is powerful because she is “every woman” – and she made the ultimate sacrifice (save Christ) for us to progress forward through this mortal experience.

In the footnotes, Elder Nelson makes a couple of other comments about this vital role.

  • All previous dispensations were limited to a small segment of the world and were terminated by apostasy. In contrast, this dispensation will not be limited in location or time. It will fill the world and merge with the Second Coming of the Lord.
    See Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. (1957–66), 4:166.
  • All the purposes of the world and all that was in the world would be brought to naught without woman—a keystone in the priesthood arch of creation”
    Russell M. Nelson, “Lessons from Eve,” Ensign, 1987, 87
  1. Authorization to Move Forward

Not all women are looking for permission, but to those who are: he authorizes women to lead, bless, and find and claim power.

  • “Take your rightful and needful place – in the kingdom of God.”
  • “We need women who can speak with the power and authority of God.”
  • “ We need women who can make things happen with their faith.”
  • “ I bless you to rise to your full stature.”
  • “I bless you to fulfill the measure of your creation.”

In the footnotes he adds this about women and priesthood / authority, which is just what I was thinking when I head the talk. I felt it tied nicely to Elder Oaks’ talk on Priesthood from April 2014.

President Joseph Fielding Smith told sisters of the Relief Society, “You can speak with authority, because the Lord has placed authority upon you.” He also said that the Relief Society has “been given power and authority to do a great many things. The work which they do is done by divine authority” (“Relief Society—an Aid to the Priesthood,” Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1959, 4, 5). These quotations were also cited by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in a conference address, “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 51.

  1. The Door is Open for Women to Decide

 President Nelson speaks to all the women, lists gifts, authorizes involvement; but he does not tell women how to be involved or how to use their gifts. I believe he leaves out the “how” on purpose. He leaves the door open for women to understand, discern, and step into our role as women in the last dispensation. We, the women, will define how this done.

I was asking a lot of questions of myself during this talk – and I assume many other women were too.

  • “We have both privileges and responsibilities.” What are these?
  • Do I speak with the power and authority of God? How can I learn? Do I call down power from heaven? How can I learn? Do I make great things happen with my faith? How can I learn?
  • Do I have all the ability he lists? Do I know other women who do?
  • How do I take my place as a true partner in the work?
  • “You posses distinct capabilities and special intuitions – gifts from God and different from your brothers.” Do I understand my own gifts and how they help the Kingdom of God?
  • Do we, the women of the church, realize the scope of Elder Nelson’s vision?
  • “Your own conversation is most important.” Am I converted?

I also think there are questions that the brethren may have been asking themselves.

  • Do the women in my life, home, and/or ward have the room to become these women? Am I giving them enough space – for this kind of growth?
  • Am I a good partner for these powerful women?

A Final Note

In this same conference, Elder Holland gave a talk on Motherhood, which I thought was very powerful. He didn’t compare mothers to priesthood or to father – but he compared them to Christ. He spoke of the power that comes from carrying and delivering the children of God – both into this world and on this mortal journey. I’ve often thought the same thing. He spoke amazing words. He even mentions our Heavenly Mother. And I think this talk couples nicely with Elder Nelson’s words.

I also thought of Oaks talk about priesthood and authority from April 2014, where he spoke of women’s authority and role. I think the three talks make a perfect trinity when thinking women in the Kingdom.

 

Suzette

Suzette lives in the Washington DC area and works as a Professional Organizer. She enjoys blogging and serving on the Exponent II Board. Her Mormon roots run deep and she loves her big Mormon family which includes 20 nieces and nephews, 6 sisters, 5 brother in laws, 2 parents - and dozens of cousins. Her favorite things about church are the great Alexandria wards, temple worship, and all things Visiting Teaching.

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7 Responses

  1. spunky says:

    Thank you so much for your thoughts on thus, Suzette! I liked Nelson’s talk but wasn’t sure why …but you hit the nail on the head with this analysis. This general conference, but for the general women’s session, felt significantly more loving than the past few conferences. I hope that Nelson’s position brings increased reprieve and direction for the hearts of all women.

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful contribution.

  2. EFH says:

    I have a feeling that even though he was encouraging the women, it was the kind of talk that was directed to everyone. He wanted all members – old and young, men and women, with authority and not – to share in his vision of the women. For me, that is where the power of his talk is. Now, bishops, stake presidents and everyone else who is in charge of callings can think of women too in non traditional callings and understand that we come with talents and gifts that go beyond nurturing and bringing food to activities. Great analysis of the talk dearest Suzette.

  3. Caroline says:

    “He leaves the door open for women to understand, discern, and step into our role as women in the last dispensation. We, the women, will define how this done.”

    Suzette this is beautifully hopeful and optimistic. I love the way you drew out so many positive points from the talk. Thank you! You’ve helped me see a side of it I might not have seen.

  4. Ms. Reynolds says:

    Suzette,
    I love how optimistic your analysis is. I wish I could love this talk too, but its phraseology once again puts men as the primary and women as the secondary, which diminished its empowerment for women. When he says, “We need your vision, grit, and love,” the “We” are men — the primary players who are running the show and the “your” are the women, the secondary players because they are assisting. The reverse is never true. Our RS President would never say to men, “We need your vision, grit, and love” because their vision is already intact and they are recruiting us to create that vision. I know the talk gave more latitude to women’s roles and authority, but it’s still latitude given to us by men, which makes us secondary. That just breaks my heart.

    • Suzette says:

      I can appreciate this – and perhaps these are Carline’s thoughts too.
      And, I do agree …. we have another man talking about women … and saying how “we.need.you”. Still we are in a patriarchy after all …. and we have to start where we are.
      For, where we are, this is taking big steps. We’ll get there.

      • Carrie says:

        Ms. Reynolds. These are my thoughts exactly. Its still men as the most important and women as the ‘helpers’. But alas, suppose God wants it that way? There is really no evidence to the contrary. I’ve tried to stay. 🙁 But christianity really leaves women behind.

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