#hearLDSwomen: A First Counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency’s Experience Part 1
The following is an excerpt from an interview of Chieko Okazaki, first counselor in the general Relief Society presidency from 1990-1997, by Greg Prince. The full interview can be found in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.
Chieko Okazaki: I was the [general Relief Society] education counselor, so I worked with one of the men on the curriculum committee. We wanted to change the manual so that it brought up modern-day problems that women have to face and focus on how to implement some of the gospel doctrines and principles in dealing with the problem.
I had written a general outline, and the Relief Society presidency approved it. So I talked about it to a man on the Curriculum Committee. He went to his boss, and the boss said, “We don’t need a new manual for the Relief Society.” “Why don’t we need a new manual?” “We already are writing a manual for them.”
So he came back and told me that a new manual was already being prepared. I asked what it was, and he said, “Well, it’s the manual on Harold B. Lee.” It was the first one in that series of teachings of the Church presidents. I asked, “Why are they writing a manual for us on Harold B. Lee?” He didn’t know.
I told the presidency, so we went and asked the Curriculum Committee, “What is this all about?” They said, “Well, we’re already almost finished with the first book.” We said, “You’re almost finished with the first book, and you didn’t tell us that you were doing this? Why is this is the first time we have heard about it? Chieko has been writing an outline in relation to what women need.” So I asked, “Who is writing this manual?” It turned out to be five men, and the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Society would have the same lessons.
I asked, “Why aren’t the women included in this?” Then they sort of got the point and called three women to the committee. I had one of our board members assigned to be the liaison with these three women. They got to the point where they could go through the manual and write questions in relation to the manual. And for the second one, they were part of it. But that’s how it was. I just thought, “Where are we, anyway, in this entire thing?” It was such a shock! I said, “How did this come about?” “Well, President Hinckley thought that many of the people who live outside the United States don’t have the privilege of having any doctrinal books in their homes. He thinks we should have a manual where we have the prophets speak about their doctrines, so they would at least have a doctrinal book in their home.” That’s a good idea. “He decided maybe this would be a good thing to have for the priesthood and the Relief Society.” “Well, why wasn’t it discussed with us, too?”
Pro tip: Recognize when there are only men making decisions, and seek women’s input. Honor the stewardships that women have.
“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)