Henry B. Eyring: Societies of Caregivers

President Eyring found an elegant solution to the potentially awkward task of being a man giving a sermon to women about their womanly duties: he began his talk by quoting a great female Mormon heroine and centered the rest of his talk around her admonitions.

 “We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another, and gain instruction that we may all sit down in heaven together.” –Lucy Mack Smith

As an example of how pioneer women heeded Lucy Mack Smith’s counsel, he recounted the oft-told story of how Mormon pioneers rescued the Willie and Martin handcart companies, with particular emphasis on the cooperative nature of the rescue.  He quoted a pioneer woman who appreciated the “unanimity of feeling” they enjoyed as they worked together and who wondered, “What comes next for willing hands to do?”

President Eyring observed that modern women also wonder about their future lives of service. When he hinted that he would talk about future service, I anticipated that he would address organized Relief Society service projects, but he placed greater emphasis on caregiving. I liked this choice of topic; it is a practical concern, since, statistically, many women are likely to become caregivers in their own, individual futures. Long-term caregiving, whether to an elderly parent, a spouse, a disabled child or other loved one, is a spiritually challenging endeavor that is often overlooked, perhaps because of the emphasis on parenting children. During his talk, President Eyring focused on how caregiving could be enhanced by sharing duties. Traditionally, women often do the time-consuming and emotionally draining work of caregiving alone. I appreciated that President Eyring encouraged women to formulate plans to involve others in this important work, reducing the strain on primary caregivers.

He told a personal story about his daughter Elisabeth, who recently experienced pre-term labor.  Before she could call an ambulance, her visiting teaching companion, guided by spiritual prompting, unexpectedly arrived at her door just in time to take her to the hospital.  (Ironically, this is just the kind of prompting I admitted that I never personally receive in a recent post.  It is fortunate that other women do receive such promptings during emergencies like this.)

President Eyring praised his daughter’s visiting teaching companion as an example of fulfillment of Lucy Mack Smith’s call to action. Thanks to her help, Elisabeth made it to the hospital in time to save the baby’s life, but she has many challenges ahead as she cares for a baby resulting from a preterm birth.

Eyring got a laugh out of his female audience when he quoted Elisabeth’s bishop saying, “The Relief Society President has everything under control.”

He described how Elisabeth’s ward members had made plans to assist Elisabeth during this difficult time by caring for her other children so that she could make the many trips to the hospital that would be necessary until her newborn can come home.

Eyring reminded the audience that the good Samaritan did not only render aid, he also put a specific plan into play for others to continue the aid over the long term.  He predicted that as we keep the faith, we will also be called to come to the aid of those in need, and helping may require long-term care: more than one person can do alone.

He recommended that modern caregivers also implement plans to involve others as a caregiving team. As we care for those in need, our love for them grows, but frustration and fatigue can grow as well.  “Societies of caregivers” distribute the burden so it is easier to bear.  He encouraged caregivers to be aware of their physical and financial limits, and paraphrased scripture:

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a [caregiver] should run faster than [she] has strength. Mosiah 4:27

We can help tired caregivers by gently urging them to rest and accept help, by celebrating their worth and by organizing ourselves to lighten their load.  Elder Eyring gave a nod of approval to local leaders who look outside the Handbook to creatively meet the unique needs of their congregations, when he smilingly related the story of witnessing a woman called as assistant visiting teaching coordinator, “a calling I didn’t know existed.”

April Young-Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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7 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    April, what a great summary. I also thought Eyring was smart to base his talk on Lucy Mack Smith’s quote. And I’m impressed that he was willing to go deep into female territory when he mentioned his daughter passing blood when she was in danger of miscarriage. Having his daughter’s story be a main focus of his talk was a good decision, I thought, since it kept women front and center. I also appreciated that he mentioned that caregivers need to also take care and nurture themselves — a good message for Mormon women. I did feel like his talk was really quite long. Was it longer than the other women’s? It seemed so to me. I wonder if that was by design.

  2. Libby says:

    Somehow he managed to show what it isis to nryou a woman committed to the gospel of Christ — without resorting to saying, “Moon women are incredible!” or similarly meaningless rhetoric. Excellent talk. And yes, it was longer than the other talks, and I’m quite sure that was by design. (When do women get to speak in the priesthood meeting, I wonder?)

  3. April says:

    While I enjoyed President Eyring’s sermon, I do find it discouraging that at our only annual women’s meeting, the keynote speaker, as evidenced by his placement as concluding speaker on the program and his allotment of more time than any other speaker, is always a man. I was even more discouraged when I saw this news article this morning: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765608071/More-than-20000-women-gather-for-LDS-Churchs-General-Relief-Society-Meeting.html This was our very first meeting with a new Relief Society presidency we have never heard from before, announcing the focus for their presidency to the world, and yet, the female leaders’ talks are mentioned as mere footnotes for those who make it to the end of the news article. As long as women are just “auxiliary” leaders, while men are “authorities,” can women in our church ever be taken seriously?

    • Alisa says:

      I noticed the same thing in the newspaper placement. “Who cares what women have to say,” is the message. The same newspaper recently covered a “Women and the LDS Church” conference at the University of Utah. One man spoke the entire day, but other speakers included amazing women such as Pulitzer-prize winner and Harvard historian (and Exponent II founding mother) Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Who did the Deseret News feature in its coverage of the conference? The man’s talk. That’s why I switched my lifetime Deseret News subscription to the Salt Lake tribune recently. Sigh.

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