“Rise up!” General Women’s Session: President Bonnie Oscarson


bonnie-oscarson-md-1190455Young Women General President, Bonnie L. Oscarson, spoke to all the women, young women, and girls at Saturday’s Women’s session.   She said she was inspired by an old talk from President Hinckley, and used the same recurring theme of “Rise up!” as a way to motivate and inspire the women and  girls to do good things.

In describing “our day” she quotes from Mormon and mentions that we are seeing wars, rumors of war, pollutions, murders, pride, expensive clothing, and being so obsessed with worldly things that we allow the sick and needy to pass by.

In quoting Joseph Smith, she mentions that in the last days, even the “very elect of the covenant” will be deceived and then clarifies that even *we* are at risk of being deceived by false teachings.  She quotes Elder Gary Stevenson and says that the “compensation for living in perilous times is that we also live in the fullness of times.” Despite the messages of “our day” we have many “reasons to be optimistic.”

She quotes Sheri Dew, “…the moment we learn to unleash the full influence of converted, covenanted-keeping women, the kingdom of God will change overnight.”

President Oscarson presents three areas she considers to be foundational to strong testimonies.

  1. Acknowledge the centrality of God our Eternal Father and His son Jesus Christ to our faith and salvation.
  2. Understand the need for the Restoration. (Recognize that Joseph Smith organized the women of the church patterned after how the women that existed in Christ’s church anciently.
  3. Understand temple covenants and ordinances.

In encouraging all young women and girls to ‘Rise up in faith” to influence their families and homes, she says, “Even if your homes are less than ideal, your personal examples of faithful gospel living can influence the lives of your families and friends.”

Regarding young women, leadership, and the priesthood, she says, “Young women of the church needs to see themselves as essential participants in the priesthood-directed work of salvation and not just as onlookers and supporters. You hold callings and are set apart by those holding priesthood keys to function as leaders with power and authority in this work. As you magnify your callings in class presidencies, and prepare spiritually, council together, reach out to minster to your class members and teach each other the gospel, you are taking your place in this work….”

“All women need to see themselves as essential participants in work of the Priesthood. Women in this church are Presidents, councilors, teachers, members of councils, sisters and mothers, and the kingdom of God cannot function unless we rise up…”

She then transitions into talking about how we need to make our homes safe places to ask questions, that parents need to actively bring up difficult topics with their children (according to what’s happening in the world, or online) and not shy away from having bold, straightforward discussions.

“I worry that we live in such an atmosphere of avoiding offense that we sometimes altogether avoid teaching correct principles.”

She encourages us to discuss motherhood, education, marriage, gender issues and healthy sexuality, by using sensitivity, but also be bold in teaching youth.

“If we don’t teach our children and youth true doctrine and teach it clearly, the world will teach them Satan’s lies.”

The best part of the talk for me was in the motivating and encouraging way she asked us to rise up, magnify our callings, take our place as essential participants in the work of salvation and be heard.


Violadiva is an oxymoron, a musician, a yogi, a Suzuki violin teacher, a late-night baker of sourdough breads, proud Mormon feminist, happy wife of Pianoman and lucky mother to three.

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20 Responses

  1. Christi says:

    I really struggled with this talk. For the most part it was fine. Then she said that sometimes we’re so worried about offending people that we don’t teach correct principles. She gave the example of not teaching the importance of motherhood for fear of offending childless women or women with fertility problems. I kind of scoffed at that. Then just burst into tears and had to leave.
    As someone who has struggled with fertility issues for years, and is just now pregnant with my first at 36, trust me. We got the message loud and clear that our lives didn’t matter until we had a ‘real’ family.

    • Hannah says:

      I’m so sorry. It did feel like a slap in the face, didn’t it?

      While I really like the idea of abandoning our typical Mormon ways of communicating with passive aggression as a way to “avoid contention,” I think Sister Oscarson may have inadvertently done what she was trying to teach not to do in singling out infertile women as someone we have to dance around to avoid hurting their feelings.

    • JC says:

      Amen. Where, oh where are all these Mormons who (when faced with a deficient family) can shut their damn pie hole? My parents raised us to be non-judgmental and understanding and they can’t even keep their mouths shut.

    • spunky says:

      I had the same feeling as you, Christi. Ive dealt with infertility for too long to ever think that being a disciple of Christ is second to motherhood. I’ve never liked Oscarson’s talks, but this one is so dark, I’ve lost all hope for her. Thank goodness my adopted daughters won’t be in YW till she is gone.

  2. Descent says:

    It’s one of Satan’s lies that the church knows the truth about healthy sexuality for LGBT people. This talk will give church members more reason to mistreat and misunderstand people who are homosexual, bisexual or transgender.

    • Andrew R. says:

      “It’s one of Satan’s lies that the church knows the truth about healthy sexuality for LGBT people.”

      Seriously? And Satan is getting his message across using General Conference and the General Authorities and General Officers of the church as his voice?!?

      Are they only giving Satan’s lies in this one area, or are they doing so in others. Should we abandon Family Night because if the leaders are saying it it must be one of Satan’s lies?

      If Satan’s lies are being broadcast to the nations via General Conference then God has left the building. We need to be looking elsewhere for our religious beliefs.

      • Caroline says:

        Andrew R,
        Surely you can wrap your head around the idea that our church leaders may be mistaken about one thing but are not necessarily mistaken about other things?

        Just so you (and others) know, the kind of conversation we want to foster at Exponent is one of personal experience. If you would like to speak from personal experience about why you believe this leader’s teachings are inspired, please do so. Then others can speak from their personal experience about why they believe they are not. That’s the way to have respectful, productive conversations with people who disagree with us. You learn from them, they learn from you, everyone realizes that we come to these issues from different places and experiences, which have led us to embrace particular ideas or positions.

      • Andrew R. says:

        It’s a bit of a stretch, don’t you think, to go from mistake to telling Satan’s lies.

        Yes, the leaders make mistakes. And things change. I fully acknowledge that. I am not sure that comments implying that Satan is able to use General Conference to spread his lies are helpful. I am surely as able to state my opinion as Descent was her’s.

  3. I appreciated that she encouraged parents to speak openly with their children about fraught topics such as sex and their religious concerns.

    I have mixed feelings about the instruction to teach Young Women about how important they are to the “priesthood-directed work of the church.” On one hand, talking about how women participate in priesthood already, even without ordination, is important because it goes against the tendency to ignore and undervalue the contributions of women in our patriarchal system and it is a step toward acknowledging that priesthood–the power of God on earth–is not gendered.

    On the other hand, no Mormon would say to a Mormon male convert that hadn’t been ordained yet, “You’re fine. You don’t need priesthood ordination because you already participate in the priesthood by fulfilling your callings. That should be enough for you.”

    It seems that much of this rhetoric about female participation in the priesthood without ordination is aimed at deputizing women to participate in our own oppression by encouraging us to accept the status quo as good enough and defend our lower status to outsiders.

    And when we are talking about Young Women, specifically, the argument that they already participate enough is particularly unconvincing, since Young Men of their age are actively participating in ordinances at weekly Sacrament meetings while they sit in the pews, watching.

  4. Hannah says:

    I bristled at the comment about the “Ideal family.” Who on earth has an “ideal” family? To me, any family that has love between its members is an “ideal family.” I dislike the idea that a YW is being taught to have the mentality, “Well, even though I don’t have an ‘ideal’ family….my dad isn’t a member and my brother does drugs….I can still be a good example!” The idea of teaching a YW to be a good example in her family is fantastic, but we don’t need to teach her to judge her family as ‘not-ideal’ in the process. If she’s loved, and has someone to love back, it’s ideal!

  5. Carolyn Nielsen says:

    When there is a crisis at hand, far more than being a good example is needed.

  6. La Yen says:

    I was on board for all of this and then she said “same-sex attraction” and I lost my mind. I am a huge Oscarson Fan (Oscarfan? Fanscarson?) but can we just have a pre-conf board meeting wherein everyone gets the memo about things that are not things?

    • Hannah says:

      Yes, it is peculiar mormon code-speak. Words for things that are not things. Self- abuse for masturbation, virtue for virginity.

    • Kimberlee Staking says:

      Thank you La Yen (and others who have pointed to remarkably ill informed and insensitively stated positions in this talk). The framework was positive but the examples were (a) not connected with the framework in ways that I could make sense of or support (these are not the latter day issues she even mentioned in her introduction) and (b) distractions from the much bigger ways in which we should help young women and women learn how to “rise up” and do the good she alluded to persuasively before making this strange transition.

  7. Sarah says:

    La Yen that is where I bristled too. I agree with her general point – that we need to talk thru the awkward things – but her examples were insensitive I think. Because she wasn’t in conversation, she was in lecture – that is just the nature of GC. So there should be extra sensitivity I think. And I love President Oscarson too but have noticed she has sort of tightened the reigns a bit on liberal doctrine the past few conferences and has been pushing party lines a bit more.

    Also this was the ONLY part in this session (that I can remember anyway) where marriage/”SSA” issues were even approached so I appreciated that too. Sometimes it gets hit extra hard!

    I like this analysis though b/c it highlights the great parts of her talk. So it is good for me to help focus on the good!

  8. Caroline says:

    I am loving this discussion here. It sounds like a talk that had some real positives but also some real problems.

  9. Jolie Griffin says:

    I listened to this talk with my 16-year old daughter. She whispered to me, after the comment about how motherhood is not always emphasized, that she felt that was definitely not an issue!
    I found myself torn by the end of the talk–because I completely agree that we need to be speaking to our youth about difficult subjects and be bold in speaking truths–but I was very unsure if the things I hold as truths were the things she wanted me teaching boldly. I felt at once liberated by her words and then hemmed back in, thinking that her words would likely be used to uphold all the culturally conservative and traditional teachings that I’m currently trying to combat with my own youth.

    • Hannah says:

      I had that same feeling, Jolie. I definitely want to talk to my children about gender issues and healthy sexuality, too many people grow up with this topic being totally off-limits for family discussion, but probably not in the way she means.

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