The Schedule

February 1, 2007 | 20 comments
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I always love teaching lessons in Priesthood, but I was particularly excited to see the upcoming schedule. The schedule sets aside the 4th week of each month for a general conference talk selected by the Bishop or Stake President, as usual, with the selected talk providing the lesson in both Priesthood and Relief Society meetings. The upcoming slate looks like this:

February: Robert Oaks, The Power of Patience
March: Margaret Lifferth, Behold Your Little Ones
April: Don R. Clarke, Instruments in the Hands of God

I’ve taught Elder’s Quorum for years now, in different wards. This is the first time I’ve noticed something like this, and it’s exciting.

Women in the church are regularly taught from men’s talks and writings, but the reverse has seldom been true. I love the idea that in a few Sundays, both Elders and Relief Society in the ward will be discussing Sister Lifferth’s talk as their weekly lesson. It’s not a big thing, really. But it is a thoughtful, extra little boost, a way of affirming on the grass-roots level that women’s voices do matter. And on a personal level — and as the instructor lined up to teach the lesson that week, anyway — I love the fact that a woman’s talk can be the lesson for both Priesthood and Relief Society, even in the age of correlation.

So I’m filing this away as “Reason #227 why my Bishop rocks.” (Um, unless that month was a Stake President selection . . . )

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20 Responses to The Schedule

  1. Brian on February 1, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    talks are decided by the bishop per GHI.

  2. Kim Siever on February 1, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    In our ward, they are decided by his counsellors. I have tried to encourage them to pick talks from the female leaders of our church. I cannot recall a single time when they have, but it may have happened once or twice in the last two years.

  3. rd on February 1, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    The fact that this is even noteworthy seems odd. I don’t think this would cause a stir at all in my Ward. Another reason why my Ward rocks.

    Collectively, we’ve still a ways to go, I guess.

  4. DavidH on February 1, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    From November Ensign, re Teachings of Our Times:

    “Stake and district presidents may choose which talks should be used, or they may assign this responsibility to bishops and branch presidents.”

    Our stake usually has designated for study at least one talk from each conference given by a female Church leader.

  5. Costanza on February 1, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    I agree with rd. What does it say about us that we (and I include myself in this) are not only very happy, but also apparently surprised by the inclusion of a talk by a woman?

  6. Mel D on February 1, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    I almost wept last Sunday when a stake presidency member told our YSA Relief Society that we should get good educations so we can have jobs we like AND that we should seek to be paid what we’re worth. No mention of “get an education so you can teach your kids” but definitely “get an education so you can live well now.” I loooove my stake presidency!

  7. Melissa on February 1, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    Constanza’s right. This is hardly evidence of great progress.

    Unfortunately, General Conference talks from women couldn’t be chosen every other month even if some bishop had an egalitarian impulse to do so since only two women speak at each conference. You could choose all four talks given by women in a year and women’s voices would still be underepresented in RS/EQ meetings because their voices are underrepresented at the general level. Real progress would mean having more women’s voices in General Conference.

    I’m not going to comment on the typical themes female leaders address as we’ve hashed that out here already, but that’s another important indicator of things.

    Another example of real progress would be having the ward or stake Relief Society President be a part of decisions like this. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t be a part of determining the topics that the sisters in the Relief Society will teach and learn.

  8. Melissa on February 1, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    PS. Kaimi, I’m surprised at you. Are you really still calling Elder’s Quorum meeting “Priesthood?” “Priesthood” is not a class you attend on Sunday. It is the Holy Priesthood, after the order of the Son of God! The power by which the worlds are and were created . . .an everlasting principle without beginning of days or end of years . . .the authority to act in the name of God . . .

    This shorthand way of speaking in the church—-”I’m late for priesthood,” “I’m teaching priesthood” “our priesthood lesson . . . . ” really trivializes the Priesthood and should be avoided IMHO.

    (I know it’s not just you, Kaimi!).

    M.

  9. Bonjo on February 1, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    I disagree that there are only four potential talks from which to choose. Recently in our ward the assigned address came from the General Young Women’s meeting, the proceedings of which appear in the Conference Report once a year (alternated with the General R.S. broadcast).

  10. Kaimi Wenger on February 1, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    Thanks for comments, all.

    Melissa,

    I agree that this is not evidence of “great progress.” I said as much in the original post, noting that “it’s not a big thing, really.” But it is a positive signal, I think. A while ago, Caroline of Exponent posted about ways that they church could be made more accessible to women, and one of the items on her list was to have some lessons be taught from womens’ talks or writings. Personally, I like to include a statement from a woman when I give a talk in Sacrament Meeting. It’s a little thing, but most steps are incremental.

    Similarly, this is an incremental move, at best — but it’s in the right direction.

    (And I promise to repent of my careless use of the term Priesthood :) ).

    Bonjo,

    Good point.

    Mel,

    Another good, incremental step.

    Costanza,

    “What does it say about us that we (and I include myself in this) are not only very happy, but also apparently surprised by the inclusion of a talk by a woman?”

    It says, I think, that many more such incremental steps lie in the future before this kind of news really ceases to be a pleasant surprise.

  11. claire on February 2, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Kaimi, I tried last year to find some supplementary talks or at least quotes from women’s GC talks that went along with the talks selected by our SP for 4th Sunday lessons that I could pass to our 4th Sunday teacher (I was the RS Pres. at that time) and it was pretty slim pickin’s, since most of the topics were fairly doctrinal and most women’s GC talks aren’t. It was a pretty depressing exercise.

  12. Sterling on February 4, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    Has anyone created a database of talks and writings by women in the General Relief Society Presidency, General Young Womens Presidency, and the General Primary Presidency? Would the Gospel Library at lds.org be the place to start when finding these works?

  13. DD on February 5, 2007 at 1:46 am

    Here’s what I thought was real progress–last Mother’s Day, our Bishop spoke in Sacrament meeting on how wonderful mothers are, especially our Mother in Heaven. I was silently cheering the whole talk. He got released the next week, (coincidence?) and we really miss him.
    (I’m so backwards, I didn’t even know you were supposed to call it “Elder’s Quroum meeting” and not “Priesthood,” so thanks for posting that correction, Melissa.)

  14. Stephen Hardy on February 5, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Speaking of making progress (a thread-jack I\’m afraid,) I had a Stake President who used the stake auxillary presidents in the High Council speaking rotation. So the Stake RS President, Primary President, and YW President (among others) travelled from ward to ward each month. He invited all of the speakers to the High Council meeting each month when the theme/topic was presented. So each of these speakers brought \”the love of the Stake President, and his message.\”

    I haven\’t seen or even heard of this anywhere else. This was about 15 years ago.

  15. DavidH on February 5, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    Our stake auxiliary presidents have been on the high council “speaking circuit” for many years. They are given the choice whether to speak about a high council topic or about a topic of his/her choosing.

  16. Kaimi Wenger on February 5, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    Stephen, David,

    I like it. Hopefully it’s an idea that catches on elsewhere.

  17. Alison Moore Smith on February 5, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Kaimi, I appreciate this post–perhaps mostly because you noticed the disparity. As Melissa already pointed out, there simply are far fewer women’s talks to choose from in any given conference issue. Not to mention the fact that a female auxiliary leader’s quote doesn’t carry the same weight as those by the 12 or 70–because she is not considered “General Authorities.”

    Hey, I’m still trying to convince my bishopric that women can give opening prayers in Sacrament Meeting. Sheesh. (Although in the same breath I have to defend my bishop as being one of the most wonderful and inspired leaders I have known. Perhaps I can chill a bit on this technicality…)

    As Kaimi said, these little things CAN make a difference. In my case, it’s the host of little things that make a big obstacle in my path. Things like:

    (1) When sustaining leaders in ward conference, every single male office (including Deacon’s Quorum presidencies) are sustained before any female officers. (This has been true in every state I have lived in.)

    (2) In the conference issues, the General RS Meeting and General YW Meeting are always at the BACK of the Ensign, even though they occur BEFORE conference. The Priesthood Session appears in the Ensign as it occurred chronologically.

    (3) Why don’t wives of mission presidents get a calling and a write-up in the Church News? Do they not drop their lives, move around the world, and serve 24/7 for three years?

    (4) The church website has a new section that gives short, biographical information about each of the modern-day prophets. Few (four?) of these even mention the prophets’ wife or wives at all, and even those are only in passing. Does President Hinckley really feel that his employment as executive secretary of the Church Radio was more significant than his marriage to Marjorie? The former is noted, the latter is not. (And we all know that the obedient, polygamous wives are expunged from existence in the new manuals.)

    (5) The church sponsors scout troops throughout the US. Scouts has a huge infrastructure and years of organization and leadership. They have well-funded groups with all sorts of benefits and activities. They generally have campouts monthly. The program provides a variety of interests, activities, talents, etc. The boys earn rewards at every step and at every accomplishment along the way. They are allowed to raise funds repeatedly throughout the year among all members.

    The woman have a single program run by the church alone. The goals are all to be set within the context of the spiritual values. They can have ONE fund-raiser for one camp. (In most wards I have been in, any other “sleepover” events have been disallowed–no matter how much the girls enjoy them.) At the culmination of all their years/hours of goals and projects, they received one necklace as a reward.

    (6) The younger boys have scouting weekly with all the benefits listed above. Fun activities, uniforms, badges, rewards, campouts, events. The younger girls have bi-weekly Activity Days that are to focus on the spiritual Faith in God program. The reward for completing four years of work is a certificate. (The boys can achieve this award as well.)

    (7) I actually (honest!) had a bishopric member (a man in his THIRTIES) who would reprimand those who would say “Relief Society and Priesthood” (notwithstanding the apparent inappropriateness of using the term “priesthood” thusly) or “Young Women and Young Men” because he felt it degrading to name the women’s organization before the men’s.

    Add the other little things like men giving the final talk in order to correct the female speaker’s doctrinal inaccuracies, decisions made on behalf of women without consultation, treating women’s concerns as emotional instability, men’s basketball groups (formal or not) overriding any scheduled use of the cultural hall, etc., and sometimes it’s troubling to me.

    Well, now that I’ve had my morning purge, I’m off to play Blokus with my six-year-old and run on the treadmill. Add some hot cocoa and I’ll be back to my usual perky self in no time.

  18. Caroline on February 6, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Great list, Alison. I feel much the same.

    Claire, whenever I talk or teach, I make it a point to quote women just as often as I quote men. Because there are relatively few women’s GC talks, and because some can lack meat, I find it more helpful to find quotes in books written by Chieko Okazaki or Sherri Dew, among others.

    Kaimi,
    This is a small, but good step forward. I’d be thrilled if my ward assigned a woman’s talk for the 4th Sunday lesson. I’ve already emailed my bishop that list of things a given leader could do to make the ward more friendly to women. Maybe I’ll send another email and prod him a bit more on choosing a talk by a woman.

  19. claire on February 6, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Caroline, perhaps I should look into that. I am not generally one to purchase those type of books, but the lack of material to use to balance might be a good reason to consider it. However, it opens up all sorts of questions in my mind of what material is “appropriate” to use in lessons. I need to be more prayerful I suppose. Thanks for the suggestion.

  20. Kaimi Wenger on February 7, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Alison,

    Great list. I think that overall, there are lots of little things that could make women have a better experience in the church, even without earth-shattering changes in doctrine or policy.

    Caroline,

    I try to do the same, and I agree that it’s not always easy to find material. Perhaps someone (hint, hint) should put together some resources. :)