I had an opportunity to visit with Kate Holbrook and Jenny Reeder, the two editors of At the Pulpit. It was also my privilege to attend a formal reception in the Relief Society building where Virginia Pearce, Gladys Sitati, Elaine Jack, and Jutta Busche (whose talks are included in the book) spoke to us. There are 54 faithful voices in this new publication.
After reading the talks from this book, and listening to these women, a thought came to me that feels true:
Every one of us struggles with pain, disappointment, and suffering. But the purpose of life is how we get through it all. When we read how others succeeded–WITH THEIR TESTIMONIES INTACT–we march on, yearning to celebrate with them at the end of the path. Who knows that there isn’t a band of women beyond the veil offering help from heaven, inspiring these historians to find their stories, and offering us the strength they gained so that we too can be strengthened?
One of the questions I asked Jenny Reeder was what are some of the overall important messages of the book. She suggests four:
- The charge given to Emma Smith in D&C 25 to expound scripture and exhort the church is a charge given to all of us. And it remains in effect today.
- The talks from the nineteenth century are a little different than the later ones—more extemporaneous. As a result, the women talk about topics that are extremely personal and real in their lives. Understanding their history/biography shows how powerful their words are.
- Which leads to the idea that we ALL have experience and messages. We all need to be expounders and exhorters.
- Women have contributed and continue to contribute. We have so much to learn from each other, as diverse as our experiences and backgrounds are. We share a common base.
Kate Holbrook added that from the onset, they were looking for talks that:
- Had some “theological analysis” to them; were doctrinally based, and spiritually inspiring.
- Made you feel, after you read it, that you wanted to share with your mom.
The title was carefully chosen. Holbrook said, “We think the ‘At’ is important. It ‘at once’ conveys the immediacy of the women expressing themselves in front of congregations.” Again, it almost feels these women are speaking extemporaneously to each one of us what they hold dearest: their testimonies. Their words speak truth from the heart because their experiences have shown them that worshiping Jesus Christ is worth every sacrifice, every step toward obedience, and every leap of faith.
A question was asked, at the reception, that challenged the guest speakers suggesting that the gospel, scriptures, and conferences always seem to emphasize the men. Where have the women been? This aggressive question was answered in (what I thought) the sweetest and truest way by Sis. Sitati. She said,
“A prophet once said that there are things that God has given women to do, most of which are not known by many. If it was, Satan would take advantage of that and destroy the Plan of Heavenly Father. Because of that, I don’t think about it when I read the scriptures. I just know that Heavenly Father has a plan for me. If I have an opportunity to help someone else fulfill that plan, that together we can walk back to our Heavenly Father, I know we will find Heavenly Mother there. I know that Heavenly Father has a plan for each one of us, and God’s plan is a good plan.”
Doesn’t that sound like women looking after one another? Isn’t it possible that beyond the veil our sisters are our best cheerleaders? They must be thrilled that their words are available to us. Truly, their testimonies can strengthen ours. It reminds me of when Elisha told his servant, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6: 16).
We can’t see beyond the veil, but we certainly can feel beyond the veil, if we are attuned. This is a book–one of a growing number–that supports us and bears the testimony of all those faithful sisters who lived before us.
I think we are attracted to these women because they have maintained their testimonies of the Living God while overcoming pain and hardship. At the Pulpit is about women who overcame their pain. They didn’t worry about their standing in the world, they only worried about their standing with God. And so must we.
Because these books are not in our curriculum, both men and women need to find creative ways to insert them in lessons, activities, FHEs, bedtime stories, personal reading lists, etc. I testify that we will find needed strength from them as we soldier on the front lines of this earthly war. The testimonies shared in these books can help us keep all of our testimonies intact.
At the Pulpit can be found online here
The First Fifty years of Relief Society can be found online here
Daughters in My Kingdom can be found online here
The Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book can be found online here
Stay tuned for more books ………