Jan Tolman is a wife, mother of six, and grandmother of seven. She is a writer, as well as speaker, on the history of the Relief Society at www.ldswomenofgod.com. Several articles, written by her on Relief Society history, have been published in the Deseret News. She has taught Institute and served as a docent at the Church History Museum. She urges everyone to learn something new about Church History, and especially about the incredible women of LDS faith.
This is a General Conference Odyssey post for the Sunday morning Welfare session of October 1975.
General Conference has changed much over the years. One such change has been the Welfare session, which used to be held in the early hours of Sunday morning, before the actual Sunday morning session. It was typically attended by both male and female leadership where temporal issues were addressed. This session was discontinued in the 1980s.
But because this week we are talking about welfare, I thought I would run through the fascinating history of this spiritual–though temporal–law. It was during the years of World War I, the Depression, and World War II that the church seriously focused on the welfare needs of its people. The Relief Society played an important role in its development.
This month, our Relief Society Visiting Teaching message has been on the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. Taking Sis. Burton’s challenge, I read and studied it and was really happy to learn some wonderful things.
Simply put, the oath and covenant of the priesthood (found in D&C 84:33-44) is a two-way promise; that when ALL faithful members willingly receive the priesthood (and all its responsibilities) Heavenly Father will, in turn, give us ALL that He hath. Read on to discover how this involves women.
In closing the 1975 General Conference, Pres. Spencer W. Kimball stated some personal goals that he would go home to pursue:
“While sitting here, I have made up my mind that when I go home from this conference this night there are many, many areas in my life that I can perfect. I have made a mental list of them, and I expect to go to work as soon as we get through with conference.”
We too have recently concluded another wonderful conference where so many thoughts and ideas have run through our heads. Maybe you think, as I do, that hope comes from having a desire for personal improvement? First of all, I am humbled to hear a prophet say he has his own work to improve, and second, I am eager to learn so that I also might overcome my weaknesses in order to be a stronger servant of the Lord’s. That is where my hope is, that I can work toward being useful to the Lord as I work through my weaknesses.
In fact, that’s why I enjoy this General Conference Odyssey so much. What our prophets said 40, 150, 2000, 3500 years ago is always going to be self-improving and worth pondering. The Plan, set by our Heavenly Father, was set in motion to make us better people in order to fulfill the purposes of our creation. We work toward obedience and Jesus Christ carries us home; it’s that simple.
Some of the highlights of the 2017 conference reminded me that I need to practice certain behavior better. Sis. Bonnie H. Cordon quoted Amy Wright, who discovered a strange paradox. Continue reading →
This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey group. Each week we take a session of conference and share our thoughts and impressions about one or all of the talks given. It’s called Odyssey, because we started with 1971, and hope to continue until the present day (roughly 15 years in the future, by the time we catch up). Every Tuesday morning watch for a new General Conference Odyssey post here at Mormon Women Stand. This post covers the Sunday morning session of the October 1975 General Conference.
Elder Perry explained how, along with several national religious leaders, he was invited to assist in planning the United States of America’s Bicentennial celebration. Gathering with his committee, all being religious leaders, he was alarmed when many of them were hesitant to declare this nation under God, as to not offend the atheists. They claimed, “After all, the atheist has a right to his belief, also.” In his talk, he shared with us his feelings:
“Of course, I completely agree that all men must have their right of free agency but I argued vigorously against locking up our own firm convictions just because they could not be accepted by everyone. The more we argued, the more the opposition united against us. We were not able to get ours or any other declaration out of committee.”
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:Continue reading →
It’s true! Celebrating our Relief Society’s 175 years renews our conviction. We are all daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. As Julie B. Beck said, the Lord is counting on His daughters to
“… do our part as women under the Lord’s plan, we must stand strong and immovable in faith, strong and immovable in family, and strong and immovable in relief. We must excel in these three important areas which set us apart as the Lord’s disciples. Through Relief Society we practice being disciples of Christ. We learn what He would have us learn, we do what He would have us do, and we become what He would have us become. When we gather with this focus, the work of Relief Society is relevant whatever your circumstance—whether you are 18 or 88, single or married, have children or not, or whether you live in Bountiful, Utah, or Bangalore, India.” 
We are God’s Female Army. So,
Russell M. Nelson really means that “the kingdom of God is not … complete without women who make sacred covenants and then keep them. 
Sheri Dew really feels that by “unleash[ing] the full influence of covenant-keeping women, the kingdom of God would change overnight.” 
Jeffrey R. Holland really believes that “something is going to be asked of this dispensation that’s never been asked before.” 
Relief Society sisters need to step it up. As Sister Dew put it eighteen years ago,
“This is a call to arms, it’s a call to action, a call to arise. A call to arm ourselves with power and with righteousness. A call to rely on the arm of the Lord rather than the arm of flesh. A call to ‘arise and shine forth, that [our] light may be a standard for the nations’ (D&C 115:5). A call to live as women of God so that we and our families may return safely home.” 
Sisters, our power comes from priesthood power. Our early sisters understood it, lived it, and set the standard for it. Now, it’s our turn to understand how the priesthood works through us. Consider these suggestions made by President Linda K. Burton:
“Two sections have been especially revelatory to me. I recommend them to you for your careful and prayerful consideration. First, the oath and covenant of the priesthood, which can be found in D&C 84:33–40. I invite you to memorize those eight verses, sisters. By doing so, I promise you that the Holy Ghost will expand your priesthood understanding and inspire and uplift you in wonderful ways.
Secondly, I would invite you to ponder Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46 [the doctrine of the priesthood]. Look for the principles in these verses that govern the righteous exercise of priesthood power. Look for warnings and promises from the Lord, and apply them to yourself.” 
Women have the power to do–what?–you ask? Elder David A. Bednar says we all have the power to act. We have the power to do whatever is necessary to bring ourselves to the feet of our Savior. It doesn’t work the other way around–Jesus may look in on us from time to time, but He is really waiting for us to come unto Him. Yes, taking that walk, lifting that finger, moving our lips, and even plucking that fruit off the tree.
When it comes to Relief Society, we sisters can do a whole lot more than what we’re doing. We have a destiny that is greater than any sharp-tongued detractor can wield. We have God on our side because we have stepped up to stand next to Him. Let me show you what I mean.
Women Have the Power to Act in Our Communities
Jesus Christ needs women who will stand up for moral values and for truth. Too often we’ll hear only the voices who whine and complain while those of us who have testimonies cower in the corner. Not anymore! Elder Bednar points out, “We often testify of what we know to be true, but perhaps the more relevant question for each of us is whether we believe what we know.”(1) If we believe it, we can’t be afraid to show it in our communities, in the blog world, or whenever truth is challenged.
That means we have to study things out and be ready to share the truth we have studied and are prepared to testify of. As women in the gospel, we need to be “courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world. … Attacks against the Church, its doctrine, and our way of life are going to increase. Because of this, we need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation.” (2)Continue reading →
I was sitting in Relief Society when the teacher asked us a fairly simple question: Why are we special? A few generic answers were given, but one of those generic answers (which we’ve heard a million times) suddenly didn’t sit well with me. The answer given was: Because we have the gospel.
I continued to sit quietly in class, but suddenly my mind was on fire. I had complete clarity with new understanding. We are NOT special because we have the gospel. EVERYONE is special because they exist on this earth. The reason why we are special is because we have a SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY placed upon us to live, share, and defend the gospel of Jesus Christ. Love will be our catalyst, and if we learn to watch, we can have wonderful opportunities.
We are all anxiously awaiting what the Brethren will tell us this weekend, but I have the great fortune of filling my heart and mind already with their words. We should always be most concerned with the latest messages our leaders give us, but we cannot forget the great messages we have heard over the years. They are still of great value and most definitely filled with the spirit of edification, warning, and love. I have taken on the challenge to read and write about General Conferences of the past. As a writer for the General Conference Odyssey, I am overwhelmed with what the Brethren have been telling us–for years.
The General Conference Odyssey is a group of writers who write, each week, on a past session of conference, starting with April 1971. At this point, we have reached the Friday morning session of April 1974. And I repeat, I am overwhelmed with the doctrine, advice, warnings, love, and spirit of those early talks.Continue reading →
Families are under attack like never before. But we can learn how to fortify our families, in the Lord’s way with help from the doctrine of the Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Did you know:
“1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” [Link]
“Males exposed to domestic violence as children are more likely to engage in domestic violence as adults, and females are more likely to be victims as adults.”[Link]
“Couples who report feeling high levels of financial strain are three and a half times more likely to be involved in domestic violence compared to couples who report feeling low levels of financial strain.” [Link]
We are not left to figure life out on our own. Understanding church doctrine will help us to fortify our families in the Lord’s way, starting all the way back with Adam and Eve.