Author Archives: Jan Tolman

About Jan Tolman

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.

A Special Moment of Our Own

 

This is a General Conference Odyssey post.

Elder W. Grant Bangerter (Sis. Julie B. Beck’s father) spoke during this session (Saturday afternoon of October 1977) about “A Special Moment in Church History” for him. This special moment happened when it was confirmed to him that Spencer W. Kimball was indeed called of God as the prophet to lead His church.

I believe we must all have that special moment and we must all come to that same conversion.

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Wickedness is Happiness Said No One Ever

This is a General Conference Odyssey post.

 

Alma said, “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). After Jesus Christ left the Nephites and Lamanites in the land Bountiful, His spirit remained in the hearts of the people for almost 200 years (see 4 Nephi). During this time, there was no contention and all were of one heart and mind. That means the first generation of witnesses remembered throughout their lives and taught it to the next generation who remembered throughout their lives. After that, Jesus Christ’s visit must not have been taught quite so much or remembered quite so vividly.

This past summer, my husband and I had the opportunity to visit Pompeii. Everyone knows the tragic story of how the volcano covered the entire city and it lay buried and petrified for several hundred years.

What we don’t realize is that Pompeii was a well-known port city. It’s miles away from the sea now, because of the ash, but in its day this port city had a very prominent Red-Light district.

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The Essence of the Gospel is Service

This is a General Conference Odyssey post.

 

Balm of Gilead by Ann Adele Henrie

“The essence of the gospel is service.” So sayeth Sis. Bonnie L. Oscarson this past Oct. 2017 conference. She also raises these challenging questions:

  • What good does it do to save the world if we neglect the needs of those closest to us and those whom we love the most?
  • How much value is there in fixing the world if the people around us are falling apart and we don’t notice?

Challenging questions indeed! With so much turmoil in the world, sometimes it’s easier to just fall down and give up, exclaiming, “What in the world can I do?” Jesus Christ simply stated, “This is my gospel; … for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do” (3 Ne. 27:21). As we all know, Jesus Christ didn’t travel across the world to serve, do any big humanitarian service project, or juggle a hundred different obligations. His service was simple, sincere, and singular. And this is all that He asks of us. Starting in our own families.

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General Conference: Motivated to Implement and Apply

This is a General Conference Odyssey post.

 

Week after week, I sit at my computer reading and thinking about these General Conference addresses spoken long ago. I have loved reading through their messages, paying particular attention to the prophet’s words. After forty or so years, it’s easy to see prophecies fulfilled. In fact, that has become a personal joyful journey for me. So far, the prophets have always been right.

But I don’t need that kind of proof to know if what the prophet says is true. Whether it was forty years ago, or today, the spirit bears testimony to me instantly, and I am ready to respond. I feel motivated to implement and apply the principles that will lead toward assured happiness.

This week, we are covering the Welfare session of the April 1977 General Conference, where Sis. Barbara B. Smith said,

“All Church members, from kindergarten to high priests groups and all Relief Society sisters should be so plainly, accurately, and inspirationally taught that they will be motivated to implement applicable welfare principles and procedures in their personal lives and in their family and Church responsibilities.”

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Responding To Revelation

This is a General Conference Odyssey post.

 

President Spencer W. Kimball gave the closing address of the April 1977 General Conference speaking on revelation. He said,

 

“How this confused world of today needs revelation from God.”

 

Now, more than ever before, we need to listen to the voice of God that warns us, shapes us, and gathers us. Satan is doing his very best to destroy us and make us miserable like unto himself. So, it behooves us to respond well to our chosen god. My choice in responding to revelation: Obedience with pure, grateful love.

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My Heart Sings With Joy in the Healing of My Brokenness

 

This is a General Conference Odyssey post:

I’m curious if next year’s lesson schedule for Priesthood/Relief Society will include any General Conference address, or just the most recent. May I take a moment here to say what a blessing it is for me to go back and read some of these beautifully inspired talks that contain so much of the spirit, that I am instantly filled. If you, or anyone you know, needs to recharge or gain an attitude adjustment, simply go back and read some of the great conference talks that have been given to us. Personally, my heart sings with joy in the healing of my brokenness.

 

For this session of General Conference (April 1977, Sunday Morning), Boyd K. Packer gave one of the more well-known talks ever given, entitled, “The Mediator.” There was a video made of this talk, which is still worth viewing. But for my purposes, I just want to bear my own testimony.

 

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Power Beyond This World

This is a General Conference Odyssey post.

 

We live in a world where money and power are flaunted around to accomplish instant glory, selfish works, and worldly praise. President Kimball spoke of “Our Great Potential,” which shows us how minuscule man’s idea of power really is. It was a beautiful exercise for me to contemplate the powers of a God.

 

President Kimball explains that the following “ordinances and administrations that must be administered beyond this world” will be given to us when we become gods. 

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Sacrament: An Incentive to Change My Life

This post covers the April 1977 General Conference.

 

I have always struggled to focus while taking the Sacrament on Sundays. When the kids were small, pondering was an impossibility, but now that they’re grown, I still find my mind occasionally wandering at lightening speed. It’s simply too easy to be distracted. At the recent passing of my daughter, I have a renewed incentive to change my life. There is always room for improvement and I’ve decided pondering the Sacrament is a necessary place to start.

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Welfare: At The Bishop’s Door

This is a General Conference Odyssey post.

 

This week we read the Welfare session of October 1976. I’m not sure why they stopped having these sessions because it seems to me we need to discuss welfare issues more than ever, before they arrive at the bishop’s door.

 

When we lived in downtown SLC, we were surrounded by welfare problems. Right after Sacrament meeting, lot’s of people would rush to get in line at the bishop’s door. It was so overwhelming, other programs of the church kind of fell by the wayside because if you need help taking care of yourself, you certainly can’t be thinking about much else.

 

Bishop Victor L. Brown listed the six basic elements of personal and family preparedness in order of importance, in his talk:

 

  1. Literacy and education
  2. Career development
  3. Financial and resource management
  4. Home production and storage
  5. Physical health
  6. Social-emotional strength

 

I guess that old adage–If you teach a man to fish–really holds true. An educated person is more likely to find a job. And once income is coming in, anyone can learn how to take care of necessities and save for later needs. When all of that is in place, you simply feel better about yourself and life.

 

Sis. Smith’s talk touches on a subject that happens to be one of my pet peeves. She suggests topics for Relief Society homemaking mini-classes that would benefit families in their welfare needs. Back in the day, women got together and learned skills that could be used in the home to protect, bless, and secure the family. Now, it seems all we do is have parties and promote/sell the latest fads while our families are falling apart.

 

She also mentions the importance of Relief Society sisters working with the priesthood brethren as they seek to bless their ward members. Often, the bishop won’t have a specific goal he would like the ward to focus on, or offer any direction to the Relief Society president. And often, the Relief Society president doesn’t listen to him anyway, because she wants to do what the sisters all want. In either case, homes, marriages, and families are being neglected until a crisis happens–at the bishop’s door.

 

Pres. Marion G. Romney was as direct as I’ve ever heard him. He said,

“As our modern societies follow the course which led to the fall of Rome and other civilizations which succumbed to the deceptive lure of the welfare state and socialism, I think it not inappropriate for me to emphasize again the Lord’s plan for the temporal salvation of His mortal children.”

All the wars our country has fought was to gain and keep our freedoms and liberties. But sadly, all of that is being ignored as we sit back and allow “the welfare state and socialism” to encroach. The Lord’s plan can take care of us, but there is something expected of us first.

 

Pres. Spencer W. Kimball’s talk was entitled “Loving One Another,” but you know what that talk was really about? Teaching others how to work. This is the message I get from reading it:

Welfare Square
Salt Lake City

Teaching others how to work is how we love one another best. There is nothing wild or crazy about that statement. For me, it really is about love.

 

He started his talk with these words:

“I know that we did not come here to be entertained, we came here to be instructed.”

He shared how he grew up on a ten-acre farm. When they first moved there, the entire ward came to help them prepare it for cultivation. While his father was the stake president, it was known that the former stake president had an orchard he could no longer take care of. Pres. Kimball (the father) gathered his children up and took care of the harvest. Welfare service is just that, service to others.

 

Caring for elderly parents was mentioned next. Because the parents have spent years working and saving, they often have something left. A story was shared that the children of one family came along and took that money leaving their mother, destitute and on federal aid, in a rest home without a visit from any one of them.

 

Another story told was of a father complaining about all the work he had to do on the farm growing up. “Then he concluded with this statement: ‘My boys are never going to have to do that.’ And we saw his boys grow up and you couldn’t get them to do anything.”

 

The lesson:

“Idleness is of the devil, and we are not kind to our children when we become affluent and take from them their labors, their opportunities to serve and to be trained and to do things for themselves and for other.”

What would he think of our obsession with electronics today? Or our Relief Society meeting activities? Or not magnifying our callings? Or our debt? Or anything that takes us away from the work of the Lord and the building of His kingdom and His people?

 

I found this session to be extremely direct, yet loving (in spite of perhaps some guilty feelings), in its pure desire to help us fit our own desires with the Lord’s, which ultimately always comes back to blessing us ten-fold.

 

We Thank Thee, O God, For Good Teachers

General Conference Odyssey post for Oct. 1976, Sunday afternoon.

 

This session of conference has more than one talk on the role of teachers. We thank thee, O God, for good teachers who are willing to teach the true gospel of Jesus Christ by what they say, what they do, and what they themselves believe.

 

Elder Featherstone mentioned a talk given by Spencer W. Kimball, back in 1966. It was entitled “What I Hope You Will Teach My Grandchildren.” (CES Addresses to Religious Educators, July 11, 1966.) It is not available online.

 

In fact, I figured BYU must have it, so I journeyed innocently down to the library not realizing the many hurdles I would have to experience just to get what turned out to be a mere glimpse of the talk.

 

Going down there on a Saturday is not the best of ideas because there is no librarian available. The talk was in Special Collections and I needed a librarian’s signature to allow me to make a copy of the talk. Of course, by the time I got down there, it was ten minutes to 6:00 pm, which left me 10 minutes to glance at their copy. I quickly jotted down some notes. There was certainly no time to ponder and soak in his message.

 

There were other hurdles that seemed quite unnecessary. I had a passing thought that somehow Satan was barring my way. It was exasperating and frustrating and a complete waste of time and effort. Almost.

 

I persevered because I was determined to share the truth our prophet prophesied of so long ago. It made me wonder what other golden nugget speeches have been given by our leaders that are now buried and forgotten in some library.

 

Much of what I read in Pres. Kimball’s talk is not knew. We are well aware of our responsibilities to teach our children truth. Yet, it’s his eloquence and style of saying important things in a special way that comes across as strong, fearless, faithful and ever loving.

 

He mentioned preparing our missionaries well. In fact, he said if missionaries are well prepared for their missions–with strong testimonies of the gospel–any marriage problems they later encounter will “largely be solved.” That is an idea worth pondering more deeply.

 

He also said, “Teach them all the graces which will take them to Godhood.” Our world will snuff any advances toward Godhood in a heartbeat, yet this sentence urges me forward, changing my attitude enough to keep teaching.

 

Another quote I captured: “We may be bucking a strong tide, but we must teach our children that sin is sin.” This is the so-called dilemma of our day, but shouldn’t be.

Something happened this week that has made me very thoughtful on this topic of teaching. My mother has almost religiously read Time magazine week after week, year after year. For the past year or so, while settling into a care facility, she hasn’t kept up with her reading, so just the other day she showed me an issue where the cover story was about gender. The article explains how boys want to be girls and girls want to be boys. She was appalled and said I have to go home and teach my grandchildren, warning them of this danger. She thought this was a new thing we were dealing with.

 

It made me realize that in the space of 1-2 years our world has quickly kowtowed to this “new” phenomenon and acceptance. We, who understand God’s plan must fear Him more than the mockers, and teach our children that the traditional family unit is eternal in nature.

And this is the essence of what Pres. Kimball was talking about, as well as many of the speakers of this particular session. Absolute truth must speak louder than acceptance of sin.

 

Going back to Pres. Kimball’s talk, he spent some time with Paul’s words, in Ephesians. It may be worth your while to read Chapter 6 if you haven’t recently.

 

Many artists have depicted Lehi’s dream. Who knew that those walking toward The Tree were actually dressed in full armour, grasping the iron rod with both hands while walking against a hurricane blast of wind, uphill?

 

It is a good teacher who inspires our youth to put on each vital part of that armor. It is a teacher who ignites our testimonies. It is a teacher who induces us to begin–and continue–that arduous climb to The Tree.

 

Elder Featherstone quotes from Pres. Kimball’s talk with these words filled with this prophet’s special combination of love and warning:

 

“What do I wish you to teach my grandchildren and all others? Above all, I hope you will teach them faith in the living God and in his Only Begotten Son–not a superficial, intellectual kind of acceptance, but a deep spiritual inner feeling of dependence and closeness; … I hope that you will teach righteousness, pure and undefiled. I hope that if any of God’s children are out in spiritual darkness, you will come to them with a lamp and light their way; if they are out in the cold of spiritual bleakness with its frigidity penetrating their bones, you will come to them holding their hands a little way, you will walk miles and miles with them lifting them, strengthening them, encouraging them and inspiring them.”

 

While this world preaches loudly about love and tolerance, these are only half of the equation. Obedience and perseverance are the other half. A teacher teaches the law and lovingly encourages all to obey the law.

 

We thank Thee, O God, for a prophet who sees beyond this world. We thank Thee, O God, for wise parents and teachers who teach truth and testify with love. We thank Thee, O God, for Thy Son, who waits patiently, yet anxiously, for our arrival into eternal life.

 

Additional posts:

To be home again  Marilyn Nielson