The ethnic and international scope, the depth and variety and the spiritual and mental sharpness of LDS women since the restoration of the gospel is on full display in "At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women," edited by Jennifer Reed and Kate Holbrook and published by the Church Historian's Press. Within its pages are transcendent gems worth reading for anyone intent on better understanding women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the doctrine of Jesus Christ.
Here is a sampling from the book.
• In May 1831, Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, chided members of the fledgling church on the banks of Lake Erie at Buffalo, New York. “Where is your faith? Where is your confidence in God? How can you expect the Lord to prosper you when you are continually murmuring against him?” After finishing, Lucy asked fellow Saints to join their faith to her heartfelt prayer. The ice floes blocking her group’s boat opened and they proceeded on their journey.
• Emma Smith, wife of the prophet Joseph Smith and president of the Nauvoo Relief Society, advised sisters at its inception in May 1842 to “walk in the paths of virtue,” and as we do, “we are going to do something extraordinary.” Indeed they did, and that pattern continues today.
• British actress Elicia A. Grist was disinherited by her parents after joining the church. In an article in the 1861 Liverpool Millennial Star, she noted the “weighty responsibilities resting upon those of us that are mothers — namely, the proper training and instructing of our children instill(ing) into their young minds the principles of the church.”
• An 1868 article in the Deseret News by Eliza R. Snow, general president of the Relief Society, explained, “This is an organization that cannot exist without the priesthood, from the fact that it derives all its authority and influence from that source.”
In 1869 while speaking to the 17th Ward Relief Society, she built on those thoughts: “This organization is a portion of the holy priesthood.” She further encouraged women in 1872 “to expand (your) priorities beyond domestic routines to also include broader issues of social reform, home manufacture and intellectual and spiritual discussion.”
• At an 1889 gathering of the Utah chapter of the National Woman Suffrage Association at Assembly Hall on Temple Square, Elvira S. Barney focused the opening prayer on charity. vii] "We pray for the weak, we pray for the afflicted, and we pray for the strong, that they may be willing to help carry the burdens of the weak.”
• Mattie Horne Tingey addressed the World’s Congress of Representative Women in Chicago in 1893, courageously announcing God’s standard that women “become pure, strong, intelligent wives and mothers, that their children may begin life upon this earth with strong, healthful bodies; bright, active minds free from inherited disease and vice. And it is woman’s right — nay her duty — to demand from the husband and father the same purity of life and character that she herself maintains and that he demands for her. For a man is under as great condemnation in the sight of God for unchastity and an unholy life as is woman.”
• At the 1895 National Council of Women in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the Chicago World's Fair, Sarah M. Kimball spoke on a “topic of the highest benefit to womankind that capacity of mind in which woman is preeminenty fitted to excel the sense of spiritual understanding.” She promised, “They that seek, by faith and earnest prayer, find the light. They that knock with study and faith’s assurance have the narrow way opened to them and are received into communion with the Infinite Father and Mother.”
• In 1924, Jennie Brimhall Knight, a missionary who, while serving, spoke extensively throughout the British Isles and addressed forgiveness, quoting her father while speaking at the Relief Society general conference at the Assembly Hall. She said, “Hate hurts the hater worse than the hated,” and testified of the need to “seek and pray daily to find a way to forgive one another.”
• Lucrecia Suárez de Juárez, at the Mexico and Central America Area Conference, commended the benefits of membership in the Relief Society.
• Jutte B. Busche of Germany recalled the 1940 day her brothers forgot and left her, still tied in the woods, after “playing a war game.” Jutta said, “At the time I was only 5 and already a tomboy.”
• General Relief Society President Elaine L. Jack advised those complaining about the circumstance of their lives, “We are called to rise, not wallow. Brothers and sisters, let’s get a life.”
• Gladys Nang’oni Nassiuma Sitati, of Kenya, taught BYU Women’s Conference attendees ways to defray contention and bring peace into their homes.
• Chieko Okazaki grew up in a Buddhist family of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii. As counselor in the Relief Society general presidency she extolled “that we are truly all one in Christ Jesus (though) God has given us many gifts, much diversity and many differences.”
Treat yourself to a rich tapestry that illuminates the diversity and richness of the LDS women’s global experience, yet the doctrinal unity and joy found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.