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New Perspectives: Women in Church History

"Is this God's doing? Or is this human's doing?" Francine Bennion. Text set on background of scriptures

Photo courtesy of LDS Media Library

Women throughout the Church’s history have shared new perspectives that we can benefit from today.

When we explore the unique voices of women throughout history, we can increase our understanding and change our perceptions. What happens when this refreshing outlook is explored in the context of Church history?

In the podcast “Women at the Latter-day Saint pulpit, with Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook,” Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook of the Church History Department detail their efforts in compiling their new book, At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women. The podcast details their insights after studying discourses given by women since the Restoration of the Church in 1830: from magazine articles, notes from various Relief Society meetings, and even journal entries, each of these discourses by women in Church history shares something valuable with the world.

For example, Francine Bennion’s talk at a 1986 BYU Women’s Conference is one such discourse. In her address, Bennion explores the Bible story of Jephthah, a story that can be very problematic. The Bible details that Jephthah, a man of God, vowed to the Lord after an important war victory that he would sacrifice whatever he saw first when he returned from the war. Upon his arrival home, Jephthah first saw his precious daughter. Having already made his vow to God, Jephthah believed that God had placed his daughter there purposefully, and she was sacrificed soon after.

A typical reader sees this story as an example of the cruelty of the God of the Old Testament. However, Bennion pushes beyond this mindset to ask questions that we can learn from as followers of God today: “Is this God’s doing? Or is this human’s doing?” Holbrook says that Bennion’s perspective makes this previously troubling story “more meaningful and useful” than any explanation of Jephthah that she has ever come across.

Reeder hopes that these new perspectives will help all people see “that they have something important to say,” just like the women whose words they are reading.

Discover more of Reeder’s and Holbrook’s insights by listening to the podcast “Women at the Latter-day Saint pulpit, with Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook.” Also see information about the book At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women, published by The Church Historian’s Press.

Source: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

—Heather Randall, Mormon Insights 

feature image courtesy of lds media library

Find more insights

Read Reeder and Holbrook’s book, At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women.

Watch Sister Camilla E. Kimball deliver President Spencer W. Kimball’s discourse “The Role of Righteous Women” in a General Women’s Meeting held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in 1979.

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One Comment

  1. Mormon Insights

    I love that women are so honored in this church. I’m excited to read this book. I wouldn’t have known about it without the help of Mormon Insights!

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