Kate Holbrook — co-editor of a newly published book featuring the voices of Latter-day Saint women — presented a lecture March 2 in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.
The new volume titled At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women, includes the words of a variety of Latter-day Saint women ranging from the well-known to the obscure, from the historical to the contemporary.
In her remarks at the Assembly Hall just days after the publication of the volume, Sister Holbrook explained that one of the questions she kept in her mind while working on the project was how to help people understand the importance of women’s words.
The answer — and the title of her lecture March 2 — came, in part, from a talk given by President Russell M. Nelson during the October 2015 general conference.
President Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told the women of the Church, “We, your brethren, need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices. The kingdom of God is not and cannot be complete without women who make sacred covenants and then keep them, women who can speak with the power and authority of God.”
Sister Holbrook shared several examples from the book of women, as described by President Nelson, “who can speak with the power and authority of God.”
Women like Belle Spafford, whose photo is featured on the cover of the book. Sister Spafford served as general Relief Society president for 29 years and on the Relief Society general board for 39 years.
Part of the passion for the project, Sister Holbrook said, was in sharing women’s stories as well as giving their words.
In her lecture, Sister Holbrook related the stories and the words of other women throughout Latter-day Saint history, from Drusilla Hendricks, an early convert to the Church who migrated West with the Saints, to Chieko Okazaki, who served as a counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and was one of the first non-Caucasian women to serve in a general auxiliary.
“When you read their words,” Sister Holbrook said, “you can feel the Spirit confirming to you the truth of what they say.”
Sister Holbrook said women must take responsibility and authority for their own lives and the good they have the potential to do in them. She encouraged women during a time of anger to use their authority to speak to be peacemakers and beacons of hope.
“We need women’s words as well as men’s words to help us deeply understand and live the gospel,” she said.
Sister Holbrook said she’s personally been changed for the better by working on this project. “I feel so much stronger knowing the women in this book,” she said. “Still when I go through the book all these new things jump out at me that I didn’t really notice before. It feels so rich and like I have years ahead of me of material to learn. This is stuff they spent lifetimes learning and so now I have all these resources for me to study in my lifetime.”
During the question-and-answer session with the audience following her address, Sister Holbrook explained that she and Jennifer Reeder, who co-edited the volume, and their research team combed through old minute books, newspapers, online recordings, magazines and other sources to find talks by women from throughout Church history.
In deciding which discourses to include, they would look at whether it had good theological analysis, if it was well-written, if it was something that individuals would want to share and finally, they made it a matter of prayer. “We prayed and felt guidance on what to include and what would be the most benefit to people.”