A Tool to Make It Easier to Draw on the Wisdom of Women

In General Conference in 2015, President Russell M. Nelson stated, “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.” The following year, President Neill F. Marriott of the Young Women General Presidency taught, “The Lord’s Church needs Spirit-directed women who use their unique gifts to nurture, to speak up, and to defend gospel truth.” Women who teach! Women who speak up! I believe that one way young women — like my daughter — learn to do this is by hearing women teach and hearing women speak up. I believe that hearing women teach and speak up is also essential for men to value the spiritual authority of women.

In talks and lessons, members often use quotes from leaders of the Church to illustrate a point or lend authority to a teaching. I’ve found that in my own talk and lesson preparation, it’s easier to come up with quotes by men. I’m teaching about envy and remember that great talk by Elder Holland, or I want to make a point about using time well and remember that great quote from President Oaks. I believe that one reason for my tendency to think of quotes by men first — albeit not the only reason — is just because men speak so much more in General Conference. (Lest it seem that I’m criticizing these talks by men; I’m not. They’re wonderful! I just finished going through all the talks from the last conference, and I felt inspired by President Nelson’s closing “blessing that each of you may become happier and holier with each passing day.”)

I thought that a topical database of quotes by Latter-day Saint women would make it easier to incorporate women’s teachings into talks and lessons, so I’ve spent the last 9 months going through every conference talk by a sister from the last 12 years and organizing them on a website, Spiritual Thoughts by Women. (I’m continuing to work my way back through time.) At this point, I’ve cataloged more than 500 quotes on 80 topics. So if you’re giving a talk on personal revelation, I have more than a dozen quotes you can draw from, like President Julie B. Beck’s “The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.” Or if you’re teaching about service, I have nearly 50 quotes you can choose from, like President Bonnie L. Oscarson’s “Sometimes it’s easy to miss some of the greatest opportunities to serve others because we are distracted or because we are looking for ambitious ways to change the world and we don’t see that some of the most significant needs we can meet are within our own families, among our friends, in our wards, and in our communities.”

Of course, great talks are much greater than the sum of their quotable quotes. I thought of that today as I read President Julie B. Beck’s 2007 talk, “What Latter-day Saint Women Do Best: Stand Strong and Immovable,” which is excellent but not easy to excerpt. I encourage you to read the talks in their fullness. But sometimes what I need in the hour before I give my lesson is a great quote on prayer. Here are twelve.

Hopefully this database will make it a little bit easier to highlight the wisdom and authority of all the members of our faith community.

Happy quoting!

Update: A related resource (but which has quotes going all the way back to the beginning of the Church) is General Conference Sisters. Another resource is the Words of Women booklet put out by WAVE.

17 comments for “A Tool to Make It Easier to Draw on the Wisdom of Women

  1. Josh: Thanks so much. I just discovered GCSisters recently, well into construction of my own project. The concept is similar, and GCSisters is a wonderful resource. For some people, the format of mine (with all the topics listed on the front page) might be easier, but GCSisters currently goes further back in time. (My goal is to go to the earliest conferences, but I’m not there yet.)

    Of course, I pull out quotes that speak to me, and so my preferences will be different from those of the people that compile GCSisters. Some readers may have preferences more aligned with GCSisters; others may prefer mine.

  2. Jon Miranda, thanks for engaging. I’ve opted to delete these comments, per your own suggestion. I want to avoid this thread being focused on these issues which are quite distinct from the topic and focus of the post.

  3. As a long-time user of the WAVE Words of Wisdom booklet, and the GCSisters site, I’m saddened to see that you have spent so much time duplicating the work that women have already done for this cause. It appears as though you haven’t researched which LDS women have already been involved in this work, nor have you thought to amplify their work or support it by volunteering your research and database building skills to their projects. Not only that, once your site was built, you claim in the comments above that some may prefer your site because it’s easier. This is an example of peak ProgMo dude mansplaining: claiming to embrace the words of women without actually recognizing the work of women. It’s utterly performative and very disappointing. Had you contacted the owners of the GC sisters site, you would have found out that their database is being folded into the new Exponent II site, rolling out later this year. Too bad you didn’t invest your time and energy into helping women work on what they had already built instead of diverting and duplicating existing work.

  4. When you found the GC Sisters website, did you reach out to them to see how you could combine your efforts? I’m so curious about whether this crossed your mind, why you did/didn’t do it, and what the result of that conversation was. I see so much duplicated work done and I want to understand how we can all work more efficiently to create better output. Quotes were gathered by topic by at least one other group before GC Sisters (“Words of Wisdom” by WAVE), so it seems silly to have all of these separate resources and separate work done in silos when it’s trying to get to the same output.

  5. When I think database, I think of something that is searchable. Have you considered including a search function?

  6. The tone of Violadiva’s comment is very disappointing to me. It may even have been “utterly performative.” It is difficult for me to see it as other than condescending and accusatory womansplaining. Good grief. David didn’t even say his was easier. He said it “might be” “for some people”. He also pointed out that some may prefer GCSisters’ and that he was focused quotes that spoke to him so that the work may very well not be simply duplicative.

    Such a contrast to Susan’s making a similar implicit suggestion! I wonder if there might be a better way to make whatever useful point Violadiva may have had in mind.

  7. Wondering,
    When activism or allyship on behalf of a certain group (lds women in this case) proceeds without consulting members of that group who have been previously engaged in that work for years, or without recognizing or acknowledging their work (no backlink to GCsisters or WAVE booklet in this post) — That’s performative. It’s professing to honor the words of women while bypassing them altogether.

    Do you realize that you’re tone policing a woman who is pointing out that a man’s efforts at amplifying the words of women has problematic elements? Interesting flex, given the topic at hand.

  8. ViolaDiva, Whether it’s performative or not may depend in part on whether and when the author had knowledge of GCSisters or the WAVE booklet. All we know about that is that he discovered GCSisters after being well into his project. Yes, it would have been better if that information and a link had been in the original post.
    As to “tone policing” — that often has connotations that are wholly inapposite here. Absent those connotations, it hardly needs to be noted, as I had myself noted that I was speaking of tone. I expressed personal disappointment and personal difficulty with your first comment. Whether you choose to take that as “tone policing” with all its sometimes connotations is up to you.
    But I see in your second comment that you are quite capable of expressing your thought and criticism of the post without what I had perceived as an excessively accusatory tone. Whether I perceived it correctly is not even of much concern, as my comment went to my personal difficulty and perception. However, this might serve as an example of how to persuade others that they do not wish to be activists on behalf of a certain group and would rather be silent, and probably therefore ineffective, allies. However, I cannot judge whether there is any significant number of people who share my personal reaction. My reaction probably grows out of experience watching a powerful man browbeating women and girls I cared about while thinking he was pointing out that their comments had “problematic elements. I have a negative reaction to what I perceive as browbeating and accusatory tone whether by men toward women or by women toward men. In my experience it has always been counterproductive.
    It’s for you to consider whether the possibility of such reactions makes any difference to you in the future.

  9. My friend and I did the GCSisters website ( https://gcsisters.wordpress.com/). We stopped updating it in 2017 when I left the church, but it includes ALL of the talks from women in General conference from the beginning of church history to 2017. Feel free to use our work to complete your own faster!

  10. Violadiva and Susan: Thanks so much for your comments! I’ve updated the body of the blog post to include a link to GC Sisters. (I searched for the WAVE Booklet — which I hadn’t heard of — online but while I found the WAVE website, I didn’t find a link to the booklet. I’m happy to include a link to that if I can find it.) Fundamentally, this was a personal project, an opportunity for me to dive deep into the talks of sisters as part of my personal scripture study. So these are essentially my personal notes, which I decided to share here. But I didn’t frame it that way, and that’s on me. I did do some searching and asking around at the beginning of my project, but clearly not enough! For that I am sorry. That said, I’m not sorry to have duplicated effort, nor to have engaged in what truly was an inefficient exercise. It was an invaluable exercise for me to read each of those talks, even those that others had already cataloged. I’m so glad that GC Sisters will be folded into the Exponent II site and look forward to using that and sharing the good things I find there with others.

    Lauren: Thank you so much for your work at GC Sisters. That’s an amazing feat, going all the way back to the beginning of the Church. What a great resource!

    Descent: Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll look into it.

  11. I love this post because I was unaware of ANY resources listing LDS women’s spiritual voices in a database. Now I know of three! So I think of this as a WIN-WIN-WIN for all three websites. Any time we hear more women’s voices we are better as a church – until that time when we truly have equal voices in leadership, lessons, GC talks, etc…. Thanks to all who have contributed to these wonderful databases!

  12. There’s nothing wrong with multiple “competing” resources. Only those whose true interest was personal power, petty resentment, or just ignorance would complain about this.

    The first two reasons don’t need to be addressed. For the ignorant, I’ll give you a couple clues — awareness it’s increased by multiple voices and multiple sources. If you care about the issue, the more the better. It does not hurt the issue of advancing knowledge to have more than one encyclopedia. Multiply bakeries in the same area increase demand for bread through their creativity and increasing the quality of the product.

    Very often “markets”can increase demand for product through the continual improvement of that product through multiple outlets.

    In this case, the product is the distribution of authoritative or revelatory teaching by women. The more people engaged in that that better if you’re concerned about womens’ voices.

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