I know murder and mayhem seems to be business as usual around here, but occasionally I do tackle serious books. The shock! The horror! When my husband saw me reading At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-Day Saint Women—highlighters in hand—I think he shed a real tear at this so-obvious sign of my literary (and spiritual) maturation! Although I find myself consuming books mainly as a form of entertainment (hence the mystery/thrillers), like any religious person, I enjoy reading things which inspire me, uplift me, and strengthen my faith. Dense, heavy tomes rarely keep my attention, so I prefer this kind of literature to be on the lighter side. While I believe At the Pulpit qualifies as such, it is by no means fluffy or insignificant. In fact, it's an incredible collection of words by LDS sisters that provides a penetrating peek at the kind of smart, passionate, devoted women who have always filled the Church with their faith, fortitude, and fidelity.
Edited by Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook—both historians with the LDS Church History Department—the book includes 54 discourses (selections come from talks, meeting notes, informal testimonies, songs, etc.) that were given by LDS women between 1831 and 2016. Presented in chronological order, each installment includes a biographical sketch of its speaker as well as a note about the historical context in which the discourse was given. Photographs also accompany some of the selections. Together, these articles provide a fascinating timeline of the evolution of the Church's Relief Society program while also offering proof of the vital role women always have—and always will—play, not just in that organization, but also in every one that exists within the Church. Anyone who believes women and their contributions are not appreciated in the LDS Church needs to read this book.
Probably my favorite part of studying At the Pulpit involved discovering and re-discovering the amazing women who've been part of the Church since its very beginning. Emma Hale Smith's vision was extraordinary. Eliza R. Snow's practical pioneer wisdom rang out loud and clear every time she spoke. Alice S. Smith's simple testimony of visiting teaching struck a chord. I wept over the conversion story of Irina Kratzer, a Siberian convert. I laughed at the "cheekiness" of Judy Brummer, a South African who was instrumental in bringing the Gospel to the Xhosa people. Elaine Jack helped me to "Get a Life." Jutta B. Busche reminded me never to feel inferior, remembering always that I am a daughter of God. Sheri L. Dew made me laugh over inaccurate addition and bad hair days at the same time she taught me valuable lessons about listening to the Holy Ghost. And Elsie Talmage Brandley—whom I'd never heard of before—blew me away with a talk about the "The Religious Crisis of Today." It couldn't have been more timely, even though it was written in 1934!
Reeder and Hobrook make a point of including as much variety as they can in these discourses and truly, it's remarkable, how different are these women. Some hail from the United States, some from Africa, some from Latin America, and beyond. Some are single, some are married, some are plural wives, some are widows. Some are mothers, some are grandmothers, some are favorite aunts. Some are teachers, some are poets, some are social workers, some are authors, some are businesswomen. What do they have in common? All are sisters. All are women of God. All are devoted to their faith, their families, their nations, their neighborhoods, their fellowman (and woman). All promote what is good, what is Christ-like, what is right.
When I received At the Pulpit for review, I started reading 1-3 selections from it every night along with my scripture study. That nightly devotional sustained me. It was inspirational and awe-inspiring. I'm anxiously awaiting volume 2 in the series (which, as far as I know, is only wishful thinking on my part) so I can continue what has been, for me, a transforming experience. Bottom line: I love this book and highly recommend it to anyone. Anyone at all.
For more information, please visit the book's website, where you can read about At the Pulpit and enjoy a number of the published discourses, as well as several bonus selections, for free. The book can be purchased through the Distribution Center, as well as at Amazon, Deseret Book, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.
(Readalikes: Um, I can't think of anything. Can you?)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-Day Saint Women from the generous folks at the LDS Church History Department. Thank you!