I recently received an advance copy of “At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourse by Latter-day Saint Women,” which officially launches today (February 27I recently received an advance copy of “At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourse by Latter-day Saint Women,” which officially launches today (February 27, 2017). Edited by Kate Holbrook and Jenny Reeder and published by the Church Historian’s Press, “At the Pulpit” is a compendium of women’s stories and their voices, as they have preached, prayed, exhorted, and taught Latter-day Saint women and men over the last 185 years.
At the Pulpit Details: Editors: Kate Holbrook and Jenny Reeder Publisher: Church Historian’s Press Outline: 452 total pages 54 Sermons by 51 women (2 by Lucy Mack Smith, 3 by Eliza R. Snow) ~340 pages of women’s biographies and sermons ~110 pages of context, notes, index, etc. 27 illustrations
The sermons range in length from a paragraph to several pages, and are preceded by a short biography of the speaker. Women who might be familiar to many Latter-day Saints, including Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow, Barbara Smith, and Chieko Okazaki are featured. The book also features women who might be less familiar, including Sarah M. Kimball, who attended at least one session of the School of the Prophets and the Hebrew School in Kirtland (90), Rachel H. Leathem, one of the first single female missionaries, who served in Colorado at the turn of the 20th century (103), and Marianne Clark Sharp (156), who served for thirty years in the General Relief Society Presidency at the same time her father, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., was serving in the First Presidency. She oversaw curriculum; her father played a large role in shaping curriculum and changing the institutional relationship between the Relief Society and the Priesthood. This volume does not go into their relationship or what that dynamic might have been like—I have never made that connection before, and I can imagine it made for some interesting family dinner discussions.
This book will appeal to casual readers and scholars alike; it can be read in short snippets, or as an entire work. It is also a powerful reference book, filled with stories of and words by vibrant, smart, spiritual women. This volume is valuable to women and men looking to incorporate women’s voices into lessons and sermons of their own, those who want to learn more about the history of the LDS Church, and scholars pursuing their own research.
I found the biographical sketches and end notes just as important, if not more so, than the sermons themselves. They provide context and information that informs the broader Latter-day Saint story. Two accounts in particular left me wanting to learn more about the women mentioned. Phoebe M. Angell, a midwife and nurse, gave a speech at the Female Council of Health meeting at the Old Adobe Tabernacle on Temple Square in 1852, and Elvira S. Barney’s sermon is a prewritten prayer that she shared at the Utah Woman Suffrage Association meeting at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in 1889. I know little about either of these women or organizations, and appreciate being introduced to them.
Why I Would Recommend a Friend Take a Look The book is well organized, well thought out, and insightful. The photos are carefully chosen, and the “extras,” including an exhaustive list of women who have spoken at LDS General Conference, for example, are helpful in telling a story. Two women, Belle Spafford and Barbara Smith, spoke at General Conference between 1969 and 1979. By my count, in the last 10 years, 23 women have spoken in conference—significant when measured against women speaking in the past, and a tiny fraction of the number of men who have spoken in the last 10 years at the same venue.
I Wish the Book Included Most, but not all, of the women included in this work are from the United States—there are a few that were born and/or live(d) outside of the United States, but the vast majority of the voices are American voices. The editors acknowledge this in the beginning, and suggest that there is much more work to be done.
On a Personal Note On a personal note, I’ve read a pretty significant amount of Mormon women’s history over the last 15 years. I expected to feel a kinship with some of the early Mormon women listed, including Zina D.H. Young, Mattie Horne Tingey, and Amy Brown Lyman. I didn’t expect to learn as much or feel a kinship with the words of leaders in my lifetime. I appreciate the more nuanced perspective this volume provided, and I hope to see more work of this import and caliber from the Church Historian’s Press. ...more
At this point, Maisie is kind of like an old friend. I have read all of the books out of order, which is sometimes jarring, but kind of fun. I neededAt this point, Maisie is kind of like an old friend. I have read all of the books out of order, which is sometimes jarring, but kind of fun. I needed something quick and enjoyable, and this fit the bill. ...more