Discourses given by Latter-day Saint women over the past 185 years are now available in a new book by Church Historian’s Press, an imprint of the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “At the Pulpit,” authored by Church historians Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook, showcases more than 50 speeches given by Mormon women since the founding of the Church.
“We have selected a couple of talks from every decade from 1831 to 2016,” Reeder elaborated. “As early as Emma Smith, as early as Lucy Mack Smith as she led the Saints from Colesville, New York, to Kirtland, Ohio, to Elizabeth Ann Whitney in Kirtland, to Eliza R. Snow traveling throughout the Utah Territory. These women had something to say.”
Get your copy of “At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women” here.
“The 54 discourses in this book show us a lot of the combined wisdom through the decades of Church history that comes from our strongest female voices, their great theological thinking, their insights,” said Holbrook. “It was so important for us to bring in international voices.”
“We also have talks from women around the world, from Judy Brummer in South Africa and from Gladys Sitati from West Africa,” said Reeder.
Each speech includes an introduction and annotation that provides additional context and history. Many of the speeches had never been published, especially those from the early years of Church history.
“It wasn’t until March of 1842 when the Relief Society was organized in Nauvoo, Illinois, giving women a location where they could expound and exhort not only each other but all members of the Church,” shared Reeder.
“We found every talk we could for every decade of women’s talks that had been recorded,” said Holbrook. “We really prayed for direction about which talks belonged in the book.”
“It’s been a thrill for me to discover these discourses and the wisdom they contain,” said Holbrook. “I’m thrilled that the book is now in book form so that others can have the same discovery, enrichment that I’ve experienced while writing the book.”
“These are Mormon women talking about their own understanding of faith and in their own voices,” she said. “Mormons are record keepers. We just have more women’s voices than are often available in other traditions.”
Those familiar with Latter-day Saint women leaders will recognize and appreciate important talks given in recent decades by contemporary leaders such as Belle S. Spafford, Ardeth G. Kapp, Elaine L. Jack, Chieko N. Okazaki, Julie B. Beck, Bonnie D. Parkin, Sheri L. Dew, Virginia H. Pearce and current general Relief Society president Linda K. Burton.
Reeder expounded, “We dug through old, dusty Relief Society minute books; we read through old newspapers and magazines and journals. We read through conference reports and BYU Women’s Conference, and we searched online. We left no stone unturned finding talks by Mormon women [historians] had never heard of before.” Two early Church publications include the Millennial Star and the Women’s Exponent.
“I think my favorite story is the discovery of Eleanor Georgianna Jones,” said Reeder. “She gave a talk in the Salt Lake City 11th Ward Young Women, which was then published in the Women’s Exponent.” They searched through census records to find out more about her.
“One of the important contributions this volume makes is to increase the visibility, the value and the voice of Latter‑day Saint women,” said Holbrook. “The women in these pages can bring to life our understanding of gospel concepts in new ways.”
“Elvira Barney spoke at the Utah Women’s Suffrage Association in 1889,” cited Reeder. “She demonstrated that Mormon women had important things to contribute to their community as well as to the Church.”
“Church history is not complete without these histories of how women have contributed to building the kingdom of God and living the gospel,” said Holbrook.
Bonus chapters of the book will be available free online and with the electronic version of the publication. The book is currently available for purchase here.