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25

God Has Revealed It unto Me

Annual General Conference Outdoor Overflow Meeting

Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah

April 5, 1908


Rachel H. Leatham

Rachel H. Leatham. Circa 1906. Leatham worked as a guide at the Bureau of Information on Temple Square until 1911, when she married James Jensen. They lived in Bingham, Salt Lake City, and Sandy, Utah, where Leatham served in various auxiliary presidencies on the ward and stake level. (Photograph in family possession. Courtesy Mary Austin Ungerman.)

When returned missionary Rachel Hannah Leatham [Jensen] (1884–1979) spoke at an outdoor overflow meeting during the church’s general conference on April 5, 1908, she became the second woman ever to be included in the church’s official conference report.1 Born and raised in Salt Lake City to a Scottish father and an English mother, Leatham was baptized on the eleventh anniversary of her mother’s baptism, January 3, 1893, in the same location, on Temple Square.2 Leatham attended Salt Lake City public schools, Salt Lake Business College, and the Latter-day Saint University (now LDS Business College). She worked at a business firm in Idaho Falls, Idaho, at the age of eighteen, then returned to Salt Lake City for additional employment opportunities.3

Leatham was among the first generation of unmarried women to serve proselytizing missions for the church.4 In September 1906, at the age of twenty-two, she was assigned to serve in the Colorado Mission.5 She worked mostly in and around Denver, splitting her time between duties in the mission office and proselytizing activities. In a letter to the mission president shortly after her arrival, she reported tracting and visiting: “I have had a number of good gospel conversations and have been fortunate in getting into the homes of the people.”6 She returned home to Salt Lake City on February 19, 1908.7

Upon her return, Leatham volunteered as a guide at the Temple Square Bureau of Information, along with over a hundred “suitable brethren and sisters.”8 The bureau had opened in 1902 under the direction of Leatham’s former institute teacher Benjamin Goddard, with the intent to provide accurate information and distribute church literature to visitors.9

At general conference during this era, those who could not be seated in the Tabernacle on Temple Square were directed to overflow meetings in the nearby Assembly Hall.10 When the Assembly Hall was filled in April 1908, several hundred people congregated on the lawn near the Bureau of Information Building, where services were conducted at 2:00 p.m. under the direction of Goddard.11 After Leatham’s discourse, another returned missionary from the same mission, Martha M. Langenbucher, also spoke.12 Their talks were included in the official conference report.

My brothers and sisters: Some of you, I know, will appreciate my feelings as I stand before you. I think that I am one of the happiest girls in all the world, and it is the gospel that makes me feel this way, for I do know that the gospel is true. I do know that God our Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ, came down and brought the gospel and established it and spoke to the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith is his prophet. I feel that if I could live forever, I could never thank my Heavenly Father enough for the blessings that have come into my life, for the privilege of going out into the world and bearing this testimony, telling them of the gospel being restored, of the authority Christ has given to his servants, and of the blessings that are in store for those who listen to and obey the words of truth, life, and salvation as they fall from the lips of the servants of God who are sent out to preach the gospel.

I sometimes think that we young folks at home do not fully realize the responsibilities that rest upon us. We do not always remember that those who stand at our head are aged, and that when our fathers and mothers are gone it will devolve upon us to assume their work; that we are the future responsible people of Zion. Are we doing our part, and are we preparing ourselves so that we will be able to do the work that our fathers have done? Are we ordering our lives so that the Spirit of God will dwell with us as it has dwelt with our parents? Do we realize the extent of the blessings that God has given us, and do we understand the words of life and salvation contained in the scriptures and in the Doctrine and Covenants? Are we able to tell what the promises are that God has made us, if we will keep his commandments?13 Are we familiar with the ancient record of the inhabitants of this continent, the Book of Mormon? And are we familiar with the great truths that are taught therein and with those books that teach us the beauties of the work in which we are engaged today? I am afraid we are not sufficiently conversant with the principles of the gospel and that we are not as diligent as we should be.14

Where much is given, much is required; and you know, every one of you, how much has been given to us, and how much will be required at our hands.15 Are we preparing ourselves so that we will not fall short? Let us live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.16 Let us live so that he will ever be willing to own us, and bless us, and love us.

I do not desire to speak longer, but I want once more to bear my testimony. I want to say again that I know the gospel is true. Not because my father knows it, not because my mother has always taught it to me, but I know that the gospel is true because God has revealed it unto me. His Spirit has borne witness unto my spirit, and that testimony is God’s most precious gift to me.17

May God bless us all, I ask in the name of Jesus, amen.

Footnotes

  1. [1]See Appendix herein.

  2. [2]Rachel Hannah Hill was baptized on January 3, 1882, in the Endowment House on Temple Square, after emigrating from England to Utah to join her family. She subsequently married James Leatham. Their daughter Rachel Hannah Leatham was baptized in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. (Rachel Hannah Leatham Jensen, “Rachel Hannah Leatham Jensen,” personal history, in family possession; Louis S. Leatham, The Letham or Leatham Family Book of Remembrance: The Story of Robert Letham and His Wife Janet Urquhart with Historical-Genealogical and Biographical Data on Their Ancestry and Descendants [Ann Arbor: Edwards Brothers, 1955], 343–362.)

  3. [3]Leatham worked as a stenographer and bookkeeper at the Merchants’ Protective Association and the National Tea Importing Company in Salt Lake City. (Jensen, “Rachel Hannah Leatham Jensen”; Leatham, Leatham Family Book of Remembrance, 363.)

  4. [4]For additional context on the history of women serving missions, see “Women with a Mission,” accessed May 11, 2016, history.lds.org; Tally S. Payne, “‘Our Wise and Prudent Women’: Twentieth-Century Trends in Female Missionary Service,” in New Scholarship on Latter-day Saint Women in the Twentieth Century, ed. Carol Cornwall Madsen and Cherry B. Silver (Provo, UT: Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, 2005), 125–140; Calvin S. Kunz, “A History of Female Missionary Activity in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1898” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1976); and chapter 29 herein.

  5. [5]Leatham was set apart on October 9, 1906, and arrived in Denver on October 12. The mission’s name was changed during Leatham’s service to the Western States Mission. (Leatham, Leatham Family Book of Remembrance, 363; Colorado Denver South Mission Manuscript History and Historical Reports, 1896–1977, vol. 1, Apr. 1, 1907, CHL; “Returned Missionaries,” Deseret Evening News, Feb. 22, 1908; Colorado Denver South Mission General Minutes, vol. 4, 1906–1909, Oct. 12, 1908, 257, CHL.)

  6. [6]Colorado Denver South Mission General Minutes, Oct. 31, 1906, 95.

  7. [7]“Returned Missionaries”; Colorado Denver South Mission Manuscript History, Feb. 13, 1908.

  8. [8]“Bureau of Information and Church Literature,” Improvement Era 5, no. 11 (Sept. 1902): 900. Leatham worked on Sunday mornings and holidays. Two of her daughters followed her example and served missions. (Leatham, Leatham Family Book of Remembrance, 363, 365.)

  9. [9]Benjamin Goddard, “Bureau of Information and Church Literature,” Young Woman’s Journal 13, no. 11 (Nov. 1902): 483–488; Leatham, Leatham Family Book of Remembrance, 363. Almost twenty years after its inception, it was said that “the Bureau has grown to be one of the best missionary institutions in the Church.” (Edward H. Anderson, “The Bureau of Information,” Improvement Era 25, no. 2 [Dec. 1921]: 139.)

  10. [10]For more information on overflow meetings during general conference, see Paul H. Peterson, “Accommodating the Saints at General Conference,” BYU Studies 41, no. 2 (2002): 17–22.

  11. [11]Seventy-Eighth Annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 4–6, 1908 (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1908), 73.

  12. [12]Sister M. M. Langenbucher, in Seventy-Eighth Annual Conference, 82. Leatham and Martha Maria Langenbucher departed to and returned from their missions on the same days and sent letters to the mission president together. (“Returned Missionaries”; Colorado Denver South Mission General Minutes, Dec. 29, 1907, 365.)

  13. [13]Records from Leatham’s mission show her belief in the promises of God that she describes here: “During the past month my faith in the gospel has been greatly strengthened. I have seen two wonderful manifestations of God’s goodness to his children.” (Colorado Denver South Mission General Minutes, Jan. 28, 1907, 149.)

  14. [14]Leatham’s monthly letters to her mission president reveal her diligence as a common theme. On February 25, 1907, she wrote, “I have endeavored to do my duty and found great satisfaction in my labors.” (Colorado Denver South Mission General Minutes, Feb. 25, 1907, 166.)

  15. [15]See Luke 12:48; and Doctrine and Covenants 82:3.

  16. [16]See Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; and Doctrine and Covenants 84:44.

  17. [17]See Romans 8:16.