The Church Historian's Press The Church Historian's Press

35

Gaining Knowledge and Intelligence

Relief Society General Conference

Assembly Hall, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah

September 27, 1950


Growing up in Washington DC, Marianne Clark Sharp (1901–1990) had limited access to church gatherings—twice-monthly sacrament meetings were held at the home of apostle and United States senator Reed Smoot. Clark attended these meetings with her parents, Luacine and J. Reuben Clark Jr., and three siblings. Later she recalled, “We didn’t have much formal study of the church, but it was just in the very air we breathed that we didn’t do some things that other people did and that our roots were here in the West.”1 Yet she would heavily influence others’ formal church experience. She began editing the Relief Society Magazine in 1943 and was editor in chief from 1945 to 1970.2 She also helped to compile and edit A Centenary of Relief Society, which the Relief Society general board published in 1942.3 And as first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency from 1945 to 1974, she oversaw curriculum, which changed substantially during her tenure.4

Sharp began amassing the editorial expertise needed for such projects early on: she edited the yearbook and the school paper before graduating as valedictorian from Western High School in Georgetown, Virginia.5 In a 1977 interview, she noted the ways she felt God had guided her life and remarked, “If you do everything that you’re asked to do eventually you keep building on to the next thing. That’s why it’s important to accept things.”6 She majored in ancient languages at the University of Utah, graduating with high honors in 1924 and receiving a teaching fellowship in Latin. After her marriage to Ivor Sharp in 1927, she lived in New York City for eleven years, where she chaired the Queens Branch genealogical committee and worked in the Relief Society.7

Marianne Sharp also represented the Relief Society on the National Woman’s Radio Committee (NWRC).8 The NWRC was organized in 1934 in response to radio soap operas, quiz shows, and an increasing dearth of educational programming. The women on the committee oversaw efforts to improve programming, including establishing the first radio programming awards. Committee members included representatives from the country’s largest women’s organizations and from diverse faith backgrounds: the National Council of Women, the National Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the United Council of Church Women, Catholic Daughters of America, the National Council of Jewish Women, and others.9 Relief Society representatives continued to attend meetings despite other members’ prejudices against Latter-day Saints. For example, Sharp recalled a meeting when the committee called on every participating organization to give a report—except for the Relief Society.10

Sharp and her family returned to Salt Lake City in 1938, when she began work with Kate Barker on the Relief Society’s Mormon Handicrafts Giftshop committee, and she was then appointed to serve on the Relief Society general board in 1940.11 She accepted the position of first counselor to the new Relief Society general president, Belle S. Spafford, in 1945 and served until Spafford’s release in 1974.12 Sharp and Spafford learned from Sharp’s research that the Relief Society had long sought to have its own building; a building then became one of the primary goals of the new presidency. Sharp wrote asking for five dollars from each Relief Society member in the church, except those from countries most devastated by the war.13 She also encouraged ward Relief Societies to raise funds through bazaars and other means when individual members could not pay. In one year, ending October 1948, they raised $554,000, exceeding their goal of half a million dollars. Sharp also worked on the welfare committee and chaired the Relief Society general conference committee.14 Sharp had been first counselor for five years when she shared the following insights on the relationship between intelligence and obedience during a Relief Society general conference meeting for stake and mission officers and board members in Temple Square’s Assembly Hall.

My beloved sisters, I pray that the Spirit of the Lord may be with me for the few minutes that I shall speak this morning and that I may have an interest in your faith and prayers.

We are now living in the midst of eternity, and we are enjoying those blessings to which we were entitled because of our faithfulness in the spirit world, and we are told that if we are true and faithful in this mortal existence, if we keep this, our second estate, that we will have glory added upon our heads forever and ever.15 Modern revelation tells us that the glory of God is intelligence,16 and that as God is now, man may become.17

Wherefore every one of us should heed these words of the Lord found in section 131 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which say: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.”18

Sisters, what do these words mean to us—mothers of Zion and officers in the Relief Society? Do they mean that those of us who may have had the opportunity of earning a college degree have thereby gained the advantage in the world to come, have earned sufficient knowledge and intelligence? Not as I read the scriptures. For if that were the case, then the Lord would have the learned men of the world as his chosen prophets.

There were many erudite scholars upon this land and in the world when the Lord gave that first glorious vision to that untutored lad of fourteen, Joseph Smith. You will remember that a few years later when the Prophet was translating the Book of Mormon, that Martin Harris was allowed to take a copy of part of the characters and the translation and show them to a learned man, Professor Anthon. You will recall the conclusion of that.19 In foretelling this incident in the Book of Mormon it says, “Then shall the Lord God say unto him [meaning Joseph Smith]: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them, and I am able to do my own work; wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee.”20

You will also recall that God hath taken the weak things of the earth to overcome those things which are mighty, wherefore I would conclude that a so-called higher education is not necessary for the gaining of knowledge and intelligence.

But if we are to travel the path of eternal progression we must be ever seeking and gaining knowledge and intelligence, for the Prophet Joseph said, “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge,”21 and the Lord declares, “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.”22

Since, then, knowledge and intelligence are the doorway into eternal life, how zealous we here today should be as Relief Society officers to see that we are ever gaining knowledge and intelligence. Probably a devotion of all our free time to such a pursuit would not give us the advantage in the world to come without diligent study. Then, how careful we should be that we do not fritter away our time in unfruitful pursuits, but that we take our time in giving it to a devotion of studying knowledge and intelligence, thereby to gain it.

And how difficult it is as mothers for us to study. Not for us the ivory tower nor the secluded cloister. We must study while our family affairs proceed normally, with one interruption to care for a child, and another one to stir the pot on the fire, and a third to answer the doorbell or telephone. Then how necessary it is that we should choose the right things when we study. And what should we study? In section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord gives us a list of some things which we should teach one another. It says, “And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.”23

Sisters, do you see how closely the subject matter which we are studying in Relief Society parallels in part the words of the Lord as to what we should study? How grateful we should be as Relief Society members to have the opportunity to study these lessons which are approved by the Brethren. And what a responsibility is ours, those of us who are here in this building this morning, to see that we are overseeing and encouraging and exhorting the sisters to teach them diligently one to another. But sisters, all the diligent study in the world is not sufficient for us to gain knowledge and intelligence, for we are told not only to gain it through diligence, but through obedience. Obedience to what? Obedience to the commandments of God, and we will gain knowledge and intelligence in this way which can be gained in no other way. All the studying of academic learning in the world, and even the studying of righteous principles, won’t give us the advantage unless we are obedient to the commandments of God. We must be obedient. As Paul said, “And though … I understand … all knowledge … and have not charity, I am nothing.”24

And what are the commandments of God? Nearly two thousand years ago this same question was put to the Savior, who answered, you all know the answer: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”25

By obedience to these commandments, sisters, we will gain knowledge and intelligence.

Brigham Young said, “To live the gospel requires time, faith, the heart’s affections, and a great deal of labor.”26 Sisters, are you not gaining knowledge and intelligence through your labors in clothing the naked, preparing food for the hungry, nursing the sick, comforting the sorrowing, and pouring balm on the disconsolate heart? Is that not your great work in this Relief Society? Does not Relief Society then give you the opportunity, both through diligence and obedience, to earn knowledge and intelligence? The Lord knew the kind of an organization which was needed upon this earth to perfect his daughters. And what a responsibility is ours to see that every Latter-day Saint woman will be given this opportunity of gaining knowledge and intelligence. And the Lord is never in our debt. As we labor mightily for the good of our sisters, as we labor for the good of ourselves, he pours forth saving knowledge and intelligence on our heads.

Sisters, I would like to bear my testimony to the work of Relief Society. There is nothing except the work which we do in our own homes which will bring us the blessings we may gain through our devotion and laboring mightily for Relief Society. And it is my prayer that each one of us here will realize the twofold objectives in Relief Society which will give us knowledge and intelligence, and that each one here will go home with a determination to see that the lessons in Relief Society are taught diligently, and to see that all sisters are given the opportunity to labor mightily for the Lord and for our own saving knowledge and intelligence. And this I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Footnotes

  1. [1]Marianne Clark Sharp, interview by Jessie L. Embry, May–June 1977, 14, James Moyle Oral History Program, CHL.

  2. [2]“Marianne C. Sharp Dies, Ex-Relief Society Leader,” Deseret News, Jan. 3, 1990.

  3. [3]Amy Brown Lyman, “Marianne Clark Sharp: First Counselor in General Presidency, April 1945,” Relief Society Magazine 32, no. 5 (May 1945): 263.

  4. [4]Sharp, interview, 60–64; “New Titles for Lesson Courses,” Relief Society Magazine 53, no. 5 (June 1966): 460.

  5. [5]Sharp, interview, 14–16.

  6. [6]Sharp, interview, 16.

  7. [7]Amy Brown Lyman, “Marianne C. Sharp Appointed Associate Editor of Relief Society Magazine,” Relief Society Magazine 30, no. 10 (Oct. 1943): 593, 613; “Death: Marianne C. Sharp,” Deseret News, Jan. 4, 1990.

  8. [8]Lyman, “Marianne C. Sharp Appointed,” 613.

  9. [9]Jennifer M. Proffitt, “War, Peace, and Free Radio: The Women’s National Radio Committee’s Efforts to Promote Democracy, 1939–1946,” Journal of Radio and Audio Media 17, no. 1 (2010): 2; Cindy C. Welch, “Broadcasting the Profession: The American Library Association and the National Children’s Radio Hour” (PhD diss., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008), 152–153; Donna L. Halper, Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2014), 82; Kathy M. Newman, Radio Active: Advertising and Consumer Activism, 1935–1947 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 139–140.

  10. [10]Sharp, interview, 33.

  11. [11]Sharp, interview, 46; “Marianne Clark Sharp,” Relief Society Magazine 30, no. 10 (Mar. 1940): 153; Lyman, “Marianne C. Sharp Appointed,” 593.

  12. [12]“Biographical Register of General Church Officers,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow, 5 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 4:1645. J. Reuben Clark Jr., who had been a counselor in the First Presidency since 1933, was initially reluctant for Sharp to assume this role. Sharp also felt discomfort over having a father famous in Mormon circles: “I had been so happy all my life to live … where nobody knew who my father was. … That way you feel as if you’re accepted for yourself instead of for who your parents are. So that was a blow to me, in a way, to come out here [to Salt Lake City] and get into that.” (Belle S. Spafford, interview by Jill Mulvay [Derr], 1975–1976, 50, 79–80, 90–91, CHL; Sharp, interview, 44.)

  13. [13]Spafford, interview, 110.

  14. [14]Sharp, interview, 51, 54–64. Contributions for the construction of the Relief Society Building continued to come after 1948. Ground was broken for the building in 1953, and construction was completed in 1956. Sharp felt this presidency was able to develop and make the substantial contributions it did because of their long tenure in office. Since Spafford’s presidency, no general president has served longer than ten years. Recent presidents Mary Ellen W. Smoot, Bonnie D. Parkin, and Julie B. Beck each served for five years. (Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon, and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992], 308–310, 327–329; Sharp, interview, 47.)

  15. [15]In Latter-day Saint thought, an individual’s “second estate” refers to life on earth. (See, for example, Rulon S. Wells, in One Hundred Eleventh Semi-annual Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oct. 4–6, 1940 [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1940], 69.)

  16. [16]Doctrine and Covenants 93:36.

  17. [17]Lorenzo Snow spoke often on this theme. (See Lorenzo Snow, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow: Fifth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984], 1–9.)

  18. [18]Doctrine and Covenants 130:18–19.

  19. [19]Anthon was a classics professor at Columbia College. He and Harris reported their interactions differently. Harris recalled that Anthon confirmed the characters were of ancient origin, while Anthon reported refusing to help with the characters because he suspected fraud. (Royal Skousen and Robin Scott Jensen, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 3, Part 1: Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 1–Alma 35, vol. 3 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Ronald K. Esplin and Matthew J. Grow [Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2015], xvii–xviii.)

  20. [20]Citation in original: “2 Nephi 27:20.” These verses are Book of Mormon prophet Nephi’s clarification and prophecy about Isaiah 29:11–12.

  21. [21]Sharp’s source for this statement was most likely Joseph Smith et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1902–1912 [vols. 1–6], 1932 [vol. 7]), 4:588. Wilford Woodruff gave a contemporary report of this April 10, 1842, discourse by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois. (Wilford Woodruff, Journal, Apr. 10, 1842, CHL.)

  22. [22]Doctrine and Covenants 131:6.

  23. [23]Doctrine and Covenants 88:77–79.

  24. [24]Citation in original: “1 Cor. 13:20.”

  25. [25]Citation in original: “Matt. 22:37–39.”

  26. [26]Sharp likely read this quotation in Brigham Young, May 18, 1873, in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (Liverpool: Various publishers, 1855–1886), 16:40; see also Brigham Young, “Discourses,” Deseret News, June 11, 1873.