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Church Historian’s Press Publishes Significant New Collection of Sermons by Latter-day Saint Women

The Church Historian’s Press today announced the release of At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women ($29.95).

This new collection features fifty-four talks given by Latter-day Saint women from 1831 to 2016, with selections from every decade since the founding of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the talks, women draw on inspiration and experience to explain and bear witness of their beliefs.

Introductions and notes provide insight into the historical and theological context of each talk. In addition to being a scholarly history, this book provides a resource for today’s Latter-day Saints as they study, speak, teach, and lead.

Some of the speakers may be well known to modern readers, such as Linda K. Burton, Sheri L. Dew, Elaine L. Jack, and Chieko N. Okazaki. Others were prominent Latter-day Saint leaders in past times, including Belle S. Spafford, Amy Brown Lyman, and Eliza R. Snow. Still other speakers have been largely forgotten until now.

The talks were carefully chosen by historians Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook, who pored over hundreds of discourses in making their selections. These editors chose engaging and well-written talks that explored doctrinal or theological themes. The talks were given in a variety of settings—at a variety of “pulpits”—ranging from homes and local Relief Society halls to the Salt Lake Tabernacle to the National Auditorium in Mexico City. And not all the meetings at which women spoke were traditional religious ones. Discourses in the collection were given, for example, before the Utah Woman Suffrage Association, the National Council of Women in Washington DC, and the World's Congress of Representative Women in Chicago.

Kathleen Flake, the Richard Lyman Bushman Professor of Mormon Studies at the University of Virginia, said that this collection is “a significant contribution to American religious history.” Camille Fronk Olson, professor and chair of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, states that the discourses “communicate wisdom, sensitivity, and influence” and that “this long-overdue volume will change the manner and frequency with which we ponder and cite women’s witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The history of women’s preaching in the church can be traced to July 1830, when Emma Hale Smith received a revelation through her husband, Joseph Smith, about her position and responsibilities in the new church. The revelation (now section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants) described Emma Smith as an “elect lady” and charged her “to expound scriptures and exhort the church according as it shall be given thee by my spirit.” The revelation contained specific counsel for Emma Smith, but its charge to teach and preach can be interpreted as universal—“this is my voice unto all,” it concluded.

While Latter-day Saint women initially preached primarily to other groups of women, over time their opportunities expanded. In the early twentieth century, Mormon women began to speak more frequently to audiences of both women and men. Latter-day Saint women’s opportunities to speak to mixed-gender audiences in church meetings have increased in number and visibility over time, especially during the closing decades of the twentieth century. Mormons believe that members are to learn from each other and that any woman can enlighten those around her. Today, besides speaking in local congregational meetings and teaching Sunday classes, Mormon women speak to large groups of Latter-day Saints in forums such as Brigham Young University devotionals and the church’s semiannual worldwide general conferences.

Several of the talks in this book, plus photographs and other resources, have been published for free public access on churchhistorianspress.org/at-the-pulpit. Eventually the entire volume will be published on the website.

At the Pulpit comes on the heels of the press’s release of The First Fifty Years of Relief Society, which was published last year and is available online. The Church Historian’s Press is an imprint of the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The mission of the press is to publish accurate, transparent, and authoritative works of history about the church.

At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women is available at Deseret Book, Amazon, Store.LDS.org, and many other retail outlets. Visit the Publications section of the Church Historian’s Press website for more information.