I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

Should that which is written in Church publications and lesson manuals be taken as official doctrine?

Elder Dean L. Larsen of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Managing Director of Curriculum Resources Church publications fall into four general categories: (1) materials related to the curriculum, such as lesson manuals, teachers’ supplements, and student materials; (2) magazines; (3) administrative documents, such as handbooks, leadership training materials, organizational guidelines and bulletins, etc.; and (4) missionary discussions, tracts, and support materials. All of the materials within these four categories are prepared under the direction of some officially recognized Church agency, and they are reviewed and cleared by the Church Correlation Review committees before they are published and issued to the Church.

A wide range of hardbound books, pamphlets, and other printed materials is constantly being printed and placed on the market by independent publishing companies. Many of these materials deal with religious matters. Some are written by Church members, including General Authorities. Publications that fall into this category are not generally authorized by the Church. The authors, compilers, and publishers assume full responsibility for the content and do not seek or receive official Church endorsement.

Over the years a careful selection of these hardbound, independently published books has been made and approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve for placement in Church meetinghouse libraries. They are to serve as approved resource materials for priesthood leaders, teachers, and the general membership. Any additions to this “authorized list” of hardbound books must be approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve. The number of books on this list is small. They can be identified by meetinghouse librarians.

While the content of the approved Church publications identified above does not claim the same endorsement that the standard works receive, nonetheless they are prepared with great care and are carefully screened before they are published. Writers of curriculum materials must be cleared by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve. Their product is reviewed closely by the heads of the organizations that are responsible for their implementation. Correlation Review committees check carefully for doctrinal accuracy and for harmony with established Church policies and procedures.

The General Handbook of Instructions is not only reviewed by Correlation, but also receives a close auditing from each individual member of the First Presidency and the Twelve.

Church magazines draw their content from a wide range of authors and contributors, in addition to those who serve as professional staff members. Those items that are published in the magazines receive not only the scrutiny and judgment of the editing staffs, but are also subject to clearance by the Correlation Review committees. Committee members are called as a result of their expertise in such areas as Church doctrine, Church history, and Church administration, and serve three different age groups: adult, youth, and children.

Much care is exercised to make certain that the official publications of the Church carry messages that are sound in doctrine and fully in harmony with currently approved policies and procedures. A constant effort is maintained to upgrade and correct the content of these materials so that they can merit the confidence and approval of Church leaders and the general membership.

All official Church publications that have received the clearance described above will carry the designation “Copyright © Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

What is there in Relief Society for my eighteen-year-old daughter?

Janath R. Cannon, first counselor, Relief Society General Presidency I remember the buzz in the Relief Society Building in 1973 when the First Presidency announced that young women eighteen years of age and older would be members of Relief Society. We were thrilled—we knew Relief Society needed these young women with their energy, enthusiasm, and creativity—but we were also apprehensive. Would they want Relief Society as much? We knew the image the Relief Society had in some people’s minds—an organization for mothers and grandmothers. Would they feel that they didn’t have anything in common with women of all ages? Would they feel that the older, more experienced women didn’t want their contribution? Would the regular Relief Society curriculum appeal to them?

None of these questions were new, of course, and we already had a good idea about some of the answers. Relief Society had been held for years among young adults on college campuses, and its success there was one of the reasons for extending it to all young women. But to some extent, the needs of young women are different, and a series of optional lessons was developed to meet some of those special needs. From reports coming back, though, most of the optional lessons seem to be used during the summer after the regular eight-month curriculum has ended. Many young adult Relief Societies use all of the regular curriculum—and even report great enthusiasm for the Mother Education lessons. However, we want more flexibility, not less, in Relief Society, so even more optional lessons are now planned.

Most eighteen-year-old sisters have no qualms about participating in Relief Society because they know so many who do participate in it and love it. College freshmen I’ve talked to at BYU, for instance, have older sisters and friends who are already deeply involved in Relief Society. For these coeds, participation is part of growing up, an essential part of their spiritual development at college.

There are special joys that come as part of belonging to Relief Society. One of these joys is in belonging to a sisterhood that reaches around the world. Today there are about 10,000 Relief Societies in over 66 countries. A woman who takes a teaching job in Tasmania or follows her husband to a military assignment in Crete will find Relief Society sisters there to put welcoming arms around her. Women of all ages, educational levels, and circumstances share their testimonies, concerns, and creativity in Relief Society—it’s the most representative women’s organization anywhere.

Another joy is the lifelong education a woman receives in Relief Society, studying doctrines of the gospel, homemaking skills, social relations, principles of mothering, and the culture of sisters in other countries. In miniclasses, she can learn the traditional arts of quilting and breadmaking along with the currently emphasized skills of balancing a budget, growing a garden, taping oral histories, and decorating an apartment. Relief Society choirs and programs draw on her performance ability; a physical fitness emphasis challenges her to be a careful steward over her own body, while poetry and song contests focus on her creative abilities.

Another joy is compassionate service. As I talk to eighteen- and nineteen-year-old sisters, they continually express appreciation for the opportunity to be “engaged in a good cause.” By assignment of the Relief Society president, they visit the homebound, help new mothers, provide transportation, and, most important, listening ears, helping hands, and caring hearts. As visiting teachers, they have a continuing responsibility for the spiritual and physical well-being of the sisters assigned to them.

Most young women have been immersed in service and learning in the Young Women’s organization, developing their leadership ability and their spiritual commitment. Relief Society is just another step, a place where they continue to learn. My own eighteen-year-old daughter came home from a “welcome to Relief Society” party with the start of a beautiful pillow cover on a lap-sized quilting frame, a brochure introducing the Relief Society program, and a bubbly enthusiasm that I, as a mother, was delighted to see.

President Joseph F. Smith said, “We want the young women, the women of faith, of courage and of purity … to take hold of this work with vigor, with intelligence and unitedly, for the building up of Zion and the instruction of women in their duties—domestic duties, public duties, and every duty that may devolve upon them.” (Conference Report, April 1907.)

Relief Society welcomes these young women with open arms. They are a force for good whose capacities surpass their own imaginings. Our prophet has seen the vision of their involvement, and we in the general presidency see that vision unfolding in their lives. They are claiming the blessings that the Lord offers them through this great organization.

How does the Young Women program prepare girls for Relief Society?

Ruth Hardy Funk, general president, Young Women I was in South Africa recently and had the opportunity to talk about my favorite subject—the Young Women program and its six areas of focus—to an audience of Relief Society sisters at a stake and mission conference. After the meeting, the stake Relief Society president told me that she had felt a renewed witness of the inspiration of the Relief Society program. She asked, “Is it by happenstance or design that the principles of the Young Women program are almost identical to those of the Relief Society?”

Of course it’s by design, divine design.

The Young Women program has four goals: (1) to help each girl become personally converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, (2) to help her fulfill her divine potential as a daughter of God, (3) to help her gain an understanding of the priesthood and live worthy of its blessings, (4) to help her enjoy in wholesome ways her youthful vitality. The Young Women program provides experiences and motivation through six years of lessons and activities to help each young woman prepare to become a great and noble woman, ready both for challenges and blessings.

Progression is a process, and Young Women helps it happen by teaching each girl how to set and accomplish goals to meet her personal needs. Six areas of focus are spiritual awareness, service and compassion, homemaking arts, recreation and the world of nature, cultural arts and education, and personal and social refinement. Young women also learn to establish standards of personal worthiness, attend Church meetings regularly, participate in seminary, and follow the admonition of President Kimball to keep a journal.

The kind of character this program is designed to help nurture is beautifully compatible with the Relief Society’s desire to develop the whole woman. All women of the Church have a pattern of very basic needs, needs that remain the same always. Only the time line, the degree of need, the level of understanding, and the individual’s ability to perform make up the difference.

Our young women are better prepared to participate in Relief Society than ever before because they are not just preparing to lead—they are leading. They are not just preparing to be—but being. We’re so pleased to see their exuberance for life expressing itself in the efforts of finding fulfillment now, reaching worthwhile goals, measuring performance, then stretching toward new horizons. All parents, including our Heavenly Parents, rejoice to see their daughters achieving eternal growth, respectful of their own capabilities and eager to expand them. That’s our goal, too—to see them become well-balanced, happy daughters of God. They are preparing to “do his will” and “keep [his] commandments.” (John 7:17, John 14:15.)

For example, through participation in the Young Women program:

—personal sacrifice became real—and fun—for one young woman who patiently helped her little brother learn to read;

—one girl gained a testimony of priesthood power and authority during her service as a class president;

—homemaking became a gift of love and a challenging set of problems to be solved when one young woman took the responsibility for family dinners while Mom was recuperating in the hospital;

—the goal of participating in a volleyball game lifted another young woman’s spirits, added vitality to her crippled body, and gave her confidence in other areas;

family culture and heritage became vibrant realities to a young woman who set the goal of researching four family group sheets—and did it!

In the Young Women program, each girl has some growing years to learn ways to fulfill her special mission and become worthy to live in the presence of the Lord. The special challenges and blessings of the Relief Society are something she’ll welcome joyfully.

We understand the importance of reading the scriptures. But what is the Church’s coordinated scripture study plan, and why is it necessary?

Wayne B. Lynn, director of Church Instructional Development There is no intention to limit personal scripture study by any individual member to a coordinated Church plan. However, as we meet together in priesthood quorums and other meetings, a coordinated approach to our study of the scriptures is desirable. For example, if a member is being asked to read one of the standard works this year as a part Of his priesthood quorum assignment, another book of scripture for his Sunday School Gospel Doctrine class and yet another by his stake president or bishop, you can see his dilemma. If we add to this another book of scripture that his wife is being asked to read for Relief Society and another as an assignment from the Primary, the need for correlation becomes obvious.

Present courses of study are carefully coordinated to complement each other. In a given year, each of the organizations encourages reading and studying the same book of scriptures. The Gospel Doctrine class provides opportunity for both husband and wife to share in a cycle of systematic study of all the standard works, which requires eight years to complete. Melchizedek Priesthood lessons and Relief Society spiritual living lessons are likewise coordinated, using the same cycle. This might best be illustrated by the diagram shown below:

Sunday School Gospel Doctrine Class

(Systematic study of the scriptures as they unfold historically)

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

O.T. P of GP

O.T.

N.T.

N.T.

B of M

B of M

D&C

D&C Mod. Church Hist.

Mel. Pr. & R.S.—A systematic study of principles and doctrines using all of the standard works.

This sequence began with number 1 in the 1972–73 curriculum year (1973–74 for the southern hemisphere) and will end with number 8 in the 1979–80 year (1980–81 for the southern hemisphere). The sequence will then simply start again.

As we study the scriptures, it is natural to encounter doctrinal themes that we wish to explore in depth, using all available scriptures and other resources. Realizing that this desire could prevent us from completing a given part of the sequence, the Church has coordinated our scripture study to accommodate both of these needs. Thus, the Gospel Doctrine class has the primary role of studying the scriptures historically. In Sunday School we become familiar with places, characters, and events. Individuals in the scriptures become real persons to us. As we read their messages in historical context, our understanding may be increased. Doctrine is also discussed in Sunday School as it appears sequentially in the reading assignment. An in-depth treatment of doctrinal themes, however, is the primary objective of our personal study in priesthood quorums and in Relief Society. Thus, we gain both historical perspective and doctrinal understanding.

Without understanding the benefits of coordinated scripture study, a teacher may feel that a dimension is lacking in his instructional materials. Considering the unified approach, however, the coverage is very complete when lesson plans are followed.

Since the Instructional Development Section of the Church supervises the actual writing of all these courses of study, they are carefully coordinated, and unnecessary or undesirable duplication is carefully avoided. Other valuable resources like the Ensign supplement and add color and dimension to our study of these sacred records.

In the September 1976 issue of the Ensign President Kimball counseled us all “to honestly evaluate our performance in scripture study.” He further stated, “I am convinced that each of us, at some time in our lives, must discover the scriptures for ourselves and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again.” Our prophet then gave a challenge to each of us: “So I ask all to begin now to study the scriptures in earnest, if you have not already done so. And perhaps the easiest and most effective way to do this is to participate in the study program of the Church.” (Pp. 4, 5.)