The focus of this lesson is “[to] help class members understand how the authority (mantle) passes from one prophet to another, to encourage them to obey the words of the prophets, and to assure them that the power of God is greater than any other power.” Our last conference was a solemn assembly. Our beloved Prophet Thomas S. Monson had passed away on January 2, 2018. Upon his death, the first presidency was dissolved and Presidents Eyring and Uchtdorf resumed their callings as Apostles. The Council of the Twelve Apostles became the presiding body until Russell M. Nelson was called and sustained in a solemn assembly.
In 2 Kings 2, we see an example of how the prophetic authority was transferred in ancient times. Elijah was given the heads up that he was to be translated. So, he embarked on a four-city-I’m-Gettin-Translated tour. In each city, Elijah asks Elisha to stay put. Elisha’s like – You cray, cray? Stop talking nonsense…I mean, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee” (v. 6). The finale takes place at Jordan. Elijah is the go big or go home type. Channeling his inner Moses, Elijah takes his mantle (read cloth) origamis it into a rod and wacks the river like a Nana cleaning a rug. The waters part.
What better place to have a heart-to-heart than on this newly exposed land. During their walk, Elisha asks to be chosen as the one to continue Elijah’s work “…let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me” (v. 9). Elijah knowing that only the Lord can fulfill this wish responds, “Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so” (v. 10). Elijah turns in all of his brownie-points and is rewarded with a first class translation with all of the amenities – chariots and horses of fire and a whirlwind.
Elisha seeing all of this calls to Elijah, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (v. 12). The mantel falls from Elijah to Elisha. Elisha takes it and smacks the water to check if it still works. The waters part. He’s good to go.
Elisha starts his own tour as headliner. He performs miracles and gives sound counsel. He also has 42 children dismembered by bears when they mock him. Clearly, he hasn’t worked through all of his playground issues. Nobody puts Baby in a corner and nobody, NOBODY makes fun of Elisha’s premature balding.
By the time we get to chapter 5, Elisha is a well-established prophet. We also meet Naaman, a Syrian captain and leper. His army captured and enslaved a young Israelite girl, who now waits on Naaman’s wife. This young girl tells her mistress of Elisha and his ability to heal. Naaman seeks out Elisha who instructs Naaman to bath in Jordan seven times. Naaman gets all kinds of salty – You cray, cray? Stop talking nonsense. Everyone knows the Syrian rivers are better than Israelite. Naaman’s servant tells him to take three deep calming breaths and to stop being foolish. If the prophet tells you to jump, you jump. If he tells you to wash seven times in your least favorite river, you do it. Naaman plugs his nose and dives in. Naaman is healed. He is grateful. He and his men become believers in the God of Israel.
The manual asks us to consider how this young Israelite girl is an example for us. I’d like us to go a step further and consider how our young women are examples for us and what we can do to further empower them.
In our solemn assembly, we sustained President Russell M. Nelson as our prophet. President Nelson has pleaded with the women on this church, “My dear sisters, whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out in ward and stake councils. We need each married sister to speak as ‘a contributing and full partner’ as you unite with your husband in governing your family. Married or single, you sisters possess distinctive capabilities and special intuition you have received as gifts from God…We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity. We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve…So today I plead with my sisters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to step forward! Take your rightful and needful place in your home, in your community, and in the kingdom of God—more than you ever have before.”
How do you speak up, speak out, contribute, access the power of God, step forward and take your rightful and needful place? How are you modeling this for the young women? How are you empowering the young women to do this?
In her final message as General Young Women President, President Bonnie L. Oscarson, called upon us to see the true value of our young women and to utilize them now to build up the kingdom of Zion. “Every young woman in the Church should feel valued, have opportunities to serve, and feel that she has something of worth to contribute to this work…Do those who sit on ward councils, or hold any calling in the ward, see the young women as valuable resources to help fill the many needs within our wards? There is usually a long list of situations that require someone to serve, and we often think only of the adults in the ward to meet those needs…our young women can be called upon to provide service and minister to the needs of ward members with their mothers or other exemplary sisters. They are capable, eager, and willing to do so much more than merely attend church on Sundays!”
Amen, President Oscarson! President Oscarson is right. We are guilty of under-utilizing our young women. If we limit their contributions as young women, we teach them that their contributions are limited.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was a Young Women’s president. With the mantel of Young Women President of my ward, I felt compelled to find ways to empower our young women. If nothing else, I wanted them to have a testimony of message found in the YW theme – that they are loved and have to potential to be exalted like our Heavenly Mother. My presidency imagined various ways to make the young women more visible in our ward and give them opportunities for meaningful contribution. Sometimes we were successful and other times we weren’t. Our biggest struggle was attendance at midweek activities. Sometimes, I was the only one who showed up. This was frustrating, and I never found a solution. After listening to President Oscarson, it occurred to me that solution could have been partnering with an organization in our community, such as a nursing home or homeless shelter and have a that be our standing midweek activity. That would’ve given the young women opportunities to be part of our community in meaningful ways and worth my time if I was the only one able to make it.
One thing that worked well was my presidency’s collaboration with the Relief Society presidency. We all felt it was important that the young women to be oriented toward the Relief Society and to build relationships with women in the ward who weren’t their mothers. We combined RS and YW opening exercises on the first Sundays. The young women lead all women in the YW theme. YW were invited to RS activities. Our most imaginative and empowering collaboration was the Welcome to Relief Society Ceremony. The Relief Society President, the Bishop and myself worked together to create a ritual that captured the significance of this transition while keeping within the guidelines of the Handbook and church policy. This was the ceremony we created:
-Start the meeting with “As Sisters in Zion,” prayer, RS announcements, YW announcements and YW theme.
-RS President talks about how the significance of joining the RS.
-YW President talks briefly about the young woman leaving YW and gives the young woman a card and her copy of the in-class journal.
-YW President says: “President [RS President’s name], I present to you [young woman’s name] for admittance into the -Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
-RS President says: “All who can welcome [young woman’s name] as a member of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, please show it by the uplifted hand.”
-RS President welcomes the young woman and hands her anything she needs (ie, manual, copy of the RS motto, her VT list, the month’s newsletter, etc).
Note, that my Bishop and I combed through the Handbook and couldn’t find any reason why the RS President couldn’t ask for the uplifted hand in welcoming a new sister into the RS. There is nothing that says a welcoming has to be done by a priesthood leader.
This was a beautiful and moving ceremony. The young woman felt wanted and welcomed. The RS women felt that they had more responsibility in fellowshipping her having gone through this ritual with her.
This ceremony may not work for you or your ward. You have to do what works for you and your stewardship. President Nelson has his prophet mantel and you have yours. It is our responsibility as LDS women to take upon our mantels and light the way and empower those young women coming behind us to do the same.