In 3 Nephi 27, the disciples ask Jesus what they should call the church. Jesus instructs them they should call it in his name because it is his gospel. As members of this church, we believe this is Christ’s church. We strive to live the teachings of his gospel. We perform ordinances in his name. We take his name upon us when we are baptized and we renew this covenant every week when we take the sacrament. We even conclude our prayers in his name. This continual tie back to Christ reminds us that what we are practicing is his gospel.
Recognizing this is Christ’s gospel is important of course. But it’s also important that each of us finds a way to make this gospel, Christ’s gospel, our gospel. We have to internalize it, make it become part of us, let it take root deep within us and grow and expand there. To live it and believe it, we have to truly make it ours.
How do we do that? One way is taking the gospel messages that come our way and shaping them for us individually. Doing this requires us to take a message not as a hard wooden block, but instead as clay that we can mold to fit in our lives, finding ways to make it meaningful for us.
While this is important, the need to constantly shape and form can be exhausting. So another way to help this be our gospel is by seeking out the pieces of the gospel that feel especially like ours already. This can be done by studying the scriptures and conference talks and marking those that truly speak to us. It can also be done by engaging in conversations with or listening to teachings of people whom we connect to—people who may have similar life experiences or similar ways of thinking. For women, there can sometimes be a shortage of voices and messages out there that seem to make this our gospel. Of course gender is not the only or necessarily the most important factor for finding messages that connect with us. Still, it can be a meaningful one.
One of the things I like best about General Conference is the variety of voices we hear. Not only do the speakers talk on different topics, but they also bring different perspectives to the same messages because of their varied life experiences and approaches. This month at conference, I heard many beautiful messages that touched and inspired me. Yet, I couldn’t help notice—like I always do—how few feminine voices there were. When I hear mostly men speaking and see almost entirely men sitting on the stand, it can start to feel like their gospel. Finding my gospel can take a little more effort.
Another way for something to feel like ours is when we are invested in it, when we are part of the process of creating and shaping it. I serve on a number of boards of directors in my community. We are constantly talking about how to make the board more diverse—in gender, age, ethnic background, occupation etc. Why? Because these differences bring an array of perspectives that help us shape programs and policies that broaden the reach and increase the effectiveness of our efforts. We also want these different elements of the community to be stakeholders in our programs, to see it as theirs—or really, as ours as a community. I believe the same is true at church. I believe in inspiration but I also believe we are each ready to hear and receive inspiration differently. When we include a wider variety of voices in decision making, we receive richer inspiration because we ask more and different questions and are able to reach more people. We as decision makers also become more invested stakeholders. When we serve in callings, teach, strive to make decisions and design programs that enable others to make Christ’s gospel theirs, we also make the gospel more completely ours. I love this about church—the collective effort that goes into it. Yet, I also long for more of a feminine perspective in the decision-making and policy-shaping of the church. I love the design of using councils but wish for more women’s voices on those councils (many councils include no women and among those that do, women are always a minority).
The passages in 3 Nephi don’t tell us about the women in attendance as Christ taught the people. But I often imagine them there, listening and learning, turning over what they heard in their minds. Then I imagine them later discussing it among themselves, applying it in their families and communities, seeking to truly make his gospel theirs.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Street Smart and Math Wise, Janet Nelson
“The young women need to know who they are, and they learn that in the Young Women program. They need to know that they’re daughters of God and they can’t just recite the theme on Sundays. They really have to internalize that: I know when I’m struggling, Heavenly Father is there for me. Girls are alone a lot in their decisions, even when they’re surrounded by other members of the Church….I also think having relationships with leaders is so valuable. It is important for youth to have mentoring relationships in addition to parents. Each one of my children has had somebody in their life that they have been able to talk to. The Young Women program offers that to our girls today. As a mom I was grateful for those leaders who took time to encourage and listen to my children.”
Other Related Women’s Voices
Application of Welfare Principles in the Home, Barbara B. Smith
“The word of the gospel as it is preached and learned is, for each of us, the beginning. ‘Knowing’ alone is not always sufficient to bring the promised light. We have to live by every word. We speak often in our worldwide Church about translation. Computers are being employed to assist, and hundreds of language specialists are engaged in this important work. But the translation for which we each bear personal responsibility is converting the words of the gospel into actions, attitudes, and habits.”
Knowing the Lord’s Will For You, Anne C. Pingree
“My life’s journey is different from yours. Each of you could teach me much from your experiences of submitting your will to the Lord’s as you earnestly seek to know His will for you. We can rejoice together in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, gratefully acknowledging the blessing of having a testimony of the Savior and His Atonement for each of us. This I know—our individual efforts to become instruments in the hands of God have not been easy and have stretched us spiritually, enriching our mortal journeys in the most personal, glorious ways.”