BYU professor Michelle Stott James and former member of the Young Women’s General Presidency Sister Virginia H. Pearce said unique blessings and knowledge are available through expounding upon the scriptures during a Friday afternoon session of BYU Women’s Conference.
James said it has become increasingly clear in the past few years that members of the church have been receiving extensive calls to increase in personal righteousness. She said there are many ways to answer these calls, but the best is found in the Lord’s counsel to Emma Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 25.
“It is our responsibility, like Emma, to expound the scriptures and to exhort the church,” James said.
However, James reminded attendees that expounding and exhorting are the types of work that take preparation.
“When it’s time to expound and exhort the things of the better world, our mouths will be filled if we have spent the time learning the words of Jesus Christ,” James said. “We cannot teach what we do not know.”
She further encouraged the women of the church to build the bedrock of testimony. She said in doing so, all the sisters of the church will be prepared to access the full power God makes available to his covenant-keeping children.
James said it is impossible to always rely on the spiritual strength of others. Like the ten virgins of Christ’s parables, it is everyone’s own to duty to “maintain our own supply of life-giving oil.”
“I want to try not to be so shy about my future expounding,” said Rachel Rowe from Heber City, Utah. “I have lots of opportunities to share in my home, with my children, with my callings and in everyday conversations.”
Siser Pearce echoed many of these words in her talk as she shared many of the blessings available as members exhort, share and teach from the pulpit of the church.
She reminded listeners of two important facts when it comes to speaking at church.
First, members of the church are expected from a young age to be willing to speak in church. Second, however, this public speaking is often many people’s greatest fear.
Sister Pearce said this charge may seem difficult to some, but there are also unique opportunities available to everyone as they prayerfully prepare for a talk.
“Our faith propels us to do uncomfortable things,” Sister Pearce said. “And nothing is as good as the feeling of the spirit working through you and people in the audience.”
Sister Pearce described the way in which she prepares her own talks and said following a similar example allows for church members to truly grasp gospel doctrines.
“You must first know your topic,” Sister Pearce said. “I prefer to get a great big piece of paper and write my topic in a circle right in the middle. Then as I begin to pray and ponder about what to say, I begin to feel happy anticipation instead of dread.”
Sister Pearce advised “stewing over” a topic and thinking about it during the normal course of a day following the initial praying and pondering,
“When it comes to writing, 80 percent of your work is done before a word is put on paper. The same goes for a talk,” Sister Pearce said. “By the time you get to putting the first word on paper, you have done more of the head work and heart work that you need.”
After brainstorming and reflective thought, the next step is to study, according to Sister Pearce. But more than just searching the scriptures for validation or what one already knows, Sister Pearce urged church members to search more fully for truth.
“Look at doctrinal statements about your topic. Is there a piece of the doctrine we do not know?” Sister Pearce said. “Search more fully, because we are not here to just find a backup to what we already think.”
Sister Pearce’s final step for exhorting over the pulpit is to construct a narrative from everything that has been learned.
“Piece everything together into a beginning, middle and end,” Sister Pearce said. “You might not use everything you have learned, but you will have learned so very much along the way.”
Julie Brown of Cedar City, Utah was inspired by these words.
“I really want to be more deliberate in my studies. I love how Sister Pearce talked about looking for doctrinal truths to fill in the gaps in our own understanding,” Brown said. “As a mother, friend and teacher, I can use this not only benefit others, but also personally grow closer to the Savior.”