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Bonus Chapter 5. There Is a Difference: Kate M. Barker
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“Bonus Chapter 5. There Is a Difference: Kate M. Barker,” At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women (2017)

“Bonus Chapter 5. Kate M. Barker,” At the Pulpit

Bonus Chapter 5

There Is a Difference

Relief Society General Conference

Tabernacle, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah

April 3, 1937

Kate Olive Montgomery Barker (1881–1972) joined the Relief Society general board in 1929, the same year as the stock market crash that precipitated the Great Depression.1 In 1935, President Louise Y. Robison appointed Barker her second counselor, the “educational counselor,” in which assignment she oversaw the development of lesson curriculum.2 Each month, Relief Society sisters had class meetings on the topics of theology, literature, and social service. On the fourth week they held a “work and business” meeting. Relief Society leaders took these courses seriously. Their handbook specified that the “administration of charity” should not so consume their time that they neglected developing faith or advancing their literary, social, and domestic expertise.3

Barker’s own education informed her work in curriculum development. After graduating as a top student from Ogden High School, she taught school for three years in Logan, Utah, until she married James L. Barker in 1906.4 Thereafter she continued to pursue education however she could as James advanced his career in European languages (he would head the Modern Language Departments at both Brigham Young University and the University of Utah).5 When James was at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, Kate took an English literature class;6 when he studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, she took classes there.7 After returning to Utah, she participated in a number of educational clubs, including the Authors Club and the Ladies’ Literary Club.8

In addition to overseeing Relief Society curriculum, Barker worked as chair of the Mormon Handicraft Committee, which the general board established in 1937.9 Under Barker’s supervision, Mormon Handicraft became a consignment store for handmade items to help women supplement their family income during the Great Depression. The Relief Society general board hoped the organization would encourage home industry, “preserve the skills of our pioneer ancestors and the skills and crafts of the various countries from which many Relief Society members had emigrated, and … increase appreciation for fine quality workmanship.”10 Church members sent their handmade items to the Salt Lake Mormon Handicraft Shop, which sold quilts, bedspreads, tablecloths, aprons, dolls, and baby clothing.11 This effort mirrored in some ways the work of the federal Works Progress Administration in providing ways for women to earn money during economic hard times.12 Although historically women often sewed to earn money, the WPA was the first U.S. government program that paid women to sew, and they made clothing, sheets, blankets, pillows, and uniforms.13

For over two and a half years, Barker also composed the Bulletin, a monthly communication from the Relief Society general board to all missions in the church. The Bulletin described conferences and ideals and contained instruction under such headings as “What Is the Aim of Our Relief Society Lessons?” and “Qualities of Leadership.”14 Barker also served on church committees that supervised the welfare program, Deseret Clothing, and a program on alcohol education.15 She had served on the Relief Society general board for eight years when she gave the following talk at a Relief Society conference in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on April 3, 1937, about prayer, faith, and obedience.

We all appreciate life and opportunity. We are thankful we were born in this wonderful age. But great blessings and opportunities mean great responsibility. Our Father in Heaven is watching over the earth and has a glorious plan of establishing the kingdom of God on earth. He also has a general plan for each of his children and is depending on each of us to help further the gospel plan. If we appreciate this, can we do less than put our best effort into the work? Can our standards be too high? Jesus said, “He who is not for me is against me.”16 I think he meant actively for, and that inasmuch as we are passive, think superficially, inasmuch as we fail to put enough effort and time into our thinking and doing, so that we are thinking and acting straight and honest, inasmuch as we fail to put our heart and soul into the work—just so much are we against him.

But we can only be sure we are solving our problems in the right way if we have the help of our Father in Heaven. He has said, “Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not.”17 But “There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of the world upon which all blessings are predicated.”18

We have been given very definite laws governing prayer. We must ask in faith. Faith does not come without effort—waiting until the moment of need and saying, “I will have faith.” Faith comes through obedience. Our prayers must be sincere. They are sincere when we put forth our best efforts and then humbly ask for guidance or confirmation. When Oliver Cowdery wished to translate a part of the Book of Mormon he failed to receive the necessary inspiration, and the Lord said to him: “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you when you took no thought save it was to ask me.”19 There is a difference between asking our Father in Heaven to bless the poor, and in asking that we may see the needs and help to bring the blessing.

Let us pray for our church leaders, but let us also give our Father in Heaven the assurance that if he will inspire our leaders we will put forth our best effort to follow their guidance.

The Lord has also said, “Pray in your families.”20 Family prayer will do much to keep the family close together. Praying together does something to people. But there is a difference between praying and saying our prayers. Family prayers must never become routine. Let us show our children what prayer means to us. When Jesus was with his disciples he received so much help and comfort from prayer that they said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”21

Let our prayers be that we may have new insight and new unselfishness, that we may not disappoint our Father in Heaven in the tasks he has given us to perform.

  1. “Mrs. Kate Barker, 90, Dies,” Deseret News, Feb. 14, 1972; Kate M. Barker, “Autobiography of Kate Olive Montgomery Barker,” typescript (1960), 2, CHL. She completed her general board service in 1939. (Barker, “Autobiography,” 2.)

  2. Belle S. Spafford, “Kate M. Barker,” Relief Society Magazine 27, no. 2 (Feb. 1940): 81. Louise Yates Robison served as the Relief Society general president from 1928 to 1939.

  3. Handbook of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: General Board of Relief Society, 1931), 169–170.

  4. Mary C. Kimball, “Kate Montgomery Barker,” Relief Society Magazine 22, no. 5 (May 1935): 267; Alice Louise Reynolds, “Mrs. Kate Montgomery Barker,” Relief Society Magazine 16, no. 5 (May 1929): 240–241. Barker may have been class valedictorian; articles in the Relief Society Magazine (see above) refer to her as one of the leading scholars in her school, and her autobiography states that she spoke at her graduation. (Barker, “Autobiography,” 1.)

  5. Barker, “Autobiography,” 1; Kimball, “Kate Montgomery Barker,” 267.

  6. Barker, “Autobiography,” 1.

  7. Kimball, “Kate Montgomery Barker,” 7; Barker, “Autobiography,” 2; Reynolds, “Mrs. Kate Montgomery Barker,” 240. James Barker studied in Switzerland in 1906–1907 and in Paris from 1910 to 1913.

  8. Reynolds, “Mrs. Kate Montgomery Barker,” 240; Spafford, “Kate M. Barker,” 83. University of Utah community members discussed literature during Authors’ Club meetings. For an example of a meeting, see “Professor Butler Talks on Browning,” Salt Lake City Utah Chronicle, Jan. 11, 1915. The Ladies’ Literary Club brought “together women of all creeds and of no creed, on the common ground of desire to grow intellectually and to be helpful.” Katherine Barrette Parsons, History of Fifty Years: Ladies’ Literary Club, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1877–1927 (n.p.: Arrow Press, 1927), 153.

  9. Spafford, “Kate M. Barker,” 81–83.

  10. A Centenary of Relief Society 1842–1942 (Salt Lake City: General Board of Relief Society, 1942), 84; Spafford, “Kate M. Barker,” 83; Relief Society General Board Minutes, vol. 21, 1936–1937, Mar. 17, 1937, 105. These efforts are reminiscent of nineteenth-century Relief Society stores. (Centenary of Relief Society, 83–84.)

  11. Centenary of Relief Society, 84; Ethel C. Smith, “The Mormon Handicraft Shop,” Relief Society Magazine 36, no. 9 (Sept. 1949): 582.

  12. Carl E. Van Horn and Herbert A. Schaffner, eds., Work in America: An Encyclopedia of History, Policy, and Society (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003), 660.

  13. The Works Progress Administration provided government-subsidized jobs for both men and women from 1935 to 1943. (T. H. Watkins, The Hungry Years: A Narrative History of the Great Depression in America [New York: Henry Holt, 1999], 265. See also Martha H. Swain, “‘The Forgotten Woman’: Ellen S. Woodward and Women’s Relief in the New Deal,” Prologue 15, no. 4 [Winter 1983]: 201–213.)

  14. Spafford, “Kate M. Barker,” 83; National Woman’s Relief Society General Board, Bulletin, Sept. 1935, July 1936, CHL.

  15. Spafford, “Kate M. Barker,” 83.

  16. See Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23.

  17. Doctrine and Covenants 6:36.

  18. Doctrine and Covenants 130:20.

  19. Doctrine and Covenants 9:7. Oliver Cowdery served as a scribe to Joseph Smith when he translated the Book of Mormon. This revelation, dictated by Joseph Smith in April 1829, was in response to Cowdery’s unsuccessful attempt to translate the book himself, a gift promised to him in an earlier revelation. (See Doctrine and Covenants 8; Revelation, April 1829–D [D&C 9], in Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley, eds., Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, vol. 1 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, Richard Lyman Bushman, and Matthew J. Grow [Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2013], 48–50.)

  20. 3 Nephi 18:21.

  21. Luke 11:1.