“We Put Our Experiences in Print,” Ensign, Jan. 1982, 64–65
I had been teaching the Spiritual Living lessons in our Relief Society for almost a year. I was enjoying the calling immensely, feeling that a good rapport had developed in the classroom and that our discussions in class were thoughtful and often lively. But still, I wondered, how much being taught was really being lived? Were any of my sisters’ lives being affected in a positive way?
I prayed to the Lord that I would know how to best stimulate interest beyond the classroom. I had gained much from preparing and presenting these lessons, and I wanted my friends in Relief Society to become more involved.
The answer came clearly and distinctly. One night early in December, after all my children were settled down and as I was waiting for my husband to come home from a meeting at the church, I lay down to relax for a few minutes. I began reviewing the Christmas presents I had yet to purchase, the menu for our family Christmas party, and other concerns of the season.
Suddenly my mind shifted to the upcoming January Relief Society lesson, titled “Live by the Spirit.” For just a few moments, I felt the reality of Joseph Smith’s description of revelation: “When you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas.” (History of the Church, 3:381.)
An idea came into my mind which was clearly not of my own creation. I felt prompted to ask the sisters in our Relief Society class to compile a record of instances when the Holy Ghost had influenced their lives. I had been reading accounts of the struggles of the sisters in the early days of the Church, and had been touched by the great spiritual outpourings these pioneer sisters had received and recorded. Their experiences had motivated me to live a better life so that the Holy Ghost could abide with me more constantly. But modern Church women were undoubtedly just as spiritual; we simply had not taken opportunities to share our spiritual experiences. I felt that if we shared these experiences with each other we would all be blessed.
I was intrigued by the idea and was anxious to present the lesson on living by the Spirit. Yet, knowing how difficult it had been to get our sisters to write down their favorite recipes for the cookbook just printed, I wondered if they would be willing to share experiences much more personal and sacred.
I asked the ward Relief Society presidency what they thought of the idea. We recognized that spiritual experiences are personal and private and are not normally shared except as the person feels prompted to do so. But we felt the Spirit prompting us to go ahead with the project, and when I received the presidency’s approval I asked each to write one of her experiences to be used as examples during the lesson. All four complied, and I knew the project would be successful—even if no one else responded. I presented the lesson on “Live by the Spirit” and requested that each sister write down an experience in which the Holy Ghost had influenced her life. I wanted to have material ready to give to the sisters in one month at our next Spiritual Living lesson.
Two sisters who bore their testimonies that day said that they knew my request was an inspired one and that every sister should commit herself to write. The presidency and I called the women who were not at Relief Society to let them know of the project.
But the deadline came, and only one additional experience had been turned in. Discouragement set in. We decided to extend the deadline to the last possible moment, encouraging the sisters again to participate. Then the deluge began. As the contributions poured in, I was moved to tears by virtually every experience I read. All were warm and tender. (See example accompanying this article.)
Thursday morning—the day I had planned to deliver our booklet to the sisters at our Relief Society lesson—it snowed. The roads were terrible, but I drove to the printer’s as soon as they opened. There on the counter were the books, the title, Twentieth Century Daughters of Light: Spiritual Experiences of the Sisters of Butler 31st Ward Relief Society, done in expert calligraphy by a woman in our ward. I was ecstatic as I picked up a book and began to glance through it. But I immediately saw that several pages had been shifted during the binding and were out of order. The printer promised that he would correct the error and deliver the books to our ward. They arrived just as I was concluding my lesson, and we were able to distribute them as planned.
Looking back, I realize that I didn’t really comprehend the positive effect this project would have. One important benefit has been a deeper realization among the members of our ward that the Holy Ghost can and does influence our daily living. Indeed, most of the experiences recorded were not dramatic manifestations—the sisters talked about inspiration for themselves and their loved ones, children, marriages, illness, conversion, the challenges of life. But the power of the Holy Ghost attended these challenges, testifying of the love the Lord has for each of us and his concern for our own particular needs. Reading this collection of experiences has strengthened many testimonies immeasurably. In this respect, the promise was fulfilled—that compiling the book would be a great spiritual blessing.
Another benefit of the project became apparent as I talked with the writers. Each expressed how worthwhile it was to record her spiritual experiences. Writing something down not only ensured a legacy for her children to read, a written witness of their mother’s testimony of the gospel, but it also made her examine those experiences in detail, recalling specific events and feelings. One sister said that as she thought over several experiences, many more came into her mind—some that she had forgotten, others that she had not recognized previously as spiritual in nature. Because she was becoming more attentive to the Spirit, she had more experiences to record.
A third benefit is that it has generated a great feeling of love and unity among the members of our ward. We have come to know each other more intimately. I have heard remarks not just from the women in our ward, but also from their husbands and their children: “I feel so close to this sister now.” “I wish I had known of this experience sooner.” “This has brought us together in love.” “This is sharing on a very meaningful and spiritual level.”
How grateful I am that the Spirit prompted me to reach out beyond the classroom.