“A Conversation about Changes in the Relief Society Personal Study Guide,” Ensign, Sept. 1989, 78–79
The new Relief Society personal study guide has some new features compared with those of previous years. The Relief Society General Presidency discussed the changes in a recent interview with the Ensign.
Q.: How have you modified the new personal study guide?
President Winder: This is the first in a series of four guides. Sisters worldwide will study one of these guides each year during the next four years, then will begin again with number one—just as Melchizedek Priesthood holders do with their study guides.
Sister Doxey: This first guide is called Remember Me. It’s based on the Old Testament, and its lessons center on remembering the Lord and the covenants we have made with him.
The manual contains thirty-eight Sunday lessons instead of the fifty we’ve had in the past. The General Authority talks have been deleted. Ward presidencies will now have the opportunity to choose talks from the most recent conference issues of the Ensign and the Church’s international magazines to address specific needs of the sisters in their wards. Two home management lessons have also been deleted. In their place, teachers will prepare lessons on personal and family preparedness using Church and local community information, such as county extension services. The three Hold to the Rod lessons with videotapes are scheduled as regular lessons, rather than supplemental lessons on the fifth Sundays.
President Winder: It sounds as if a lot of material has been taken out of the manual, but if a ward has four Sunday teachers and a home management teacher, each person will have to prepare only two lessons on her own. If a unit has fewer teachers, these lessons are scheduled at least six weeks apart, so there will be ample time to prepare.
Q.: Why did you make these changes?
Sister Doxey: To reduce and simplify so that the Church translation, production, and printing departments are more free to help “flood the earth with copies of the Book of Mormon,” as President Ezra Taft Benson has asked. As Relief Society sisters, we’re delighted to join with other Church departments to be a part of that effort.
President Winder: Also, since we believe in continual revelation, we need to study current messages from current General Authorities. This will be especially important now that we will not be printing new manuals each year.
Sister Evans: This plan gives local leaders more flexibility. If a situation comes up in their ward, even at the last minute, and there’s a wonderful talk that deals with that particular topic, they can use it as a lesson.
Q.: How should leaders choose which talks to use as lessons?
President Winder: First of all, they should be mindful of the needs of their members. The Relief Society president can discuss these with the bishop and the ward council.
Sister Doxey: Another way to assess needs is through visiting teaching quarterly interviews.
Sister Evans: It would be hard to go wrong, no matter which talks you chose.
Q.: How can teachers prepare a lesson from a talk?
Sister Doxey: The introduction to the study guide includes several teaching methods. It also gives a lesson plan based on the format that Relief Society curriculum writers have used in the past. Teachers look for the talk’s main gospel principle and then build their lesson by answering such questions as, What do the scriptures say about this principle? What do the prophets say about it? How can living this principle help us solve our problems?
If teachers need more help, they can go to their in-service board member or ward education counselor, as well as to the stake education counselor. This program has a built-in support team.
Sister Evans: Teachers can also share ideas at monthly ward board meetings.
Sister Doxey: This is not going to be an easy thing for some sisters—we’re well aware of that. But they will be blessed as they seek spiritual guidance. Heavenly Father knows their needs and will make them equal to the task.
Q.: Which lessons should leaders schedule on the fifth Sundays of the year?
Sister Doxey: They should first use lessons they omitted from the regular schedule because of local conferences. If they need more, they can use extra lessons from past manuals or lessons from Gospel Principles or The Latter-day Saint Woman, parts A and B.
Q.: What are the advantages of the changes?
President Winder: We are going to learn how to prepare ourselves. We will learn to formulate a lesson using a step-by-step procedure—knowledge that can be transferred into other areas, such as talk preparation. But more important, this new program will teach us to depend on the Lord.
Sister Doxey: Another wonderful by-product is that we’re going to have to turn more to the scriptures. Both President Spencer W. Kimball and President Ezra Taft Benson have wanted sister scriptorians, and these lessons—in which the standard works will be our major resource—will encourage that to happen.
Q.: How will the changes help those who listen to the lessons?
President Winder: When a teacher seeks the Spirit and is concerned about her students, she is able to understand their needs. The sisters will feel that and, as a result, will be better able to apply the messages in their own lives. But teachers will have to be much more prayerful and will have to prepare their lives so that they can be directed.
Sister Evans: The sisters, too, have a responsibility as well as an opportunity to come to Relief Society in a spirit of being willing to learn—and to learn from each other.
Sister Doxey: We hope that class members will come having read the lessons and talks and having prayed for the teacher, so that they will all be of one mind. This unity will bring them closer to Heavenly Father.
President Winder: I feel pleased with the opportunity this study guide gives us to develop the self-reliance we need to achieve greater spiritual growth.