Relief Society Lessons: Preparing for the New Lesson Manuals

by EmilyCC

So…those new lessons in the Gospel Principles lesson manual.

Short and sweet, right?  🙂

We’ve had a few emails and comments from troubled Relief Society teachers who are worried about the new format.  Rest assured, Kelly Ann will be leading our bloggers as we continue to do lesson outlines (starting Tuesday, January 5th) and count on our faithful readers to chime in with their excellent suggestions.

This new lesson format appears to espouse what we at the Exponent have said since we began our lesson outlines…class should be a discussion, not a lecture.  While the lessons are much shorter than our old prophet manuals, there are some helpful discussion questions, which I think, are meant to encourage the students to teach the class as they share personal experiences and ideas about gospel topics at a fairly basic level.

I think these changes are good ones, but I’ll admit that it’s a bit scary to leave those prophets behind (seriously, I NEVER would have thought I’d say that when we first started these lesson outlines).  Lately, it’s been pretty easy for me to whip up a lesson with the format I’ve grown so accustomed to.

To help us all in this upcoming change, here’s a list of online resources I gave to the RS teachers in a ward that I have found helpful when thinking about this upcoming change.  (Incidentally, this list is borrowed heavily from Kaimi’s excellent post from this summer–he provides even more links.  It’s well-worth looking into.)

UPDATE: The official Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website ( also has a webpage with links to past manuals and other resources you may find helpful here.

Online Resources for Relief Society Lessons
Lesson Outlines

1)     Don’t worry, you’re already at the first one…The Exponent Blog: a Mormon feminist blog that posts the manual lessons on the first two Tuesdays of the month with outlines, questions for class discussion, and material from and/or about women that pertains to the lesson

2)     SugarDoodle: a comprehensive site for games, lessons, activities for all auxiliaries.  Under the Relief Society section, you’ll find “Lesson helps” with links to other websites (as of Nov 2009, Exponent was the only active link)

How to’s (Blog posts)

1)     How to plan a relief society lesson: Amelia offers excellent ideas about how to organize and prepare lessons, teach students how to prepare for clas (thereby enhancing discussion), and getting the class to think more deeply about the subject at hand.

2)     How to teach a scripture passage:  Sometimes, we feel like we’ve already done our scripture study in Gospel Doctrine or Gospel Essentials.  These new lessons rely more heavily on the scriptures than the prophet manuals.  Julie offers excellent suggestions (and links) for how teachers can study the passages of scripture more effectively and pass those skils and knowledge onto the class.

Commentary and Talks

1) library: the official Church website for links to all conference talks and curriculum

2)     Feast Upon the Word: a website designed to look like Wikepedia that has LDS commentary on scriptures, sometimes verse by verse, often chapter by chapter

3)     BYU’s Scriptural Index to the Latter-day Saint Prophets: matches up talks with scriptures and allows you to see the scriptures and the talks at the same time.

4)     BYU Speeches: talks given at BYU (not all GA’s), some need to be purchased to listen to or read

5)     Encyclopedia of Mormonism: sponsored by BYU Studies, easily searchable

Deepening Scripture Study for Lessons
Because the Church prefers that we stick to primary sources, i.e. manuals, scriptures, and words of the prophets, I think these sites will be particularly handy when looking at the scriptures listed in the lessons.  Though I heart the King James Version, sometimes, I find it helpful to look at other versions of the Bible and read a few commentaries to better understand what I’m reading.

1) online scriptures: the official Church website for LDS scriptures

2)     Biblos: a comprehensive website for scripture study, which includes multiple translations of the Bible and several valuable reference materials, like Strong’s Concordance, a biblical atlas, and multiple commentaries

3)     Bible Gateway: allows you to look up a specific scripture with a translation of your choice (I prefer the New International  Version or the International Standard Version)

Historical Sources

1)     History of the Church by BYU Studies: all seven volumes of this series, compiled in chronological order, but right now, there doesn’t seem to be a way to search this database

2)     Stories of early saints, old poetry, lesson manuals, hymns, ads in Church magazines:

Do you have sites you’d add to this list?

What are you looking forward to or dreading about this manual switch?

EmilyCC lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She currently serves as a stake Just Serve specialists, and she recently returned to school to become a nurse. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.


  1. I like that we are done with JS, because many of the lessons in the past six months just seemed strange to me. I am worried about only having a page and a half of material to use, since I have trouble getting the women in my ward involved in discussions. Usually I’m 10-15 minutes into the lesson before they start answering my questions, and this manual seems to only have five minutes of material.

  2. As a teacher asking questions in RS, I asked the questions, and if there were no responses, I ask the question again telling the women I will give them a minute to consider how they feel about the question. If I did not worry about all being quiet when I thought I should be filling the air waves, the women always opened up with good responses.

  3. Emily, this is wonderful! I sure hope our RS teachers find this post and use it.

    One other resource I would suggest is Chieko Okazaki books. You can find them used on Amazon very inexpensively, and I find she invariably has something interesting to say on almost any lesson topic. She would be great to quote from, or to just use as a resource for a new way to think about a topic.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I always found your lesson outlines very helpful and I was hoping that it was going to continue. One other resource that I was hoping to incorporate into my lessons this year is the Preach My Gospel Manual. Our ward hasn’t given us our Gospel Principles manual yet, but I thought the Missionary resource would be valuable. Thank you again for your lesson insights and help.

  5. I am so relieved to hear that you will continue on with the new lesson manual. I have been trying to come up with a way to make it interesting. I love what you have done in the past. Thank You. Karen

  6. Thank you so much for continuing these lesson guidelines. They have added so much to my lessons in the past. This will be a new adventure, so will look forward to your ideas.

  7. I found a great book at Desseret Book to go along with the new lesson manual. It is called Essential Gospel Teaching by Richard J. Allen. It has a lot of information that goes along with each lesson. Hope this will help and thanks for your post!

  8. kew, I agree. I usually like to have a bit more material to present to let the group get comfortable with the material before opening up to questions. It’ll be interesting…

    Suzann, great advice! It can feel like an eternity when we’re the teacher waiting for answers. I love that you give them a bit more time to think AND tell them that you’re doing so.

    Caroline, oh yes! I love how Sis Okazaki tells a story to illustrate a gospel principle.

    Kelly Ann, thank you for organizing all of us 🙂

    Deanna, the Preach My Gospel manual is a GREAT idea…the format presented in there seems to be very similar to what we’re being asked to do in RS/PH.

  9. Karen, I’m working on tomorrow’s post right now with the new lesson. Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful!

    Rockin’Robin, great suggestion! has a webpage similar to this post with links of other resources, too. I’m updating this post with that link.

    adamf, seriously, sugardoodle saves my life every week when I prepare sharing time!

    JanC, so glad you’re finding the outlines helpful. We have some very talented teachers putting these together 🙂

    Kristi, sounds like you’re ahead of the game having already gotten a book to help! If you think there’s something particularly worthwhile in there, I hope you’ll leave a comment about it.

  10. I have also found that if I ask a question and wait, and repeat the question, I usually get answers. There is also a cute teacher who is younger who says something like, “come on sisters, you have had a lot more experience than I have here.” It was really cute. Ask, repeat and wait!

  11. I have really appreciated all the lesson helps through this site. I have prepared my lesson for the first chapter and am supplementing it with several quotes from 3 different talks given during the last General Conference – they fit perfectly with Chapter 1.

  12. I’m also preparing for this lesson. The two talks that I’ve gotten information from are November 2009 Ensign: “The Love of God” Page 21-24. And “Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ” Page29-32

  13. Yes, I appreciate all your help in preparing this lesson. I also found very good resources from the Conference Messages. Robert D Hales talk on Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

  14. I appropriate all the comments, but either I am missing something or else the lesson had not been posted. I thought there would be an outline of the lesson like there was in the past. Thanks again for all of your help.

  15. kellie, what a nice way of bringing humor into an awkward situation!

    Brenda M, great idea–can’t go wrong with using the most recent General Conference talks.

    m bradford and Karen, my apologies! My kids decided not to nap today (which was when I was going to do my final revisions). It figures…Anyway, it’s up now. Thanks for your patience.

    Sarah and Lisa, these both sound like excellent resources! If you have a chance, could you repost your comments in the lesson I just posted: ? Thanks SO much.

  16. Georgia, here is the schedule of the lessons that will be posted on the 1st and 2nd Tuesdays of the month. I hope all past and future commentators find this useful (and hence the reason I am posting it in both current lesson threads).

    Exponent RS Lessons for 2009 – 1st and 2nd Tuesdays of the Month

    01/05/10 – Chapter 1: Our Father in Heaven
    01/12/10 – Chapter 2: Our Heavenly Family

    02/02/10 – Chapter 3: Jesus Christ, Our Chosen Leader and Savior
    02/09/10 – Chapter 4: Freedom to Choose

    03/02/10 – Chapter 5: The Creation
    03/09/10 – Chapter 6: The Fall of Adam and Eve

    04/06/10 – Chapter 7: The Holy Ghost
    04/13/10 – Chapter 8: Praying to Our Heavenly Father

    05/04/10 – Chapter 9: Prophets of God
    05/11/10 – Chapter 10: Scriptures

    06/01/10 – Chapter 11: The Life of Christ
    06/08/10 – Chapter 12: The Atonement

  17. When I ask a question if there is pause I always share my own experience or some other thought of my own that ALWAYS produces responses, then a great discussion follows. I have found that others do want share, they just need a minute to think about it or else they just need a real life, relevant experience to go along with the question. This will help them either feel comfortable to share their thoughts or to understand the question better.

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