The Rule Comes First

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This is an excerpt from In Wisdom and Order, by Boyd K. Packer.

On one occasion when I was president of the New England Mission, we were holding a Relief Society conference of several hundred women. Our Relief Society president was a convert. We were trying to get our sewing circles and gossip festivals turned into Relief Societies. We were setting the standards for Relief Society, and this lovely sister was told to teach the sisters what a Relief Society should be.

At this Relief Society conference she was explaining that the Relief Society would no longer be held on Sunday, that they would hold it on weekdays so that they could have sewing and activities and so on. A woman stood up in the audience and defied her and said, “You don’t understand. Things are different up in Vermont. This is different, we are an exception. We can’t do that. You must make an exception.”

The Relief Society president was quite puzzled at this confrontation. She turned around and looked at me, pleading for help. I thought she was doing pretty well, so I motioned for her to proceed. She did, and what she said next was so profound that I told her after the meeting I would be quoting that across the world, since I was sure it came by inspiration. For she stood there, frightened and puzzled, for a few minutes while that defiant woman, who was something of a ringleader representing a faction, kept talking for a minute, reemphasizing that they were an exception. Then Sister Baker quietly but firmly said, “Dear sister, we’d like not to take care of the exception first. We’ll see to the rule first, and then we’ll take care of the exception.”

Now, what are you to do in your lives? Accommodate the rule first! If you’re to be an exception, or if others are to be an exception, that will become obvious in the inspiration that comes. But there is great power and great safety in holding to the scriptures and having an abounding obedience to our constituted priesthood authority. We are able to pray and receive revelation on our own and then to obediently say, “Lord, I don’t ask to be an exception.” (Body K. Packer, In Wisdom and Order [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013], 70–71).

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