Sister Stephens: “We Have Great Reason to Rejoice”
By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer
All are invited to participate in the work of salvation, said Sister Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, during the general Relief Society meeting on September 28 in the Conference Center.
“As I have visited you around the world, I have observed that many of you … quietly stand as witnesses of God, mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort without realizing that you are keeping your covenants, the covenants you made in the waters of baptism and in the temple,” Sister Stephens said. “When you love, watch over, and serve others in small and simple ways, you are actively participating in the work of salvation, God’s work ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’”
As daughters in the Lord’s kingdom, women of the Church have made sacred covenants as they walk in what Nephi called the “strait and narrow path, which leads to eternal life,” she said. Although all are at different places on the path, it is important to work together to help each other “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.”
Sister Stephens shared a story of a Young Women adviser named Jeanne who had a great experience with a young woman, Ashley, while hiking for an activity. The young woman had some physical challenges that made it difficult for her to climb very fast. But as Jeanne and Ashley climbed the mountain, they were able to notice Heavenly Father’s creations around them.
“It wasn’t about the mountain that night—it was about much, much more,” Sister Stephens recalled Jeanne saying of the hike. “It was about helping each other along the path, one step at a time.”
Jeanne and Ashley fell behind the group but were joined by another young woman, Emma, who waited for them and brought added joy to their hike.
“As Jeanne, Ashley, and Emma hiked and sang and rested and laughed together, they probably weren’t thinking, ‘Hey, we are keeping our covenants right now.’ But they were. They were serving each other with love, compassion, and commitment. They were strengthening each other’s faith as they encouraged and ministered to one another.”
Another example Sister Stephens shared was about Marina, a woman who watches over and ministers to the sisters she has been asked to visit teach.
“[She] also reaches beyond this assignment,” she said. “She has many friends who are less active and who have not yet heard the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Each day, she exercises her faith and prays to know who needs her help, and then she acts on the prompting she receives. “
She makes phone calls, has family home evening in her apartment every week, and invites neighbors, members, and missionaries to come—and then feeds them. She also invites others to attend church and then watches for and sits by them when they arrive.
“Marina is a covenant-keeping disciple of Jesus Christ, and although she does not have a priesthood holder in her home, she feels God’s power each day in fulfillment of her temple covenants as she presses forward on the path, enduring to the end and helping others participate in the work of salvation along the way,” Sister Stephens said.
“As I shared these experiences with you, did you see yourself in the work of salvation? Take a moment to think of another daughter of God who needs encouragement to get back on the path or who needs a little help to stay on the path. Ask your Father in Heaven about her. She is His daughter. He knows her by name. He also knows you, and He will tell you what she needs. Be patient and continue in faith and prayer on her behalf, and act on the promptings you receive.”
Using the words of Ammon in the Book of Mormon, Sister Stephens said there is a great reason to rejoice, for “this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.”
Sister Stephens said, “We are covenant daughters in the Lord’s kingdom, and we have the opportunity to be instruments in His hands. As we participate in the work of salvation each day in small and simple ways—watching over, strengthening, and teaching one another—we will be able to join with Ammon, who declared: ‘Behold my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my own strength I am weak, therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things.’ ”