We are all aware that today there are insidious influences that strive to create conflict within the hearts of women as they try to define their role and sense of personal value. It must surely be because of women’s influence for good that Satan is focusing so many efforts on causing dissatisfaction among women.

There are voices telling us that the role of wife and mother is a subservient one, that it is demeaning for a woman to live primarily for her home and family. We have become defensive if the career we have chosen is that of homemaking. We tend to become apologetic to those who proclaim that we cannot find self-fulfillment if our first priority is to be a wife and mother. There are truths in this gospel, taught from the scriptures, from the days of Adam and Eve, which assure us that wifehood and motherhood are ordained of God and are of first importance. We know that marriage is a partnership—an equal partnership with a division of duties—where neither male nor female is superior, where domination by either husband or wife is wrong.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, at the dedication services of the Nauvoo Monument to Women, said, “Where spiritual things are concerned … in all matters that pertain to godliness and holiness and which are brought to pass as a result of personal righteousness—in all these things men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before the Lord.” (Ensign, Jan. 1979, p. 61.)

Satan knows that if he destroys the real image of womanhood, if he discourages women, he will make great strides toward the destruction of the home. It is within the Church and through obedience to its teachings that we find peace, order, and direction for our lives.

As women, we are responsible first and foremost to the Lord for our individual progress and spiritual development. The entire plan of salvation is centered around the worth of the individual. Each life is priceless, with its potential to learn, to love, to appreciate all that is good and beautiful on this earth, to find joy, and to further the work of the Lord.

We are beloved daughters of our Heavenly Father. Do we really understand what that means?

One morning a husband and wife received a frantic telephone call from their married daughter. Her baby girl was in the hospital with a serious kidney infection. They drove quickly to be at her side. As their daughter fell weeping into their arms, she said: “I never knew until now how much you have loved me.” In her concern for her own child, she had learned a great truth. We can only begin to comprehend the true meaning of our Heavenly Father’s love for us as we equate it with the love we feel for one another.

There are within each woman certain unique qualities—her intelligence, her combination of talents and positive personality traits, her inner self, her soul which are of immense worth. It is the duty of each woman to come to know and accept and enjoy being herself. She must respect her own inner strengths and from this self-acceptance be secure enough to live courageously and righteously and to reach out in service to her family and fellow beings.

An official Church statement of July 1976 said: “There is no greater responsibility and opportunity, no task to which woman may put her hand, so broad and inspiring, so filled with interest, so demanding of intelligence and capability, so rewarding, as that of wife, mother and homemaker. But that does not mean all her activities must be confined to that important role.

“Women have a duty to exercise their mental capacities, to enlarge upon their talents, and to increase their skills. They must give to the world the best they have in a manner that will be productive of the most good along the paths their lives may take.”

There are women of high achievement everywhere, working inside and outside the home. Womanly accomplishments are many and varied and influential for good. But regardless of what women may accomplish, Latter-day Saint women know that their highest priority is within the family, that their highest calling is that of marriage partner and nurturer.

Women have great potential for spiritual growth, for compassion, for teaching and influencing others, for artistic creativity, for leadership.

Among the leadership skills to be learned are wise management of money, time, and emotions. We learn to be nutritionists and intelligent consumers with enough common sense to avoid the constant bombardments to buy more than we really need.

It takes commitment and self-discipline on the part of both marriage partners to build a loving and lasting relationship. Marriage is an adjusting of different personalities. It is the resolution to give complete fidelity to your spouse. We have been told that all houses are beat upon sooner or later by the storms of life. We are facing special tests in today’s world. There is a great need to build up strengths so that when the storms do arise, we may be able to withstand them. Problems can become stepping-stones in strengthening a marriage as husband and wife love each other and work their problems out together.

There are many womanly gifts that the wife can bring to her marriage and family. My granddaughter Jo Ellen and I were watching a hard-fought football game. As her brother Mike came off the field, he was tired, dirty, and slightly bruised. She turned to me and said, “Oh, Grandma, I’m so glad I am a girl!”

That remark surprised me because Jo Ellen has always loved competing in sports. Mike would have said that he was glad to be a boy. I thought how good it is to be satisfied with our role in life. I echo my granddaughter. I am glad to be a girl, to be a woman. I am thankful I have had the privilege and joys of being a daughter, a wife. I am particularly thankful to be a Latter-day Saint woman with a testimony of the gospel to give me hope and assurance in my world. I believe Jo Ellen was sensing the innate qualities that are the blessings of womanhood. Women have special qualities of compassion, patience, and sweetness.

The Prophet Joseph Smith, addressing the sisters of Relief Society in 1842, said, “It is natural for females to have feelings of charity and benevolence.” (History of the Church, 4:605.) We know that certain traits are not solely attributes of men, nor are certain others only attributes of women. Christlike qualities can be developed by all. But since God prepared us for our assignments on this earth, isn’t it reasonable to believe that some inherited talents and characteristics are uniquely feminine?

Many women are motivated to make something beautiful and peaceful of their lives. Home is precious to such women. Their husbands are honored, and their children are cherished.

Let us have pride in our womanly traits and capacities and recognize that the home can provide the climate in which feminine virtues thrive and grow, virtues so greatly needed in the world today.

The primary relationship in any home is that of the husband and wife. Energy invested in improving this relationship will aid in building strong, unified homes, and in producing secure, well-adjusted children.

If we would draw closer to our husbands in love and companionship, we need to appreciate their virtues, acknowledge our dependence on them, and be thankful for their love and protection and for someone with whom to share the joys, the sorrows, and the blame.

One sister in a fast and testimony meeting reported that on rainy days, she often said to her husband, “Thank you for providing us with a roof that does not leak.”

How often do we, as women, remember to notice and thank our husbands for all they do for us?

Church callings of husband or wife are, in effect, family callings. The wife plays a supportive role when it comes to encouraging and sustaining her husband in his Church responsibilities. Each partner has the challenge to be unselfish and to reinforce the other in his or her Church assignments. Nothing will bring more blessings to a home than a husband living worthy of his priesthood and honoring his wife as she supports him in every needful thing.

A wife fulfills a cherishing role as she and her husband make their home a haven, a safe place where all family members receive understanding, forgiveness, and guidance. Joseph Smith also told the women in his instructions: “Let this society teach women how to behave towards their husbands, to treat them with mildness and affection. When a man is borne down with trouble, when he is perplexed with care and difficulty, if he can meet a smile instead of an argument or a murmur—if he can meet with mildness, it will calm down his soul and soothe his feelings; when the mind is going to despair, it needs a solace of affection and kindness.” (History of the Church, 4:606.)

These were words from a prophet who was often sorely in need of comfort and reassurance.

A wife can determine the mood of a home. A happy wife can make a real difference. A woman can create happiness, or unhappiness, for those within her sphere of influence. There is nothing more appreciated than kindness and gentleness and nothing more contagious than a happy spirit. What better gift can we give our partner than a joyful and loving relationship where praise is given instead of criticism, and encouragement instead of disparagement?

The wife helps create the physical as well as spiritual environment of a home. Homemaking can be exciting, creative, and fulfilling. There is a feeling of peace in a well-ordered home. There is satisfaction from a sparkling window just cleaned, or a living area, for once, uncluttered. It will not be that way for long. It will soon need cleaning again, but don’t all jobs have their routines, their moments of drudgery?

Arta Romney Ballif, speaking at a Brigham Young University conference, said: “What do dirty dishes have to do with the celestial kingdom? Surely the celestial kingdom will not be filled with dirty dishes. But it will be a place of order. So we scrub floors and do the dishes. These mundane things remain mundane unless we relate them to the great goal that is far away. They have a harmony arid purpose with the celestial kingdom.” (“Progress Brings Joy,” ASBYU Women’s Conference, Aug. 1982.)

Sisters, let us not berate ourselves or indulge in self-pity if we are not always the ideal.

As women we do not know all the answers. I’ve wondered, “Do other wives, on receiving a card with beautiful sentiments expressed, feel guilt? Reading one such card, I thought: No, I am not always understanding, thoughtful, and wise. I am not blessed with infinite patience, and laughter does not always shine in my eyes.

We can become anxious and depressed trying to live up to the dream of being the “perfect spouse.”

There are times when we are confused, impatient, and frightened. Learning to live in harmony as a family takes a zig-zag path. Life has its ups and downs and can often be very trying work. Then there are the times of exaltation when we can be what is most beautiful and understanding.

Marriage should not be a power struggle, a battle of who wins or loses. Marriages flourish when there are little acts of courtesy, thoughtful daily expressions of love. Marriages flounder over little things—a household task left undone by one partner or the other, a continually overflowing garbage can or no clean shirts or socks. Sometimes it is easier to face up to the big problems than the small, everyday variety. One drop of discontent can cloud a marriage. We marry to give happiness as well as receive it.

When my husband was a bishop, he bore his testimony often, as bishops are wont to do. Many times he expressed appreciation for me, and he would say that I was “the light” of his life. He said it so often that a few of our friends began to tease me good-naturedly about it. I asked him, tactfully, if it wasn’t time he found another phrase. He firmly said, “My dear, you can tell me how to do many things, but do not tell me how to bear my testimony.”

Afterward, I thought: Why did I even think of criticizing such a lovely sentiment? We all crave light and warmth in this life. What could be more wonderful than to be “the light” of my husband’s life and to know of his willingness to tell the Lord and the ward members of his love for me? Commitment in marriage means being the most important person to your husband and having him be the same to you.

As men and women we are concerned about the future. We strive to live the gospel so we can obtain eternal rewards in the hereafter. Let us also remember we can experience great joy today; the gospel is for this life as well as the next. We can take with us the happiness we find here.

Tiredness at the day’s end can be a wonderful feeling if the energy we have expended has been spent in caring service and love to others—the essence of the gospel.

The most priceless thing that ever comes to us is another’s heart. Ingredients for a successful marriage are unselfishness and living the principles of the gospel.

The eternal birthright of every Latter-day Saint woman is to progress in the things of God until she, with her husband, can inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, dominions, powers—even to becoming a mother to spirit children. I pray that the Lord will bless and help us achieve this goal.

[photos] Photography by Eldon Linschoten

Ann S. Reese, mother of three, is a member of the Holladay 22nd Ward, Salt Lake Mount Olympus Stake. This address was given while she was serving as Education counselor in the General Relief Society presidency.