I have an anxious concern for the young women of the Church. There was a time when, in their Church activities and in their faithfulness in carrying forward those activities, they were far ahead of the young men. In many areas of the Church, that has changed. The faithfulness of the young men, as evidenced in their Church activity, has moved forward, but that of the young women generally has not. In fact, in some areas it has slipped. We are prone to put emphasis on programs for the boys. We speak much of the Aaronic Priesthood and of Scouting. They are tremendously important. I do not minimize their importance. We need to strengthen the work in that sector. But I am greatly concerned over what may be happening with the young women of the Church.
Many of them, of course, are true and wonderful. I attended a regional conference recently. The Sunday morning meeting was held in a large auditorium. On the front row, just below the stand, sat a group of beautiful girls. They were well groomed—clean and lovely. They were vivacious and bright in their appearance. They were the very epitome of all that could be hoped for in young women. Some of them had their scriptures with them. All listened attentively to the speakers, and those with their books followed the quotations cited by the speakers. It was evident that they were products of the seminary program as well as the other programs of the Church.
They had risen early that morning to travel far with their parents to be at the conference. They were there because they had learned to love the Lord and to enjoy the association of the Saints. They impressed me as representing what this marvelous work is all about.
In that magnificent vision given Moses wherein the Lord spoke of His creations, of worlds made without number, and of the majesty and wonder of His work, He declared, “Behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.)
The word man as used above is generic. It includes man and woman, for, as Paul said, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:11.)
I am confident that the daughters of God are as precious to Him as are His sons. They are as important a part of His eternal plan. It is obvious that there could be no continuity of the race without women.
We live at a time when things are happening to women across the world. There comes to my desk periodically a magazine titled Leadership. It is published in South Africa. The most recent issue I have carries on its cover a photograph of a striking and impressive face. Beneath the picture are the words, “A New Generation of South African Women.” It is happening everywhere, some of it for good and some for ill.
Strong and able women today fill responsible posts in industry, government, education, and the professions. The whole world looks with respect to Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister of Great Britain, a woman of demonstrated ability and great capacity in carrying forward a program designed to strengthen her nation and its people. We were all impressed when Golda Meir served as prime minister of Israel.
It is wonderful to witness this great renaissance. I think it will continue to grow for the blessing of people everywhere.
The Church has been in the forefront in training the daughters of Zion and in giving them responsibility. We believe and have taught consistently from the earliest days of the Church that a woman’s greatest mission in life is an honorable and happy marriage with the rearing of an honorable and happy family. That means mothering and nurturing in a very real and personal way, a way that is demanding both in time and energy. But this is not inconsistent with other activities. There are tremendous responsibilities for women in the Church as well as in the community consistent with and in total harmony with marriage, motherhood, and the rearing of good and able children.
It is important, therefore, that girls in the Church have opportunity for and motivation to move forward in programs designed to improve their skills, to enhance their estimation of their own self-worth, and to broaden their knowledge of the gospel with consequent increase of faith. The generations are largely cast by the mothers who produce them. The story is told that Brigham Young was once asked what he would do if he had to choose between providing education for his sons or for his daughters. He replied that he would educate his daughters because they would become the mothers of his grandchildren.
The young women of this generation not only have tremendous opportunities, but they also face terrible temptations. The pornography merchants cast their filthy lures in the direction of girls as well as boys. The exploitation of sex has become a marketable commodity employing every vile trick of the advertiser, every slick and seductive element that can be conjured up. Popularity is the siren’s song. I recently read that the use of drugs in America is increasing more rapidly among young women than among young men.
It is so important that we increase our efforts to teach our young women the ways of eternal truth, to make virtue attractive and all-important, to make testimony a pearl to be sought after and worn with dignity and pride, to hold out the incomparable blessings that come from temple marriage and a wholesome, rewarding family life.
Do we encourage education? By all means. Every young woman ought to be encouraged to refine her skills and increase her abilities, to broaden her knowledge and strengthen her capacity.
What a tragic thing it is to see a young woman become entrapped in practices that destroy her potential and cut short her divine destiny.
I recently spoke at the funeral of a woman whose family I have known most of my life. They have been good people, honest and capable in their respective vocations. But there has been an element largely absent from their lives. They have not been active in the Church. Such activity would have added a very important dimension to their personalities and, more important, to their understanding of the eternal plan of God our Eternal Father.
Their grandparents and great-grandparents were among the pioneers who laid the foundations of this work, sacrificing much, and who would have given their lives for it, if need be. But somehow that great candle of faith flickered and died in this generation—and the loss has been ever so tragic.
There is a proverb that states: “As the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined.”
Youth is the season to set the directions for life. And in the case of a young woman, her life will be immeasurably enhanced if she is exposed to and accepts those directions. Moreover, the posterity who follow after her will more likely be reared in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4; Enos 1:1) to their great benefit and blessing. When we save a girl, we save generations. No one can foretell the consequences of faithfulness in the life of a young woman.
It is important to emphasize the Aaronic Priesthood. It is important to encourage Scouting. But it is every bit as important to see that everything possible is done to afford every young woman in the Church an opportunity for growth and development, training and activity that will lead to faith, testimony, and virtuous and happy living.
The doctrine of the Church is eternal truth. It is all-encompassing. It is beautiful and powerful. We have programs that are carefully worked out through much prayer, study, and deliberation. The remaining ingredient is leadership. The young women of the Church need and deserve leaders and teachers of great capacity and faith to give emphasis to this tremendous work, women to whom young women can look with admiration and respect and who are examples to girls who are growing and preparing for their missions in life. These will be leaders who have in mind the happiness of young women and who understand that the future strength of the Church is at stake. Yes, it is important that the boys be faithful. It is equally important that the girls be faithful. They stand side by side before God our Eternal Father as His sons and daughters.
Woman is God’s supreme creation. Only after the earth had been formed, after the day had been separated from the night, after the waters had been divided from the land, after vegetation and animal life had been created, and after man had been placed on the earth, was woman created; and only then was the work pronounced complete and good.
Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth. God will hold us accountable if we neglect His daughters. He has given us a great and compelling trust. May we be faithful to that trust.