To the Young Women of the Church

Ezra Taft Benson

President of the Church


Abound in Hope was the theme of this year’s General Women’s Meeting, held Saturday evening, 27 September 1986. The meeting was broadcast by satellite to meetinghouses throughout the Church, where Latter-day Saint women and girls ten years and older joined with those in the Tabernacle on Temple Square to receive counsel from Church President Ezra Taft Benson, Primary General President Dwan J. Young, Young Women General President Ardeth G. Kapp, and Relief Society General President Barbara W. Winder.

President Ezra Taft Benson

My dear sisters, this has been a glorious meeting. What an opportunity to meet with the choice daughters of our Father in Heaven gathered in meetinghouses throughout the world!

Last April general conference I had a similar opportunity to speak to all the men of the Church on Saturday evening in general priesthood meeting. At that time, I spoke directly to the Aaronic Priesthood. Tonight, I would like to speak to you young women of corresponding age.

Some of what I say this evening will be exactly what I said to the young men six months ago, and which I want you to know likewise applies directly to you. I shall discuss other matters with you this evening that apply only to you, as young sisters, and your sacred callings as daughters of our Father in Heaven.

President David O. McKay said, “There is nothing so sacred as true womanhood” (Gospel Ideals, Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1953, p. 353). I agree with that statement with all my heart.

I appreciate so much the theme of your meeting this evening, “Abound in Hope.” It is an inspired theme.

What hopes I have for you young sisters! What hopes our Father in Heaven has for you!

You have been born at this time for a sacred and glorious purpose. It is not by chance that you have been reserved to come to earth in this last dispensation of the fulness of times. Your birth at this particular time was foreordained in the eternities.

You are to be the royal daughters of the Lord in the last days. You are “youth of the noble birthright” (Hymns, 1985, no. 255).

My young sisters, I am happy to see so many of you with your mothers this evening. I counsel each of you to draw close to your own mother. Love her. Respect her. Honor her. Receive your mother’s counsel as she loves and instructs you in righteousness. Honor and obey your father as he stands as the head of the home by emulating his spiritual qualities.

Young women, the family unit is forever, and you should do everything in your power to strengthen that unit. In your own family, encourage family home evenings and be an active participant. Encourage family prayer. Be on your knees with your family in that sacred circle. Do your part to develop real family unity and solidarity.

In such homes there is no generation gap. That is another tool of the devil. Your most important friendships should be with your own brothers and sisters and with your father and mother. Love your family. Be loyal to them. Have a genuine concern for your brothers and sisters. Help carry their load so you can say, as in the lyrics of that song, “he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” (Bob Russell, “He Ain’t Heavy,” Lynbrook, N.Y.: Harrison Music Corp., 1969).

Remember, the family is one of God’s greatest fortresses against the evils of our day.

Help keep your family strong and close and worthy of our Father in Heaven’s blessings. As you do, you will receive faith and hope and strength, which will bless your lives forever.

Next, young women, may I admonish you to participate in a program of daily reading and pondering of the scriptures. We remember the experience of our beloved prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball. As a fourteen-year-old boy, he accepted the challenge of reading the Bible from cover to cover. Most of his reading was done by coal oil light in his attic bedroom. He read every night until he completed the 1,519 pages, which took him approximately a year; but he attained his goal.

Of the four great standard works of the Church—the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price—I would particularly urge you to read again and again the Book of Mormon and ponder and apply its teachings. The Book of Mormon was referred to by the Prophet Joseph Smith as “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man [and woman] would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church, 4:461).

Young women, the Book of Mormon will change your life. It will fortify you against the evils of our day. It will bring a spirituality into your life that no other book will. It will be the most important book you will read in preparation for life’s challenges. A young woman who knows and loves the Book of Mormon, who has read it several times, who has an abiding testimony of its truthfulness, and who applies its teachings will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and will be a mighty tool in the hands of the Lord.

Further, I would encourage you, young sisters, as you approach your teenage years, to receive a patriarchal blessing. Study it carefully and regard it as personal scripture to you—for that indeed is what it is. A patriarchal blessing is “an inspired and prophetic statement of [your life’s] mission … together with such blessings, cautions, and admonitions as the patriarch may be prompted to give” (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O. McKay, in Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, comp. James R. Clark, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 6:194).

Young women, receive your patriarchal blessing under the influence of fasting and prayer, and then read it regularly that you may know God’s will for you.

May I now direct your attention to the importance of attending all of your Church meetings. Faithful attendance at Church meetings brings blessings you can receive in no other way.

Attend your sacrament meeting every Sunday. Listen carefully to the messages. Pray for the spirit of understanding and testimony. Partake of the sacrament with clean hands and a pure heart.

Attend your Sunday School classes every Sunday. Listen carefully to the lessons and participate in class discussions. Gospel scholarship and an increase in testimony will result.

Attend your Young Women meetings every Sunday and your weekly activities. Learn well your responsibilities in the gospel and then perform them with diligence.

Regularly attend seminary and be a seminary graduate. Seminary instruction is one of the most significant spiritual experiences a young woman can have.

Young women, take full advantage of the Church programs. Set your goals to attain excellence in the achievement programs of the Church.

The Personal Progress Program for young women is an excellent goal-oriented program. Its purpose is to help you develop the qualities and virtues of exemplary Latter-day Saint young women. Earn the Young Womanhood Recognition Award and proudly wear the gold medallion. Do not settle for mediocrity in this great incentive program for the young women of the Church.

May I now speak with you about missionary service in the kingdom. I feel very deeply about this. I pray that you will understand the yearnings of my heart.

The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “After all that has been said, [our] greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel” (History of the Church, 2:478).

The Lord wants every young man to serve a full-time mission. Presently only a third of the eligible young men in the Church are serving full-time missions. This is not pleasing to the Lord. We can do better. We must do better. Not only should a mission be regarded as a priesthood duty, but every young man should look forward to this experience with great joy and anticipation.

A young man can do nothing more important. School can wait. Scholarships can be deferred. Occupational goals can be postponed. Yes, even temple marriage should wait until after a young man has served an honorable full-time mission for the Lord.

Now, why do I mention this to you young women this evening? Because you can have a positive influence in motivating young men to serve full-time missions. Let the young men of your acquaintance know that you expect them to assume their missionary responsibilities, that you personally want them to serve in the mission field, because you know that’s where the Lord wants them.

Avoid steady dating with a young man prior to the time of his mission call. If your relationship with him is more casual, then he can make that decision to serve more easily and also can concentrate his full energies on his missionary work instead of the girlfriend back home. And after he returns honorably from his mission, he will be a better husband and father and priesthood holder, having first served a full-time mission.

There is no question that faithful Latter-day Saint young women can have a great impact for good in helping young men to magnify their priesthood and to motivate them to good works and to be their best selves.

Remember, young women, you may also have the opportunity to serve a full-time mission. I am grateful my own eternal companion served a mission in Hawaii before we were married in the Salt Lake Temple, and I am pleased that I have had three granddaughters serve full-time missions. Some of our finest missionaries are young sisters.

I would now like to speak to you about personal purity.

Solomon said that the price of a virtuous woman “is far above rubies” (Prov. 31:10). Young women, guard and protect your virtue as you would your very life. We want you to live the morally clean life all of your life. We want the morally clean life to be your way of life.

Yes, one can repent of moral transgression. The miracle of forgiveness is real, and true repentance is accepted of the Lord. But it is not pleasing to the Lord to sow one’s wild oats, to engage in sexual transgression of any nature, and then expect that planned confession and quick repentance will satisfy the Lord.

President Kimball was emphatic on this point. In his marvelous book The Miracle of Forgiveness, he stated:

“That man [or woman] who resists temptation and lives without sin is far better off than the man [or woman] who has fallen, no matter how repentant the latter may be. …

“How much better it is never to have committed the sin!” (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, p. 357).

One of our fine stake presidents shared with us the following experience:

“I remember a girl that I had gone to high school with. She was from a good LDS family, but when she was a junior in high school, she began to compromise her standards and principles.

“I remember how stunned I was one afternoon as a group of us were in the back of the bus, riding home from school, and we were talking about the consequences of sin or transgression. And she flatly announced that she wasn’t worried about committing any sin because her bishop had told her she could easily repent and could be quickly forgiven.

“Well, I was shocked with this flippant attitude that didn’t reflect any understanding of repentance and no appreciation of the miracle of forgiveness. I was also sure that she had grossly misunderstood the instruction and counsel of her bishop.”

Adultery, or anything like unto it, is abominable in the sight of the Lord. President Kimball also wisely observed:

“Among the most common sexual sins our young people commit are necking and petting. Not only do these improper relations often lead to fornication, pregnancy, and abortion—all ugly sins—but in and of themselves they are pernicious evils, and it is often difficult for youth to distinguish where one ends and another begins. …

“Too often, young people dismiss their petting with a shrug of their shoulders as a little indiscretion, while admitting that fornication is a base transgression. Too many of them are shocked, or feign to be, when told that what they have done in the name of petting was in reality [a form of] fornication” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 65–66).

Young sisters, be modest. Modesty in dress and language and deportment is a true mark of refinement and a hallmark of a virtuous Latter-day Saint woman. Shun the low and the vulgar and the suggestive.

Together with the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, remember the scriptural injunction, “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord” (Isa. 52:11; 3 Ne. 20:41).

Remember the story of Joseph in Egypt, who hearkened not to the wife of Potiphar and maintained his purity and virtue (see Gen. 39:7–21).

Consider carefully the words of the prophet Alma to his errant son, Corianton, “Forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes” (Alma 39:9).

“The lusts of your eyes.” In our day, what does that expression mean? Movies, television programs, and video recordings that are both suggestive and lewd. Magazines and books that are obscene and pornographic.

We counsel you, young women, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterward. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. And don’t accept dates from young men who would take you to such entertainment.

Also, don’t listen to music that is degrading. Remember Elder Boyd K. Packer’s statement:

“Music, once … innocent, now is often used for wicked purposes. …

“In our day music itself has been corrupted. Music can, by its tempo, by its beat, by its intensity [and I would add, by its lyrics], dull the spiritual sensitivity of men [and women]. …

“Young people,” Elder Packer goes on to say, “you cannot afford to fill your mind with this unworthy hard music of our day” (Ensign, Jan. 1974, pp. 25, 28).

Instead, we encourage you to listen to uplifting music, both popular and classical, that builds the spirit. Learn some favorite hymns from our new hymnbook that build faith and spirituality. Attend dances where the music and the lighting and the dance movements are conducive to the Spirit. Watch those shows and entertainment that lift the spirit and promote clean thoughts and actions. Read books and magazines that do the same.

Remember, young women, the importance of proper dating. President Kimball gave some wise counsel on this subject:

“Clearly, right marriage begins with right dating. … Therefore, this warning comes with great emphasis. Do not take the chance of dating nonmembers, or members who are untrained and faithless. A girl may say, ‘Oh, I do not intend to marry this person. It is just a “fun” date.’ But one cannot afford to take a chance on falling in love with someone who may never accept the gospel” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 241–42).

Our Heavenly Father wants you to date young men who are faithful members of the Church, who will be worthy to take you to the temple and be married the Lord’s way. There will be a new spirit in Zion when the young women will say to their boyfriends, “If you cannot get a temple recommend, then I am not about to tie my life to you, even for mortality!” And the young returned missionary will say to his girlfriend, “I am sorry, but as much as I love you, I will not marry out of the holy temple.”

My young sisters, we have such hope for you. We have such great expectations for you. Don’t settle for less than what the Lord wants you to be.

As the prophet Nephi exclaims in 2 Nephi 31:20 [2 Ne. 31:20]: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus sayeth the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.”

Yes, give me a young woman who loves home and family, who reads and ponders the scriptures daily, who has a burning testimony of the Book of Mormon. Give me a young woman who faithfully attends her church meetings, who is a seminary graduate, who has earned her Young Womanhood Recognition Award and wears it with pride! Give me a young woman who is virtuous and who has maintained her personal purity, who will not settle for less than a temple marriage, and I will give you a young woman who will perform miracles for the Lord now and throughout eternity.

Now I would like to say a final word to the mothers and to the leaders of these wonderful young women.

Mothers, stay close to your daughters. Earn and deserve their love and respect. Be united with their father in the rearing of your children. Do nothing in your life to cause your daughters to stumble because of your example.

Teach your daughters to prepare for life’s greatest career—that of homemaker, wife, and mother. Teach them to love home because you love home. Teach them the importance of being a full-time mother in the home.

My eternal companion has wisely counseled mothers: “Radiate a spirit of contentment and joy with homemaking. You teach by example your attitude toward homemaking. Your attitude will say to your daughters, ‘I am only a housewife.’ Or it will convey, ‘Homemaking is the highest, most noble profession to which a woman might aspire.’”

Priesthood leaders, remember the bishop’s first and foremost responsibility is the Aaronic Priesthood and the young women of his ward.

Bishops, stay close to both your young men and young women. Give as much attention to the young women’s program in your ward as you do the young men’s programs. Be as concerned about the young women’s activities and classes, their campouts and socials, their firesides and conferences as you are the young men’s.

Recognize with equal prominence the presentation of the Young Womanhood Recognition Award as you do the awarding of the Duty to God Award and Eagle Scout badge.

Spend the necessary time (and it takes time) in personal interviews with the young women of your ward. Talk with them regularly about their goals and aspirations, their challenges and their personal worthiness. Be a bishop who really cares about each of the young men and young women in his ward.

To the Young Women leaders who are here this evening, may you truly love the young sisters with whom you are working. Get inside their lives. Be a true friend and counselor to them. Perform your stewardship well. With all the energy of your heart, help bring them back to our Father in Heaven clean and sweet and pure.

Now, in closing, my dear young sisters, how I love and respect you! How I pray for you! How my hope abounds in you! Remember the counsel I have given you tonight. It is what the Lord would have you hear now—today.

Live up to your divine potential. Remember who you are and the divine heritage that is yours—you are literally the royal daughters of our Father in Heaven. O “youth of the noble birthright,” with all my heart I say, “Carry on, carry on, carry on!” (Hymns, 1985, no. 255), in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.