My dear sisters, I want to share with you my feelings for the gospel and my love for my Father in Heaven. What a blessing to be together, to speak of the things that really matter, to know that we are united in this great work.
We are here today not because of what we do but because of who we are—daughters of our Father in Heaven. We value such definition for we are women of covenant. Our covenants hold great significance because we have made them with the Lord. They act as a fortification against the powers of opposition, a reinforcement and reminder of why we are here. Women and men in this church bear testimony to the world that this life is the time to prepare to meet God. Even though we live in very difficult and challenging times, we are on the path to eternal life, and we cannot afford to be delayed or deterred.
In Proverbs we read the admonition, “Ponder the path of thy feet” (Prov. 4:26). We have busy feet in this church. We do much. We have all heard the counsel to “be anxiously engaged” and then the qualifier “in a good cause” (D&C 58:27).
It is that “good cause” I address tonight.
To be a woman of covenant is a sacred and holy responsibility. It is uniquely ours. It is not by chance that we are on the Lord’s errand at this time. It is by choice that we came to this earth to follow the path of the Savior. At baptism, we covenanted, as did the Nephites at the waters of Mormon, to be called his people, to serve him, to keep his commandments, to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places (see Mosiah 18:8–10).
Our covenant to follow Christ is in sharp contrast to many whose voices fill the newspapers, whose new morality blankets the screens, and whose values, while being updated, have become uprooted.
As women of covenant we seek exaltation and the peace that attends eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. With that resolve comes the quiet reassurance that speaks softly to our souls and reaffirms to us that peace and love, hope and gentility, reverence, joy, and obedience bring about change and good works. Indeed we stand before the world today to rejoice—not in the power of men and women—but in the goodness of God.
Sisters, the time is past when we can merely believe. We must be passionate in our beliefs. Women hunger for things of the Spirit. One of the primary reasons women attend Relief Society is to be spiritually nourished, to learn more of God’s teachings. Our personal testimonies, growing as all of them are, champion our cause to “Come unto Christ.”
Today we see all around us the adversary at work—and he is succeeding. He has twisted truths to his purposes, and throngs have followed. Either we are holding fast to the iron rod or, perhaps, unconsciously, we are letting go by just a few fingers and are slowly slipping away. “Not me,” you might say, but none of us is exempt. Nor are we immune to sidesteps in a frantic rush to do it all, the desire to have it all, and the justification to need it all—now. Satan is ruthless, and his efforts are never ending.
Eliza R. Snow said: “We stand in a different position … ; we have made covenant with God, we understand his order” (Millennial Star, Sept. 1871, p. 578). These covenants include the counsel to Emma Smith recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants to “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (D&C 25:10).
I am dedicated to that charge.
The path, straight and narrow, was marked by Jesus Christ. Isaiah called it the “highway … of holiness” (Isa. 35:8). I testify to you today that the Lord has trusted the women of this church with most-sacred works on the path to perfection.
I heard from a mother of five small children in South Carolina. She had injured her back and was totally bedfast. She wrote to me of the “little mercy squads” in her ward who had cared for her night and day: “They fed me, conquered my mending pile, cleared the tears from my eyes, and administered therapy in the night. All the time they assured me it was no bother; they just wanted to learn more charity and just needed someone to practice on.”
There are times when we do have helping hands and times when there are no hands except the Lord’s hands.
A 93-year-old sister in Idaho describes her path with, “I have had happiness and much trouble, much sorrow.” Our experiences help us understand where she’s been. Though our Lord Jesus Christ could have called down the powers of heaven, his paths were often solitary and his agony—in the end—borne by him alone.
Christ’s cause was singular and focused, for he proclaimed, “I came into the world to do the will of my Father” (3 Ne. 27:13). And so must we. Our willingness to take seriously our covenants brings comfort amid sorrows, joy amid pain, blessings amid suffering.
All around the Church are wonderful women who exert great influence. Sisters, we have much to share: our spiritual strength, our sense of purpose, our commitment to the gospel, our blessings as a result of the holy priesthood. Look closely with me at these four areas where we make such a difference.
We are women with spiritual strength!
We have within us the Spirit of the Lord to guide us on the path of righteousness. Daily, we choose between temptation and sanctification. We seek spiritual moments as we read the scriptures. We pray and carry that prayer in our hearts. We know the peace that comes from hearing not applause or an answering machine but that still small voice that whispers ever so softly. We listen less to the world and more to the promptings from on high.
Remember that the spirit is not the same as self. The spirit is not enhanced by selfishness, self-pity, self-pride, and self-deception. “To be spiritually-minded is life eternal” (2 Ne. 9:39).
Our spirituality is also recharged by each other. Show charity for each other. Show understanding, not judgment; kindness, not blame; joy, not envy. Love as the Lord loves.
I think of the small group of sisters in Bangalore, India, who meet together only once a month as Relief Society. The other weeks they meet individually in small groups in homes. I visited with them last year and quickly recognized how the Spirit of the Lord embraced that little band of women. When their thirty-year-old president, a convert of two years, introduced me and bore testimony of the blessings of the sisterhood of Relief Society, I was touched by the love felt for one another. They are women of God. I could feel his Spirit then just as I feel it with us tonight.
We are women with a sense of purpose!
The Old Testament prophet Micah said, “For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, … we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever” (Micah 4:5).
How, in this complex world, do we walk in the name of the Lord, our God, when questions of home, family, marriage, work, children, age, and death play so much a part of our day-to-day experiences? How do we think like the Lord when we are low, wisely when we are weary, feel patient when we are pressured and respected when we are rejected?
Sisters, turn to the Lord. He cares so deeply for our happiness and our well-being. Talk with him earnestly and often, and your answers will come.
Next, look at your priorities. As women of covenant we must hold close to our hearts the things that really matter. Homes, families, and people matter. For those who have young and growing children, they are our first priority. I am not speaking of maintenance, not the wash, not the windows. I am speaking of loving our children and teaching them righteous principles. I am speaking of a willing heart that puts the eternal needs of children in our charge ahead of our own personal style. I’m talking about the pain when a child has strayed from the path and we lead that child back one step at a time.
As a young mother I remember saying to my youngest son, Gordon, when he fell from his bike and faced not only skinned knees but the loss of confidence as well, “I’m right here.” I would say as I put my arms around him to comfort him, “I’m right here.” Doesn’t that remind us of the Lord, who is with us always? (see Matt. 28:20). He’s not just at church, in the temple, or when we kneel at our bed. He’s “right here” when we live by his teachings.
We are women of commitment!
I witnessed commitment when I visited with a sister in her home in the Philippines. She had nothing by the standards of the world. Her family of eight children lived clustered in a two-room nipa hut that stood on stilts. After climbing the ladder to the door, I was taken immediately to a corner where on a small table sat a portable sewing machine. This was not a new model with 320 stitches, bells, whistles, and a serger. It was a machine older than my mother’s! But she was not showing off a possession; she was sharing her commitment. For two years, she had sewn for others on that simple machine to earn the money to take her family to the temple so that they would be sealed together. The last child, she said with a smile, was born under the covenant.
She was committed to her covenants, and she valued the blessings of the priesthood that came into her life because of her faithfulness. She did not stop at baptism, for she understood, where “much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3). By her efforts, her family was sealed—forever. Imagine their joy!
We are women who know the blessings of the priesthood.
We have the blessings of the priesthood in these latter days to help us see clearly and act accordingly. As disciples of Christ we are blessed with more than common sense, good ideas, and righteous inclinations. We must always remember that “Jesus Christ is the great High Priest of God; Christ is therefore the source of all true priesthood authority and power on this earth” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, New York: Macmillan, 1992, p. 1133).
We know what it is to place our faith, our prayers, our confidence, and our esteem in those whom God has appointed to lead. The Lord has told us that “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).
I want you to know that I, as the general president of the Relief Society, embrace the blessings that come from serving under the direction of leaders who hold the priesthood. We must stand united as a people for the Lord to call us one. Elder John A. Widtsoe spoke of men and women yoked together in their joint devotion to righteous principles when he said: “In the ordinances of the Priesthood man and woman share alike. … In the Church of Christ, woman is not an adjunct to, but an equal partner with man” (Relief Society Magazine, June-July 1943, p. 373).
Women and men have available every priesthood blessing essential for salvation—the blessings of being baptized, receiving the Holy Ghost, renewing our covenants through taking the sacrament, and making and keeping temple covenants. As women of covenant, we know and understand the guidance in the Doctrine and Covenants, which is counsel for women as well as for men: “Their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
“… the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:35–36).
Now, once again, may I say, “Ponder the path of thy feet.” Look to the Lord for direction and guidance as my choice counselors and this faithful sister have testified here tonight.
Ponder the direct message from an Apostle of Jesus Christ. Elder M. Russell Ballard has counseled us not to judge others. We were reminded that each of us has the privilege to carefully and prayerfully seek the Lord’s will, just for us, regarding life’s challenges. Further, he reminded us that this is God’s plan and it is not our prerogative to alter or tamper with it.
I ask that each of you take to heart these messages and know that they come from the Lord through his servants. To their testimonies I add my own. I know that we, daughters of the Most High God, are here to do the Lord’s will in an era most difficult, yet at a time that the angels of God rejoice in our efforts. I know that the Lord reigns supreme and that he has prepared a place for us in his kingdom on high. I know that as women of covenant we will choose that path to life eternal. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.