One hundred and fifty years ago, the Prophet Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society in Nauvoo, Illinois. The first president of that organization was the Prophet’s wife, Emma Hale Smith.
Recently, I was led again to read the twenty-fifth section of the Doctrine and Covenants. This, as you know, is a revelation given through Joseph the Prophet to Emma. It was given at Harmony, Pennsylvania, in July of 1830, only a short time after the Church was organized.
A woman wrote to me a short time ago with a great sense of frustration. She indicated that she had been defeated or had failed in most of what she had tried to do. She then asked, “What does God expect of me?”
Some of the things which God expects of her and of every other woman—in fact, of each of us—are set forth in this beautiful revelation. As I review the Lord’s words in this revelation, I address my thoughts to the sisters of the Church.
Said the Lord to Emma, and to each of us:
“A revelation I give unto you concerning my will; and if thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me, I will preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion” (D&C 25:2).
“If thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me”—those words might become the theme of a very long sermon. I shall comment only briefly.
In very large measure each of us holds the key to the blessings of the Almighty upon us. If we wish the blessing, we must pay the price. A part of that price lies in being faithful. Faithful to what? Faithful to ourselves, to the very best that is within us. No woman can afford to demean herself, to belittle herself, to downgrade her abilities or her capacities. Let each be faithful to the great, divine attributes that are within her. Be faithful to the gospel. Be faithful to the Church. We have all about us those who are seeking to undermine it, to look for weaknesses in its early leaders, to find fault with its programs, to speak critically of it. I give you my testimony that it is the work of God, and those who speak against it are speaking against Him.
Be faithful to Him. He is the one true source of your strength. He is your Father in Heaven. He lives. He hears and answers prayers. Be faithful to God.
The Lord continued, saying to Emma, “If thou … walk in the paths of virtue.”
I think every Latter-day Saint woman understands the meaning of that. I feel those words were given to Emma Smith, and consequently to all of us, as a condition to be observed if we are to receive an inheritance in the kingdom of God. Lack of virtue is totally inconsistent with obedience to the commandments of God. There is nothing more beautiful than virtue. There is no other strength that is greater than the strength of virtue. There is no other nobility equal to the nobility of virtue. There is no other quality so becoming, no attire so attractive.
It is interesting that in this revelation, when the Lord gave that great conditional promise to Emma, He went on to say, “Thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou art an elect lady” (D&C 25:3). I am so grateful for the gift of forgiveness extended by a merciful Father. Said the Lord through the prophet Isaiah concerning those who repent and are forgiven, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18).
To any who may be grieving over serious mistakes in their lives, I hold out the assurance, given anciently and in modern revelation, that where there is repentance there may be forgiveness. Do not dwell upon the tragic mistakes of the past. Rather “look to God and live” (Alma 37:47).
Emma was called “an elect lady.” That is, to use another line of scripture, she was a chosen vessel of the Lord. (See Moro. 7:31.) Each of you is an elect lady. You have come out of the world as partakers of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. You have made your election, and if you are living worthy of it, the Lord will honor you in it and magnify you.
He then went on to say to Emma, “Murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen” (D&C 25:4). He was speaking of the plates which her husband was translating, she serving at the time as his scribe. Evidently she had complained because Joseph would not show them to her. The Lord was saying to her, “Murmur not. Complain not. Accept what must be in my eternal wisdom, and do not find fault.” There are a few women in the Church who complain because they do not hold the priesthood. I think the Lord would say to you, “Murmur not because of the things which are not given thee.”
This is His work. Joseph did not set the rule about not showing the plates to others. He was instructed concerning it. Nor have we set the rule concerning those who should receive the priesthood. That was established by Him whose work this is, and He alone could change it.
Emma was called, in the words of this revelation, to be “a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness” (D&C 25:5).
That is interesting language. She was his wife, his companion, his strength in his afflictions. She was to comfort with consoling words, given in a spirit of meekness.
I see in that the challenge to every woman who is a wife to set the tone of that which is spoken in the home. It was said of old that “a soft answer turneth away wrath” (Prov. 15:1). It is interesting to me that in this revelation the Lord spoke of consoling words in the spirit of meekness.
There is so much of argument in the homes of the people. It is so destructive. It is so corrosive. It leads only to bitterness, heartbreak, and tears. How well advised we would be, each of us, when there is tension, when there is friction, when there is affliction, to speak with consoling words in the spirit of meekness.
Emma was to be ordained (set apart) under the hands of Joseph “to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit” (D&C 25:7).
She was to be a teacher. She was to be a teacher of righteousness and truth. For the Lord said concerning this calling to her, “Thou shalt receive the Holy Ghost, and thy time shall be given to writing, and to learning much” (D&C 25:8).
She was to study the gospel. She also was to study the things of the world in which she lived. That was made clear in subsequent revelations applicable to all of us. She was to devote her time “to learning much.” She was to write, giving expression to her thoughts.
To you women of today, who are old or young, may I suggest that you write, that you keep journals, that you express your thoughts on paper. Writing is a great discipline. It is a tremendous educational effort. It will assist you in various ways, and you will bless the lives of many—your families and others—now and in the years to come, as you put on paper some of your experiences and some of your musings.
In the language of the revelation, she was to “expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit.”
What a remarkable charge to her and to all of the women of this Church. There must be learning, there must be preparation, there must be organization of thought, there must be an expounding of the scripture, there must be an exhortation to good works as directed by the Holy Spirit.
The Lord continued, “I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (D&C 25:10).
I feel He was not telling Emma that she should not feel concerned about a place to live, food on her table, and clothing. He was saying to her that she should not be obsessed with these things, as so many of us are wont to be. He was telling her to get her thoughts on the higher things of life, the things of righteousness and goodness, matters of charity and love for others, the things of eternity.
Emma was instructed to make a collection of hymns for the Church, and it is interesting that this counsel came only three months after the Church was organized. In connection with that call, the Lord made a remarkable declaration which is often quoted among us: “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads” (D&C 25:12).
Continuing, the Lord said: “Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made” (D&C 25:13).
I believe He is saying to each of us, be happy. The gospel is a thing of joy. It provides us with a reason for gladness. Of course there are times of sorrow. Of course there are hours of concern and anxiety. We all worry. But the Lord has told us to lift our hearts and rejoice. I see so many people, including many women, who seem never to see the sunshine, but who constantly walk with storms under cloudy skies. Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. Walk with faith, rejoicing in the beauties of nature, in the goodness of those you love, in the testimony which you carry in your heart concerning things divine.
“Continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride” (D&C 25:14). Those words are from this same revelation. They are meaningful for each of us.
“Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive” (D&C 25:15). That was the promise of the Lord to Emma Hale Smith. It is the promise of the Lord to each of you. Happiness lies in keeping the commandments. For a Latter-day Saint woman there can be only misery in the violation of those commandments. And for each who observes them, there is the promise of a crown, a queenly crown for each daughter of God, a crown of righteousness and eternal truth.
In concluding the revelation, the Lord said, “This is my voice unto all” (D&C 25:16). Therefore, the counsel given by the Lord on this occasion is applicable to each of us.
I commend to each of you the words of this great revelation given 162 years ago. It is as timely today as it was when it was spoken. May I urge that each of you read it. Reflect on it.
God bless you my beloved sisters—you little girls whom we so much appreciate; you beautiful young women who dream wonderful dreams of the future; you who are not married and sometimes feel lonely, but who, I assure you, the Lord has not forgotten; those of you who carry the burdens of rearing families; those of you who are widowed or divorced; and you beautiful older women whom we so love and honor and respect. God bless you with every righteous desire, with peace in your hearts and joy in your days, as daughters of God blessed with the light of his everlasting gospel.
The counsel given by the Lord to Emma Smith in 1830 is applicable to all sisters.
No woman can afford to demean herself, to belittle herself, to downgrade her abilities or her capacities. Let each be faithful to the great, divine attributes that are within her.
Each sister in the Church is an elect lady. You have come out of the world as partakers of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. You have made your election, and if you are living worthy of it, the Lord will honor you in it and magnify you.
The Lord has given a remarkable charge to all of the women of this Church: There must be learning, preparation, organization of thought, an expounding of the scriptures, and an exhortation to good works as directed by the Holy Spirit.
Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. Walk with faith, rejoicing in the beauties of nature, in the goodness of those you love, in the testimony which you carry in your heart concerning things divine.