An estimated 1,500 sisters attended a ladies’ session of the conference while, simultaneously, 2,000 brethren attended a priesthood session. The ladies’ session was an unusual opportunity for girls, and some important and relevant matters were discussed. Excerpts are taken from talks by Elder Gordon B. Hinckley of the Council of the Twelve; Florence Jacobsen, president of the Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association; and Belle S. Spafford, president of the Relief Society.
We have in the United States a newspaper columnist named Abigail Van Buren. Her writings are published in papers across the world, including our own Deseret News. She is one of those who gives advice to the troubled. You know the kind. A young lady wrote her and said that her boyfriend wanted her to prove her love, and this was Abby’s response. It is plainspoken, but I think it is good.
Said Abby, “Girls need to prove their love through illicit sexual relations like a moose needs a hatrack. Why not prove your love by sticking your head in the oven and turning on the gas, or by playing leapfrog in the traffic? It’s about as safe.
“Clear the cobwebs out of your head. Any fellow who asks you to prove your love is trying to take you for the biggest, most gullible fool who ever walked. That proving bit is one of the oldest and rottenest lines ever invented.
“Does he love you? It doesn’t sound like it. Someone who loves you wants whatever is best for you. But now figure it out. He wants you to commit an immoral act, surrender your virtue, throw away your self-respect, risk the loss of your precious reputation, and risk getting into trouble. Does that sound as though he wants what is best for you? This is the laugh of the century. He wants what he thinks is best for him; he wants a thrill he can brag about at your expense. Love? Who’s kidding whom? A guy who loves a girl would sooner cut off his right arm than hurt her. In my opinion, this self-serving so-and-so has proved that he doesn’t love you.
“The predictable aftermath of proof of this kind always finds Don Juan tiring of his sport. That’s when he drops you, picks up his line, and goes casting elsewhere for bigger and equally silly fish.
“If he loves you, let him prove his love by marching you to the altar.”
I think that’s pretty good for Abby. …
To you young women here, you of the noble birthright, you the hope of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you the mothers and the grandmothers and the great-grandmothers of the sons and daughters of Israel who are to come, keep yourselves worthy of the blessings of God. Keep yourselves pure and virtuous and good and decent and sweet and wonderful; and as a servant of the Lord, I don’t hesitate to promise you that you will be loved and respected and honored, and you will be grateful to get on your knees with tears in your eyes and thank your Father in heaven for his watchful care over you and for the marvelous blessings that will be yours. God bless you in this, I humbly pray.
Now, very quickly, a word to you who are a little older. Reference has been made here to women’s lib. I believe in it. I advocate it, of the right kind. I think the greatest statement ever made on the liberation of women was made by the Prophet Joseph Smith when he declared to the women of the Church these marvelous words: “I now turn the key in your behalf in the name of the Lord, and this society [Relief Society].”
Liberation from ignorance, the motivation under the gospel of Jesus Christ to develop one’s mind. “The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth.” “A man cannot be saved in ignorance.” “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.” I should like to say to every one of you sisters here that as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you have an obligation to refine and improve your minds and your skills, for each of you is a daughter of God with a divine birthright and with an obligation to grow toward his stature.
Liberation from aimless living—the nonsensical, frilly, fruitless kind of living that so many women engage in. I always liked the great statement of President Stephen L. Richards: “Life is a mission, and not a career.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ought to give great purpose to your lives.
Liberation from marital insecurity—a partnership under the plan of God with a man you can trust, with a man you can respect, with a man you can honor, with a man you can look to, with a man you can count on, with a man you can help and assist and develop, a companion for time and all eternity, who will look to you in the light of the gospel that he loves and treasures, with respect and honor and dignity and love.
Liberation from loneliness—the company of great and good women of your kind, working together and learning together and growing together and supporting one another. Said Paul to the Romans, “We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak,” and then he adds, “and not to please ourselves.” (Rom. 15:1.) We have an obligation to develop and grow with one another and support one another, never in the spirit of gossip, always in the spirit of strengthening. Said the Lord to Peter, “[Simon] I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32.) To you, sisters, I should like to say, when thou are converted, strengthen one another.
Liberation from inferiority. You are not slaves. You are not serfs. You are not chattels. You are not dolls. You’re daughters of God, queens with a divine birthright and a marvelous eternal future. Lift your heads and smile and walk in the dignity of your birthright.
The relationship between man and woman has been under debate since the time of our first parents. In recent months women’s place in society has become an even more explosive issue in every country. Much has been written, and some of the words that are being used in describing women’s particular state are “she is enslaved, dominated, imprisoned.” I have taken these words out of recent publications advocating women’s liberation. But as I think of Latter-day Saint women, I think of you as managing households, holding public office, being teachers, having professions, being medical doctors, becoming lawyers, driving automobiles, sharing in your husband’s community property, having equal rights with men. Many women have made great contributions in the fields of literature and art and in the sciences, and it is hard for me to feel sorry for us as a sex. …
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, when Joseph Smith was born, the full education of girls was totally unknown. … So when a fearless young prophet proclaimed as a first foundation principle of the gospel that women should have the religious franchise and that all things should be done in the Church with common consent, it was a stupendous announcement for the world. And now in the year 1971, we—you and I—find ourselves caught up in a new challenge, in a new decade, in a new time; and … it is the perilous time foretold in the scriptures, a time of wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes, when men forget God and there is every kind of calamity imaginable facing women. But worst of all, the dissolution of the family unit.
What people seek, as they scream for liberation, especially women, is in their midst. It is so close, they do not see it, and it is so simple, they cannot understand it: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those among us who tell us as women to rise up and be liberated and demand a new role in life are only advocating liberation from the very functions created in us by God that make us different from men. God created man to be the husband, the father, and the breadwinner, and the woman to be the wife, the mother, the childbearer, and the child-raiser. She is to be a helpmeet to her husband. She is to be a partner in the patriarchal order; an order that was determined before she came to this earth and that rules in heaven, rules in mortality, and will rule in the eternities to come. The home is the castle, the husband the king, the mother the queen, the children the princesses and princes.
Now there are those among our wonderful girls who will never marry. There is a preponderance of women in the world. Somehow the weaker sex outlives the stronger sex. Though we have more male babies born into the world, when they reach maturity, we have more girls than boys, statistically. I would like to read to you girls something that was said by our President Joseph Fielding Smith:
“You good sisters, who are single and alone, do not fear, do not feel that blessings are going to be withheld from you. You are not under any obligation or necessity of accepting some proposal that comes to you which is distasteful for fear you will come under condemnation. If in your hearts you feel that the gospel is true, and you would under proper conditions receive these ordinances and sealing blessings in the temple of the Lord; and that is your faith and your hope and your desire, and that does not come to you now; the Lord will make it up, and you shall be blessed—for no blessing shall be withheld.” (Doctrines of Salvation [Bookcraft, 1957], vol. 3, pp. 74, 76.)
But I would like to say to you girls, those of you who feel you should have married by this time and are not married, there is much you can do. You can help in the Church. Give yourself to other people. Give yourself to the Church. Give yourself to your own relatives and family. Make yourself as attractive as possible. Read books; become educated; learn everything there is to learn. …
As we look about us, as we read the daily papers or listen to our radios or view the television programs, none would deny the fulfilment of this prophecy. None would deny the fulfillment of the prophecy in Mormon 8:26–31, [Morm. 8:26–31] in which comments are made on wars, pollutions, robbing, lying, and all manner of abominations.
In the midst of all this stand the daughters of our Heavenly Father, distraught over conditions, to be sure; torn by the shattering impact of change on home and family life; all too often confused by false philosophies and deceitful theories that are spread about. We hear the hue and cry of organized groups of women in many parts of the world today, demanding full equality with men in all things. Yet we know there are natural differences in men and women. The Church has always recognized woman’s equal mental powers and her right to use these powers and her talents to the full. The Church has always accorded to woman a position of dignity and trust, but it does not ignore the natural difference between man and woman. It recognizes a divinely ordained division of labor for forming, maintaining, and protecting that precious unit of society known as the family and for furthering the work of the Church. The Lord has decreed that both man and woman shall share jointly in all of the blessings. We have always been taught that woman’s divinely ordained primary role is childbearing and child rearing; and her most rewarding activity is the maintaining of a righteous home. …
The Church has always taught the sanctity of marriage. You young, unmarried women, study the words of our latter-day prophets with regard to temple marriage. Seek to understand the doctrine, and work toward the goal of such a marriage union. Temple marriage is the beginning of a relationship by which a family is bound together eternally.
The Church teaches that children are the offspring of God. It is the divine mission of woman to be a partner with the Father in giving bodies to his spirit children. We are commanded to guide aright through earth life the children entrusted to us, to have filial affection as we rear and protect them.
And I say to this gathering of women today, while you may be a small group in comparison with the world’s body of women, you may be as a finger in the dike, holding back the treacherous sea of unrighteousness, and keeping the evil from sweeping in and devastating that which is righteous and good. This I know. I have seen Mormon women stand firm, and I have seen them divert the tide of evil.
Now I want to conclude with a quotation from our great prophet, President Joseph Fielding Smith. He addressed the Relief Society sisters in a Relief Society general conference a few years back, saying,
“Now some may feel that I am expressing this a little too strongly, but my own judgment is that the work [the sisters] are doing, finds its place and is just as important in the building up of this kingdom, strengthening it, causing it to expand, laying a foundation upon which we all may build, just as much as it is for the brethren who hold the Priesthood of God.” (Relief Society Magazine, January 1959, p. 6.)
Sisters of the Church, women of the Church, young and old, we do have our work. We have our work in the sphere assigned to us by the priesthood of God, and through that we may be a power in bringing about righteousness. That the Lord will help us to do this is my constant prayer for the women of the Church, and may his blessings attend you in this great land of Great Britain that you may be a light on a hill, a beacon light, that others seeing it may know the way.