Somewhere back in my memory I recall some of the sensations I felt going through the fun house at the amusement park. There was the wave machine, where you’d take one step forward and be pushed two steps back; the barrel, going round and round as you tried to walk upright against its current and tried to keep from falling down; the pancake, spinning and throwing you off, everyone scrambling and fighting to get to the top; the mirrors, where everything appeared so distorted that you could hardly recognize yourself; and finally, the tunnel, where in the darkness you could easily lose your way and be lost.
It occurs to me that these are symbols of some of the same kinds of challenges we face in our world as young women and Young Women leaders, as we try to sort out the many voices that confront us and try to confuse and win us over to ideas we may not understand, and which actually may not be in our best interests.
You young women are so important—specially chosen spirits of our Father in Heaven. And this is such an important time in your lives, when the decisions you make each day critically affect the direction your lives will take. This is the concern of the Young Women leaders, who want to help you recognize and live up to your divine potential as latter-day women, creators of life, and guardians of the kingdom—to help you focus your life and prepare you to lead out in important ways.
Some of the best women of the Church, exemplary, inspiring women, have been called to be your leaders, to act as role models with whom you can identify and interact. Their work is to strengthen the importance and influence of your families in your lives and to help you develop your understanding, talents, and skills and grow in the areas of personal preparedness and discipleship.
I have listed five areas which are critical in a young woman’s life: the first and most important is for you, a young woman, to work to gain a sure knowledge of Christ’s unconditional love and concern for you. Your love for the Savior will be to you as a radar beam to a plane, helping you to keep your sights clearly focused and to avoid costly mistakes.
The second area is self-worth. If you value yourself as a worthwhile person and have a knowledge of who you are, where your roots are, and how you fit in to your family picture, you will be better able to withstand the pressures of the world.
The third area is knowledge—learning to build quality relationships with others: family, parents, friends, your bishop, and teachers.
Preparation for living and contributing is the fourth area. We will all make a home some day, whether it is a corner of a room or a whole house, and so we need to learn homemaking and life preparation skills.
The final area is personal record-keeping—so our descendants may know us, and so we may gain appreciation for our accomplishments, joys, and pains. It also helps us define our goals, review our lives, and increase our self-esteem.
The best way to benefit from the testimony and knowledge we gain personally is to use it to help others in their lives. There are many problems in the world that can’t be solved unless people are willing to enlarge their own circles of concern and reach out to help others. The gospel provides us with correct principles, and it’s up to us, young women and leaders, to implement these principles in our lives so we can see and feel the gospel at work. Elder Neal A. Maxwell calls this the laboratory part of gospel learning, where life and lessons are brought together in a learning experience that increases faith and helps develop attitudes of caring for others. We experiment upon the word, and we continue to learn that the gospel is true because we witness it working. We are preparing ourselves not just for living, but for contributing.
Giving is the message of the gospel, and it is the thrust of the activities program for young women to learn the joy of giving of ourselves in meaningful ways that will make a difference in people’s lives and in communities. None of us can live within ourselves. We have much to give, particularly as women. It’s part of our unique womanly endowment, and we can add much to someone’s life and to the world’s happiness by giving away our time, our special abilities, encouragement, loyalty, understanding, tolerance, and many other portions of ourselves. The little giving impulses are as important as the big ones because they help us form the habit of giving. How wonderful it would be if every young woman in the Church were responsible for another young woman in her class, reaching out in this very attitude of giving and sharing.
And you know, sisters, there is a broad principle which underlies such caring, and that is the principle of investment and return. We enrich ourselves when we give ourselves. It’s like bread cast upon the waters. President Kimball has said that “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom” (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, Dec. 1974, p. 5). The young women of the Church need each other’s strength, support, and leadership. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read, “Succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5).
There is a sign in the gardens of a Spanish city which reads, “These gardens are for all, and are to be cared for by all.” We could say, “This world is for all and is to be cared for by all.”
That we may go forward, walking uprightly against the current and helping each other find our way through the dark tunnels as we learn to give, is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.