Elaine A. Cannon

On occasion President Romney has told a delightful story about his wife. He said that he was concerned about his wife and couldn’t get her to go to the doctor, so he consulted with the doctor for advice. The doctor told him to use a simple test that would convince her of the need to see him about her hearing. He told President Romney to go home and call to her from several places, and if she didn’t respond quickly, there would be clear evidence of her need for medical help.

So President Romney went home and called to her from the front door: “Ida!” No answer. Then he moved inside and called, “Ida!” Then he called from the dining room. Still no answer. At last he confronted her in the kitchen and said, “Ida, I have been calling you.” And she replied, “I know, my dear, and I have answered you three times.”

President Romney then went on to say, “The problem wasn’t Ida’s.”

In 1 Corinthians 14:10 is the scripture we’ve used to theme the special booklets that have been distributed to you as part of this meeting. “There are … so many … voices in the world.” Whose shall we hear? [1 Cor. 14:10]

We have heard in this hour the voice of President Kimball. We have heard the voice of gladness through song and narration. We have heard each other’s voices raised in an important commitment.

It is good!

It has been sung, “I’ll be what you want me to be, dear Lord” (see Hymns, no. 75). And we mean it, don’t we? Especially when we are sitting in church surrounded by the warm flood of the gospel and the support of fine people. But it isn’t always the same afterwards. You see, it is easy to live in the world after the world’s opinion, and it is simple to live alone after your own. The challenge comes in living in the world but not being of it.

When church is over and the sermon is done, voices from the world sometimes confuse us—voices that are coaxing and compelling, louder and jazzier than those at church.

One day I was working at my kitchen sink. The window above it was wide open to let in the springtime. And I could keep an eye and ear on our preschooler son playing in the garden below. Suddenly he and the little girl he was with changed their plans of play. Mischief was surfacing. So 1 called to him to come in. He didn’t come. I called again. No response. I called a third time before I put down my dish towel and went outside to get him.

“Why didn’t you answer me?” I confronted him sternly. “Didn’t you hear me?”

“Sort of.”

“Sort of? Why didn’t you come when I called?”

And then came the punch line, “But, mom, she talked louder. Her mouth was in my ear!”

A teaching moment was at hand. I had to help him understand about voices—about loud voices and small voices, good voices and not so good ones, and about whose to listen to when. And why.

Whose voice is it you are hearing? Is it a voice of experience or a voice of excitement? Is it a loving leader’s voice, a prayerful parent’s plea? Or is it the voice of mischief—a voice of one who just doesn’t understand God’s plan? For example, what if someone says to you, “Consolidated schedule, wow! We have all day to ski or watch the telly or take in a movie.” What will you do?

In trying to determine which voice to listen to, it helps to consider what the voice is telling you to do, what is at stake, what you lose or what you gain, what price you pay in peace, reputation, and what comes next. Can you, a daughter of God, afford to make a mistake by listening to someone who doesn’t really understand God’s plan for you? Just because a voice is louder, even right in your ear, is no reason to sell your birthright for a mess of pottage, or to lose Church standing because you have temporarily tuned the Lord out, or even to make the kind of mistake that delays your personal progress.

You see, our little boy ignored my voice and justified it on the basis of “her voice was louder—it was in my ear.” That was surely true. But that voice was leading him astray. He was still a child and hadn’t learned the voice-sorting process yet. He hadn’t learned to evaluate. But he wasn’t accountable yet, either. We all are. We are no longer children who see through the glass darkly. We have been baptized, confirmed by proper authority, and we have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost to help us know good from evil. The expectations for our performance are higher.

I have learned that the majority of youth want to do what is right. The thousands of you gathered together now are an indication of this. But wanting must be translated into doing, or the battle is lost.

You see, young women, there really is a battle on. I am deeply concerned and very conscious of the fact that the adversary has a keener interest in you than in any generation before you. His battle plans are intricate. He has so many voices, plus a long list of enticements, false justifications, and misleading messages. He is our enemy. You had better believe it. His voice is in our ear.

We don’t want to lose one of you to the enemy. We will do all in our power to help you discern good from evil and to cultivate the still small voice within you. But you must govern yourself and account for your own choices.

President Kimball has recently reminded us of this: “Of course, we can choose; the free agency is ours, but we cannot escape the consequences of our choices. And if there is a chink in our integrity, that is where the devil concentrates his attack.” (Ensign, Mar. 1980, p. 2.)

The effort, then, to cultivate that still, small voice is exquisitely important so that you learn to listen to the Lord’s will for you. He will not force you into happiness or heaven. Force was the adversary’s plan. And that makes all the difference.

There is something I have learned about the Lord’s system that can be valuable to you. Sin isn’t hurtful because it is forbidden. It is forbidden because it may be hurtful. God has generally not commanded us to abstain from anything except those things that may be harmful for us. On the other hand, he knows what will bring us the most joy. Instant gratification isn’t on that list.

These lines from Keats relate to this:

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard

Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;

Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d

Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.

(Keat’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn”)

I plead with you to listen to the still, small, unheard voice that says: “Wait. Not now. Resist. Anticipate.” It’s just better that way, no matter what the voices in the world are saying. Abstinence as well as anticipation is part of the preparation for joy.

We have been talking about the many voices around us. We, too, are part of the voices others hear. What are we saying?

I would encourage every young woman to be a voice of truth, a voice of helpfulness and righteousness, a voice of love. Many are doing just that all over the Church. I meet them and hear their stories. The good being done is impressive.

The officers of the 15-year-old class in a ward had determined to increase activity among their age group. One girl on their list had been listening to all the wrong voices, and when she openly sinned, her irate mother had refused to let her daughter come home to live. The girl dropped out of church, school, and decent living. The class consulted with their bishop and then approached the Young Women president with a deal. If she’d take the desperate young woman into her home, they would contribute support money each month by selling cakes and baby sitting. She agreed and a life was changed.

We may not always be successful. But love and care persistently given, along with the teaching of principles and the help of the priesthood line, often work miracles.

The young women in an urban ward have organized “Teen’s Terrible Taxi”—and they drive older members to the doctor or the store.

There is a 15-year-old girl who writes weekly to her former adviser who is serving now on a mission with her husband.

Another class asked the general board to fast and pray for their success with a troubled inactive girl.

A leader arranged for me to write a personal greeting for a New Beginnings for a girl who didn’t have a mother to join her on that important occasion.

These may seem small things, but how they help others who are struggling with their lives! When you lift, comfort, and encourage someone else, you are a voice of helpfulness.

And you can be a voice of righteousness.

Jenny went to the movies with friends she’d long wanted to impress. It was fun until the movie was well under way, and then there flashed across the screen some scenes inappropriate for public sharing. She winced and felt sick inside, but she wanted to keep in the good graces of the group. What to do? Besides, she needed a ride home. Finally, she excused herself and determined to wait in the lobby until the show was over. Soon her boyfriend went to find her. He admitted he’d been embarrassed, too. Together they waited for the rest of the group. One by one the others came out, curious and concerned. Because one girl dared to take a stand on her own, others had the courage to follow.

In your own settings, in your own way, you can be the gentle, unjudgmental voice of righteousness by doing what is right yourself.

And you can be the voice of encouragement.

All of you young women within the sound of my voice have felt and heard things during this meeting that can build your testimony. There is more yet to come. When you get, you can give in an important way. As the Lord told Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). This applies to you, too!

You can be a voice of encouragement to your boyfriends and brothers to prepare for a mission. This is what President Kimball wants us to do. The world is desperate to hear the message our missionaries have to share. Help them keep morally clean and encourage them to progress in their priesthood duties so they can qualify for a call. Be the voice of encouragement that urges them to go. Goethe said, “A noble man is led by a woman’s gentle words.”

I know one young woman who is leaving soon for a mission herself. At her farewell she confessed that one of the important reasons that she is going is because she wants to be an example to her several younger brothers. She pointed out that when they pray for her and read her letters about the growth and glories of the work, they will grow up wanting to go on a mission. You can be a voice of encouragement.

And you can be a voice of love.

Teresa was blessed to have a relationship with a fine returned missionary who promised marriage. These two loved each other in all the right ways. They planned to go to the temple. They qualified for this and they were anxious, but there was a snag in their plans. Teresa’s father hadn’t been active in the Church, so he didn’t have a temple recommend. She loved her father, the way girls do, and wanted him there when she was married. Through her love and encouragement, her tireless, tender conversations and prayers with him, her father finally came around.

I happened to be seated next to him at Teresa’s wedding in the temple. When the ceremony was over, Teresa turned at once to put her arms around her father, and with tears streaming, she whispered in his ear, “Oh, daddy, my daddy, my beloved first sweetheart. Thank you! Thank you!”

And her father, emotionally touched, replied, “Oh thank you, little girl. Thank you!”

Teresa was a voice of love!

There’s a great story told to me by the father of the young woman who was involved in it. I promised I’d share it with women across the Church when it was appropriate.

A three-year-old had wandered off on an adventure, shedding his clothing as he went. When he realized he was lost as well as cold, he knocked at the home of this young woman. She saw a little boy standing on the step; he was wearing only soiled underwear and was crying his heart out. She took him in, and while they waited for the police to find his mother, she wrapped him in a blanket and held him on her lap and sang songs to him. She made him clown faces on home-dipped ice cream cones and drew pictures with him so he could surprise his mother. She made him feel marvelous.

When at last the boy’s mother arrived, he started for the front door. Then suddenly he stopped, maybe remembering what a special time he had had with the young woman.

“Hey!” he asked, “Are you Heavenly Father’s wife?”

The young woman was startled—and sobered. At last she replied, “No, but I am his daughter.”

I pray that we women—young women and leaders—may be daughters of God and that we may be voices of truth, voices of gladness, helpfulness, righteousness, encouragement, and love.

I pray that we may be very selective in the voices we listen to.

1 want you to listen to my voice now as I testify of the Lord Jesus Christ. He lives. He loves us. He will help us in doing his work. I love him. I love you. I love this work.

It is recorded, “He goeth before us, and his sheep know his voice” (see John 10:4). Out of the many voices around us, may we hear His and may our voices be an echo of His in all the important ways, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.