Yellow Ribbons and Charted Courses


What an honor and pleasure it is for me to be with you, your counselors, your general board members, these wonderful chorus members, this special panel, and all of the girls and their leaders assembled in the Tabernacle and in other locations throughout the world and the Church. I have enjoyed very much all that has taken place and sincerely congratulate all those in attendance. This is indeed a moving setting and situation.

Some years ago an interesting account appeared in a New Zealand newspaper about a family—a man, woman, and their two young children—and their ocean voyage.

In a well-stocked 35-foot sloop they departed on an extended trip. After a few days out, their boat struck a reef off New Caledonia. The four occupants managed to get into a life raft with some water, food, and a radio before the yacht was lost. After some anxious hours, their radio distress signal was picked up in New Caledonia, and before long, they were reached by an air/sea rescue helicopter.

When the four family members were safely ashore and being interviewed by reporters, the woman kept repeating, “We’ve lost everything! We’ve lost everything! Everything we had was in that sailboat. All of our money, our clothes, and our possessions are gone. And the yacht was not insured. We’ve lost everything!”

As Earl Nightingale, a well-known philosopher, reported this story, he went on to comment on the lack of proper preparation of which this family was guilty. Reefs in the South Pacific are well charted. Insurance is always available and learning skills of sailing should be part of training processes before venturing out into open seas.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to move forward without the spirit of fear. However, please take special notice with me of the rest of that scripture which is the theme of our meeting today: “but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).

When I think of a sound mind, it means to me using our ability to think, to plan, to work, and to chart our course as we sail through the seas of life. If we are smart, we will prepare well either for the smooth sailing or the hidden reefs and the troubled waters.

Let me tell you about a young lady who charted her course ahead of time. A recently called member of a bishopric with his lovely wife at his side thankfully related this situation. He said, “She deserves much of the credit for my present course in life. When we were dating years ago, I took her for a ride in my car to a secluded area. We parked. As I started to make some intimate advances she felt were improper, she said, ‘All of my life I have planned on being married in the temple. Don’t you disqualify me!’” She had charted her course before she got into troubled waters.

Certainly preparation precedes power, and if we can prepare ourselves, we have no need to fear. The present and the future belong to those who have the power that comes through preparation.

Recall with me if you will the power of Queen Esther of Old Testament days, which power she used to save her people.

There was a king who reigned from India even unto Ethiopia. When he made a feast unto all his princes and all his servants, he wanted his wife, Vashti, the queen, to come before his guests for she was fair to look upon, but the queen refused. The king was wroth and his anger burned in him. He put this queen away and called for all the fair virgins of his kingdom to be brought before him. Esther, a Jewish girl, was brought before the king and found favor with him. The Bible says, “And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight … so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen” (Esth. 2:17).

In the royal court a certain man had convinced the king to give him authority to destroy all the Jews throughout the whole kingdom.

Esther’s uncle, who had raised her, got word to the queen about an order to exterminate all her people. The uncle asked her to go in unto the king to make supplication unto him for the Jews. The king as yet did not know that she was a Jewess.

Esther was frightened! The penalty for going into the king without an invitation was death, unless the king held out his golden sceptre. However, her uncle said, “And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esth. 4:14).

To help her prepare for this task, Esther asked all the Jews and all her handmaidens to fast with her for three days, and then she said, “And so I will go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish” (Esth. 4:16).

On the third day Esther put on her royal apparel and stood before the king. He held out his golden sceptre and asked, “What wilt thou, queen Esther?” (Esth. 5:3). Esther then told the king of the evil plans to destroy her people. The orders were rescinded, and the “Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour” (Esth. 8:16) in her kingdom.

Queen Esther knew deep fear at that time in her life, yet she was able to achieve her goal. She used her power to save her people. She turned to God for help. She asked her people to use their faith and power in her behalf, and by so doing, she found the strength to move forward without fear and to use her power righteously. Our Heavenly Father has given that same power to all of you girls in the Church. You have the capacity to influence those around you for good or for evil.

Today there is a sister of yours in Australia. Her name is not Esther, but she, too, influenced a man to become great. This couple is doing much good in Australia. After an extended courtship, the fellow thought the time was right to propose marriage. In response to his proposal, his girl friend said, “If you marry me, it will have to be in the temple.” He, a nonmember, said, “What is a temple?” He found out, and months later they were married in the temple. Today this woman of influence stands at his side as the wife of one of our very successful stake presidents.

Her actions, like Esther’s, are helping many Latter-day Saints in the “land down under” to be saved and find their way back to their Father in Heaven because she, too, courageously used her power as a woman to influence for good.

Yellow ribbons recently waved over much of the United States to welcome home with love the 52 former hostages. Jimmy Lopez, one of the hostages, said as he arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, “I just can’t believe this! This is what it is all about. When it gets right down to it, we stick together,” he said.

All the hostages seemed to be buoyed up by the spirit of love that our Father in Heaven has given to all of us to share. To grow, this spirit must be used—not just for 444 days to 52 Americans in Iran—but day by day and hour by hour toward ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. We need to constantly remember; it is harder when we don’t have spectacular news stories as a constant reminder.

The woman whose boat was lost mourned that she had nothing left, even though her husband and children were safe and standing at her side. Do you think her sense of values and spirit of love were misplaced?

President Tanner, in his conference talk in April 1967, said, “As we look back over our life, whether it be short or long, we realize that the thing that gave the greatest joy was doing something for someone else because we loved him” (Improvement Era, June 1967, p. 29).

Making yourself better day by day exhibits the spirit of love for a daughter of God. Appreciating that no one is just like you, and that no one is any more important, no one is any more needed or valuable than you are, is magnifying that spirit.

Mistakes are made. When mistakes are corrected, we grow through the process. The true spirit of love won’t let us diminish our love of self as we change and improve. Love of others can often result in helping them choose the right and gain needed self-respect.

Another present-day member of a stake presidency said to me, “My wife had much to do with this call which has now come to us. When we were dating, I was inactive in the Church. I gained the courage one night to ask her if she would marry me. To this proposal she didn’t say yes and she didn’t say no. She said, ‘Where?’ I spent the next number of months squaring myself around so I could take her to the temple. She had made her plans, and I loved her enough to rechart my course to coincide with hers. I knew what I had to do and where I had to go if I wanted to travel at her side.”

Constantly we are told to love our neighbors. We could take many hours listing ways to show love—a compliment, a kind word, a loaf of bread, a visit, a listening ear, and on and on.

But we can’t choose or chart your course. This is your responsibility and your opportunity. I might suggest that as you feel that spirit of love God has given to us, examine your resources and make reachable goals. Take a pencil and paper at the beginning of each week and actually list realistic ways you can and will express your love to yourself and to others in your life. Love is such a vague word. To reap the benefits of loving, specific action must be taken. The hungry man must not be pitied; he must be fed. The lonesome girl needs not just a quick smile; she needs someone to walk with arm in arm. A tired mother needs more than a valentine saying, “I love you”; she needs to be given help with daily tasks.

We suggest you plan carefully ways to show your love—not how I would do it, not how President Kimball would do it, not how President Marion G. Romney would do it, not how President Ezra Taft Benson would do it—these men who are here with us in this meeting—but how each of you can and will do it. Then the spirit of love will be a gift from God that will be magnified and fill your soul with the greatest of joys of which President Tanner spoke. Jesus said it this way: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).

In the Doctrine and Covenants, section 38, verse 15 [D&C 38:15], we read, “Therefore, be ye strong from henceforth; fear not, for the kingdom is yours.” Young women, this is a great promise.

Fear is a stifling feeling, a roadblock. It comes not from God. Through power from God that is ours for the asking, we can overcome fear and have the courage to move forward. However, with our sound minds our journey through life must be charted. We must know where we’re going.

I’m reminded of a man in New York who jumped into a taxicab and said, “Hurry, hurry, I’m late!” The cab driver took off with a lurch and wove rapidly through traffic.

Suddenly his passenger said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you where to go.”

“I know,” said the cabbie, “but we are surely making good time.” Knowing what goals you want to reach and charting the course to attain them is using a sound mind.

The spirit of love, the yellow ribbons, hugs, smiles, kindnesses, service, knowing that people are more important than possessions add flowers, sunshine, and joy as we travel along the road to our inheritance in the kingdom of God.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the chart to study as you make your own plans. From it can come your compass and your maps. Just as the charts were there for the family from New Zealand to study, but which they chose to ignore, so may you use the gospel of Jesus Christ to chart your life’s course or ignore it, as Sister Cannon so effectively emphasized earlier in her inspirational remarks. Our Father in Heaven offers it but won’t force it on us.

I want you young ladies of the Church worldwide to know that I am optimistic about you and your future. Believe me when I tell you it is a great time to be alive. Face the future without fear. God lives. He loves you, and he wants you to be happy. Chart your course. Some of us will need to rechart our courses beginning today. Make changes and commitments as necessary and desirable without fear or hesitation. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).

I look forward to tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year with enthusiasm. Join me in facing all of our tomorrows with excitement and anticipation. God has not only reserved you, a special generation, to be upon the earth at this time, but many of his greatest wonders are yet to be performed. You can be and are entitled to be part of that action with him.

Love your parents. Love your leaders. Love your associates. I promise you this will bring you happiness. You may feel on occasion that some do not merit your love, but your and my lot is not to judge them, but to love them. As we so do, our love for ourselves and others will become significant and comforting.

I bear you my witness that God lives and wants us to move forward from where we are today without fear, in power, love, and in intelligence. To these truths I leave my testimony. I extend my love and blessings, along with all of the other General Authorities who are assembled here and in other locations throughout the world tonight, and join with the Young Women leaders worldwide in this testimony and this greeting, and I do it humbly and in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.