Young women, as well as young men, have cause to rejoice in the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood. We rejoice in this commemoration because the priesthood was restored to bless the entire human family. Priesthood power, when exercised righteously, unites men and women, sons and daughters, and families. We have a reason to rejoice together. Togetherness in righteousness is at the very heart of our Father in Heaven’s plan for his sons and his daughters. It is a glorious plan in which we all have a part.
In order to realize the full blessings of our Father’s plan involving the power and authority of the priesthood, each young man and each young woman must prepare to do their part. While your duties and responsibilities, your influence, and native endowments are different, I believe your preparation to receive the full blessings of the priesthood is more alike than different.
Let’s start at the beginning, at least at the beginning of your earth life, and consider those times when the power and the authority of the priesthood have become very important to you personally.
You entered earth life, and as a baby (for most of you) you were lovingly presented to one holding the authority to act in God’s name. Through that priesthood authority, you were given a name and a blessing. You began your earthly mission, and at this time your name was recorded on the records of the Church.
This pattern was observed even before the birth of our Savior when Zacharias and Elisabeth presented their son to receive his earthly name and blessing. The child’s name had been revealed to Zacharias by an angel. He was to be named John, the forerunner of Jesus Christ. By the power of the priesthood, this blessing was given.
When you were baptized and became a member of the Church, baptism was the first priesthood ordinance in which you made a covenant. It opened the way for you to start on the path to return to your Father in Heaven. You were baptized by the same power and authority that John the Baptist exercised when he baptized Jesus Christ, our Savior, in the River Jordan.
The gift of the Holy Ghost follows baptism and constitutes the next essential ordinance of the gospel. You had hands laid upon your head by one having the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and by that power you were blessed to “receive the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Ghost can be a companion to you throughout your life. The Holy Ghost is given to guide you, teach you, comfort you, inspire you, and bear witness to you of the reality of the Savior and the truths of the restored gospel.
Let me remind you of other experiences many of you have had or will have with the blessings and power of the priesthood and with the gift of the Holy Ghost. Many of you have been or will be called and set apart (by one having authority of the holy priesthood) to serve as quorum or class officers. When you are set apart and hands are laid on your head, you receive the power and authority to act in the office to which you are called.
Let me tell you about a young Laurel president who explained it this way: “‘You see,’ she said, ‘I was called to be a class president of 17 girls, and the bishop said I was responsible for them. I was scared to death. I didn’t even know for sure where they were. Then he told me to decide on my counselors and reminded me of the need to pray and ask the Lord. I wondered how it worked—how would I know who the Lord wanted?’ …
“‘I wrote 17 names on a piece of paper. Then I prayed about those names. … I kept thinking and praying and [crossing off names] until the third day. With only two names remaining, I had a strong feeling that I knew who Heavenly Father wanted. That’s how it works’” (Ardeth G. Kapp, “Yes, You Are Old Enough, Girls,” New Era, May 1974, p. 14).
It is appropriate for her and for you to recognize and witness the power of the Holy Ghost as you seek inspiration concerning the calls you have received from your Heavenly Father through your bishop.
The power of the priesthood and the importance of its restoration and blessings came to have special meaning in my life when I was the age of many of you. I was just 15. My mother and father were miles away from our home, and my grandmother was staying with me. While my parents were away, a serious ear infection developed, and I was rushed to the hospital. The infection required major surgery and was carried out immediately. Following the operation, I overheard one of the doctors tell a nurse that the damage to my ear had been so severe that I would permanently lose my hearing and my equilibrium.
When my parents arrived at the hospital and realized the seriousness of my situation, they knew what to do. My father and another Melchizedek Priesthood holder, having the power and authority to act in the name of God, administered to me, using the oil that had been consecrated by the priesthood for the healing of the sick. My father placed his hands upon my shaven head, which was mostly wrapped in bandages, and gave me a blessing.
My mother was also impressed that she should place my name on the prayer roll of the Alberta Temple where those in attendance would join their faith in prayer for me. It was the first time I knew that people could have their name placed on the prayer roll in the temple. In time, through faith and the power of the priesthood, my healing was complete.
As a member of the Church have you felt the power of the priesthood in the administrations and blessings you may have received? Have you received a father’s blessing? Have you asked your father to give you a blessing at special times of need—like the beginning of a new school year, or during times of discouragement, or when you are carrying a heavy responsibility, or when you are struggling for understanding? These are times when you can receive that strength which you need. And in the absence of your father, you can ask your home teachers, or the bishop, or a special friend who has been ordained to act in God’s name. I know that these blessings can be a great comfort to you. They have been for me, and they can be for you.
Many of you are at an age when you are thinking about and making important decisions, sometimes difficult decisions, that will affect the rest of your life. As a member of the Church you have the privilege to receive another unique priesthood blessing, a patriarchal blessing. This blessing is given you, upon your request and worthiness, by a patriarch ordained of God to this special calling.
A patriarchal blessing can serve as a guide to you with promises which are predicated upon your faithfulness in keeping the commandments. When I was 16 years old, Brother Anderson, our stake patriarch, placed his shaking, gnarled hands on my head and declared my lineage and gave me a patriarchal blessing. This blessing has been a tremendous strength to me throughout my life. Through the years, when unanswered questions have weighed heavily on my mind, I have read and reread my blessing hundreds of times. It has been an anchor, a comfort, and a guide to me. Through the authority of the priesthood, a patriarchal blessing can be yours to guide you and help you throughout your life.
Another of the great priesthood ordinances designed to bless us was instituted by the Savior when the final hours of his earthly ministry were approaching. During the last supper together, “While Jesus sat at the table with the Apostles, he took some bread, and when he had blessed it, he broke it in pieces and passed it to them saying, ‘Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body which I give a ransom for you.’ He then took a cup and gave thanks and passed it to them saying, ‘Drink ye all of it. For this is in remembrance of my blood of the new testament, which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of their sins’ (JST, Matt. 26:22–24)” (The Light and the Life, Ardeth G. Kapp and Judith S. Smith, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1985, p. 103).
Each Sunday the Aaronic Priesthood young men prepare and administer the sacred ordinance of the sacrament. For the sake of order and wise government, our Heavenly Father has bestowed the priesthood and accompanying administrative responsibilities upon his sons. While it is the duty of the Aaronic Priesthood holders to prepare and pass these sacred emblems, every worthy member is privileged to partake and to receive the blessings promised in this priesthood ordinance.
By the authority of the priesthood, both young men and young women are set apart to be messengers of truth and teach the gospel when they receive a call from a prophet of the Lord to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In the house of the Lord, the temple, all things are done by the power and the authority of the priesthood. In the temple, men and women are endowed and make sacred priesthood covenants which are accompanied by promises and blessings. One day every righteous young man and young woman will have the privilege and opportunity, if not in this life, in the eternities, for a celestial marriage and an eternal family. The highest blessings of the priesthood are conferred only upon a man and a woman together in the temple. This priesthood ordinance is necessary for exaltation in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. As the Apostle Paul said, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:11). They are truly partners in priesthood blessings.
And so we come together and rejoice together as we recount the blessings we each receive as a result of the priesthood. It is a power which blesses us daily and prepares us for eternity.
“As [you] young men embark in the work of the Aaronic Priesthood and as [you] young women prepare [yourselves] for service in the kingdom, both will realize [your] shared heavenly endowment” (Russell M. Nelson, “Daughters of Zion,” New Era, YW Nov. 1985, p. 6).
Through its restoration, the priesthood ordinances and covenants that set young men and young women apart from the world are available to each of you. This is according to our Heavenly Father’s plan. The preamble to the Young Women Values significantly states that young women are to prepare to make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation (“Young Women Values,” New Era, YW Nov. 1985, p. 27).
We are well acquainted with the duties and responsibilities of Aaronic Priesthood young men. But what of young women? What is their calling? A prophet has said, “To be a righteous [young] woman is a glorious thing in any age. To be a righteous woman during the winding up scenes on this earth, before the second coming of our Savior, is an especially noble calling” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 103).
Young women, how can you use your influence in this calling? How can you use it in righteousness? Let me tell you what one young woman did. Following her decision to take a stand for truth and righteousness in a very difficult situation, she received a letter from an older friend. The letter reads: “I just wanted to apologize for last night. I was proud to see you holding your standards and not just going along with the crowd which is so easy to do. I want you to know that you made me think twice and reevaluate my own standards on immoral R-rated movies. Your example has made me want to try harder in listening to the counsel of Church leaders on this matter. I’m sure the Lord is proud of you. Thank you for your friendship.”
Your age is not a limitation. You have a significant calling. Each young woman, magnifying her calling to become a righteous woman, as this one did, will help thwart the powers of the adversary, deter the proliferation of pornography, and guard against immorality. Your righteous influence can affect many things—the degree of love and harmony in your home, the number of young people proclaiming the gospel, the behavior of a friend, the atmosphere in your classroom.
Elder Russell M. Nelson has said to young women of every age, “Your powerful influence for good is needed today as never before. A righteous young woman’s influence is great” (“Daughters of Zion,” New Era, YW Nov. 1985, p. 9).
How do you prepare, as a prophet has said, to be ten times more influential than you might be in more peaceful times? (See Spencer W. Kimball, “Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 103.) Your preparation comes as you learn who you are and what you are to do. The Young Women Values introduced last November will guide you in this preparation. To the question “Who am I?” the values of faith, divine nature, and individual worth teach you that you are a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves you. You have inherited divine qualities. You are of infinite worth with your own divine mission.
To the question “What am I to do?” the values of knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, and integrity will help guide you. As you continually seek opportunities for learning and growth, you will increase your knowledge and testimony of the gospel. You will be strengthened in your desire always to choose good over evil and to accept responsibility for your choices. You will learn to nurture others and play a major part in building the kingdom of God through your righteous service beginning within your own family. And finally, you will develop the moral courage to make your actions always consistent with your knowledge of right and wrong, allowing you to stand as a witness for Christ “at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9).
Study the Young Women Values with their scripture references. They will help prepare you to exert a righteous influence. Study the gospel principles they express and apply them. Use the values as a guide to live by each day. As you do this, the Lord will strengthen you, and his Spirit will bring a marvelous awakening within you. You will begin to understand what it means to become a “light in the Lord” and to “walk as children of light” (see Eph. 5:8–9).
Sometimes I have walked at dusk in the hills near my home. I watch the sun setting in the west over the lake and the shadows lengthening until the most familiar landmarks around me are gradually obscured in the darkness. I suddenly feel alone and a little unsure. But then a little miracle occurs. One by one the lights begin appearing—in the houses, along the streets—and even in the surrounding darkness, I regain my sense of direction. Reassured and cheered by their brightness, I make my way safely home.
My dear young sisters, you are like those lights. In a world of increasing darkness, when the adversary is doing all in his power to eliminate light and obscure every familiar landmark, the Savior’s words lovingly implore, “Hold up your light” (3 Ne. 18:24).
It is not power and authority but the strength of your light, your great example and influence, that will significantly affect “both the numerical and the spiritual growth of the Church in the last days” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Role of Righteous Women,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 104).
“Women are appointed … to be guides and lights in righteousness” (Bruce R. McConkie, “Our Sisters from the Beginning,” Ensign, Jan. 1979, p. 63). As you follow the Savior’s example, as you learn to live the principles of the gospel with each choice you make to stand for truth and righteousness, you will grow to become light- and life-giving to those around you—righteous young women, daughters of God.