The Divine Role of Women
Notes from my address in a Sacrament Meeting of the Kaysville 10th Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
November 10, 2013
(From "Daughters in My Kingdom")
Joseph Smith taught Relief Society sisters of their nobility as daughters of God, helping them understand that God loved them and had grand purposes for them to fulfill. Women in the Church play essential roles in Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation—just as important as the roles played by men who hold the priesthood. The Lord has endowed women with an innate desire to serve and bless others, and He has entrusted them with a sacred responsibility to use their gifts to help save His children.
Women sometimes forget their true nobility and give in to the diversions and temptations of the world. Concerned about this trend, Sister Mary Ellen Smoot, the thirteenth Relief Society general president, and her counselors, Sisters Virginia U. Jensen and Sheri L. Dew, felt a need to help the women of the Church remember their identity. In a general Relief Society meeting, they expressed what it means to be daughters of God:
“We are beloved spirit daughters of God, and our lives have meaning, purpose, and direction. As a worldwide sisterhood, we are united in our devotion to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Exemplar. We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity who:
“Increase our testimonies of Jesus Christ through prayer and scripture study.
“Seek spiritual strength by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
“Dedicate ourselves to strengthening marriages, families, and homes.
“Find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.
“Delight in service and good works.
“Love life and learning.
“Stand for truth and righteousness.
“Sustain the priesthood as the authority of God on earth.
“Rejoice in the blessings of the temple, understand our divine destiny, and strive for exaltation.”
Speaking of exaltation, this is a note from the news a few days ago…” A study finds the Milky Way is teeming with billions of planets that are about the size of Earth, orbit stars just like our sun, and exist in the Goldilocks zone -- not too hot and not too cold for life.
Astronomers using NASA data have calculated for the first time that in our galaxy alone, there are at least 8.8 billion stars with Earth-size planets in the habitable temperature zone.
The study was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. For perspective, that's more Earth-like planets than there are people on Earth. The scriptures say “worlds without number” One of my friends posted this on Facebook and one of his friend commented, “the Mormons are having a field day.” I love it when science catches up with the scriptures.
Priesthood leaders have also reminded women of their divine nature and sacred responsibilities. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “We believe in and are counting on your goodness and your strength, your propensity for virtue and valor, your kindness and courage, your strength and resilience. We believe in your mission as women of God. … We believe that the Church simply will not accomplish what it must without your faith and faithfulness, your innate tendency to put the well-being of others ahead of your own, and your spiritual strength and tenacity. And we believe that God’s plan is for you to become queens and to receive the highest blessings any woman can receive in time or eternity.”
As women live up to their privilege and potential as daughters of God, they prepare themselves for the blessing of eternal life. This is the glorious destiny God has in store for His faithful daughters.
Last week in our Relief Society lesson, we discussed Elder Scott’s talk from Oct General Conference. We learned about reconciling ourselves to God’s will and how to strengthen ourselves through the atonement of Christ, by making and keeping covenants, serving faithfully in our callings, performing temple service, building up our family members, helping others and proclaiming the gospel. We learned that our spiritual development is more important than the things the things of the world.
In the Doctrine and Covenants 113: 7, 9-10 the Lord was asked
7.… What is meant by the command in Isaiah, 52d chapter, 1st verse, which saith: Put on thy strength, O Zion—and what people had Isaiah reference to?
9. What are we to understand by Zion loosing herself from the bands of her neck; 2d verse?
10. We are to understand that the scattered remnants are exhorted to return to the Lord from whence they have fallen; which if they do, the promise of the Lord is that he will speak to them, or give them revelation. ..the bands of her neck are the curses of God upon her, or the remnants of Israel in their scattered condition among the Gentiles. We are cursed for our worldliness and other offenses against God. But the curses of God are removed in temple service.
In the Doctrine and Covenants 97:14 we are told:
14 That they may be perfected in the understanding of their ministry, in theory, in principle, and in doctrine, in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God on the earth, the keys of which kingdom have been conferred upon you.
18 And, now, behold, if Zion do these things she shall prosper, and spread herself and become very glorious, very great, and very terrible.
19 And the nations of the earth shall honor her, and shall say: Surely Zion is the city of our God, and surely Zion cannot fall, neither be moved out of her place, for God is there, and the hand of the Lord is there;
21 Therefore, verily, thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—the pure in heart; therefore, let Zion rejoice, while all the wicked shall mourn.
22 For behold, and lo, vengeance cometh speedily upon the ungodly as the whirlwind; and who shall escape it?
23 The Lord’s scourge shall pass over by night and by day, and the report thereof shall vex all people; yea, it shall not be stayed until the Lord come;
24 For the indignation of the Lord is kindled against their abominations and all their wicked works.
The Sisters of the Kingdom are to
“Lead the World … in Everything That Is Praise-Worthy”
The 13th Article of faith states:
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
President Joseph F. Smith, the sixth President of the Church, urged Latter-day Saint women to “lead the world and to lead especially the women of the world, in everything that is praise-worthy, everything that is God-like, everything that is uplifting and that is purifying.” He said, “You are called by the voice of the Prophet of God to do it, to be uppermost, to be the greatest and the best, the purest and the most devoted to the right.”
Throughout the history of the Lord’s restored Church, female disciples of Christ have lived up to this standard. Like Esther, they have been faithful and courageous in the face of difficult challenges. They have found purpose in their lives, as Esther did when her cousin Mordecai asked her, “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Like Nehemiah in the Old Testament, they have not been diverted from their sacred responsibilities. When Nehemiah’s enemies tried to tempt him away from his duty to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, he replied, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” His enemies continued to tempt him, but he stayed strong and true to his important work. The world has tried to persuade the women of the Church to abandon their God-given missions, but faithful Relief Society sisters have not “come down.”
I had an unusual opportunity this week to do some good for the kingdom. I am in the process of creating one of the holiday candy windows for the City Creek Macy’s which used to be ZCMI. I was at the SL temple this summer and felt inspired to go to Macy’s to look for something I needed. When I walked up to the store I saw a call for artists in the window they were looking for designers for candy window displays for Christmas. My 3rd great grandfather was the president of ZCMI when the beautiful arched façade was installed in the late 1800’s. I thought it would be fun to honor our family history and contribute a gift to the children of this area. I submitted a concept which was approved by the corporate office and I received the go-ahead to order the materials and begin construction. The Manager of Window Displays for all of Macy’s flew out from New York to discuss the project. On Friday he and Chad Young, the visual manager for City Creek came to my house to check on the progress. I offered to make them breakfast and had time to visit with them and request more modest clothes in the local stores, especially for young girls and young women. Chad told me that the stores will be able to select 20% of the merchandise they carry and are in the process of getting a line of clothes appropriate for sister missionaries. This is a good time to let local store management know what you would like to see available for your daughters to help them dress modestly.
In each new generation, Relief Society sisters can say, “Now it is our turn to serve.” The charge to lead out in everything that is praiseworthy, Godlike, uplifting, and purifying is a demanding one. It always has been. But individual Relief Society sisters are not alone in accepting this charge. They are part of a great organization, founded by priesthood authority and strengthened by the teachings and declarations of prophets. They are beloved daughters of God with sacred responsibilities. They are covenant people of the Lamb, “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” As they unite with other faithful Saints and learn from the examples of those who have gone before, they can prevail over mortal challenges. They can help build the kingdom of God throughout the world and in their homes. They can say, “Now it is our turn—our turn to serve and write a chapter on the pages of Relief Society’s history.” With an assurance of Heavenly Father’s love for them and a testimony of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, they can rise above ordinary thoughts and ambitions and be part of “something extraordinary.”
Some time ago, I was prompted to write a book about Halloween. In my book, I described the harvest holidays of ancient Israel, pagan practices and modern traditions. The week before last, on Halloween, I was invited to be a guest on BYU’s TalkWorthy radio program with Kim Power Stilson. We discussed child-friendly alternative ideas for celebrating at Halloween and how to avoid the more decadent practices. The reason I’m telling you this, is that as we follow the Lord, He provides opportunities to build the kingdom and show the world a more excellent way.
The Lord’s promises are sure as sisters follow the counsel He gave to the first Relief Society president: “Verily I say unto you, all those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom. … Lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better. … Cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made.” When the Prophet Joseph Smith told Relief Society sisters to “live up to [their] privilege,” he combined that exhortation with a promise: “The angels cannot be restrained from being your associates. … If you will be pure, nothing can hinder.” What a great privilege it is to be a Daughter in the Kingdom.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.