BYU Women’s Conference
The Divine Destiny of His Daughters

The Divine Destiny of His Daughters

2021 BYU Women’s Conference

Friday, April 30, 2021

Sister Melanie Rasband: I am honored to have been asked to introduce my husband, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Still, I must add that I did not originally marry an Apostle. I married a young man, home from serving a mission for the Lord. I had a wonderful witness through prayer that this man I loved was the one for me. I knew he would honor his covenants, that he would be true to the Lord and to me, and that he would provide for and help raise our family in the gospel. We would eventually have five wonderful children, who each married a magnificent spouse; 28 grandchildren; and our first great-grandchild, who Elder Rasband will also refer to. But even as we began our journey together, I did not know who he would become.

We were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. We’ve been married for 47 years—September will be 48. When he proposed I said, “Well, that means I would be married before I can go on a mission, so you better live worthy to take me someday.” And so he did.

After a successful 21-year career working with Jon M. Huntsman Sr., he was called to be a mission president over the New York New York North Mission in 1996. Opening his assignment letter, he said to the family, “I’ve been called home,” for he would be serving in much of the same area where he had served as a young missionary.

So, devoted foremost to the Lord, he left his position as president of the Huntsman Chemical Corporation, and we moved to New York. It was the first of many moves that we have taken. Eight months after we returned to our home in Sandy, Utah, he was called to serve in the Quorum of the Seventy, in the year 2000. With the brief assignment in Solihull, England, we were reassigned to Frankfurt, Germany, for three years, as he was part of an Area Presidency overseeing many European countries.

He has served in various responsibilities as a Seventy—including the executive director of the Temple Department under President Hinckley—before becoming one of the seven Presidents of the Seventy and then the Senior President of the Seventy. He was then called by President Monson as an Apostle and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve in October of 2015 and, among other things, given responsibility to oversee the areas in Utah and serve as the chairman of the Communications Committee of the Church.

His plate is quite full.

I’m excited for you to be taught by him today on the wonderful topic of “I am a child of God. His promises are sure.” It’s a simple but primary principle of the gospel that, if fully recognized and appreciated, can afford us great power and strength to be all we can be and to do our part in these latter days with the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

I add my testimony to my husband’s that we are blessed to be led by a living prophet of God, who holds all the priesthood keys and receives revelation to bless and guide us in this, our day. We love President Russell M. Nelson and his dear companion and wife, Wendy.

I know the Book of Mormon is true, a divine guide to study and to lead us on the covenant path. I bear my testimony that this is the true Church of Jesus Christ, that He is our Redeemer, that He was, that He is, and that He is to come. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband: Amen. Thank you, dear Melanie, for that sweet and tender introduction. I am blessed every day by her testimony of the gospel and the witness she bears to our children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchild that Jesus is the Christ.

I appreciate this assignment to speak at BYU Women’s Conference. This is the first time I have addressed this gathering, and I count it an honor and privilege to be in your company all over the world. I appreciate the support of President Kevin Worthen and his wife, Peggy, who are here with us today, and on behalf of all of us welcome the new BYU Women’s Conference chair, Rosemary Thackeray. As I sat with her there today, I know that she and her committee are excited that they’re now down to the last speaker!

All of my life I have been surrounded by great women—my mother, my dear wife, four beautiful daughters, one daughter-in-law, eleven granddaughters, and one great-granddaughter. Some of them are with us today, and I am grateful for their support. To be fair, we have one son and seventeen grandsons—one of whom lives in heaven.

In this conference you have been gaining new insights of the precious truths: “I am a child of God. His promises are sure.” For years you have sung those words: “I am a child of God.” You have spoken them in your homes and at church, in Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society.

But do you believe it?

The doctrine of divinity within us is clear. If, as the First Article of Faith states, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father,” then it follows that we are His children. In The Family: A Proclamation to the World we read: “Each [of us] is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.” When we pray, as directed by the Savior, we use these hallowed words: “Our Father who art in heaven …” The scriptures teach us of eternal life and exaltation in His glorious presence, and Joseph Smith bore witness that God the Father appeared to him in the grove of trees and called him by name, and then introduced His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

These truths distinguish us most in all the world, current and past. To know that we have a Father in Heaven and that Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son means we are looking farther down the covenant path than just where we are standing today. It means we appreciate we are heirs to all that the Father has; kingdoms without number are His realm and can be ours. The Savior has promised, “If thou art faithful unto the end thou shalt have a crown of immortality, and eternal life in the mansions which I have prepared in the house of my Father.”

My questions to you sisters are these:

  • Do you trust the Lord and His promises with all your heart?

  • Do you believe that you, a daughter of God, have work to do on earth as part of the eternal plan?

  • Do you faithfully hold sacred your covenants with Him no matter the challenges or whirlwinds you face?

  • Does your faith in Jesus Christ and the power of His Atonement help you stand fast and immovable on the covenant path, and do its promises of peace, strength, and courage sustain you and bless you when times are hard?

These questions have answers that are based in your personal testimony of God the Father and Jesus Christ.

I am here today in large part because of the testimonies of my dear sweet Melanie and my angel mother, Verda. It was not easy to raise Ronnie Rasband, let me tell you. More than a few times, my Primary teachers stopped my mother, who was the stake Primary president, with accounts of what Ronnie was doing. I was busy and high-spirited. In other words, I know I was a handful.

My dear sister, Nancy, who is watching this broadcast in California, tells the story of when I was about seven or eight years old. Let’s say seven because that would be before my age of accountability! One day, I was wanting my mother’s attention—she was busy in the living room with a potential client. My mother made exquisite, beautiful porcelain dolls. She had a kiln in the basement of our modest little home and taught others her skills. That day she was displaying the dolls on a table for her guest to see. After repeated demands and in frustration, believe it or not I knocked that table over. The dolls fell to the ground and shattered. My mother was righteously furious with me and quite firm. She had good cause, and I must admit, it was not one of my best moments.

My dad was a Wonder Bread truck driver. He would rise at about four every morning and return at about six in the evening. He worked long hours, and his example was not lost on me. My mother was home, adding to the family income as she could, making those porcelain dolls and raising little Ronnie. She taught me how to work, to stay with a task until it was finished. I worked at home until I was old enough to get a job, and that training made all the difference for me as I began to make my own way out in the world.

My mother served in Church leadership positions on both the stake and ward levels. She taught me to love the scriptures and to turn to them and to the Lord for answers. Time and again she bore her testimony to me. Her work ethic was remarkable, but her covenants made with her Father in Heaven were the source of her strength, and she expected the same from me and my brothers and sister.

One day when I was getting old enough to get into trouble, we had a heart-to-heart talk. She asked me to promise that I would always obey the Word of Wisdom. I promised I would and determined I would never let her down. That pledge stayed with me, surfacing in my mind when things were in front of me that could have taken me off track. I have tried to never deviate from that promise, because I had given my word to my mother.

When I was called to preside over the New York New York North Mission, President James E. Faust, my boyhood stake president, invited Sister Rasband and me to his office to extend the call and tell us the location of our assignment. Even then, he sweetly called me “his Cottonwood boy!”

As we concluded he said, “Ronnie, let’s call your mother, Verda, and tell her the good news!” He had served as president of the Cottonwood Stake at the time of her presidency assignments and knew her influence had helped me be both able and worthy for my missionary service. She had followed his wise counsel: “Surely no more important work is to be done in this world than preparing our children to be God-fearing, happy, honorable, and productive.”

As I said before, I stand here today because of a righteous mother who taught me the way home to my Father in Heaven. I believe by divine design that was part of her purpose in mortality. My Father in Heaven sent me to Verda and Rulon Rasband, both having been divorced and both having spent years as single parents before entering a wonderful second marriage. I was born in the covenant they made at the altar in the temple. Because of that sacred commitment, I am sealed to them for time and for all eternity. Our family connection continues with the covenants my wife and I have made in the temple and our children have made as well.

It does not stop there. My ancestors, like many of yours, were covenant keepers in the temple. And for many of you who are single, as my own parents were, you are being sanctified by your service in the house of the Lord.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has described how we as a Quorum counsel together: “In a spirit of prayer and with a yearning to understand how to help all who feel alone or feel they don’t belong.”

We believe that if you seek to be recommended to the Lord and make sacred covenants in the temple, you will receive those eternal blessings of belonging by covenants to the Lord. In my humble opinion, it does not get any better than that.

All are alike unto the Lord. He sees your righteous desire to keep moving forward on the covenant path as you no doubt face headwinds, perhaps even most of the time. He sees your pure heart, no matter the culture, color, talents, age, or nationality. He sees you as who you really are—a daughter of God—and He calls to you one by one: “Come unto me.”

President Ballard has said, “We should understand that eternal life is not simply a question of current marital status but of discipleship and being ‘valiant in the testimony of Jesus’ [Doctrine and Covenants 76:79; see also Doctrine and Covenants 121:29]. The hope of all who are single is the same as for all members of the Lord’s restored Church—access to the grace of Christ through ‘obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel’ [Articles of Faith 1:3].”

With sacred temple ordinances we draw closer to “the power of godliness,” and then, as Isaiah says, with renewed purpose and strength, we “shall mount up with wings as eagles; … run, and not be weary; … walk and not faint.”

Eternal promises hold true even at times when challenges and fury swirl around us, particularly when we feel alone.

Consider the desperate conditions of Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail when he petitioned his Father in Heaven in humble prayer and received this revelation:

“If thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son [and daughter], that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”

It wasn’t just Joseph the Lord was talking to in that passage; He was talking to all of us. Haven’t you felt the “billowing surge” in one way or another? The “fierce winds” and the “heavens gather[ing] blackness”? Hoping for relief, Joseph turned to the Lord, who taught him, “These things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”

The Lord tempered Joseph’s challenges with “the Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”

The Savior was teaching that He had taken upon Himself all the pains, sins, very bad days, and crippling adversities that had vexed Joseph and plagued God’s children since the beginning of time. The Savior had experienced just what Joseph was feeling and, in our circumstances, what we are feeling. And then with these powerful words in that scriptural message He did set the course for us all:

“Therefore, hold on thy way. … Fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.”

“Hold on thy way,” the way of Jesus Christ, for He is the Great Exemplar. “Hold on” to the promises you have received and the promises and covenants you have made. “Hold on” to the covenant path; it is less traveled, but it is the way home to our Father in Heaven.

In the last days of his life, as the tumult was closing in, Joseph, Hyrum, and others began their journey to Carthage. Joseph knew what awaited him. He said to his beloved Emma as he kissed each member of his family goodbye, “I am calm as a summer’s morning.” Calm because he knew His Father’s promises were sure. “God shall be with you forever and ever.”

The plea from our hearts must be the same:

“Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.” Help me “hold on.”

In the Book of Mormon, we learn of just such an experience. Ammon gives an account of journeying in the land of Nephi with his brethren and describes “their sufferings in the land, their sorrows, and their afflictions, and their incomprehensible joy” because of “the promises of the Lord” of “a state of never-ending happiness.” They had held on when times were tough and had been blessed in their trials with great joy. It was so for them; it can be and is for us.

In our pre-earth life, we cheered for the opportunity to be part of our Father’s great plan of happiness. On those days when the adversary wriggles into our hearts with doubt, fear, frustration, and contention, we may momentarily wonder about that decision. He is hoping his “fiery darts” will draw us off and lure us to his domain. In the war in heaven, Satan’s goal was to persuade us to misuse our agency to follow him rather than our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He is still at it, hoping to distract us to merely hang out, do little if anything, and certainly not worry about being on “the Lord’s errand.” He promises us his glory. But let me tell you, his glory is nothing. He is miserable, and he wants us to be the same. He cannot promise worlds without number because he does not have any. He cannot promise a resurrected, perfect body, because he does not have one. He cannot promise that families will be forever because he gave up his place with our Father in Heaven. He cannot promise us rest or peace because he does not have that either. When the trump sounds to signal the Lord’s return, “Satan shall be bound, that he shall have no place in the hearts of the children of men.” Remember the Lord’s words: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

Being true to our covenants and promises is the message of Christ’s parable of the ten virgins. It is all about light. The Lord has said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

The virgins carried light. You remember the story: five were wise and five were foolish. They took their lamps, their light, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

The ten virgins represent members of the Church, and the bridegroom represents Jesus Christ. The Lord explained in Latter-day scripture that the wise virgins are those who “have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived.”

We read in Matthew:

“They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them;

“But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.”

The five who were foolish showed up, but without an important element to provide light. They had no oil to light their lamps. Oil came from olives that had been soaked, purged of impurities, and crushed in the press and collected in vessels. It was a lot of work to get oil.

We continue with Matthew:

“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

“And at midnight [later than they expected] there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

“Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps [meaning they lit their lamps].

“And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

“But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.”

Your first thought might be, “Why didn’t the wise sisters share?” “What about ‘charity never faileth?” “Weren’t they ministers who helped their sisters in need?” “Were they heartless and stingy?”

No. Oil represented more than what came in a jar. They were wise because they had been collecting oil in the press of life, always striving to live faithful to their covenants with the Lord. Their oil, and ours, is best described as love for God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, as a desire to live with integrity, fulfilling our promises. Oil comes from worship in the temple, connection to and gratitude for families past and present, partaking of and honoring covenants with the Lord, doctrinal understanding gained by studying the words of the Lord in scripture and from living prophets, paying tithing, fulfilling callings, mercy, repentance, and drawing upon the Atonement of Jesus Christ in those times when faith, hope, resilience, and testimony are tried.

In the account, the foolish were off to the market. But you cannot buy the oil of testimony. They had not “taken the Holy Spirit for their guide,” and their vessels remained empty.

Now, back to Matthew’s account:

“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage; and the door was shut.

“Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

“But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.”

The Joseph Smith Translation is even more explicit. Rather than, “I know you not,” the revelation says, “Verily I say unto you, ye know me not.”

“Ye know me not” is a stunning rebuke. The five who were foolish had not filled their inner vessels, their very souls, with a knowledge of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Holy One of Israel, the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God, the Messiah and Redeemer, and the Only Begotten of the Father. We come to know our Father by following the example of the Savior, who stated, “I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.” So have we come unto the world for the same purpose.

Jesus Christ has promised, “I will … be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments.” Do we follow Him when amidst the whirling winds of adversity, contention, and disappointment He says, “Be still, and know that I am God”?

At the end of His ministry, Jesus Christ atoned for all the sins of God’s children. His Atonement included His suffering in the garden and on the cross, the shedding of His blood, His death, and His Resurrection from the grave. He had taken upon Himself the harshest moments of all mortals. I cannot even comprehend it, but I believe it with all my heart because I have felt His empathy when I have struggled, and I have felt His love when I needed such reassurances. And dear sisters, so have you. Would He have willingly suffered so, blood seeping from every pore, if each of us was not a child of God?

He was cruelly abused, subjected to torment of nonbelievers, humiliated, unjustly sentenced, and crucified on a cross with thieves on either side, and then buried in a borrowed grave. How did He respond? With this plea to His Father: “Forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

He never said with swagger and arrogance, “I’ve got this.” He humbly committed Himself to His Father, saying, “Thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” The magnitude of our Redeemer’s final days cannot be overstated. The Father’s plan for all His children was in place as promised.

Resurrected, the Savior appeared to Mary and tenderly spoke her name. He showed Himself to His Apostles as the risen Lord. He healed the sick and prayed for the people, their little ones in particular, as described in the Book of Mormon.

Today He sits “on the right hand of the Father” and is our “advocate with the Father.” He has promised, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” That promise is sure if we are faithful. The terms are fixed: “When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

At baptism we covenanted to serve the Lord and to keep His commandments. We committed to come into the fold of God and be called His people, to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places. We renew our baptismal covenants every week when we partake of the sacrament.

Do we recognize we can be both joyful and obedient at the same time? For the Lord has said, “Lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made.” Do we seek that “crown of righteousness” we have been promised by keeping the commandments with integrity? Do we minister with hearts full of love for the Lord and His work, and love for His children, or do we just “get it done,” dismissing the sanctity of the call to be “an instrument in the hands of God”? Do we reach out to those who may not be of our faith but whose experiences plead for someone to love them and lift them? Do we renew our recommends, recognizing the privilege to be recommended to the Lord? Do we study the messages of latter-day prophets and seek to apply the counsel to our lives, or do we simply note “good talk” and move on? Do we join in local activities, councils, or events in our communities, recognizing that by our participation the Lord will bless others with His Spirit?

The Book of Mormon speaks of “never-ending happiness” to “those that keep the commandments of God.” Remember the first and great commandment states:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Jesus further taught, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

From President Ezra Taft Benson we hear, “You have been born at this time for a sacred and glorious purpose. … Your birth at this particular time was foreordained in the eternities.”

Esther, in the Old Testament, is an example of being in tune with what was expected of her. She was beautiful in her countenance, and the king chose her to be his queen. He did not know she was a Jew. When his wicked chief minister convinced the king to sign a decree that all Jews should be executed, Esther’s adopted father petitioned her to go before the king and plead for her people. “Who knoweth,” he said, “whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” She stepped forward with a plea to the king and courageously saved her people.

President Russell M. Nelson has issued a call to all of the women of the Church “for such a time as this.” He has said, “Attacks against the Church, its doctrine, and our way of life are going to increase. Because of this, we need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation. [See Russell M. Nelson, “Children of the Covenant,” Ensign, May 1995, 33.] We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity. We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.”

Dear loving sisters, you are those women, daughters of God. You have come just at this time to valiantly build up the kingdom of God on earth. The Lord Jesus Christ has promised, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

I leave you today with my apostolic blessing, joined by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, that as a child of God you will recognize the divinity within you, that you will pray for guidance from your Father in Heaven and that you will nurture a heart full of love. I bless you to feel the Lord with you, that the healing power of the Savior’s Atonement will be yours as you “hold on” your way no matter what comes. I bless you to be a light in this darkening world, to stand as witnesses of God and His righteousness at all times, no exceptions, and to find joy in serving. May you know of your profound influence and may you devotedly serve your Father in Heaven.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.