What a wonderful thing it is that, although we are separated into perhaps some nine hundred different congregations, we are met together with one mind, with one heart, and with one desire. That desire, I am confident, is that each of us shall be lifted to a higher plane of thought and living.
We were recently honored with visits to the Church Administration Building, on two consecutive days, of Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, and Walter Mondale, who is campaigning for the presidency. It was my opportunity on these occasions to introduce each of these distinguished gentlemen to Sister Young, to Sister Kapp, and to Sister Winder. In each instance I indicated that Sister Young presides over an organization of more than 650,000 children, that Sister Kapp presides over an organization of more than a quarter of a million young women, and that Sister Winder presides over an organization of more than a million and a half mature women—the oldest continuously operating organization of women in our nation, if not in the entire world.
I also introduced these gentlemen to the members of the Council of the Twelve and to the Presiding Bishop. We all sat together, men and women, officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, meeting in the council room of the First Presidency.
Women in the Church are associates with their brethren in carrying forward this mighty work of the Lord. It is no small thing that there are enrolled in these organizations, presided over by women, some two and a half million members.
Columnists and reporters for the media have occasionally tried to paint a picture in which women of the Church are demeaned and placed in a status of inferiority. Nothing could be further from the truth. The very presence of these three capable women in those meetings with General Authorities and candidates for the presidency of the United States was an indication that under the plan of the Lord women carry tremendous responsibilities and they are accountable for the fulfillment of those responsibilities. They head their own organizations, and those organizations are strong and viable and are significant forces for good in the world. They stand in an associate role to the priesthood, all striving together to build the kingdom of God in the earth. We honor and respect you for your capacity. We expect leadership, and strength, and impressive results from your management of the organizations for which you are responsible. We uphold and sustain you as daughters of God, working in a great partnership to assist him in bringing to pass the immortality and the eternal life of all of the sons and daughters of God.
You, my beloved associates, are where you are in the balance of the sexes because God your Eternal Father, who loves you, put you there. He loves you and honors you. We are honored to be associated with you.
I have been interested in the theme which has been selected for this meeting. It comes from the first chapter of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, and reads, “Stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” [Philip. 1:27]
Those are the last words of the twenty-seventh verse. The opening words of that same verse are equally challenging: “Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.”
“Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” That is a tremendously compelling injunction given to each of us. I recommend those words as a personal motto. May I suggest that you type or write them and put them on the mirror before you so that each day you might be reminded of them. They could become a powerful motivator in restraining from anger, in thinking better thoughts, in speaking more elevating language.
As I have wondered and prayed about what I might say on this occasion, I have been led again to read the twenty-fifth section of the Doctrine and Covenants. This, as you know, is a revelation given through Joseph the Prophet to his wife Emma. It was given at Harmony, Pennsylvania, in July of 1830, only a short time after the Church was organized. Insofar as I know, this is the only revelation given specifically to a woman, and in concluding it the Lord said, “This is my voice unto all.” (D&C 25:16.) Therefore, the counsel given by the Lord on this occasion is applicable to each of you. It includes you girls of ten and eleven years of age. I am grateful that you are with us tonight. I thank you for the effort you have made to come here. Many of you are here with your mothers, and that is a wonderful thing, for there is nothing more beautiful, no picture more lovely, than that of a mother with her daughters.
A woman wrote to me a short time ago with a great sense of frustration. She indicated that she had been defeated or had failed in most of what she had tried to do. She then asked, “What does God expect of me?”
Some of the things which God expects of her and of every other woman—in fact, of each of us—are set forth in this beautiful revelation.
Said he to Emma, and to each of us:
“A revelation I give unto you concerning my will; and if thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me, I will preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion.” (D&C 25:2.)
“If thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me”—those words might become the theme of a very long sermon. I shall comment only briefly.
In very large measure each of us holds the key to the blessings of the Almighty upon us. If we wish the blessing, we must pay the price. A part of that price lies in being faithful. Faithful to what? Faithful to ourselves, to the very best that is within us. No woman can afford to demean herself, to belittle herself, to downgrade her abilities or her capacities. Let each be faithful to the great, divine attributes that are within her. Be faithful to the gospel. Be faithful to the Church. We have all about us those who are seeking to undermine it, to look for weaknesses in its early leaders, to find fault with its programs, to speak critically of it. I give you my testimony that it is the work of God, and those who speak against it are speaking against him.
Be faithful to him. He is the one true source of your strength. He is your Father in Heaven. He lives. He hears and answers prayers. Be faithful to God.
The Lord continued, saying to Emma, “If thou … walk in the paths of virtue.”
I think every woman in these gatherings tonight understands the meaning of that. I feel those words were given to Emma Smith, and consequently to all of us, as a condition to be observed if we are to receive an inheritance in the kingdom of God. Lack of virtue is totally inconsistent with obedience to the commandments of God. There is nothing more beautiful than virtue. There is no strength that is greater than the strength of virtue. There is no other nobility equal to the nobility of virtue. There is no quality so becoming, no attire so attractive.
It is interesting that in this revelation, when the Lord gave that great conditional promise to Emma, he went on to say, “Thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou art an elect lady.” (D&C 25:3.) I am so grateful for the gift of forgiveness extended by a merciful Father. Said the Lord through the prophet Isaiah concerning those who repent and are forgiven, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isa. 1:18.)
To any within the sound of my voice who may be grieving over serious mistakes in their lives, I hold out the assurance, given anciently and in modern revelation, that where there is repentance there may be forgiveness. Do not dwell upon the tragic mistakes of the past. Rather, “look to God and live.” (Alma 37:47.)
Emma was called “an elect lady.” That is, to use another line of scripture, she was a “chosen vessel of the Lord.” (See Moro. 7:31.) Each of you is an elect lady. You have come out of the world as partakers of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. You have made your election, and if you are living worthy of it, the Lord will honor you in it and magnify you.
He then went on to say to Emma, “Murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen.” (D&C 25:4.) He was speaking of the plates which her husband was translating, she serving at the time as his scribe. Evidently she complained because Joseph would not show them to her. The Lord is saying to her, “Murmur not. Complain not. Accept what must be in my eternal wisdom, and do not find fault.” There are a few women in the Church who complain because they do not hold the priesthood. I think the Lord would say to you, “murmur not because of the things which are not given thee.”
This is his work. Joseph did not set the rule about not showing the plates to others. He was instructed concerning it. Nor have we set the rule concerning those who should receive the priesthood. That was established by him whose work this is, and he alone could change it.
Emma was called, in the words of this revelation, to be “a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness.” (D&C 25:5.) That is interesting language. She was his wife, his companion, his strength in his afflictions. She was to comfort with consoling words, given in a spirit of meekness.
I see in that the challenge to every woman who is a wife to set the tone of that which is spoken in the home. It was said of old that “a soft answer turneth away wrath.” (Prov. 15:1.) It is interesting to me that in this revelation the Lord spoke of consoling words in the spirit of meekness.
There is so much of argument in the homes of the people. It is so destructive. It is so corrosive. It leads only to bitterness, heartbreak, and tears. How well advised we would be, each of us, when there is tension, when there is friction, when there is affliction, to speak with consoling words in the spirit of meekness.
Emma was to be ordained under the hand of Joseph “to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit.” (D&C 25:7.)
She was to be a teacher. She was to be a teacher of righteousness and truth. For the Lord said concerning this calling to her, “thou shalt receive the Holy Ghost, and thy time shall be given to writing, and to learning much.” (D&C 25:8.)
She was to study the gospel. She also was to study the things of the world in which she lived. That was made clear in subsequent revelations applicable to all of us. She was to devote her time “to learning much.” She was to write, giving expression to her thoughts.
To you women of today, who are old or young, may I suggest that you write, that you keep journals, that you express your thoughts on paper. Writing is a great discipline. It is a tremendous educational effort. It will assist you in various ways, and you will bless the lives of many—your families and others—now and in the years to come, as you put on paper some of your experiences and some of your musings.
In the language of the revelation, she was to “expound scriptures, and to exhort the Church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit.”
What a remarkable charge to her and to all of the women of this Church. There must be learning, there must be preparation, there must be organization of thought, there must be an expounding of the scripture, there must be an exhortation to good works as directed by the Holy Spirit.
The Lord continued, “I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.” (D&C 25:10.)
I feel he was not telling Emma that she should not feel concerned about a place to live, food on her table, and clothing. He was saying to her that she should not be obsessed with these things, as so many of us are wont to be. He was telling her to get her thoughts on the higher things of life, the things of righteousness and goodness, matters of charity and love for others, the things of eternity.
Emma was instructed to make a collection of hymns for the Church, and it is interesting that this counsel came only three months after the Church was organized. In connection with that call the Lord made a remarkable declaration which is often quoted among us: “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” (D&C 25:12.)
As this gifted chorus has sung to us tonight, those words have gone through my mind. The song of the righteous is a prayer unto God, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.
Continuing, the Lord said: “Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made.” (D&C 25:13.)
I believe he is saying to each of us, be happy. The gospel is a thing of joy. It provides us with a reason for gladness. Of course there are times of sorrow. Of course there are hours of concern and anxiety. We all worry. But the Lord has told us to lift our hearts and rejoice. I see so many people, including many women, who seem never to see the sunshine, but who constantly walk with storms under cloudy skies. Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. Walk with faith, rejoicing in the beauties of nature, in the goodness of those you love, in the testimony which you carry in your heart concerning things divine.
“Continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride.” (D&C 25:14.) Those words are from this same revelation. They are meaningful for each of us.
“Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive.” (D&C 25:15.) That was the promise of the Lord to Emma Hale Smith. It is the promise of the Lord to each of you. Happiness lies in keeping the commandments. For a Latter-day Saint woman there can be only misery in the violation of those commandments. And for each who observes them, there is the promise of a crown, a queenly crown for each daughter of God, a crown of righteousness and eternal truth.
I commend to each of you the words of this great revelation given 154 years ago. It is as timely today as it was when it was spoken. May I urge that each of you read it. Reflect on it. It is in harmony with and so beautifully amplifies the theme of this meeting.
God bless you my beloved sisters—you little girls whom we so much appreciate; you beautiful young women who dream wonderful dreams of the future; you who are not married and sometimes feel lonely, but who, I assure you, the Lord has not forgotten; those of you who carry the burdens of rearing families; those of you who are widowed or divorced; and you beautiful older women whom we so love and honor and respect. God bless you with every righteous desire, with peace in your hearts and joy in your days, as daughters of God blessed with the light of his everlasting gospel, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.