Rise to the Stature of the Divine within You
This Tabernacle has never looked so beautiful as it does on the occasion of these women’s meetings. Thank you for being here. It’s a very difficult act to follow these three able and dedicated women. I commend to you what they have spoken to us this evening. Their words have been inspiring.
I speak by assignment from President Benson. I am grateful that he is with us. I convey to you his love, as I convey also the love of President Monson and that of all of the General Authorities of the Church. Please know that we do love you and that we are concerned with your happiness as daughters of God and as our sisters in the Church.
A week ago I had an interesting experience. Without any official assignment, I attended a stake conference in a rural area of southeastern Utah. The stake president and his wife had invited Sister Hinckley and me to stay at their home. While he conducted his Saturday afternoon meeting, we rode about the stake, visiting a half-dozen little towns, in each of which there is a Church meetinghouse. We noted that the lawns were green and the buildings nicely kept, although they are small and some of them are old. We drove about and looked at the homes, modest in their appearance, but in almost every case there was neatness and beauty with flowers in bloom. Having a free Saturday and Sunday, I had wanted to make this trip simply to thank the people for their faith and faithfulness and to express my love to them. Most of them are farm folk who work hard for a small return. But they know a great truth. They know the law of the harvest—“Whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap.” (D&C 6:33.)
They know that you do not reap wheat after sowing oats. They know that you do not get a racehorse from a scrub mare. They know that if you are to build another great generation, you must work with vision and faith. You must dream and plan, serve and sacrifice, pray and labor. After being with these wonderful people for two days, Sister Hinckley observed, “These are the kind who constitute the glue that holds the Church together.”
The home where we stayed was not pretentious, but it was comfortable and clean and delightful. The husband, I believe, did not have a large income, but he knew how to spend it wisely, first paying his tithes and offerings and setting aside some in savings. His wife is a beautiful woman, the mother of six sons and one daughter. You need not look far to know that in that home there is love and respect one for another. There is appreciation and gratitude. Through the years they have known adversity—lean times and death-threatening sickness.
I repeat—I went among these people to express my gratitude and love. I felt a great overwhelming measure of love in return. Here in this stake of small rural wards, among people who made no pretense of sophistication, I found strength and faith and virtue. I found men whose hands were gnarled and whose skin was wrinkled with the sun’s heat of many summers—men in whose hearts there was a great capacity for love—love for the land and the sky above it, love for their wives and children, love for the Church and its eternal purposes, love for God and the Savior of all mankind.
I looked into the eyes of beautiful women—women of virtue and strength and capacity, older women who knew much of struggle and disappointment and pain, young women who knew much of purpose and goodness and art and learning. I looked into the eyes of children—beautiful and innocent and wonderful.
I do not wish to imply that I could not find such in cities and towns all over the world. Such people are to be found everywhere, but somehow there seemed so much larger a percentage of them among the folks whom we visited. Their feet were planted on the solid earth. They knew the meaning of work without respect to hours or season.
I also wanted to visit among them because I have met their sons and daughters in the mission field in many lands. These have been effective missionaries because they have learned to get up in the morning and get their chores done. They have been dedicated missionaries because when they were very young they learned to pray at their mothers’ knees and heard their fathers bear testimony of the truth of this great latter-day work. Not only have these sons and daughters gone on missions, but by dint of great sacrifice they have gone away to school and won places of honor across the nation as they serve in business and the professions.
I had taken a briefcase filled with papers to read on the long ride to and from. Among those papers were three letters sent to the headquarters of the Church from women in other areas. They spoke of things different from what I had noticed on my visit—they spoke of heartache and heartbreak; of abusive, egotistical, demanding husbands; of unthankful children whose earlier lives had been marred by abuse; of a hunger for love and attention and opportunity to express their talents.
My heart reaches out to the writers of these letters, and to many others who by the circumstances in which they find themselves feel oppressed and smothered—all but destroyed. I regret that there are some men who are egotistical and evil, who are insensitive and even brutal. They are to be both condemned and pitied. I believe that any man who offends a daughter of God will someday be held accountable, and the time will come when he will stand before the bar of judgment with sorrow and remorse. But this is material for another talk, and that to the men of the Church.
To you women, I wish to issue a challenge tonight. That challenge is to rise to the stature of the divine within you. As you have been reminded, yours is a godly inheritance. “I am a child of God” is not an idle or meaningless statement. You were there “when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons [and daughters] of God shouted for joy.” (Job 38:7.) You brought some of that inheritance with you when you came “trailing clouds of glory … from God who is our home.” (William Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” st. 5.) You were there when “there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. …
“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Rev. 12:7, 9.) You were among those who chose to follow the plan of Him who became our Redeemer rather than the plan of him who became our adversary. Great and marvelous is your place in the plan of God our Eternal Father.
Is there anything more beautiful, anything that speaks more of divinity than a lovely little girl? I have little granddaughters, bright-eyed and beautiful, who sing and smile and touch my heart with thoughts of heaven. When I see them in their innocence, I recall the words of the Lord, “Except ye … become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3; see also 3 Ne. 11:37–38.)
I see young women, radiant in the beauty of youth, whose virtue is more precious than rubies—young women who are bright and who study with enthusiasm and diligence to learn the word of the Lord and also to equip themselves to take their places with honor and ability in the world in which they will live. I see young women who know the word of God and can quote it; who know the standards of the Church and live by them; who have a sense of worth and a wondrous sensitivity to the beauties of life and nature, music and art; who treasure truth and seek to enlarge their understanding of it; who have determined that worthiness to enter the house of the Lord for a divine endowment and an eternal sealing is the most desirable of all goals. Can anyone doubt that there is something divine within such?
I see young mothers. I have three daughters and two daughters-in-law who love and honor their husbands, who nurture and treasure and train their children, who teach and direct in the organizations of the Church, who go to the house of the Lord with unselfishness in their hearts, who love life and face its challenges and adversities as well as drink deeply of its enriching experiences and beauties.
I enjoy their laughter and their scintillating discussions one with another, and I thank the Lord for them, and very many like them, for the touch of divinity within them.
I observe older women, mature from the living of many years. In their hearts is a solid, unshakable residual of faith. In their souls is a great residual of love to be widely spread for the blessing of others. In their minds is an appreciation for goodness and truth and beauty. In their hearts is an understanding for and a love of God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, our Redeemer.
These are among those who rise to the stature of the divine inheritance they carry.
For you who are young and for you who are older, may I rather quickly suggest three endeavors in which all of you can engage. In making these suggestions I do not ask that you reach beyond your capacity. Please don’t nag yourself with thoughts of failure. Do not set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. Simply do what you can do, in the best way you know, and the Lord will accept of your effort.
First, educate your hands and your minds. You belong to a church which espouses education. To you young women may I suggest that you get all the education you can. Train yourselves to make a contribution to the society in which you will live. There is an essence of the divine in the improvement of the mind. “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36.) “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.” (D&C 130:18.)
Almost the entire field of human endeavor is now open to women, in contrast with difficult restrictions that were felt only a few years ago.
I would wish that all of you women might have the blessing of a happy marriage and a happy home and that you would not have to go out into the marketplace to labor for income. But I know that for some of you this may be a necessity, and you will be better equipped to do so if your hands and minds are trained. Furthermore, whether it is applied to earning a living or not, education is an investment that never ceases to pay dividends of one kind or another.
In the process of educating your minds, stir within yourselves a greater sensitivity to the beautiful, the artistic, and the cultivation of the talent you possess, be it large or small.
I was in the Manti Temple the other day. I never go in that temple without thinking of a woman who did a substantial portion of the murals that grace its walls. Her name was Minerva Teichert. I met her on a number of occasions years ago. She came out of a small rural community in Wyoming. She had a talent, and she cultivated it. Her remarkable work adorns one of the beautiful houses of the Lord.
Even though some of you may be fully occupied with families and have little time for other things at this stage of your lives, you can enlarge your minds and broaden your understanding through the reading of good books. There is much of worth on television. I am the first to recognize this. But I am also mindful of the tremendous waste of time indulged in by many, and particularly by those who spend hours watching titillating trash. How marvelous a thing is a good book! How stimulating to read and share with a great writer thoughts that build and strengthen and broaden one’s horizon! You may think you are too busy. Ten or fifteen minutes a day with the scriptures, and particularly with the Book of Mormon, can give you marvelous understanding of the great eternal truths which have been preserved by the power of the Almighty for the blessing of His children. As you read of the life and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, you will draw closer to Him who is the author of our salvation.
My second suggestion: keep marriage and motherhood in their true perspective. A happy marriage is the aim of every young woman. I know that some will be denied this opportunity. I urge you not to spend your time in self-pity. Rather, keep yourselves alive and vivacious in those activities which will bring satisfaction into your lives while associating with others who are vigorously pursuing lofty objectives. Remember always that you are not alone. There are thousands like you. And you are not helpless, a victim of fate. You can in large measure master your fate and strengthen your self-worth in reaching out to those who need and will appreciate your talents, your contributions, your help.
To those of you who are married, make of your marriage a partnership. As I have said before from this pulpit, I am satisfied that God our Eternal Father does not love His daughters less than He loves His sons. Under the gospel plan the wife walks neither ahead nor behind her husband, but at his side in a true companionship before the Lord.
I see my own companion of fifty-two years. Is her contribution less acceptable before the Lord than is mine? I am satisfied it is not. She has walked quietly at my side, sustained me in my responsibilities, reared and blessed our children, served in many capacities in the Church, and spread an unmitigated measure of cheer and goodness wherever she has gone. The older I grow the more I appreciate—yes, the more I love—this little woman with whom I knelt at the altar in the house of the Lord more than half a century ago.
I wish with all of my heart that every marriage might be a happy marriage. I wish that every marriage might be an eternal partnership. I believe that wish can be realized if there is a willingness to make the effort to bring it to pass. God bless you, my beloved sisters, who stand as the queens in your home, that you may be happy with that happiness which comes of the knowledge that you are loved and honored and treasured.
Third, may I suggest that you walk with prayer and faith, with charity and love. Our Father in Heaven has endowed His daughters with a unique and wonderful capacity to reach out to those in distress, to bring comfort and succor, to bind up the wounds and heal the aching heart.
One of the darkest chapters in the history of our people occurred in 1838 when they were being driven from Missouri. The incident to which I refer is known as the Haun’s Mill Massacre. In that tragic happening Amanda Smith lost her husband and her son Sardius. Her younger boy Alma was savagely wounded. In the darkness she carried him from the mill to a shelter in the brush. His hip joint had been shot away. Through the night she cried out in prayer, “Oh my Heavenly Father … what shall I do? Thou seest my poor wounded boy and knowest my inexperience. Oh Heavenly Father direct me what to do!” She later wrote in her journal concerning what happened: “I was directed as by a voice speaking to me.
“The ashes of our fire [were] still smouldering. We had been burning the bark of the shag-bark hickory. I was directed to take those ashes and make a lye and put a cloth saturated with it right into the wound. It hurt, but little Alma was too near dead to heed it much. Again and again I saturated the cloth and put it into the hole from which the hip-joint had been ploughed. …
“Having done as directed I again prayed to the Lord and was again instructed as distinctly as though a physician had been standing by speaking to me.
“Near by was a slippery-elm tree. From this I was told to make a slippery-elm poultice and fill the wound with it.” (In Edward W. Tullidge, The Women of Mormondom, New York, 1877; reprint, Salt Lake City, 1957, 1965, p. 124.)
She was able to get the injured boy to a house. With a mother’s love and a mother’s faith, she said to him, “The Lord can make something there in the place of your hip.” She had him lie on his face, and there he remained while a miracle occurred. Of that miracle she wrote, “So Alma laid on his face for five weeks, until he was entirely recovered—a flexible gristle having grown in place of the missing joint and socket, which remains to this day a marvel to physicians.
“On the day that he walked again I was out of the house fetching a bucket of water, when I heard screams from the children. Running back, in affright, I entered, and there was Alma on the floor, dancing around, and the children screaming in astonishment and joy.
“It is now nearly forty years ago,” she concluded, “but Alma has never been the least crippled during his life, and he has traveled quite a long period of the time as a missionary of the gospel and a living miracle of the power of God.” (Ibid., p. 128.)
Marvelous is the power of women of faith. It has been demonstrated again and again in the history of this church. It goes on among us today. I think it is part of the divinity within you.
Sisters, rise to the stature of that divinity. In that effort make the world in which you live a better place for yourself and for all who will come after you. There is much to do. There are many challenges to be met.
I read again the other day something of the story of a woman who died years ago, but the effect of whose work is being felt increasingly over the earth.
Rachel Carson published her book Silent Spring in October of 1962, only twenty-seven years ago. It alerted the nation and the world to the hazards of toxic chemicals. She was criticized and denounced for what she wrote. But people read and began to realize the dangers that were being created around them. Nearly two million copies of that book were sold and read. A public awareness was created. Legislation was passed. Remarkable things have happened in the cleaning up of air and water. Some may feel the regulation has gone to the extreme, as it does in cases. But who can doubt that we and the generations who follow will be the better protected because of the efforts of this woman, trained in her field and bold in her declaration, whose book changed the attitude of millions upon millions in all parts of the globe?
In the pioneering days of this church when men grubbed the sagebrush and broke the sod so that crops might be planted to sustain life, many a wife and mother planted a few flowers and a few fruit trees to add beauty and taste to the drabness of pioneer life. There are so many things that you can do. Beauty is a thing divine. The cultivation of it becomes an expression of the divine nature within you.
Yes, there are adversities to be overcome, not a few of them. There are trials to be endured. There is much of evil in the world and too much of harshness, even in the home. Do what you can to rise above all of this. Stand up. Speak out against evil and brutality. Safeguard against abuse. Keep out of your homes the filthiness of the world, which can lead to such abuse. Rise up in the stature of your divine inheritance. God bless you, you wonderful girls, you strong and able young women, you older women of faith and integrity, you mothers in Zion, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.