“By the Way She Is,” New Era, Sept. 1976, 10
It was Sunday, November 9, 1975, in Bountiful, Utah. The chapel was filled, and the doors into the overflow were opened. The echo of sliding chairs being set up in the cultural hall could be heard above the prelude music. It was because so many friends and family had come to rejoice with Elder Thorne in his sacred call from a prophet of the Lord—a call to serve for two years as a special witness for Christ to his brothers and sisters in Argentina. Just before the music stopped, Elder Thorne and his parents left the door where they had been shaking hands and made their way to the stand. All eyes were on them as they took the remaining seats just behind the pulpit. It was easy from where I sat to look over the audience and locate his proud grandmother and grandfather. This was an occasion for the entire family; they were all a part of this special event. His four younger brothers were smiling, probably because they would get to expand into Gale’s room as soon as he entered the mission home, or maybe because they anticipated how they would feel in just a few short years when they would respond to the call of a prophet.
In this setting I recalled the words of President Spencer W. Kimball:
“The gospel must go to all the world, to every creature, every clime, every people, every soul. It calls for an ‘all-out’ effort. This appeal is not for the rich nor for the poor, for the successful or the intelligentsia, but to every heart and mind in the world, to every corner of the earth. We are still far from our goal.”
This call to arms was given by a living prophet. He further stated, “We call for more missionaries, but we want more worthy missionaries and more able missionaries.” (Regional Representatives Seminar, October 2, 1975.)
I observed, in this large audience, an unusual number of young girls, many of them visitors to our ward. They brought with them the excitement and enthusiasm of youth. Their very presence added to the beauty and importance of the occasion. Among them I spotted the plain, the confident, the bashful; but common to each was the radiant, youthful expression of anticipation and commitment. I studied the expressions on the faces of several of these young women and followed their gaze resting upon Elder Thorne—the dark suit, the white shirt with the conservative tie, and the little-shorter-than-usual haircut.
The young women and young men in the audience represented a circle of friends bursting with pride and sharing the honor of one of their number. It was not hard to believe that in the heart of each one were the words, “I’ll go where you want me to go, and I’ll do what you want me to do.”
Since the girls were sitting in groups of twos and threes and fours, it appeared evident they were not competitors seeking the missionary’s attention. It was obvious that they too were part of the “all-out” effort spoken of by the prophet.
But what part did they play? What had their influence been in Elder Thorne’s preparation? In his closing remarks I began to sense the powerful influence friends had had on this young man who was spiritually mature beyond his years. After expressing gratitude for family and loved ones, and before his final testimony, he grasped the pulpit on either side and leaned forward. He dropped his head just a moment. Then, looking up, he quietly said, “And I give thanks to all my friends, especially you girls in the audience who have kept the standards and encouraged me to do the same.” His voice deepened as he continued, “Thank you for your influence that has helped me prepare for a mission.”
After the closing prayer there seemed to be a spontaneous gravitation as young men and women from all parts of the building quietly, with increasing power, moved forward until they encircled their young missionary friend. Without accompaniment their voices united in singing “God be with you till we meet again” like a prayer to heaven from the voices of living angels. The tears flowed freely from the eyes of these youth who had played a very vital part in helping to build a more worthy and a more able missionary.
In that moment I witnessed a power of love and support from friends that would serve as a reservoir of strength to each one of them in the days to come.
Leaving the chapel, I was driven by the desire to more fully understand how those young girls had been such a powerful part of the “all-out” effort. If it could be identified, it could be repeated over and over, and the results would be immeasurable. My search led me to many youth in many areas. The first responses were stated in a variety of ways, but the message was always the same.
“We don’t know what it is, but we can tell you what it isn’t.”
Tim said, “It isn’t just telling me that I ought to go on a mission, because I want to make that decision myself.”
After a few moments David, looking a little thoughtful, expressed himself this way: “Some girls say they won’t go with you if you don’t plan on going on a mission. It doesn’t seem to matter to some of them whether you are a good missionary or not, and that’s no help.”
Brent added, “A girl can talk to you about a mission, but when she starts to get close to a guy and influences him the wrong way, it is not what she says that counts.”
Bradley added, “A girl has a lot of influence, and if you like her, you try to do the things that impress her. If good things impress her, then that is what you try to do.”
In a tone of independence and conviction, David expressed these thoughts: “Some girls don’t even care if you go on a mission or not. I think they should care, but they shouldn’t try to force you, because when you are forced to do something, you just want to turn and go the other way. You want to use your own agency about something that important.”
It was Ross who said, “Occasionally I get the idea a girl is more concerned about what I ought to be doing than what she ought to be doing.”
Stan added, “If a girl is not willing to pay the price to do what she ought to be doing, then I think she is a hypocrite to be trying to tell me that I should go on a mission.”
Finally all of the comments about what it isn’t were expressed, and then, like nuggets of wisdom, I learned from many young men those truths that when understood and practiced by the young women of this church will be an influence of such power and magnitude as to affect for good every corner of this church and the entire world.
Young women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do the young men you associate with know that you have a standard of excellence from which you will not depart? Do they know by what you say and do that you honor and respect your parents and that you follow the counsel of the leaders of the Church? Do they know you will delay dating until after you are 16 because a prophet of the Lord has given that direction? By your actions do they know that you have made up your mind to be good and that you will not weaken? Can they look to your friendship to gain confidence and respect for themselves? Will your language, your dress, your choice of entertainment, music, books, and movies help the young men who associate with you develop admiration and respect for womanhood? As young men are exposed to the world’s distorted role of womanhood, can they see in you the refinement and sweetness that encourage an attitude of reverence, respect, and honor for that sacred calling?
Strange that I had not realized it before, but it is not as a young woman encourages a young man to go on a mission that her greatest influence is felt. Rather, it is through her actions as she reveals her commitment and testimony to the gospel of Jesus Christ and gives evidence through her power and influence in the advancement of good.
William George Jordan had this to say:
“Into the hands of every individual is given a marvelous power for good or evil—the silent, unconscious, unseen influence of his life. This is simply the constant radiation of what man really is, not what he pretends to be. … He can cultivate sweetness, calmness, trust, generosity, truth, justice, loyalty, nobility—make them vitally active in his character—and by these qualities he will constantly affect the world.” (As quoted by David O. McKay in April general conference, April 6, 1950, Improvement Era, May 1950, pp. 366–67.)
When a young man is encouraged by the example and testimony of his friends to do those things that are a magnification of his priesthood, preparation for a mission becomes one of those things. As a young woman begins to comprehend and accept her responsibility to her own mission in life, she becomes a powerful influence in the life of the young men who associate with her. They are encouraged by her example to attain their goals as she begins to prepare for her ultimate destiny.
Girls who are filling their own lives with righteousness, who are developing a taste for all that is good and wholesome, who are learning skills for successful womanhood and motherhood, radiate the light of God. Young men feel this light when they are in the presence of noble young women. The nobility within them is awakened. A yearning to be worthy to be the eternal companion of a noble daughter of God is kindled. Young men will stretch their lives to be equal to the greatness of the soul they feel within themselves. A mission will be one of the initial steps that can result from the influence of a girl whose own preparation causes her to radiate the light of God.
“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (D&C 50:24.)
When a young man returns home from his mission, he can be assured that such a young woman will have kept pace with him spiritually, that she is prepared to receive inspiration, that she has progressed intellectually, socially, and has in every way prepared to stand as an eternal companion. She will sustain him, not drain him, so that together they come filled, ready to accept the further responsibilities the Lord has for those who love him and keep his commandments.
It was Sunday again, and another “more worthy and more able” missionary was responding to the call. I advanced my frequently asked question one more time, and Elder Snow, glancing warmly and respectfully at the young girl standing by his side, smiled and responded: “She never told me I should go on a mission. I just always knew it was important to her because everything about the Church is important to Jannie.”