How Near to the Angels

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“How Near to the Angels,” New Era, Mar. 1999, 4

The Message:

How Near to the Angels

Adapted from a talk given at the General Young Women Meeting on March 28, 1998

You have the potential to become great women.

Virtue has many definitions, such as moral excellence, right action and thinking, goodness of character, or chastity in women. The First Presidency has said: “How glorious and near to the angels is youth that is clean; this youth has joy unspeakable here and eternal happiness hereafter. Sexual purity is youth’s most precious possession; it is the foundation of all righteousness” (“The Message of the First Presidency to the Church,” Improvement Era, May 1942, 273). You precious young women must practice virtue in its highest sense.

You cannot become great women if you are not also good women, “women whose virtue makes them shine in a crowd” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 1982, 398). You will become great women if you are united in the angelic cause of doing good and if you hunger and thirst after righteousness. The Savior said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). If we do not, then nothing else really matters.

You are constantly bombarded by explicit scenes of sexual immorality from the screen, books, music, magazines, the Internet, and radio. I remind you precious young women that you are daughters of God. He loves you. You are His noblest creation. Your own dignity and self-respect should help you to remember that, as President David O. McKay once said, every “woman should be queen of her own body” (Gospel Ideals, 1953, 471).

Young women should realize that young men they date will not honor and respect them if they have been involved in moral transgression unless they repent. Now, for those who may have transgressed, please be assured that God will “remember [their sin] no more” (see D&C 58:42) if they repent. The path of repentance and forgiveness begins by going to your parents and to your bishop.

I hope that each of you will become an individual of significant worth and a person of virtue who contributes both now and in eternity.

You are unique

As a woman you have been born with many unique endowments that are not common to men.

President Spencer W. Kimball, in speaking of the separate roles of men and women, said: “Remember, in the world before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments while faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood tasks. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to. You are accountable for those things which long ago were expected of you just as are those we sustain as prophets and apostles. … This leaves much to be done by way of parallel personal development—for both men and women” (Ensign, Nov. 1979, 102).

This statement suggests that before we were born, male or female, we made certain commitments and that we agreed to come to this earth with great, rich, but different gifts. We were called, male or female, to do great works with separate approaches and separate assignments.

You say, “Where do I begin?” Rather than beginning with a wish list of all the things you want in life, the real question may be what you are not willing to do without. Select two or three of life’s experiences you are absolutely sure you want to have. Do not leave important things to chance. Then think about what you can contribute to society by serving your family, the Church, and the community. Also think of what life will demand from you. Everything has a price. Much is expected of us. Becoming like men is not the answer. Rather, the answer lies in being who you are and living up to your divine potential by fulfilling eternal commitments.

You cannot trust the many conflicting voices that clamor about what women should or should not do in today’s society. Some of the loudest voices are echoes of those others who are out of harmony with themselves and out of tune with life in general rather than being unhappy with their role as women.

Do not be deceived in your quest to find happiness and an identity of your own. Entreating voices may tell you that what you have seen your mothers and grandmothers do is old-fashioned, unchallenging, boring, and drudgery. It may have been old-fashioned and perhaps routine; at times it was drudgery. But your mothers and grandmothers have sung a song that expressed the highest love and the noblest of womanly feelings. They have been our nurturers and our teachers. They have sanctified the work, transforming drudgery into the noblest enterprises.

Important ingredients

Women today are encouraged by some to have it all: money, travel, marriage, motherhood, and separate careers in the world. For women, the important ingredients for happiness are to forge an identity, serve the Lord, get an education, develop your talents, serve your family, and if possible to have a family of your own.

However, you cannot do all these things well at the same time. You cannot eat all of the pastries in the bakery at once. You will get a tummyache. You cannot be a 100-percent wife, a 100-percent mother, a 100-percent Church worker, a 100-percent career person, and a 100-percent public-service person at the same time. How can all of these roles be coordinated? I suggest that you can have it sequentially.

Sequentially means to do things one at a time at different times. The book of Ecclesiastes says: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under … heaven” (Eccl. 3:1).

I would encourage you to develop all of your gifts and talents to move forward the work of righteousness in the earth. I hope you acquire all of the knowledge you can. Become as skillful as you can, but not exclusively in new careers at the expense of the primary ones, or you may find that you have missed one of the great opportunities of your lives.

Sister Faust and I urged our daughters to get an education, not only to help them in their homemaking but also to prepare them to earn a living if that became necessary. Going to college or a vocational school is a wonderful experience, and the dollars, the effort, and the time prepare the student to have a marketable skill.

I cannot tell you young women what educational skills you should acquire. That is for each of you to decide. You have your agency. Each of you will have to work very hard to learn all you can and develop your talents. It is not easy to achieve anything really worthwhile. I want only to tell you what will bring you identity, value, and happiness as a person. I also challenge you to reach your potential, to become a person of great worth, to become a great woman. Because most of you have the examples of great women in your family, each of you has a model to emulate.

As young women, you have the privilege of working on projects as part of the Young Womanhood Recognition Award. Anna Nichols of Centerville, Utah, writes about a special experience she has had:

“I did a Laurel project last year that has brought me closer to my grandma whom I never knew. She passed away when my mom was about five years old from a severe type of cancer. My mom has a collection of old slides and letters that she had kept. I went through these and picked out pictures of her and her family and letters that she had written to her sister sharing her feelings and thoughts before she died.

“I put all these in a scrapbook in memory of her and I gave it to my grandpa. To watch his face as he turned each page was the most awesome feeling as he told me the stories of each picture. We cried together. I could tell that he misses her so much and how with this book she is partly back into his life again.

“Because of this book I have a personal relationship with my grandma. I feel her spirit with me. I know she has protected me and helped me when I am in need. Now when I go and visit my grandpa we always talk about her and share stories. I always look forward to this time I get to spend with him.”

The priesthood

So, my dear young sisters, sustain the priesthood authority in the Church and in your home.

Some women may feel it undermines their agency to be directed by the power of the priesthood. This feeling comes from misunderstanding. Priesthood authority should exercise no compulsion, duress, or unrighteous dominion.

Following the priesthood of the Church is an expression of faith in the Lord’s continuing guidance of His Church. It is willing acceptance of the principle of divine agency.

All of you will have to sometime answer to your natural womanly instincts, which the Prophet Joseph said are according to your natures. He said, “If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates” (Teachings, 1977, 226).

You should respond generously to those instincts and promptings to do good. Hold your soul very still, and listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. Follow the noble, intuitive feelings planted deep within your souls by Deity in the previous world. In this way you will be responding to the Holy Spirit of God and will be sanctified by truth. By so doing, you will be eternally honored and loved. Much of your work is to enrich mankind with your great capacity for care and mercy.

Lastly, how do I think you may become great women? You should cultivate and employ generously your noble, womanly instincts of care and mercy, first to your family and then to others. May you always hunger and thirst after righteousness within the framework of the revealed gospel of Jesus Christ. May you have an eternal perspective as you go about your angelic cause of doing good so that it will not only lead you to become great women but ultimately to become queens in the eternities.

Photography by Welden Andersen; posed by models