Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reflections on Conference: Remember Who You Are! Elaine S Dalton

Sister Dalton was the General Young Women's President when this talk was given at the 2010 General Young Women's Meeting.

We are daughters of our Heavenly Father. He loves us, and we love Him.... The Lord loves you, and I know you love Him. It shows in your countenance, in your modesty, in your desire to choose the right, and in your commitment to remain virtuous and pure.

As I look out at you tonight, I wonder if this is what Helaman’s stripling warriors’ girlfriends must have looked like! No wonder Satan has increased the intensity of his attacks on your identity and virtue. If you can be dismayed, discouraged, distracted, delayed, or disqualified from being worthy to receive the guidance of the Holy Ghost or to enter the Lord’s holy temple, he wins.
Young women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, remember who you are! You are elect. You are daughters of God. You cannot be a generation of young women who are content to fit in. You must have the courage to stand out, to “arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations.” The world would have you believe that you are not significant—that you are out of fashion and out of touch. The world calls to you with unrelenting, noisy voices to “live it up,” “try everything,” “experiment and be happy.” Conversely, the Holy Ghost whispers and the Lord invites you to “walk in the paths of virtue,” “lay aside the things of this world,” “and cleave unto [your] covenants.”

When I was attending Brigham Young University, I learned what it truly means to be a queen. I was given a unique opportunity, along with a small group of other students, to meet the prophet, President David O. McKay. I was told to wear my best dress and to be ready to travel early the next morning to Huntsville, Utah, to the home of the prophet. I will never forget the experience I had. As soon as we entered the home, I felt the spirit which filled that home. We were seated in the prophet’s living room, surrounding him. President McKay had on a white suit, and seated next to him was his wife. He asked for each of us to come forward and tell him about ourselves. As I went forward, he held out his hand and held mine, and as I told him about my life and my family, he looked deeply into my eyes.

After we had finished, he leaned back in his chair and reached for his wife’s hand and said, “Now, young women, I would like you to meet my queen.” There seated next to him was his wife, Emma Ray McKay. Although she did not wear a crown of sparkling diamonds, nor was she seated on a throne, I knew she was a true queen. Her white hair was her crown, and her pure eyes sparkled like jewels. As President and Sister McKay spoke of their family and their life together, their intertwined hands spoke volumes about their love. Joy radiated from their faces. Hers was a beauty that cannot be purchased. It came from years of seeking the best gifts, becoming well educated, seeking knowledge by study and also by faith. It came from years of hard work, of faithfully enduring trials with optimism, trust, strength, and courage. It came from her unwavering devotion and fidelity to her husband, her family, and the Lord.
On that fall day in Huntsville, Utah, I was reminded of my divine identity, and I learned about what I now call “deep beauty”—the kind of beauty that shines from the inside out. It is the kind of beauty that cannot be painted on, surgically created, or purchased. It is the kind of beauty that doesn’t wash off. It is spiritual attractiveness. Deep beauty springs from virtue. It is the beauty of being chaste and morally clean. It is the kind of beauty that you see in the eyes of virtuous women like your mother and grandmother. It is a beauty that is earned through faith, repentance, and honoring covenants.

The world places so much emphasis on physical attractiveness and would have you believe that you are to look like the elusive model on the cover of a magazine. The Lord would tell you that you are each uniquely beautiful. When you are virtuous, chaste, and morally clean, your inner beauty glows in your eyes and in your face. My grandfather used to say, “If you live close to God and His infinite grace—you won’t have to tell, it will show in your face.” When you are worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost, you are confident and your inner beauty shines brightly. And so “let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and . . . the Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion.”

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reflections on Conference: Mary N Cook, General YW Meeting

Sister Cook is the First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency. The full text of her talk, entitled "Never, Never, Never Give Up!" can be found here.

What does the Lord want you to do? He wants you to be a valiant and virtuous daughter of God, dedicated to living each day so that you can be worthy to receive the blessings of the temple and return to Him. In today’s world that will take courage. You have the plan of salvation, which makes it possible to do this. Moral agency, the ability to choose, is an essential part of this plan. You’ve already made some good choices. Before you were born, you made the choice to come to earth to receive a body and to prove yourself. You’ve made the choice to be baptized, which is the first ordinance required on the path to eternal life. You are now experiencing mortal life, where you continue to make choices, to learn, and to grow. Making sacred covenants and receiving the ordinances of the temple is another important step in the plan.

As you are growing older, young women, the path is becoming steeper, and you may want to give up. Life is more challenging, filled with decisions and temptations at every turn. Satan will blow winds of confusion that may cause you to question if this is the path you want to take. You may be tempted to try another route, even when signs of danger are posted. You may doubt your abilities, and you may wonder as one young woman did, “Is it really possible to remain virtuous in today’s world?” The answer, my young friends, is “Yes!” And my counsel to you is similar to that given by Winston Churchill during World War II: never, never, never give up! (see “Never Give In” [speech, Harrow School, London, England, Oct. 29, 1941]).

Let me share with you the experience of Julie, a young woman who was able to face a challenge by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost. She was studying the Old Testament one day, and the thought came to her mind, “Read Matthew 5. Read Matthew 5.” She thought, “Why would the thought come to me to read the New Testament?” She acted on that prompting and read in Matthew, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

The next day she had some difficulties with her friends who were unkind and betrayed her. At first she was very upset, and then she thought, “I’ve been prepared for this. The Spirit prompted me to read Matthew, and I must love and pray for my friends.” The small step of reading the scriptures prepared her to respond in a Christlike way. From that experience, she was assured that the Lord knew her, and through the promptings of the Holy Ghost, she knew what she was to do.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Reflections on Conference: Ann M Dibb, General YW Meeting

Sister Dibb is the Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency. Read the full talk here.

Many times, as General Authorities address the priesthood brethren at general conference, they will begin by saying that they feel as though they are addressing a “mighty army” of powerful priesthood leaders. Tonight, I feel as though I am standing before a “mighty army” of elect daughters of God. You have been chosen to move forward, standing alongside those valiant priesthood holders, in righteousness in these latter days. You are a commanding and beautiful sight.

In the first chapter of the book of Joshua, the Lord tells him several times to “be strong and of a good courage.” The word courage is defined as “mental or moral strength to . . . persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. [2003], “courage”; emphasis added). Through their courage and obedience, Joshua and the children of Israel were able to enter the land of promise and find happiness in the blessings of the Lord.

often patience is required when we are “wait[ing] upon the Lord” (Isaiah 40:31). As we wait, we may begin to believe that we have been forsaken or that our prayers were not heard or that possibly we are not worthy to have them answered. This is not true. I love King David’s comforting words: “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

A month ago I visited a group of young women. I asked the older girls what advice they would give a new Beehive to help her to remain faithful and virtuous in every setting that she may encounter. One young woman said, “When you walk down the halls of your school, you might, out of the corner of your eye, see something that catches your attention, something that doesn’t seem quite right. You may be curious and want to look. My advice to you is this: Don’t look. I promise you’ll regret it if you do. Believe me; just look straight ahead.”

As I listened to this young woman, I knew I was hearing the Lord’s advice to Joshua, “Turn not from it to the right hand or to the left” (Joshua 1:7), applied to an everyday setting in these latter days. Young women, avoid the temptations that surround you by strictly following the commandments. Look straight ahead at your eternal goal.

[In Joshua 1:8], the Lord refers to a “book of the law” and tells Joshua to “meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: . . . and then thou shalt have good success.” The Lord is instructing Joshua and all of us to read the scriptures. Daily scripture study—especially reading the Book of Mormon—establishes a firm foundation for your developing testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel. It invites the Spirit into your life. President Harold B. Lee counseled, “If we’re not reading the scriptures daily, our testimonies are growing thinner [and] our spirituality isn’t increasing in depth” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [2000], 66).

At the moment, these four guides—prayer, obedience to God’s commandments, daily scripture study, and a commitment to follow the living prophet—may seem like small and simple things. Let me remind you of the scripture found in Alma: “Behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6). When applied in our everyday lives, these four “small and simple” guides from the book of Joshua will combine to provide the most powerful source of courage and strength there is: faith in our Heavenly Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father knows our individual journeys are not easy. We are faced every day with situations that require courage and strength.

I want to leave you with my testimony that Heavenly Father knows and loves each of you. If you turn to Him, He will not fail you! He will bless you with the strength and the courage you will need to complete your journey back to Him. I am grateful for the scriptures and for powerful examples like the prophet Joshua. I am grateful for President Monson, who strives to lead us safely back to our Heavenly Father. I pray that, like the children of Israel, we will all enter our “land of promise” and find rest in the blessings of the Lord. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Church Statistical Report

From the Church Newsroom:

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued the following report concerning the growth and status of the Church as of 31 December 2009:

Number of Stakes - 2,865
Missions - 344
Districts - 616
Wards and Branches - 28,424

Total Church membership - 13,824,854
New children of record during 2009 - 119,722
Converts baptized during 2009 - 280,106

Number of full-time missionaries - 51,736

Temples dedicated during 2009 - 2 (Draper Utah and Oquirrh Mountain Utah)
Total number of temples currently in operation - 130

Mormon Messages: He Lives!