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11 Things I Wish I Had Known as a Young Woman


7. Women are powerful leaders in the Church and exercise priesthood power and authority.

President Russell M. Nelson pleads:

"My dear sisters, whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out in ward and stake councils. We need each married sister to speak as 'a contributing and full partner' as you unite with your husband in governing your family. Married or single, you sisters possess distinctive capabilities and special intuition you have received as gifts from God. . . .We know that the culminating act of all creation was the creation of woman! We need your strength!"

With the largest female organization in the world, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Church brimming with women of power, purpose, and knowledge. From women petitioning for the right to vote and serving as doctors, Church leaders, and government officials in the early days of the Church to our modern women today, Mormon women have always shaped the Church and the world.

While the Bible and Book of Mormon were written during a period of time when much of history was recorded for men and about men, we can still find the influence and stories of faithful women throughout. Eve, Miriam, Ruth, Ether, the woman at the well, Mary, Anna, Sariah, Abish, etc. Read their stories. Learn from them. And today, we have access to nearly 200-years of counsel from female Church leaders since the reorganization of the Church, which you can find in Church magazines, manuals, and in groundbreaking works like At the Pulpit.

From the beginning of the human race, with our first parents, Adam and Eve, women have always played an essential role in Christ's Church. We even exercise priesthood power. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks explains:

"We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman . . . is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties."

In fact, Elder and Sister Renlund discussed four specific ways women exercise priesthood authority: 1) In Church callings, 2) through covenants, 3) by inviting the blessings of heaven through faith, 4) and through the sealing power and exaltation.

President Nelson continues:

"We need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world. We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation; women who know how to receive personal revelation, who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment; women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly. . . . We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve."

8. Virtue and modesty mean so much more than we often give them credit for.

Modesty has never been about what you wear—it is a way of life, a meekness, and humility embodied in the life of the Savior of the world. Modesty is our willingness and desire to become true disciples of Jesus Christ, which is reflected in our words, actions, and yes, even our appearance. Modesty is a way for men and women to access the powers of heaven and demonstrate to our Heavenly Father we are ready and willing to receive the higher blessings He has in store for us.

To limit modesty to clothing choice cheapens this eternal principle, and to assume what you wear or how you act puts thoughts into another's mind objectifies you, demoralizes men, and ignores the gift of agency—the very gift all of us fought to defend in our premortal life.

Often we use the word virtue almost interchangeably with the word chastity. While virtue definitely encompasses purity and chastity, we cheapen virtue by saying it’s synonymous with those things. Being virtuous means we try to uphold all virtues, like honesty, morality, integrity, humility, charity, accountability, civility, patience, compassion, cleanliness, dignity, faith, generosity, forgiveness, gratitude, repentance, self-reliance, etc.

Frequently in the scriptures when Christ performs a miracle, the phrase “virtue went out of him” accompanies this event. It’s through the power of virtue Christ healed the woman with an “issue of blood” or the blind man. In Doctrine and Covenants, virtue appears frequently in connection with the priesthood (i.e. by virtue of the priesthood”).

A number of other words could have been used in these verses, but virtue is so fitting because it demonstrates that it is through virtue men and women exercise the priesthood and the full power of their covenants. Virtue itself is a power, the power of our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose own spotless life allowed Him to command the earth and the heavens.

9. We can't let other people determine our testimonies.

If our Church was not full of imperfect people—who will incidentally insult you, embarrass you, hurt you, say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing—then you wouldn't have a place in this Church. It's as simple as that. We are all flawed—and we are all at times blind to our flaws.

A transformation in my testimony came on the day when I realized just how big of a hypocrite I was. I hate it when other people judge unfairly, reach out with criticism instead of love, and speak harshly or quickly, without understanding the full circumstances. This tendency led me to begin judging those I saw as judgmental in my ward, yet I was not willing to give them the courtesy of listening to them, navigating our differences, and recognizing they are just as much a product of their upbringing, experiences, and environment as I am.

That does not mean we turn a blind eye to prejudice, sexism, racism, or gossip in the Church. On the contrary, by loving and listening to those we disagree with, we are more able to understand why they believe the way they do and how to better communicate with them so they will listen, not turn away. To do this, you cannot be condescending or reach out with any intention except pure, untainted love, recognizing with humility your own fallibility. When you acknowledge your own limitations and blind spots, you can better learn and love, realizing that those who may say harmful things are just as much a child of God, your brother or sister, as those they may be victimizing.

As Isaac Thomas, the first black man sealed in the Salt Lake temple, explains, "The Church is true, not necessarily all its members. People will fail you, the gospel will not. . . . Don't let anyone else cheat you out of your own exaltation."

Millenials are one of the most accepting, open-minded, and empathetic generations to date, and that comes in large part because we are exposed to diverse people and experiences. As the Church continues to expand and diversify, we will need your insights and knowledge more than ever. But we will also need your love, compassion, and empathy as we learn how to change and become more Christlike.

Extending empathy also includes allowing our Church leaders to be human, without holding them up to impossible standards. As Adam S. Miller explains:

"While it is scary to think that God works through weak, partial, and limited mortals like us, the only thing scarier would be thinking that he doesn’t. . . . It’s a false dilemma to claim that either God works through practically flawless people or God doesn’t work at all. The gospel isn’t a celebration of God’s power to work with flawless people. The gospel is a celebration of God’s willingness to work today, in our world, in our lives, with people who clearly aren’t. To demand that church leaders, past and present, show us only a mask of angelic pseudo-perfection is to deny the gospel’s most basic claim: that God’s grace works through our weakness. We need prophets, not idols. Our prophets and leaders will not turn out to be who you want them to be. They are not, in fact, even what God might want them to be. But they are real and God really can, nonetheless, work through their imperfections to extend his perfect love."
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This powerful book is composed as a series of letters. The letters are meant for a young Mormon who is familiar with Mormon life but green in his or her faith. The author, philosophy professor Adam S. Miller, imagined himself writing these letters to his own children. In doing so, he struggled to say his own piece about what it means to be—as a Mormon—free, ambitious, repentant, faithful, informed, prayerful, selfless, hungry, chaste, and sealed.

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