Every year there is a lesson on the women of the Church. Every year the women groan for the same reason so many groan at Mother’s Day. Every year the men look at the title and think, “What am I supposed to do with this in quorum meeting?” Be patient. This lesson offers both camps good things to consider and think about.
I will start here with a quote from my commentary on the lessons.
Speaking about women in glowing terms is a difficult thing for a man to do. Some women will believe he is just pandering to them. Some will believe, with some disdain that it’s about time a man got it right. Some will feel that no matter what the man says it is not enough or enough of the right stuff. And others simply see too many of their own weaknesses, so they won’t believe him at all.
Despite perceived human frailties, women have a portion of the divine character that is far more visible to others than it is in most men. It is this part of women that the prophets encourage and applaud.
What this lesson addresses is what makes an ordinary woman into an extraordinary mother, spouse, and all-around great human being. Women, you need to recognize that despite how you may feel about yourselves, others see your greatness. Men need to learn to not only see, but acknowledge and express an appreciation for the greatness of the women in their lives.
A special role in the eternal plan
President Hinckley quoted Joseph Smith as saying to the women of the Relief Society, “If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates.” This statement illustrates an important point. Men also have this same promise, as the keys of the Aaronic priesthood hold the rights to the administration of angels.
And how many of our brethren are living up to their priesthood privileges and are conversing with angels? Both men and women have this right, but only if we are obedient and faithful, and live lives of great service. This principle illustrates that the Lord does not have first and second place citizens in his kingdom. We are all alike. We are all required to keep the same commandments in order to receive the same blessings.
The path may be slightly different between men and women, but the destination is the same. The Lord does not value one of his children any more or less than any of his other children.
One of a woman’s greatest strengths is her ability to see and grasp the significance of everything that is connected to a single thought. Men tend to compartmentalize and put things in separate mental boxes that don’t touch each other. But women tend to see the whole picture. This is both a blessing and a curse.
Because a woman generally sees her life as a whole, she may also see all the parts she would deem to be holes or deficiencies in her character and how those deficiencies affect every other part of her life. Men are usually blissfully ignorant of this bigger picture, seeing only the segmented parts a few at a time.
I’m not sure if the women of the Church realize how valuable this makes your opinion in council meetings. You see things and think of solutions that the priesthood brethren often don’t even consider. Don’t be quiet. Speak up! The Church needs to hear from our valiant sisters. You are wiser than you give yourself credit for being.
After referring to Emma Smith as an elect lady, President Hinckley proceeded to say this about all the women of the church:
Each of you is an elect lady. You have come out of the world as partakers of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. You have made your election, and if you are living worthy of it, the Lord will honor you in it and magnify you.
When the Lord magnifies us he endows us or imbues us with the strength and spiritual faculties to not only fulfill our assignments but to excel in our assignments. This includes our assignments in our homes as well as in the church. As we are obedient to our covenants and the commandments the Lord will enlarge our capabilities and capacities.
The Lord expects the women of the church to be educated, not just academically, but spiritually. The success of the kingdom depends on all of his children arming themselves with knowledge in all forms. There is nothing attractive about ignorance.
To you women of today, who are old or young, may I suggest that you write, that you keep journals, that you express your thoughts on paper. Writing is a great discipline. It is a tremendous educational effort. It will assist you in various ways, and you will bless the lives of many.
The true strength of any nation, society, or family lies in those qualities of character that have been acquired for the most part by children taught in the quiet, simple everyday manner of mothers.
Ask yourself this question—What was the environment like when you learned your most important lessons from your mother? Was she shouting and angry or was she being quiet and loving? Was she addressing others at the time or was she devoting one-on-one time to you? Chances are your greatest learning moments with your mother happened in a quiet time when it was just the two of you.
Women naturally have a tremendous capacity to express love, pure love. That love is a powerful teacher and a powerful motivator. Showing love doesn’t require perfection. It doesn’t require a college education. All that is required is sincerity and a desire to be accepting of the other person. At this women excel with natural brilliance. This is the strength with which a woman passes on to the next generation the values and principles of salvation. It is this love of God and the love of her children that helps them accept and stay true to the truth of the gospel.
God bless you, mothers! When all the victories and defeats of men’s efforts are tallied, when the dust of life’s battles begins to settle, when all for which we labor so hard in this world of conquest fades before our eyes, you will be there, you must be there, as the strength for a new generation, the ever-improving onward movement of the race. Its quality will depend on you.
Sections 4 & 5
The priesthood alone is not responsible for moving the kingdom of God forward toward its Millennial position. The Lord has given the women of the church responsibilities to perform through the Relief Society, the Young Women’s program, and the Primary. The women of the church “stand in an associate role to the priesthood, all striving together to build the kingdom of God in the earth.”
Women add heart and soul to the service and work of the kingdom. They contribute great spirituality to the councils and organizations in which they participate or preside. The kingdom simply cannot move forward uncrippled without the fulfillment of the responsibilities of the women of the Church.
Who, even in the wildest stretch of imagination, can fathom the uncountable acts of charity that have been performed, the food that has been put on barren tables, the faith that has been nurtured in desperate hours of illness, the wounds that have been bound up, the pains that have been ameliorated by loving hands and quiet and reassuring words, the comfort that has been extended in times of death and consequent loneliness?
The work the Relief Society does may sometimes be looked down upon by the world as being unglamorous or demeaning, but in truth what is practiced by the women of the Relief Society is what the apostles of old termed “pure religion.” The women of the Relief Society are performing the kind of service that Christ himself came and excelled at.
President Hinckley ends this lesson with two main points. The first is that he recognizes that women often see their weaknesses and can allow themselves to be defeated by them. He has faith that you have the ability to support each other and can rise to your challenges. Many women in the church carry tremendous burdens and need the collective strength of the Relief Society to help carry those individual loads. If you will all pull together there is nothing you cannot accomplish.
The second point is his faith and confidence in the good that the women of the church can accomplish.
Great is your power for good. Marvelous are your talents and devotion. Tremendous is your faith and your love for the Lord, for His work, and for His sons and daughters. Continue to live the gospel. Magnify it before all of your associates. Your good works will carry more weight than any words you might speak. Walk in virtue and truth, with faith and faithfulness. You are part of an eternal plan, a plan designed by God our Eternal Father.
To the brethren all I can say is, take a lesson from the sisters. How can the brethren of the church be more supportive of the important work the Lord has assigned to the women of the church? How can we be more supportive of what needs to be done in our individual homes? And what about in our relationships with our wives? Are we lightening their load or making them heavier?