Just Asking: Interview with Elaine Dalton
The general Young Women president talks challenges, triumphs, motherhood, and gospel insights.
Q: In 2008 the Young Women General Presidency called for a “return to virtue” and added the value into the Young Women theme. What inspired you to add this value? How do you think this addition will—and how have you seen it so far—impact the lives of LDS young women everywhere?
A: When the value of Virtue was added to the Young Women theme and to Personal Progress, it was, I believe, inspired for our day. I think it was not a part of the theme from the beginning because there needed to be this spotlight put on the importance of chastity and virtue. I have seen its impact in families around the world. Its impact is being seen in young women’s worthiness and attendance at the temple. Its impact in testimony of the Savior is tangible as the young women complete their reading of the Book of Mormon, which is part of the requirement for the Virtue Value Experience. Its impact is in the faith and confidence of young women. They radiate a certain kind of confidence and happiness that is not obtained in ways the world offers. It is obtained by remaining virtuous. I think this value will impact not just the lives of LDS young women but the world! I truly believe that one virtuous young woman, led by the spirit, can change the world. And I see it happening now.
Q: You love running; what first got you hooked on it?
A: I didn’t always love to run. When I first started it was hard. I would run ten steps and walk ten steps. But I persisted. I guess you might say, what I love about running is the daily-ness of it. It is making me mind myself! And it is in the daily habits that we gain strength and power. I really never dreamed I would run a marathon, let alone seventeen of them. But looking back, it was the daily habit that made the difference. Anything we persist in doing becomes easier. Now I can’t imagine my life without a morning run. It makes me happy.
Q: You’re also an avid hiker. Can you share a favorite memory you’ve had when on a hike?
A: I think my favorite hike was in the Grand Tetons. We had hiked every trail and asked the ranger to tell us of one that was less known. It was a trail-less hike that led to a summit adjacent to the Grand Teton. We had to follow cairins (trail markers made of rocks placed on top of each other in a pile), which occasionally let us know we were still on the right track. I was so appreciative of the person who made the hike before us and left cairins to help us stay safely on a difficult path and make the climb to the summit. It was very symbolic for me because the Savior went before and marked the path and led the way.
Q: When did you know you wanted to marry Stephen?
A: I knew I wanted to marry Stephen when he taught me how to make correct decisions from the scriptures. I followed the process outlined in D&C section 9 and went forward with my tentative decision. Because of the confirmation I received as I prayed and then went forward, I have never looked back. It is the best decision I have ever made!
Q: What has been your biggest challenge as a mother, and how did you overcome it?
A: My biggest challenge as a mother has been watching my children go through difficult things. My response is to save them from heartache, challenges, or heart break, but I have learned that this is not possible. I have leaned on the scripture in Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” The paths of life have been steep at times, rocky and difficult at others, but the scripture is true and He has been with me and directed my paths even daily, every step of the way, and He has directed my children’s paths also.
Q: What was it like to raise one daughter among all those sons?
A: It was so fun! I was so excited when Emi was born that I could not stay in bed in the hospital. I had to go to the nursery and just stare at her through the glass. It has been pure joy to have Emi—a limited edition of one—be a part of our family. And we both love to do “boy things,” like back packing, sleeping in a tent, running, water skiing on Jackson Lake in freezing water, and eating giant cheeseburgers. We also like the pampering we receive from all the boys, including Emi’s father.
Q: What has been one of the most rewarding experiences in your life?
A: There are many rewarding experiences in life, but I must say being a mother is the most rewarding. Being in the temple when our youngest son Chad was married makes my top ten list. I looked around that sealing room and saw all my children present and everyone who was a part of our extended family and thought—it’s all worth it. All the work, the prayer, the enduring trials and challenges, it’s all worth it in this moment. Those moments when it all comes together are rare and precious and most rewarding.
Q: Your father died suddenly and unexpectedly—how were you able to cope with that experience and what were you able to learn from it?
A: I actually didn’t cope very well with that experience when it happened. I walked around in a daze for over a year. But I think prayer was what helped me most. I just kept praying to understand and to know that the Lord knew me. I didn’t get an answer right away. I doubted that the Lord was there and then one day, I heard a scripture and knew He had just answered my prayers. I will never forget that moment. And it is the scripture I spoke of earlier: Proverbs 3:5–6. I still don’t know why this happened, but I do know that if I trust the Lord, everything will be just fine.
Q: Being a more public figure in the church, what kind of misconceptions have you encountered about who you are and your role in the Church?
A: Well, for one thing—people call me by my name! Before this calling I was never called by my name—I was Emi’s mom or Zach’s mom or the Bishop’s wife but never Elaine S. Dalton! That has taken some getting used to. Someone called our home and asked to speak to President Dalton and I said, “Just a moment and I will get him.” I didn’t even compute that they were asking for me, but they were. The attention could make a person start thinking it is all about them, but I have learned it is all about the Savior. I am His disciple and a servant. When He is the reason for everything we do, it keeps it all in perspective. It is a privilege to serve.
Q: What is one of your favorite things you have learned or seen during your time in the general YW presidency?
A: My favorite thing is that the Lord has helped me to know how much He loves the young women. When I am with them, it is so tangible. He has also let me know who these young women are---they are noble and elect and that is very humbling. I always feel it is such an honor to be in their presence and to see their strength reflected in their eyes. It motivates me and strengthens my testimony every single day.
Q: What do you want to be remembered for in your time as YW general president?
a: I would hope that I would not be remembered. My hope is that every young woman will strive to be virtuous and pure so that she can have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost to guide her. My hope is that every young woman will look to the temple and remain worthy of the eternal blessings that come from making and keeping those sacred covenants and that they will always remember the Savior and think of this time as the time when their testimony began to grow and blossom. I would hope that every young woman would remember Him always and continue to progress on her mortal journey back into His presence.
Q: If you could teach only one thing to the young women of the Church today, what would you teach them?
A: That’s easy—REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!