Young Women: 'All are safely gathered in'
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At this time of year, the words of the familiar hymn "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come" are ever on my mind. Indeed, we are grateful for many things. One of the lines says, "All is safely gathered in Ere the winter storms begin" (Hymns, 94). After a summer of activities and spiritual experiences with our young women, my hope is that all can be safely gathered in and not be lost in the storms that rage all around them. As President Boyd K. Packer said in general conference, "Youth today are being raised in enemy territory." His statement was not only prophetic, but chilling. President Henry B. Eyring taught us in a previous conference address what we will need. He said: "What we will need in our day of testing is a spiritual preparation. ... It will take unshakable faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to choose the way to eternal life. ... [the] spiritual storms are already raging" ( "Spiritual Preparedness: Start Early and Be Steady," Ensign, November 2005).
What are some of the storms that are raging now?
Families are under attack.
Media are influencing our views of integrity and morality.
Pornography has come out in the open.
Role models of standards and righteousness are lacking.
Language in the halls and classrooms of our schools has coarsened.
Some have given in to pressures to abandon standards once held sacred.
The prophet Nephi saw our day. He saw a day when the Saints would be scattered in stakes all over the world. And he saw the time when the Lord would extend His protection to them when faced with a multiplicity of temporal and spiritual storms. He said: "I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church … and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory" (1 Nephi 14: 14).
The Lord revealed in Doctrine and Covenants 115:6 that one of the purposes of a stake is to be "for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth." Stakes are to be a defense for the saints from enemies.
In Doctrine and Covenants 101:65 we read, "Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father." The garners are the holy temples. Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained: "The great garner into which the sheaves should be gathered is the holy temple" ("Make Calling Focus of Your Mission," Church News, Sept. 17, 1994, p. 4).
Stakes are places of defense from the storms and we build temples only in places with stakes. The temples are the garners referred to in this scripture. "Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them" (Alma 26:6).
As we recently trained Young Women leaders together with priesthood leaders, it was clear that the time has come to unite and work together to strengthen the stakes of Zion so they may become a defense and a refuge from the storms in the world. This effort will take parents, it will take priesthood, it will take auxiliaries to the priesthood. It will take worthiness and purity to be qualified to enter the temples.
The temple is the garner wherein we must gather. And that is why everything we do in Young Women leads to the Lord and His Holy House. That is the vision of Young Women.
In Young Women, we hope to assist parents and priesthood leaders by helping each young woman:
Grow in her faith and testimony of Jesus Christ.
Understand her identity as a daughter of God.
Be worthy and pure.
Receive and rely on the Holy Ghost.
Prepare for her future roles as a wife, mother and homemaker.
Make and keep sacred covenants.
How do we help young women develop unshakable faith in Jesus Christ?
Our understanding about how to help young women gain faith in Jesus Christ changed when we began to think about them as investigators. Although they have been baptized, they must become converted one by one. They are very much like the Prophet Joseph Smith described himself in his history. He said, "I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth" (Joseph Smith History 1:28).
He was a teenager! How did the Lord help and strengthen Joseph Smith? He nurtured him in a good family and he sent a great leader. The great leader he sent was the Angel Moroni. The Angel Moroni carefully tutored him, often repeating the same lessons over and over until he got it in his head and in his heart. He not only understood the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he was able to live them also. He not only had a testimony, but he was converted. When we are converted we do something about what we know to be true.
As we labor to achieve this conversion in Young Women, we must do everything we can to strengthen the families of the young women, to communicate with them, to involve them. Ask the young woman to share what she is learning with her family. Encourage Personal Progress and "For the Strength of Youth" in family settings.
The Lord has called great priesthood and Young Women leaders at this most important time to strengthen faith in this rising generation of young women, to teach them the gospel and to give them opportunities to practice living it. If a young woman has a strong family, you are the second witness. If she does not, you are critical in her connection to the gospel. Your example will change the lives of the young women you lead.
We are taught what to teach young women in the Book of Mormon in Alma 37:32-33, "Teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ."
Consider each of your young women, one by one. How can you strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ?
It is our hope as a presidency that each of us will rise to a new level of spiritual preparation. Doing this will help each of us be guided by the Holy Ghost and it will help us to continually provide settings where a young woman can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. This will take effort, it will take commitment, and it will take faith. I am confident that, with the Lord's help, we can unitedly accomplish this.
Young Women leaders, we counsel you to take special care of yourselves and your home and family. This is your most important work. Establish a home wherein the Spirit can dwell. Then do your calling in the Lord's way. He will help you and show you what to do. He will "lead thee by the hand, and give thee answers to thy prayers" (Doctrine and Covenants 112:10). The Lord's work, done in His way, is not difficult. It is joyful! And He will bless those who delight to serve Him. At this season of harvest and gratitude, it is our prayer that each of us will seek to prepare spiritually to be able to listen to the still small voice of the Spirit and respond to that guidance. As you do so, we testify that you will be strengthened to do your part to ensure that each young woman remains worthy to make and keep sacred covenants and receive the ordinances of the temple. It is our heart's desire that "all [are] safely gathered in Ere the winter storms begin."