"Realize your personal self-worth. Never demean yourself," President Ezra Taft Benson couseled LDS women - particularly single adult sisters - during the General Women's Meeting Sept. 24.
President Benson was scheduled as the featured speaker during the meeting for female members 10 years of age and older and their guests. However, President Benson asked his second counselor, President Thomas S. Monson, to read the address for him.The presence of the prophet and his counselors, President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Monson, helped set the tone for the meeting. Also present were four members of the Council of the Twelve - Elders Marvin J. Ashton, Neal A. Maxwell, Russell M. Nelson and Jesph B. Wirthin - and Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Presidency of the first Quorum of the Seventy.
The meeting convened in the Tabernacle on Temple Square and was transmitted on the Church's satellite network to about 2,000 meetinghouses throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
In addition to President Benson's message, the meeting included addresses by three auxiliary presidents: Michaelene P. Grassli, Primary; Ardeth G. Kapp, Young Women; and Barbara W. Winder, Relief Society. (See reports on page 4.)
The congregation seemed momentarily surprised when President monson came to the podium after it was announced President Benson would deliver the concluding address. "I know he (President Benson) has prepared diligently, and pondered and prayed concerning this message because he loves you," said President Monson as he related that the prophet had asked him to read the address.
"I hope you look at (President Benson) and realize the message that I shall read is coming from the prophet of the Lord, Ezra Taft Besnon," said President Monson. "Just a few moments ago he leaned over to me and said, 'Read slowly and with meaning. I want these precious women to hear every work and to feel every word.'"
Six months ago, during the April 1988 general confernece, President Benson spoke in general priesthood meeting to single adult men in the church. His Sept. 24 address was directed to single adult women.
The prophet's address acknowledged the many acts of goodness and faithfulness of single women in the church, noting that many of them lead "Christ like lives worthy of emulation." He also observed that many give dedicated service in the church, such as filling missions, teaching classes and serving as leaders, including as members of Primary, Young Women and Relief Society presidencies. Single women, the prophet affirmed, are a vital part of the mainstream body of the Church.
"The sacred bonds of church membership go far beyond marital status, age, or present circumstance. Your individual worth as a daughter of God transcends all," President Benson declared. Expressing hope that all will be exalted in the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom, he urged singel sisters never to lose sight of the celestial goal of temple marriage.
The single sisters were counseled to not "trifle away your happiness by involvement with someone who cannot take you worthily to the temple."
While pointing out they are not to lower their standards to get a mate, he cautioned against expecting perfection in their choice of a husband. Single sisters should not be more concerned about a mate's physical appearance and bank account than about qualities that really matter.
Those qualities are the strength of his testimony, how he lives the principles of the gospel, how he magnifies his priesthood calling, and his potential to be a faithful husband and good father.
Althoug hsingle sisters should maximize their potential by being well educated and doing well in their employment, they should not become so independent and self-reliant they decide they do not need marriage. Marriage in the temple to a worthy man and rearing a righteous family surpass degrees and careers. "Our priorities are right," President Benson emphasized, "when we realize there is no higher calling than to be an honorable wife and mother."
President Benson recognized not all women in the church will have an opportunity for marriage and motherhood in mortality, but, he said, they can be assured of all blessings from a kind and loving Heavenly Father if they are worthy and endure faithfully.
A portion of the prophet's message was directed to the widowed and divorced: "My heart is drawn to you who are in these circumstances. The Brethren pry for you, and we feel a great obligation to see that your needs are met. Trust in the Lord. Be assured He loves you and we love you.
"If you are a singel parent, make friends with others in similar situations and develop friendships with married couples. counsel with your priesthood leaders. Let them know of your needs and wants. Singel parenthood is understood by the Lord. He knows the special challenges that are yours. you are His daughters. he loves you and will bless and sustain you."
President Besnon urged all single adults sisters to "make the scriptures your constant companion" and to read daily from the Book of Mormon to receive of its strength and spiritual power.
He said life does not begin only upon marriage, that there are important things to do now. He advised singel women to become fully involved in the church, to forget themselves and really serve others through their Church callings and in personal deeds of compassionate service.
"If you really want to receive joy and happiness, then serve others with al your heart," he said. "Lift their burden, andyour own burden will be lighter. . . .
"Always be improving yourself. Set personal achievement goals and stretch to accomplish them. Improve yourself physically, socially, mentally and spiritually. Incorporate the splendid Pursuit of Excellence program into your life. Keep growing and learning and progressing and serving others.
"And finally, my dear sisters, be thankful to the Lord for your blessings. Think more about waht you do have than what you don't have. Dwell upon the goodness of the Lord to you."
A chorus of Primary girls, Young Women and Relief Society sisters from the Holladay Utah Region provided music for the meeting. Bonnie L. Goodliffe was at the Tabernacle organ, and Bonnie Winterton was music director.
Elaine L. Jack, second couselor in the Young Women General Presidency, conducted. prayers were offered by Janice M. Piccolo of the Primary General Board and Janice J. Anderson of the Relief Society General Board.