Latter-day Saint women were encouraged by President Thomas S. Monson at the General Women's Meeting in the Tabernacle on Temple Square Sept. 26 to be "examples of the believers."
President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, was the concluding speaker at the annual meeting for Relief Society sisters, Young Women, and leaders in the Primary organization.In addition to President Monson, other speakers included President Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve; Michaelene P. Grassli, Primary general president; Virginia H. Pearce, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency; and Aileen H. Clyde, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. (See accompanying stories on page 4.)
President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency; and members of the Council of the Twelve and Seventy were also in attendance.
Ruth B. Wright, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, conducted the meeting and expressed appreciation to the General Authorities for their support.
The program was telecast live over the Church's satellite network to more than 3,000 meetinghouses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the West Indies.
In his address, President Monson commented on the vast audience assembled in the Tabernacle and quoted President Heber J. Grant: " `I have often felt that a photograph of our dear sisters, with the intelligent, God-like faces they possess, would be a testimony to all the world of the integrity of our people.' "
President Monson noted there was no camera lens wide enough to include all the congregation in one photograph. "But with God, all things are possible. In His infinite vision, He literally can view all of us and bless all of us," he declared. "All we need do is to so live that we merit the blessings ever predicated on our faithfulness to His commandments."
He quoted President George Albert Smith: " `I desire to impress on you daughters of God . . . that if this world is to endure, you must keep the faith. If this world is to be happy, you will have to set the pace for that happiness. . . . If we are to maintain our physical strength and mental power and spiritual joy, it will have to be on the Lord's terms.' "
President Monson said, "Perhaps a young lady had this thought in mind when she spoke the feelings of her yearning heart: `What we really and truly need is less criticism and more models to follow.'
"Frequently we are too quick to criticize, too prone to judge and too ready to abandon an opportunity to help, to lift, and, yes, even to save. Some point the accusing finger at the wayward or unfortunate and in derision say, `Oh, she will never change. She has always been a bad one.' Those who see beyond the outward appearance recognize the true worth of a human soul, and miracles occur," he said. "The downtrodden, the discouraged, the helpless become `no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.' (Eph. 2:19.) True love can alter human lives and change human nature."
President Monson said people need not wait for a cataclysmic event, a dramatic occurrence in the world, or a special invitation, to be an example, or a model to follow. Opportunities are in the here and now, and often are found in homes and in life's everyday actions. "Our Lord and Master marked the way: `[HeT went about doing good.' (Acts 10:38.) He in very deed was a model to follow - even an example of the believers. Are we?
"Happiness abounds when there is genuine respect one for another. Wives draw closer to their husbands, and husbands are more appreciative of their wives; and children are happy, as children are meant to be. Where there is respect in the home, children do not find themselves in that dreaded `never, never land' - never the object of concern, never the recipient of proper parental guidance."
He said people who marry in the hope of forming a permanent partnership require certain skills and attitudes of mind. These include adapting to each other, having the capacity to work out mutual problems, having the willingness to give and take in the search for harmony, and being unselfish with thought for one's partner taking the place of desire for oneself.
He related that years ago he drove President Hugh B. Brown [then of the First PresidencyT to a college commencement, in which both had a part. As he started to drive away from President Brown's home, President Monson witnessed a long-time ritual between President Brown and his wife, Zina. Propped up in a wheelchair, she waved a white handkerchief from the window of their home; President Brown waved a handkerchief in return. The tradition of waving handkerchiefs, begun the first day President Brown left for work after they were married, was a symbol of the love they shared.
Young women can be models and examples, President Monson said, even in a time when some people mock virtue, peddle pornography under the guise of art or culture, and turn a blind eye, a deaf ear and calloused heart to the teachings of Jesus and a code of decency. "Through righteous living and by extending the helping hand and the understanding heart, you can rescue, you can save," President Monson said. "How great will then be your joy. How eternal will be the blessing you will have conferred."
He said some women face illness and incapacity to the point of being bedfast, but even they may rise above affliction and be examples of faith, love and service. He cited one example, Virginia Jelesnik, wife of Eugene Jelesnik, a Salt Lake City entertainment personality. For years, they worked together entertaining thousands of servicemen and women and audiences worldwide. Then Mrs. Jelesnik was confined to bed by illness, but she continued to encourage her husband and to be his inspiration and constant support.
President Monson spoke of several individuals recognized at a banquet for their quiet service, selfless sacrifice, and untold devotion to lifting others to a higher plane of living with no thought of personal aggrandizement or reward. One Native American had given much of her life to teaching boys and girls of her race how to live, love and serve. Another woman was honored for her caring, serving and leadership, and, now widowed, continues daily service to her state and community. Another had quietly yet effectively labored with love to ensure that the rights of abused children should not be neglected or abandoned.
During the banquet at which the awards were presented, President Monson and his wife, Frances, sat next to Flip and Lois Harmon. Brother Harmon has been involved with the direction of the "Days of '47" celebration in Salt Lake City for 43 years.
President Monson said Sister Harmon related that for years her husband asked what she wanted for their anniversary. Her answer was always the same: "A temple sealing." Finally, after 29 years, he replied that he would prepare for such an event. They went to the temple. Later, Brother Harmon served as a bishop, and each has remained faithful to the other and loyal to the Lord.
President Monson said Sister Harmon remarked that her husband always wore cowboy boots, which he left in front of the fireplace where he removed them at night. "Years ago that would bother me," she confided. "But not anymore. Today, I just love those boots. Tender are my feelings and full is my heart as I willingly and lovingly pick them up and put them away each evening."
The Church leader said when Sister Harmon was presented a bouquet of red roses at the luncheon, her husband told those assembled: " `Lois is the light of my life. She's my eternal partner. We'll be together forever." President Monson noted, "Patience was rewarded. Love was expressed. Heaven was near."
Concluding, President Monson told the women and young women their circumstances and opportunities may vary, but they can be models to follow, even "examples of the believers."
Music was provided by a choir of women and young women from the Spanish Fork Utah Region, with Beverly Thomas conducting and Bonnie Goodliffe at the organ. The choir, dressed in pastel colors, set the tone for the speakers, particularly with its harmonious rendition of "How Will They Know."
MarJean C. Wilcox of the Relief Society General Board offered the opening prayer, and Camille Fronk of the Young Women General Board gave the closing prayer. - Gerry Avant