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`MOVE WITH VISION, FUELED BY FAITH,' INTO NEXT 150 YEARS

Encouraging Relief Society sisters to move with vision, fueled by faith, into the next 150 years, President Thomas S. Monson issued to the sisters four challenges "for our times."

President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, was the concluding speaker at the Relief Society Sesquicentennial satellite broadcast March 14, which commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Relief Society.In keeping with the guidelines of the Relief Society, President Monson asked the sisters to:

"Share your talents. Each of you, single or married, regardless of age, has the opportunity to learn and to grow. Expand your knowledge, both intellectual and spiritual, to the full stature of your divine potential. There is no limit to your influence for good. Share your talents, for that which we willingly share, we keep. But that which we selfishly keep, we lose.

"Sustain your husband. Both husband and wife should appreciate that, `Woman was taken out of man; not out of his feet to be trampled underfoot, but out of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.' Be patient, be tender, be loving, be considerate, be understanding, be your best self as you sustain your husband, remembering that children often outgrow their need for affection, but husbands never do.

"Many members of Relief Society do not have husbands," he continued. "Death, divorce, and indeed lack of opportunity to marry have, in many instances, made it necessary for a woman to stand alone. In reality, she need not stand alone, for a loving Heavenly Father will be by her side to give direction to her life and provide peace and assurance in those quiet moments where loneliness is found and where compassion is needed.

"Strengthen your home. Home, that marvelous place, was meant to be a haven called heaven where the Spirit of the Lord might dwell. . . . In a Latter-day Saint home, children are not simply tolerated, but welcomed; not commanded, but encouraged; not driven, but guided; not neglected, but loved.

"Serve your God. You cannot serve your neighbor without demonstrating your love for God. Service is a product of love. So long as we love, we serve.

"The heart of compassionate service, one of the hallmark creeds of Relief Society, is the gift of oneself."

President Monson promised the sisters that the blessings of heaven will attend as they accept these four challenges.

The Relief Society guidelines upon which President Monson based his challenges to the sisters are:

- Every woman has been endowed by God with distinctive characteristics, gifts and talents in order that she may fulfill a specific mission in the eternal plan.

- The priesthood is for the benefit of all members of the Church. While women do not hold the priesthood, men have no greater claim than women upon the blessings that issue from it.

- The home is the basic organization to teach an individual to walk uprightly before the Lord.

- Compassionate service and a sensitivity to the needs of others are the principal purposes for which a woman's program was organized.

In the opening remarks of his address, President Monson said, "Today our souls have reached toward heaven. We have been blessed with beautiful music and inspired messages. The spirit of the Lord is here."

President Monson expressed greetings from President Ezra Taft Benson; President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, who was on an assignment abroad; and all the General Authorities of the Church, saying, "We commend you. We pray for you. We are very proud of you."

He quoted a statement by Belle Smith Spafford, Relief Society general president from 1945-1973, when she said: " `Never have women had greater influence than in today's world. Never have the doors of opportunity opened wider for them. This is an inviting, exciting, challenging and demanding period of time for women. It is a time rich in rewards if we keep our balance, learn the true values of life, and wisely determine priorities.' "

President Monson added: "The spirit of Relief Society is being made manifest today, in our time.

"In this, your sesquicentennial year, I compliment you sisters of Relief Society on your carefully chosen theme to eliminate illiteracy. Those of us who can read and write do not appreciate the deprivation of those who cannot read, who cannot write. They are shrouded by a dark cloud which stifles their progress, dulls their intellect and dims their hopes. Sisters of Relief Society, you can lift this cloud of despair and welcome heaven's divine light as it shines upon your sisters."

In concluding his address, President Monson said, "To all of you I repeat that old, but ever welcome wish: Happy 150th birthday!" He then left a blessing in the spirit of that which is recorded in Numbers 6:24-26: "May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. [May the] Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace in the name of the Prince of Peace. . . ."