Successful women are those whose troubles bring them closer to God and who understand their possibilities and obligations through serving others.
So believes Utah Supreme Court Justice Christine Durham, a pacesetter for women judges as well as a mother of five who has an extensive resume of service in the LDS Church.Durham gave the closing address at this year's Sunstone Symposium Saturday evening. She patterned her remarks from the experiences of a daughter of Brigham Young and from a passage in the 32nd chapter of Isaiah, which reads: "Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; . . . And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever."
"At mid-life I am convinced that the successful life is one that makes a positive difference in the lives it touches; that where gifts are bestowed, service is required; and that God expects his daughters to honor their gifts by enlarging and sharing them," Durham said.
Through marriage, Durham is related to Susa Young Gates, 41st daughter of Mormon prophet Brig-ham Young.
Gates raised five children and experienced the grief of the death of eight others. She was highly educated, traveled widely and was a trustee of two colleges. She was also the first woman to have an office in the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where then-church president Joseph F. Smith nicknamed her the "13th apostle," Durham said.
A willing husband, Jacob Gates, and the kind of drive and ambition that today might have made her feel at home with "pushy broads" helped Susa Gates achieve her many accomplishments, Durham said. "A slow-moving store clerk would have discovered a less charming side to her nature."
But that is not to imply her life was without trial. "She suffered what we would probably call a nervous breakdown, brought on by exhaustion, overwork and grief" and was unable to affirm her spiritual convictions until age 40, 15 years after Brigham Young's death, when she heard his voice call to her while she was sweeping.
"It is not given to many women to live lives on the scale of a Susa Young Gates; but it is given to us all to put our hands to making a difference, in ordinary ways perhaps more often than extraordinary ones," Durham said. "Her greatest legacy to us remains in her ability to be troubled by things she thought needed changing and her unwillingness to be at ease in a troubled world."
Mormon women would be well-served if stories like that of Susa Young Gates were better publicized, Durham said.
Utah's first woman supreme court justice on Saturday was the first presenter of the Joy Anna Mathews Hansen Memorial lecture, which is scheduled to become an annual event at the Sunstone Symposium. The lecture is dedicated to constructively exploring and expanding the participation of women in the Latter-day Saint community.