Any honest and fair student of LDS history would come to the same conclusion as did Pulitzer-prize winner Wallace Stegner, President Gordon B. Hinckley declared May 1.
"Their women were incredible."After quoting from Stegner's "The Gathering of Zion," President Hinckley added, "How absolutely magnificent were the women in the pioneer era of this Church."
Additional reports on Women's Conference are scheduled for the May 17 issue.
President Hinckley was the speaker during the Thursday evening fireside of the 1997 Women's Conference at BYU, May 1-2. More than 13,000 people - mostly women - gathered at the Marriott Center to hear President Hinckley, who was accompanied by his wife, Marjorie. Also sitting on the stand was BYU Pres. Merrill J. Bateman, who is also a member of the Seventy, and his wife, Marilyn; and the recently sustained Relief Society general president, Mary Ellen W. Smoot, and her counselors, Virginia U. Jensen and Sheri L. Dew.
During the two-day annual event, sponsored by the Relief Society and BYU, thousands of LDS women and others attended the conference, which included the fireside, general sessions and 70 concurrent sessions given by 180 presenters. The theme for this year's conference was "Search Diligently in the Light of Christ," taken from Moroni 7:19.
During the fireside, President Hinckley spoke of the "young mothers who fight their way through the jungle of the world in an effort to provide for their children and themselves.
"I know that many of your circumstances are different from what our circumstances were, and so I do not criticize you. I think most of you are trying to do the very best you can in your circumstances. It is you who bear and nurture your children. It is you who comfort them and sustain them, who listen to them and counsel them wisely. You are the ones who teach them to pray and trust in the Lord. It is you who guide them in the schooling they receive which will prepare them to take their places in society. It is you who keep them close to the Church and who nourish their faith."
President Hinckley expressed the wish that every mother could be at home, however, he recognized that this is not always possible. "But I warn against too fancy a home with too large a mortgage, perhaps with a boat and such costly things in the driveway.
"I simply say there is nothing in all this world which will bring you greater satisfaction, as the years pass ever so quickly, than seeing your children grow in faith, confidence, freedom from the enslaving elements around us, and accomplishment in the world. You will be a very important part of what happens to them. None can adequately substitute for you as mothers.
"Weigh your options carefully," the prophet admonished. "Be careful lest you find yourself trading your birthright for a mess of pottage."
President Hinckley spoke of this year's commemoration of the 1847 arrival of the Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley. "As I read the history of our people I am impressed that the men are named and remembered and honored. Too little honor is given the women."
Continuing, he exclaimed: "Oh, the faith of those pioneer women! They bore children, they cooked, they sewed, they laundered, they scrubbed by hand, they mended, they made what they wore and what their children wore. They nursed the sick, they dressed the dead. They fed the cattle, the chickens, the pigs. They worked from sunup to sundown. They even worked beside their husbands in building log houses wherever they stopped, in plowing the unbroken ground, in sowing seed and reaping a harvest.
"In those dark and gruesome times the only resource available to those who suffered so much was the resource which comes of prayer, with faith in the reality and power of the living God. The women got on their knees and pleaded with the Lord. Then they stood on their feet and worked night and day to bring miracles to pass."
President Hinckley explained: "They of that generation are now gone. At least two other generations have come and for the most part they have gone. They were the mothers of our fathers and mothers. They were they who held high the torch of faith. They were they who walked alone and sacrificed and labored to nourish one another. They were they who gave so very much and complained so very little.
"God be thanked for the wonderful women of this Church. May we hold them in high and sacred memory, now and forever."