Speaking on the importance of the family worldwide, Relief Society General Pres. Mary Ellen W. Smoot accepted the Exemplary Womanhood Award July 16 from the BYU Student Service Association.
The award, which alternates every year with the Exemplary Manhood Award, is given by the BYU student body to a person who embodies Christlike principles and who has given exemplary service to the Church, community and the university.With the award, Sister Smoot was given $500 to donate to the charity of her choice. She selected the NGO (nongovernmental organization) Family Voice, an organization founded and operated by BYU law professors that is working with other organizations worldwide to help the United Nations form policy concerning the family.
Sister Smoot received the honor at a dinner organized and attended by members of BYUSA. She was accompanied to the dinner by her husband, Stanley, and several of their seven children. Also in attendance were Virginia Jensen, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, and her husband, Rees, and BYU president, Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, and his wife, Marilyn.
Before the dinner, Sister Smoot spoke briefly about a recent trip to Rome, Italy, during which she was able to work with NGO Family Voice to promote the family.
"What a tremendous experience it was for us to be around the table with leaders from nations, all realizing that we have to do something about the family, that we must save the family," she said. "This has to be a high priority in our lives . . . and for the NGO Family Voice."
She also thanked the students for the honor. "It is a very humbling experience," she said. "I hope that our Father in Heaven will bless all of us to realize our self worth and to realize how much we are needed."
Elder Bateman said it is typical of Sister Smoot to take a $500 donation from BYU and give it back to a BYU organization. He lauded her as a dedicated mother and grandmother and paid tribute to her for the leader she has been in the Church.
After the dinner, Sister Smoot addressed members of the BYU student body.
"It is amazing," she told the students, "that as you sit in the audience tonight, you may not realize what is ahead of you in your life. I would hope that you would realize how important you are and how important the decisions are that you make."
After recognizing members of her family who were in attendance, Sister Smoot spoke of her great desire to have righteous children. "I used to tell my children, `You need to become better than your mother or I have failed.' I hope you realize the opportunity, when you have spirits come into your home, to raise them to a kind and loving Father in Heaven."
Sister Smoot noted that as general Relief Society president, she has met women from all over the world who have put the Lord first in their lives and who are strong, who read the scriptures, and who meet challenges.
She spoke of a sister in Guatemala who sacrificed to travel with her husband and nine children to the Arizona Temple, and of another sister, a Relief Society president - who did not have a perfect home life - but let the Spirit guide her to help the women in her ward.
Sister Smoot told the students that they live in a remarkable time in the history of the Church. "We have had the opportunity in the past two years to look back at the pioneers of the past," she said. "Whether you like it or not, you will have those who will look back on your lives as the pioneers of this new century in the Church. Each of you will be a part of this new exciting era."
She asked the students to realize how important they are to the Church. "It doesn't matter what our background is. It doesn't matter who was our father or who was our mother. It doesn't matter if we are single or married. It does not matter. None of that matters. What matters is what we determine to do with our individual lives."
Sister Smoot then spoke to the women in attendance. "You are Relief Society sisters. . . . It is one of the greatest organizations on this earth. It was set up by a prophet. Can you imagine if we become totally united in this organization? Do you suppose we would help this earth?
". . . We have a great responsibility all over the world to bring forth and establish Zion."