PROVO — Students at Brigham Young University were told Tuesday that women have vital roles in the advancement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"Does the Lord respect women? Do women matter to the Lord?" said Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. "Yes. The answer is a resounding yes."
Women have divine roles as wives, mothers, counselors and friends, he said. Yes, motherhood is important, but women who don't marry or have children also have gifts that are needed in the church, said Elder Ballard.
"Motherhood and fatherhood are not the only measure of goodness or of one's acceptance before the Lord," he said.
"My earnest plea and prayer is that young men and women will understand that our sisters have always been vital and integral to the work of the Lord."
Elder Ballard said the church delights in faithful female members who maintain high ethical standards and eschew popular fads that "would have you dress talk and behave in unnatural and destructive ways in your relationships with young men."
"The adversary is having a heyday distorting attitudes about gender and roles and about families and individual worth," he said.
"Today's popular culture, which is preached by every form of media from the silver screen to the Internet, celebrates the saucy, sexy and socially aggressive woman," he said. "These distortions are seeping into the thinking of some of our own women."
Elder Ballard also urged young women to pray, fast, read scriptures, talk with their parents, obey commandments and prepare to enter the church's temples.
Such works will help build a strong spiritual base, he said.
"More than ever before we need women of faith, virtue, vision and charity, as the Relief Society Declaration proclaims, We need women who can hear and will respond to the voice of the Lord, women who will defend and protect the family," Elder Ballard said.
"We don't need women who want to be like men, sound like men, dress like men, drive like men or act like men," he said. "We do need women who rejoice in their womanhood and have a spiritual confirmation of their identity, their value and their eternal destiny."