Latter-day Saint women can be a more powerful force for good by walking toward Christ and away from the world, using their influence to define themselves as distinct and happy rather than allowing others to label them.

"That means speaking up and reaching out," said Sheri Dew, president and CEO of Deseret Book. Speaking to thousands at the opening session of the annual Women's Conference at Brigham Young University Thursday, she said, "We are the ones who need to define Latter-day Saint womanhood, not anyone else. ... It means seeking to have influence in as many ways and with as many people as possible."

She urged women to make personal ministries of their lives, not by doing more, but possibly by "doing things differently. I am talking about focus and perhaps further consecration."

Asking daily why God has placed them in any given situation is more important than "feverishly working down a list of to-do's that may or may not have lasting significance." That may mean talking to friends of other faiths about spiritual matters, starting a blog online to share personal convictions, or mentoring a young adult.

Those who think of life as a ministry "tend to be less lonely, less likely to feel that life has spun out of control, more inclined to have a gentle heart, more filled with purpose," she said. Such women understand that "influence to lift others comes from coming unto Christ."

"We choose holiness over the world every time we walk away from clothes that are too short, too tight, too low, too high, too revealing, too anything that turns us into pornography. Every time we walk away from any media that drives the spirit away. Every time we walk away from jealousy or an unforgiving heart."

The notion that the world's most powerful women must have money, fame or a title, "is a big, fat lie! Sisters, we're smarter than this. We know too much to fall for Lucifer's lies. If the world can't look to us for a true definition of womanhood, where can it look?"

Women often fall victim to lies that say men are smarter, have all the power and are more important, and that in order to have influence women must be more like men, she said.

Other misconceptions: that marriage and family are confining,; that motherhood is menial and a waste of women's best time and talent,; that women are perpetually frazzled; and that a woman's value is based on her size, shape and what she accomplishes outside the home.

"We are here to influence the world, rather than be influenced by the world. If we could unleash the full influence of covenant-keeping women, the kingdom of God and the world would change overnight."

Such covenants are made in temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by members who "come unto Christ" as they obey God's laws so they are worthy to enter.

Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Quorums of the Seventy and his wife, Marilyn, addressed women in a general session Thursday afternoon. Marilyn Bateman said that "if one wishes to find the Savior, the most likely place will be in one of his temples."

They suggested that parents can help their children come unto Christ by modeling their own homes after the temple. There, Elder Bateman said, patrons "speak in quiet voices. ... Harsh, shrill voices are inconsistent with the spirit. Our homes should be filled with soft voices that invite the spirit."

As temple workers are mentored and trained by more experienced peers, so children should be trained in their responsibilities. Every new shift in the temple begins with a prayer, and LDS parents should make sure their families hold daily prayer together.

Kindness and love are the hallmarks of temple workers toward patrons, and "the same should exist in our homes," along with order and cleanliness, Elder Bateman said. "An orderly home commands respect from the children, and they will do their part to keep it that way," he said.

Latter-day Saints who become "yoked with Christ" do so through faith, repentance and baptism, which open the door to temple ordinances that ultimately lead back to God. "Temple ordinances put us on an even higher path as we receive power through them to obtain eternal life or the highest degree in the celestial kingdom," Marilyn Bateman said.


E-mail: carrie@desnews.com