A couple of weeks ago I taught a lesson in Relief Society, and a strong, faithful sister voiced her frustration about the way that women are always singled out by the leading Brethren of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She wonders why they cannot just speak to members of the Church rather than as brethren and as sisters. I have pondered her question many times in the past two weeks, and I am getting a sense that there is something more.
I believe that it has something to do with the fact that wives and mothers are the guardians of the home and family, both of which are coming under increased attacks, and the capacities of women to accomplish tasks that are impossible for men – such as meeting the needs of a single sister or someone who just needs what a woman has to give. A friend of mine told of a time when she visited a man in her ward who had a tumor the size of football in his abdomen. Members of the ward had been in and out of his hospital room for days, but none of them had even asked what he was feeling about possibly facing death.
When President Russell M. Nelson spoke to the women of the Church in October 2018, he asked us to do four things: fast from social media for ten days, read the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ between that day and the end of 2018, establish a pattern of temple attendance, and to be a full member of Relief Society. He then repeated a clarion call that he made to the women of the Church in 2015. “My dear sisters, we need you! We ‘need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices.’ We simply cannot gather Israel without you.”
For many years the leading Brethren of the Church have been making an effort to convince the sisters that their ideas and influences are needed in the work of preparing the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The first time in my memory took place in 1979 when President Spencer W. Kimball made this profound prophecy about what covenant-keeping women can accomplish.
Finally, my dear sisters, may I suggest to you something that has not been said before or at least in quite this way. Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world … will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different – in happy ways – from the women of the world.
Among the real heroines in the world who will come into the Church are women who are more concerned with being righteous than with being selfish. These real heroines have true humility, which places a higher value on integrity than on visibility. Remember, it is as wrong to do things just to be seen of women as it is to do things to be seen of men. Great women and men are always more anxious to serve than to have dominion.
Thus it will be that female exemplars of the Church will be a significant force in both the numerical and the spiritual growth of the Church in the last days.
President Kimball was a prophet of God, and he saw the influence that covenant-keeping women could make in the world. More than twenty years later President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to the women of the Church and said the following.
God has given the women of this church a work to do in building his kingdom. That concerns all aspects of our great triad of responsibility – which is, first, to teach the gospel to the world; second, to strengthen the faith and build the happiness of the membership of the Church; and, third, to carry forward the great work of salvation for the dead.
Women in the Church are associates with their brethren in the carrying forward this mighty work of the Lord. … Women carry tremendous responsibilities and they are accountable for the fulfillment of those responsibilities. They head their own organizations, and those organizations are strong and viable and are significant forces for good in the world. They stand in an associate role to the priesthood [holders], all striving together to build the kingdom of God in the earth. We expect leadership, and strength, and impressive results from your management of the organizations for which you are responsible. We uphold and sustain you as daughters of God, working in a great partnership to assist him in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of all of the sons and daughters of God.
Some women have yet to catch the vision seen by these prophets. They have the understanding that they have little to offer to the Church or the Lord. Other women – none that I know personally – think that they need to be ordained to the priesthood in order to help with the work. This is not so according to these recent remarks by several Brethren. President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency explained, “Every act or ordinance performed in the Church is done under the direct or indirect authorization of one holding the keys for that function.” He later added this statement.
We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman – young or old – is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood.
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated, “Those who have priesthood keys … literally make it possible for all who serve faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power.” He emphasized that both men and women are blessed by the priesthood. “All who have made sacred covenants with the Lord and who honor those covenants are eligible to receive personal revelation, to be blessed by the ministering of angels, to commune with God, to receive the fulness of the gospel, and, ultimately, to become heirs alongside Jesus Christ of all our Father has.”
I feel that the Lord is hastening His work and pushing the Brethren to complete the necessary work before He comes again. There is much work to be done. Both men and women are needed to accomplish all the tasks required to gather Israel and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.