In April of 2013, Mormon girls attended or viewed an international meeting just for them. The speakers were the international leaders for the program, known as Young Women, and one Mormon apostle. The program serves girls ages twelve to seventeen worldwide. Soon after the conference ended, the adult leaders for this program were “released” and a new presidency put in. Women normally serve in the General Presidency for about five years, so it was a normal rotation. However, although the girls listening did not know, the leaders did know this would be their final messages to these girls.
Stand in Holy Places
Ann M. Dibb, the second counselor to the president, spoke on the 2013 theme for the Young Women’s program. The theme is “Stand ye in holy places” and is taken from a verse of Mormon scripture found in Doctrine and Covenants Section 87 and the portion referred to includes the admonition to not be moved.
Sister Dibb suggests that while holy places can include temples, churches, and even homes, it can also include moments in time. This would refer to those times when we are receiving inspiration from the Holy Ghost, getting answers to prayers, or feeling God’s love in our lives. She encouraged girls to create their own sacred spaces, even in the hardest places or moments in their lives.
Our Choices Affect Others
Mary N. Cook, the first counselor, also spoke on standing in holy places. She suggested that our righteous choices will impact our families, past and present, and will also influence the world around us. She referenced a girl she knew whose father died when she was just fourteen. The girl was determined to hold on to her relationship with God and so she created holy places all around her as she read scriptures, attended church, and made good choices. In time, she was able to marry a good man and go on to raise a righteous family. Each decision she made along the path impacted her future options and led to the sacred place she made out of her life. These decisions can impact her family for generations to come and that gives importance to every seemingly small choice she makes.
In her final talk as president, Elaine S. Dalton referenced a statue that can be found on a pier in Copenhagen. She has the replica on her desk. It is of a girl named Katrina, who became a Mormon and then came to America. The original statue faces the water and Sister Dalton noticed that she is facing into the wind, representing that she is doing something very difficult, but very right.
She likened this to the girls listening to her. They also stood poised on the brink of challenging changes in their lives and would need to stand strong against the winds that tried to blow them off-course. She encouraged them to “be not moved” regardless of worldly pressures.
Sister Dalton asked the girls to stand firm in four ways. First, she requested that they be not moved in choosing right.
Elaine S. Dalton told the girls she had recently revisited the high school she had attended. She was there for a religious conference, but in the audience were many people she had gone to high school with and even men she had dated as a teenager. She encouraged the girls to look ahead and to vow that they would never, as adults, be embarrassed by the choices they made as teenagers, particularly those choices they make in their relationships with others. The choices they make often impact other people, too. If they refuse to lower their standards on a date, it becomes easier for a boy to hold his standards high. When the two meet again at a reunion or somewhere else, they will not need to be embarrassed by the relationship they had.
This led to her second request, that they be not moved in their desire and commitment to remain virtuous and sexually pure. Satan was not allowed to have a body and in his fierce jealousy, he tries to convince us to abuse our bodies and to treat them disrespectfully. When we allow ourselves to practice addictions, moral sins, tattoos, and other poor choices related to the body God gave us we dishonor the gift God gave us and we also limit our own choices for the future.
Mormons are often taught that their bodies are temples. This is a comparison to the sacred temples in which Mormons go to make sacred covenants with God. Sister Dalton taught that our bodies house our own spirits, but they also have the potential to house the spirits of other children of God through motherhood. We have a sacred responsibility to keep that housing pure and ready to receive a precious child of God.
Third, Sister Dalton asked the girls to be not moved in being worthy to make and keep sacred covenants. A covenant is a two-way promise between God and ourselves. Mormons make their first covenants at baptism when they are eight years old (or older if they are converts). At this time, they promise to take on themselves the name of Jesus Christ and to keep His commandments. When they keep their promises, God vows to keep His own. Each week when they take the sacrament (communion) they renew those covenants. Covenants are made again in the Mormon temples in adulthood. They commit themselves to following the Savior and honoring and respecting their family relationships. However, they must have already achieved a fairly high level of faith and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ before entering the temple and so they need to demonstrate their faith by actually living like a follower of Jesus Christ, rather than just saying the words. The teen years are critical to that process, since they often set the pattern for adult behavior.
“As you keep your baptismal covenant, you will look different, dress different, and act different from the world. Keeping this covenant will enable you to be guided by the Holy Ghost. Stand in holy places, and do not even go near those environments or music, media, or associations that might cause you to lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost.”
Finally, she asked them to be not moved in their acceptance of the Savior’s Atonement. Although girls should try to live a virtuous life at all times, everyone falls short. She advised them to accept the power of the atonement to bring about forgiveness when that happens. She invited them, should they be not feeling worthy to stand in holy places that day, to not live another day with that feeling. They can repent, something Satan does not want them to know. He doesn’t want them to believe they can ever change, but they can, with the help of God and Jesus Christ.
Love the Journey of Life
Dieter F. Uchtdorf was the final speaker. He is the second counselor to the president of the church. His theme was journeys. Our life is a journey that began in Heaven and ends with a return to Heaven. In between, we are here on earth. Our map for this journey is the gospel of Jesus Christ and can be found in the scriptures, in the teachings of God’s prophets (both ancient and modern) and in personal revelation we receive directly from God for our own lives. He reminded the girls that a map is useless if it isn’t read and followed.
He asked the girls to look around and to remember that every person in the room, every person they will ever meet, was valiant in the pre-mortal life, where Mormons teach we had to choose whether to follow God or Satan. Some people may have forgotten they were once valiant and might have lost their way, but they started out on the right path and so that potential for success is inside them. He reminded them that it is the Holy Ghost that converts, but it is their responsibility to be a good example, to share their faith, and to be kind to those who feel alone or lost.
To that end, he asked them to focus not always on what they want, but on the needs of others, to spend their mortality showing love to God’s other children. Finally, he also asked them to make this a joyful journey. Even though life is sometimes not ideal, and sometimes is even very painful, they can choose to be joyful.
This video was shown to the girls at the conference. It is about a teenager going to the temple and remembering all the things in her life that made her able to go.