Gift of eternal life is available to all

Men and women are equal before God in their eternal opportunities, said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve. However, they have different - but equally significant - duties in His eternal plan.

Speaking at the General Relief Society Meeting Sept. 25 in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, Elder Ballard continued: "We must understand that God views all of His children with infinite wisdom and perfect fairness. Consequently, He can acknowledge and even encourage our differences while providing equal opportunity for growth and development."Elder Ballard presided at the meeting and was the first speaker. Other speakers were Elaine L. Jack, Relief Society general president, who conducted the meeting; her counselors, Chieko N. Okazaki and Aileen H. Clyde; and Jeanne Inouye of the Edgemont 16th Ward, Provo Utah Edgemont Stake. (See related stories on pages 4-5.)

Also attending the meeting were Elder Charles Didier of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder W. Mack Lawrence of the Seventy.

Previously the women's meeting preceding October general conference was known as the General Women's Meeting, to which all sisters 12 and older were invited. But with a change in the format the meeting this year was for Relief Society sisters only. A General Young Women Meeting for young women 12-18 is scheduled for March 26, 1994, prior to April general conference.

The Relief Society meeting was telecast live over the Church's satellite network to more than 3,000 meetinghouses in the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, Haiti, West Indies and Puerto Rico.

In his address, Elder Ballard explained: "Our Father in Heaven loves all of His children equally, perfectly and infinitely. His love is no different for His daughters than for His sons. Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, also loves men and women equally.

"The gospel of Jesus Christ can sanctify both men and women in the same way and by identical principles. For example, faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost are requirements for all of God's children, regardless of gender. The same is true of temple covenants and blessings. He loves us all equally, and His greatest gift, the gift of eternal life, is available to all."

Elder Ballard said that Heavenly Father assigned different responsibilities in mortality to men and women when they lived with Him as His spirit sons and daughters. "To His sons He would give the priesthood and the responsibilities of fatherhood," he noted. "And to His daughters, He gave the responsibilities of motherhood, each with their attendant functions.

"By appointing different accountabilities to men and women, Heavenly Father provides the greatest opportunity for growth, service and progress."

Elder Ballard counseled: "We need to recognize the hard mortal realities in all of this and must use common sense and guidance by personal revelation. Some will not marry in this life. Some marriages will fail. Some will not have children.

"Some who would rather remain at home may have to go to work. Let us not judge others, because we do not know their situation nor do we know what common sense and personal revelation have led them to do. We do know that throughout mortality, women and men will face challenges and tests of their commitment to God's plan for them.

"In these latter-days," he continued, "we see people, increasing in number, who urge others to feel and voice dissent when frustration and hardship enter their lives. We know that the Church is made up of mortals, that priesthood leaders are fallible and some may not always handle their stewardships with suitable sensitivity.

"However, I want you to understand this plain truth: the gospel of Jesus Christ provides the only way for women or men to achieve their full potential as children of God."

Elder Ballard offered three suggestions for keeping eternal perspective clear and unimpaired:

Focus on the fundamentals. "Teach one another in Relief Society and in your visiting teaching the pure doctrines found in the scriptures and in the approved curriculum. The Holy Ghost will guide and affirm your teachings."

Maintain balance. "Free and open doctrinal discussion is important in our gospel scholarship, but remember that most things have been put into place by God and simply are not subject to change. The doctrines and principles of the Church are established only through revelation, not legislation. This is God's plan; we do not have the prerogative to alter or tamper with it.

"Our task is to integrate the principles of the gospel into our lives so that our lives will be in balance. When our lives are in balance, before you realize it, your life will be full of spiritual understanding that will confirm that your Heavenly Father loves you and that His plan is fair and true, and we should strive to understand it and enjoy living it."

Reach out to one another with love, for "charity never faileth." (Moro. 7:46.) "Reach out to those who suffer, listen to their concerns, be worthy of their trust and always keep their confidences."

A Relief Society choir from the Smithfield Utah Region provided music at the meeting, with Maralee Broadbent as director and Linda Margetts as organist. Maria Pilier, a BYU student from the Dominican Republic, offered the invocation, and Kate Kirkham of the Relief Society general board gave the benediction.

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