'We must stand firm in the faith'

Pres. Hunter: 'Only together can we accomplish work'

The Savior looked to the women of His time for a "comforting hand, a listening ear, a believing heart, a kind look, an encouraging word, loyalty - even in His hour of humiliation, agony and death." Today, there is a great need to rally the women of the Church "to stand with and for the Brethren in stemming the tide of evil that surrounds us and in moving forward the work of our Savior."

A hushed congregation listened attentively to this admonishment by President Howard W. Hunter during the General Relief Society Meeting Sept. 24.Speaking in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, the prophet added: "Together we must stand firm in the faith against greater numbers of other-minded people. Nephi said, `Ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.' (2 Ne. 31:20.)

"When we are obedient to God, we are a majority. But only together can we accomplish the work He has given us to do and be prepared for the day when we shall see Him."

President Hunter presided over and gave the final address during the meeting, which was telecast to more than 3,000 LDS meetinghouses in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, West Indies, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. Other speakers were Elaine L. Jack, Relief Society general president, who conducted the meeting; and her counselors, Chieko N. Okazaki and Aileen H. Clyde. They focused their remarks on charity, seeking Christ through study and faith, and on the Gospel Literacy Effort implemented by the Relief Society in 1992. (Please see related articles on this page and on pages 4-5.)

Also attending the meeting were President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency; President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Robert D. Hales of the Council of the Twelve; and Elder W. Mack Lawrence of the Seventy. Elder Lawrence and Elder Charles Didier of the Presidency of the Seventy, who was unable to attend, are priesthood advisers to the Relief Society.

Seated among the Relief Society general board members were Barbara W. Winder and Barbara B. Smith, former Relief Society general presidents.

A reverent atmosphere filled the Tabernacle as President Hunter was escorted to his seat on the stand. A smile lit up his face as he turned to the congregation while taking his seat. He motioned for all to be seated - a gesture followed by a ripple of warm response.

One poignant moment occurred as the choir, consisting of Relief Society sisters from the Pioneer, Liberty and Rose Park Utah regions, sang "Love One Another," accompanied by Bonnie Goodliffe on the organ. For the final verse, director Rosalind Hall brought in the congregation. The words of the hymn became an expression of what many seemed to be feeling.

Adding to the richness of the evening's music was flutist Lisa Bowen of the Oak Hills 8th Ward, Provo Utah Oak Hills Stake, who joined with the choir for a rendition of "Come Unto Him."

In his remarks, President Hunter spoke of how the Savior "demonstrated His love and concern for the women of His time. He honored the poor widow who gave two mites. He taught the woman of Samaria and revealed to her that He was the Messiah. He cast out seven devils from Mary Magdalene and forgave the woman taken in adultery. He healed the daughter of the Greek woman; He healed the woman stooped and bent for 18 years, and He healed Peter's mother when she was sick with a fever.

"He restored the dead son to his mother, the daughter of Jairus to her parents, and Lazarus to his grieving sisters, whom He counted among his closest friends. As He hung on the cross, his heart went out to His mother, and He placed her in the care of His beloved disciple, John.

"Women prepared His body for burial. It was Mary to whom He first appeared as the resurrected Lord, and it was she to whom He entrusted the delivery of the glorious message to His disciples that He had risen.

"Is there any reason to think that He cares any less about women today?" President Hunter asked.

"Many today struggle with the challenges of life," he continued. "Given the perplexities, turmoil and evils that are about us, it is natural for us to reach out for someone who can help. Some women long for that inspiration which can comfort the heart, bind the wounds and give knowledge sufficient to point the way when there seems no reliable way to turn.

"But we are not left comfortless!" President Hunter pointed out. "We have the scriptures, which contain enduring words of a loving Father in Heaven, who tells us that we are His first priority. He said, `For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring the pass to immortality and eternal life of man.' " (Moses 1:39.)

"As we labor with our might," said President Hunter, "to minister to needs in the same caring way that our Lord did among the women of His day, so we entreat you to minister with your powerful influence for good in strengthening our families, our Church and our communities. As you are anxiously engaged in good causes, you can show others that by taking Christ into their lives and accepting His gospel, with its saving ordinances and covenants, they can reach their true potential in this life and in the hereafter.

"Those who follow Christ seek to follow His example. His suffering in behalf of our sins, shortcomings, sorrows and sicknesses should motivate us to similarly reach out in charity and compassion to those around us. It is most appropriate that the motto of the longest-standing women's organization in the world - the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - is `Charity Never Faileth.' "

The prophet counseled: `You are chosen to be faithful women of God in our day, to stand above pettiness, gossip, selfishness, lewdness and all other forms of ungodliness.

"Recognize your divine birthright as daughters of our Heavenly Father. Be one who heals with your words as well as your hands. Seek to know the will of the Lord in your life, and then say, as did that wonderful exemplar Mary, the mother of Jesus, `Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.' " (Luke 1:38.)

Throughout President Hunter's remarks, the Relief Society sisters listening sat quietly; some wrote notes in notebooks or journals. The feelings of reverence and unity seemed especially strong as the prophet was escorted from the stand at the close of the meeting. As those in attendance stood in respect, strands of "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet" could be heard from a corner of the Tabernacle - then all joined in. Even after the First Presidency had exited the building, the congregation remained standing in hushed reverence for several seconds before slowly dispersing.

Offering the invocation and benediction for the meeting were Jeanie McAllister, Relief Society education counselor in the Salt Lake Parleys Stake, and Aso Philipoom, Relief Society president in the Salt Lake Holladay South Stake, respectively.

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