PROVO, Utah The story of Esther marks "the convergence of an important woman with an important moment, an important time," declared Sister Patricia T. Holland in the closing session May 4 of the 2007 Women's Conference at BYU.
Standing beside her husband, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, for a joint presentation in the Marriott Center, Sister Holland added: "We want to take the next few minutes emphasizing what our time, what this time is, and how we, the women of the Church, can seize it, Esther-like, to turn it to advantage."
Speaking to thousands gathered for this final general session, Elder and Sister Holland delivered an address filled with humor, tenderness and sensitivity, and finishing with assurances from Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve that brought tears to many in the vast audience. In fact, during the closing hymn, "How Firm a Foundation," women throughout the Marriott Center began to stand, in twos and threes at first, then in groups until by the final verse the entire congregation was standing. Many commented afterward about the power of the Spirit felt in the meeting.
Commenting on the number of women in the congregation that rainy spring afternoon, Elder Holland suggested that many husbands that evening would be eating Top Ramen noodles. Upon this, Sister Holland held up two packages of Top Ramen, with the audience erupting in laughter.
Then, turning serious, Elder Holland declared this is a time for gratitude and optimism. "Ours is the most blessed, the most abundant, the most glorious time in the history of the world. We really do mean 'fulness' when we speak of the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times."
With this privilege, however, Elder Holland explained, comes a "responsibility that has never come in exactly this way to any other dispensation of Church members. We are the people in the eternal scheme of things who must prepare the Church of the Lamb for the arrival of the Lamb.... What a tremendous responsibility! This means that before this is over we have to look like His Church members would look, and act like His Church members would act. This will require all of us to move closer and closer to the heart of the gospel, to true principles of discipleship and faith, qualities of the heart and spirit. In short, it means we have to live and be, to actually demonstrate what it is we are always so quick to say we 'know' in our testimony meetings.... As a people we must increasingly strive for an inner quality, striving for profound faith, deep spirituality, striving to live as disciples of Christ would live."
To illustrate, Sister Holland shared the account of her great-grandmother, who joined the Church in Switzerland and immigrated to Utah, eventually settling in Enterprise a place totally opposite of the "green land of lakes and alpine beauty they had left behind."
This pioneer woman harvested some pine tree seedlings and planted them around the small Church building in Enterprise and then carried water every day in buckets from her home three blocks away to water the seedlings, arduous work for a little woman with osteoporosis.
Continuing the story, Elder Holland said his wife's great-grandmother often took her 10-year-old granddaughter with her when watering the little trees. One day, one of the brethren in the community stopped her and commented on the "useless journey" she took each day for trees she would never see grow to any size during her lifetime.
"Well, little Sister Barlocker rose to the full 4 feet 8 inches of her stature, looked this good brother in the eye and said, 'I know these trees will not grow very large in my lifetime. But if I stay with it, they will live and they will grow. And although I will not enjoy their beauty and their shade, this little girl will. I am doing this for her."
That little girl was Sister Holland's mother. Sister Holland then recalled playing as a child under those trees in Enterprise as she grew up. Her great-grandmother's efforts, she added, taught her wonderful lessons. "First, speaking of a time of gratitude, I am so grateful that she did something for her posterity that was hard and demanding, but which she knew would bless their lives and bring them happiness. And, of course, that wasn't just by planting those lovely trees. She taught her children and her grandchildren the gospel, and she lived it every way, every day of her life, and brought pure, uncompromised righteousness to us in a way that none of her posterity could ever deny. In that sense she nourished us even more faithfully than she nourished those trees."
Emphasizing that she and her husband did not want women to feel overwhelmed, Sister Holland reminded them, "If the work of true righteousness yet before us seems monumental, remember, please remember, that we have monumental help. We, as women, have too often thought we are 'little' people with little influence but the Lord keeps pleading with us not to think that way, not when we are His divine daughters on His errand."
Calling the women in the Marriott Center "our beloved associates in this work," Elder Holland expressed the plea that "you never underestimate or undervalue your divine role both as personal, powerful contributors to the kingdom of God in your own right, and as the nurturers and benefactors of His 'little ones,' those who will yet have such a divine impact on the unfolding of this work. On the outside," he said, "we may seem to be little everyday souls with everyday problems, but we are, in fact, the 'everyday' instruments God has always used to do His work and perform His miracles."
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