2012 BYU Campus Education Week: Remarkable women


As a young girl, Jana Peterson Staples, former member of the Relief Society general board, learned to turn to the scriptures in times of trial.

When she was 7 years old, her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and told she had a 5 percent chance to live. Every night her father and mother would pray and read scriptures together.

Jana P. Staples speaks during BYU Campus Education Week.
Jana P. Staples speaks during BYU Campus Education Week. Photo: Photo by Rachel Sterzer

"We saw what a tremendous strength we received through the lives of people in the scriptures that have challenges," she said. "That was the beginning of my testimony of having to learn from men and women in the scriptures. These patterns and principles have helped me throughout my life."

Sister Staples based the majority of her remarks for her session of BYU Campus Education Week titled "What Remarkable Women of the Scriptures Can Teach Us about Meeting Today's Challenges," on the five foundational principles of true conversion shared by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve in the April 2004 general conference.

"It was clear to me that as we become truly converted we will prepare to have a greater measure of the Spirit with us to lead us and to guide us," she said. "The women of the scriptures, from Eve to Emma, have lived the same foundational principles taught by Elder Christofferson and were better prepared to meet the challenges of their day."

1. Lay aside any feeling of pride.

Using the examples of Eve; Jochebed, the mother of Moses; Mary, the mother of the Savior; Rebeckah and Sariah from the Book of Mormon, Sister Staples illustrated how each of them submitted their will to the Lord and did what He asked of them.

Mary's response, for example, to the Angel Gabriel's announcement that she would bear the Son of God showed her humility. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:36).

"The answer to our questions will be the same as it was to Mary — 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee' (Luke 1:35). We will have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and it will magnify us in ways we never imagined it could," she said.

2. Study the gospel — more than just reading.

Sister Staples used the example of Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was commanded in Doctrine and Covenants Section 25 to do more than just read the scriptures.

"And thou shalt be ordained under his hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit" (vs. 7).

"When we speak from the scriptures," Sister Staples explained, "we speak truth."

3. Pray to be filled with the love of Christ.

Sister Staples gave the example of five women who exemplified the attribute of Christlike love: Hannah, from the Old Testament; Mary and Martha, and the woman with an issue of blood, from the New Testament; and Lucy Mack Smith, mother of Joseph Smith.

Through the love and devotion to the Lord exhibited by these women, Sister Staples showed that "we can trust and wait upon Him to help us. … We can be hopeful that the Lord will take care of us."

4. Practice the gospel often.

Mary and Martha are wonderful examples of discipleship, Sister Staples said.

Mary sat at Jesus' feet to hear His teachings, while Martha prepared a meal but Martha wanted Mary to help. Jesus gently rebuked Martha saying, "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

Sister Staples pointed out that the Savior's admonition to "choose the good part" is also His invitation to become a part of His work.

"Just as the Savior invited Mary and Martha to participate in building the kingdom, it is the same for all of us, to enact the most fundamental part of the gospel law and that is the law of service. As we serve others, I know that we ourselves are healed and we become grateful and then we have an eternal perspective we wouldn't have otherwise."

5. Offer the Lord the gift of a broken heart or repentant spirit.

Sister Staples shared the story of Miriam, the sister of Moses, who was called a prophetess, but murmured against the prophet Moses and was struck with leprosy. She repented and was healed.

"If the Lord knows [we]have a broken and repentant heart, as Miriam, He can help us and strengthen us in all ways to carry those in our homes and those we serve in the Church."

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