In this most recent general conference, we received many invitations from prophets of God: to search out and find our own family names to take to the temple, to be worthy and willing to enter the temple to complete that important work, to reach out in Christlike ways to bless those around us, to strengthen our own testimony and become truly converted, and to prepare earlier for missionary service. Immediately following general conference, after the new guidelines and age requirements to serve missions were announced by President Monson, several young women stopped me upon leaving the Conference Center and each excitedly declared, "Sister Dalton, we are prepared and worthy to serve!" It came as no surprise to me nor does it come as a surprise to our presidency. We have witnessed firsthand how the young women have been rising in their faith, virtue and testimony, and that they are indeed prepared and worthy to answer the invitation of a prophet.
We have seen thousands of our young women over the last weeks and months. They do not look like the worldly images of women on billboards or magazines. They are modest, confident and happy. They are articulate and different in happy ways. They seem to know who they are and whose they are. The Young Women theme has gone into their hearts and is reflected in their countenances and in their actions. They shine!
What has happened to ignite this fire of faith? Perhaps we can go back a few years and underscore how the Lord has been preparing His precious daughters "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14). First, the value of virtue was added to the Young Women theme and values. This prophetic addition seemed so important that many wondered why it was not there all along. But I believe that the Lord reserved it for this time when the opposition to virtue, meaning sexual purity, would be the greatest. The morally polluted culture in which today's young women navigate has minimized this most important value. The meaning of this word has been obscured to mean a compilation of many values and to denote strength. However, at the very core of virtue is purity — in thought, in action, in morals. It is only through that kind of purity that true strength can be derived.
In a time when the world is going environmentally "green," I see the young women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints going "morally clean."
A requirement to read the Book of Mormon was also added to the Personal Progress project for the value of virtue. Young women are now asked to read the entire Book of Mormon and write in their journals their feelings and observations as they learn about how societies were affected by their lack of virtue or their return to virtuous living. This reading of the Book of Mormon, I believe, infuses a young woman with the importance of the value of virtue in her personal life, but it also fills her with a testimony of the Savior, of His prophets and His gospel. As young women read the Book of Mormon, they learn of other youth who served as missionaries, of wars against evil, of family challenges and triumphs, what it means to stand as a witness, and the importance of making and keeping covenants.
Another addition to the tools that can be used by parents and leaders to prepare and strengthen the young women for their divine roles, is the addition of a revised For the Strength of Youth booklet. These inspired standards will assist young women in their choices so that they can avoid some of the deceptions the world offers. I believe that this is not by chance but by divine design and that living these standards will enable today's young women to make choices that will make all the difference in their happiness and freedom. Living the standards described in For the Strength of Youth, helps youth, and indeed everyone, qualify for the companionship and guidance of the Holy Ghost. As these precious daughters of God navigate in "enemy territory" as described by President Boyd K. Packer, living the standards with exactness is a protection and a great blessing. (See "Counsel to Youth," Ensign, October. 2011.)
Living the standards will help young women remain worthy of a temple recommend. They can now receive their own limited-use recommend by having an interview with their bishop once a year. In the last two general conferences, young women and young men worldwide have been invited by prophets, seers and revelators to search out their ancestors and take their own family names to the temple to perform baptismal ordinances for them. (See Elder David A. Bednar, "The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn," Ensign, October 2011, and Elder Richard G. Scott, "The Joy of Redeeming the Dead," Ensign, November 2012.) As more and more temples are built, the youth will be blessed and protected against the deceptions of the world as they engage in the work of salvation for their own family members and use technology for the purpose of turning the hearts of the children to the fathers and making their salvation possible. Doing this work will be a protection to our youth and it is clear that the youth will play a great role in hastening the Lord's work in these latter-days.
Finally, we now have a new approach to learning and teaching for the youth. Come, Follow Me: Learning Resources for Youth (see www.lds.org/youth/learn) which strengthen parents and families as they study true doctrines and apply them in their personal life and in their home and family. This resource will also strengthen leaders and lift their level of doctrinal understanding. The youth will be strengthened as they are allowed to take responsibility for their learning, become agents and act for themselves, share feelings, ask questions, apply the doctrine in their lives and teach one another. I believe that this new way of discovering answers to their relevant questions and learning by the Spirit will help young women become articulate advocates of the family and of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This learning resource will assist parents in preparing their daughters to be worthy to enter the temple, make sacred covenants and fulfill their divine purpose here on earth.
All of these things combine to bless and enable the young women to receive and recognize the guidance of the Holy Ghost in their lives. It is this companionship that teaches and testifies of Christ and shows them all things that they should do (see 2 Nephi 32:5).
While the age when a young woman can serve a mission has been lowered to age 19, a mission may not be right for every young woman. However, preparation to teach and testify of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ is important for everyone along with preparation to make and keep sacred temple covenants.
The Lord loves and trusts His youth. This is evident throughout scriptural history. Mormon was 10 when Ammaron approached him and told him to begin his preparation to keep the sacred records. Joseph Smith was 14. Moroni was 25 when he was asked to lead an army. So many others who were asked to do hard things were also in their youth. Perhaps we have greatly underestimated the capacity and abilities of our youth. The Lord loves and trusts them. They are magnificent. They are noble and great and now is the time for them to "arise and shine forth that [their] light may be a standard for the nations" (Doctrine and Covenants 115:5).
The powerful example of the young women in response to a prophetic announcement has caused me to ponder a personal question: "Will I always be prepared and ready when a prophet of God extends an invitation that will require me to leave my comfort zone?"
It is my prayer that we will all be mindful of the magnificent things that are happening in the Church, and the world today, and that each of us will be prepared and worthy to serve as the Lord hastens His work in these magnificent latter days!