‘You are the epitome of love’

Paul's rallying call to Timothy — "Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" — is equally applicable today, declared President Thomas S. Monson to the women of the Church Sept. 29.

During the annual General Relief Society Meeting in the Conference Center, President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, recited 1 Timothy 4:12, then shared a three-part formula "to serve as an unfailing guide to meet this challenge issued by the Apostle Paul:"

  • Fill your mind with truth.
  • Fill your heart with love.
  • Fill your life with service.

President Gordon B. Hinckley presided over the meeting. Also present were President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency; President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elders M. Russell Ballard and Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve; and Elder Cecil O. Samuelson of the Presidency of the Seventy.

President Monson was the main speaker at the meeting. Other speakers were Relief Society General President Mary Ellen W. Smoot and her counselors, Virginia U. Jensen and Sheri L. Dew. During her introduction, Sister Smoot, who conducted, called this a "historic moment, as we hold this meeting for the first time in the Conference Center."

Nearly 21,000 women packed the Conference Center on the warm fall evening, while others watched via Church satellite in LDS meetinghouses throughout the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and in Mexico, Central America and South America. The meeting was also heard over LDS Radio Network and received via the Internet at www.lds.org.

In his address, President Monson spoke to the sisters of the Church in his usual warm fashion. Referring to the formula to live the admonition of the Apostle Paul, he emphasized points to remember:

"Fill your mind with truth. Truth is found by searching, studying and living the revealed word of God. We adopt error when we mingle with error. We learn truth when we associate with truth."

President Monson related the pioneer-times account of Catherine Curtis Spencer, whose husband, Orson Spencer, entreated his wife's parents in Boston, Mass., to take her in while he prepared their home in the west. She was ill and he worried she would not survive the harsh conditions of the exodus. Her parents wrote in their reply that they would take her in only if she renounced her faith.

"Women of Relief Society, you truly are angels of mercy." President Thomas S. Monson.
“Women of Relief Society, you truly are angels of mercy.” President Thomas S. Monson. Credit: Photos by Scott G. Winterton

She would not and died — "without a word of complaint" — in a wagon while other pioneer women held milk pans over her head to protect her from the rain.

"Though we may not necessarily be called upon to forfeit our lives, let us remember that He hears our silent prayer. He who observes our unheralded acts will reward us openly when the need comes," President Monson said.

He urged women to prepare for uncertainties. "Statistics reveal that at some time, because of the illness or death of your husband or because of economic necessity, you may find yourself in the role of financial provider. I urge you to pursue your education and learn marketable skills so that, should an emergency arise, you are prepared to provide."

"Fill your heart with love. Women of Relief Society, you truly are angels of mercy. This is demonstrated on a grand scale through the humanitarian outreach to the cold, the hungry and to suffering wherever it is found. Your labors are also very much in evidence in our wards and in our stakes and our missions. Every bishop in the Church could testify of this truth.

"You are the epitome of love," President Monson continued. "You brighten your homes, you lead with kindness your children; and while your husbands may be head of the home, you surely are the heart of the home. Together, through respect for each other and sharing of responsibilities, you make an unbeatable team.

"To me it is significant that when children need care and loving attention, they turn to you — their mothers. Mother's love brings out the best in a child. You become the model for your children to follow."

"Fill your life with service." President spoke of two separate examples, one featuring a teacher, the other a missionary couple.

The teacher was Baur Dee Sheffield, who had no children of her own but expressed her love for children through devotion to young women she taught each week. After she died at age 27, her Mutual girls placed flowers on her grave each Memorial Day. At first 10 girls went, then five, then two, and eventually only one carried on the tradition of leaving with the flowers a note, "To Baur Dee, from your girls." It was years before her family learned who Baur Dee's girls were. President Monson quoted American author Thornton Wilder, who said, "The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude."

President Monson spoke of Juliusz and Dorothy Fussek, missionaries called to serve in Poland. Brother Fussek had been born in Poland. He knew the language and loved the people. Sister Fussek was English and initially spoke no Polish. She knew little of Poland.

"Trusting in the Lord, they embarked on their assignment. The living conditions were primitive, the work lonely, their task immense. A mission had not at that time been fully established in Poland. The assignment given the Fusseks was to prepare the way so that the mission could be expanded and gain permanence, that other missionaries be called to serve, people taught, converts baptized, branches established and chapels erected.

"Did Elder and Sister Fussek despair because of the enormity of their assignment? Not for a moment. They knew their calling was from God, they prayed for His divine help, and they devoted themselves wholeheartedly to their work. They remained in Poland not 18 months, but rather served for five years."

President Monson then described a meeting he and Elder Russell M. Nelson of the the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy attended with Minister Adam Wopatka of the Polish government. In attendance was also Elder Fussek. Minister Wopatka told the gathering, "You church is welcome here. You may build your buildings, you may send your missionaries. You are welcome in Poland. This man," pointing to Juliusz Fussek, "has served your church well, as has his wife. You can be grateful for their example and their work."

In conclusion, President Monson urged: "Like the Fusseks, let us do what we should do in the work of the Lord. Then we can, with Juliusz and Dorothy Fussek, echo the Psalm: 'My help cometh from the Lord.' "

Music for the evening was provided by a choir of Relief Society sisters from the Salt Lake City area, directed by Rebecca Wilberg and accompanied by Linda Margetts. The invocation and benediction were offered, respectively, by LaNell L. Moore and Olivia T. King of the Relief Society general board.