For Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, there have been moments of challenge and choice throughout her life but the result has always been added blessings and tremendous joy. Her father, Harold Hillam, always taught her that with the help of the Lord, she could do hard things. “There are no limits,” her father would say.
At age 15, she attended an activity where her leaders encouraged the youth to follow the prophet’s recent counsel to avoid dating before the age of 16. Bonnie had just asked a “cute boy” to a girls’ choice dance, but her immediate choice was to follow her leaders.
After the meeting, she found the boy and uninvited him to the dance. “It was kind of embarrassing,” Sister Cordon recalled. “And of course, I didn’t say it very well.”
Unfortunately, the young man did not respond very well. Still, as the recently sustained Young Women general president looks back, Sister Cordon is glad she was obedient to the counsel of her leaders, even when it was uncomfortable.
Having faith in God and confidence in her ability to do hard things was part of her life from the very beginning. She grew up on a small farm in southeast Idaho. In addition to helping her dad plant crops, care for livestock and move sprinkler pipe, Sister Cordon recalls snuggling next to her mom in the early mornings to read scriptures, saying family prayer, holding family home evening and going to church every Sunday.
When she was a senior in high school, her father accepted the call to serve as a mission president in Portugal. She moved to a new country and struggled to learn the language, then to add to the challenge, she was called to serve there as a full-time missionary.
“I did not want to serve in Portugal because I could not speak Portuguese,” Sister Cordon said. “I did not pick it up easily.”
But once again, she knew she could do hard things.
With much patience, hard work and prayer, Sister Cordon was able to learn the language. For her, serving a mission was life-changing. “I will be forever grateful that a mission was in my plan,” she said. “Even though it was hard.”
Her ability to speak Portuguese blessed her many years later as she and her husband, Derek Lane Cordon, were called to preside over the Brazil Curitiba Mission. The message found in Doctrine and Covenants 123:17 was one she shared often with missionaries. “Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”
The verse encapsulates lessons learned throughout her life. “We can do hard things, but we can also do them joyfully,” said Sister Cordon, “it is a truth I hope to share with young women around the world.”
Today’s young women are being asked to rise up and move the work of the Lord forward, she said, adding “and we can do it.”
She has observed “the goodness, faith, and devotion” of young women from across the globe during her travels in the Primary general presidency prior to being sustained as Young Women general president in the April 2018 general conference.
Tonya is a young woman Sister Cordon met while visiting India. The 14-year-old’s father was beaten and persecuted in Afghanistan because his mother had Christian beliefs. Tonya, her parents and five younger siblings sought asylum in India, but as refugees, none of the children were able to attend school.
Tonya saw a flier for free English classes and decided to attend. There she met the missionaries and she and her family joined the Church. Through a missionary couple, Tonya learned to play the piano and is now her branch pianist. She is also teaching her five younger siblings to speak English through Primary songs.
Tonya is just one example Sister Cordon has of the tremendous impact young women can have in the lives of the people around them.
“Young women in the Church can use their unique talents to comfort those that stand in need of comfort, mourn with them, and stand in holy places,” she said. “They’ll make homes even more holy every time they enter because of their goodness. They are needed in the kingdom, and we’re excited to see them answer our prophet’s invitation to work and serve.”
Now is a “glorious time to be engaged in the work of the Lord,” Sister Cordon said. “He knows our strengths and He has great confidence in us. How remarkable to feel this trust and to be invited to act.”
Even as young women are faced with something new and challenging, “we can stretch, we can grow, and tremendous joy awaits.”