ROME — The greatest hero of women is the Savior Jesus Christ, said Sister Wendy Nelson during an interview with an Italian newspaper correspondent on March 11.
Because of that “it is great to be a woman in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Sister Nelson, the wife of President Russell M. Nelson, and Sister Kristen M. Oaks, the wife of President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency, met with Paolo Mastrolilli, the New York correspondent for the national Italian newspaper La Stampa.
The interview in the lobby of the Church’s new Rome Italy Temple followed an interview with President Nelson, President Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring.
In response to a question about the roles and responsibilities of women in the Church, Sister Nelson told Mastrolilli that women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints actually do many things that women pastors in other religious organizations do. “We teach doctrine to men and women; we pray from the pulpit; we lead organizations for women, youth, and children; we serve as missionaries,” said Sister Nelson.
Responding to a question about the role of parents and families, Sister Nelson said for 30 years she worked as a marriage and family therapist to help families that were struggling. Church doctrine, she said, teaches that every person on earth is a first-generation son, or daughter of heavenly parents. “That’s where we start with family is to say, God is our Father.”
Italian correspondent Paolo Mastrolilli also had an exclusive interview with the First Presidency. Here's what they talked about.
A nation, she continued, is only as strong as its families. “If we have really bad families, we have a really bad nation,” she said. “The strength of a mother and a father in the home to help raise children is fundamental.”
Sister Nelson said secularization, addiction and pornography are hurting the family. But Church doctrine teaches members to follow the law of chastity, avoid addictions, to stay close to their family and to reach out and support those in the community.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives its members a great sense of meaning, said Sister Nelson. Church members do not say, “Why am I here? They know why they are here. They are here to receive a body. They are here to go through trials, a time of probation. They are here to help other people.”
Mastrolilli then asked Sister Oaks what the Church teaches children.
Pointing to a painting of the Savior hanging in the temple lobby, Sister Oaks said the Church teaches children about Jesus Christ — “how we would act, how we would live, how we would love.”
Sister Oaks, a former Primary president, told Mastrolilli, “We teach them to love, we teach them that their families are forever, that they will come to (the temple) to learn of God, and they will make promises to God, and that they will receive blessings.”
Children should be taught “that they don’t ever have to be afraid because when they pray to Heavenly Father, He hears and He answers and He is there for us.”
Pointing out that both she and Sister Nelson hold doctorate degrees, Sister Oaks spoke of the importance of education for Latter-day Saint women. Quoting Brigham Young, she emphasized that women need an education so they can teach the children.
“In our Church, all people are equal,” she said. “We come to (the temple), and we make equal promises to God.”
Sister Oaks said, “I know that I can stand by my husband as a woman that he respects and loves.”
Latter-day Saint couples teach that respect to their children.
Children need tools, she said. “They need to be educated, they need to be cared for, they need to be put in safe environments.”
As a result, each week the Church gathers the children together and “we teach them music, we teach them how to pray, we teach them how to love each other. It’s a wonderful thing. ...
“We teach them about everything that is important to us — about chastity, about education, about family — and we teach them from music.”
Children also have the opportunity to speak publicly in the Church from the time they are small. “It makes a very dramatic difference, because if you say it from the time you are little, then it comes to your heart. It’s not only just in your head,” she said.