Women are integral to the governance and work of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve during a devotional held in the Marriott Center at Brigham Young University on Tuesday. This year marks the 91st year of the annual conference that typically brings more than 20,000 people from around the world to the university’s campus.
“A woman’s sphere of influence is a unique sphere, one that cannot be duplicated by men,” Elder Ballard said. Because of that, women have an important responsibility in strengthening the kingdom of God on the earth.
Elder Ballard shared five key points regarding women and their critical role in building the church.
1. Both women and men are spirit daughters and sons of a loving Heavenly Father and he has created a plan for all who choose to follow to return to him. An important and eternal part of that plan is gender.
“Most everyone has family or friends who have been caught up in various, troubling contemporary social issues,” he said. “Arguing about the issues generally does not bring any resolution and, in fact, can create contention. There are some questions about the church’s position on sensitive issues that are hard to answer to anyone’s satisfaction. However, when we seek the Lord in prayer about how to feel and what to do in these situations, the impression comes: Do you believe in Jesus Christ and do you follow him and the Father?”
It is by focusing on belief in the Lord that will bring reassurance and encouragement to individuals as they move forward in what they are asked to do.
“When all is said and done, each of us has the privilege of choosing whether or not we will believe that God is our Father, that Jesus is the Christ and that they have a plan designed to help us return home to them. This, of course, requires faith, which is why faith is the first principle of the gospel,” he said.
2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s church, and is governed by and through priesthood authority and priesthood keys. All men and women serve under the direction of those who have keys, but the priesthood power is available to all. This is how the Lord governs his church, he said.
Repeating some of his talk from general conference in April earlier this year, Elder Ballard said that although men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, they are not the priesthood.
“Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. Why are men ordained to the priesthood offices and not women?” he asked, later explaining that when all is said and done, the Lord has not revealed why he has organized his church as he has.
“Let us not forget that approximately one-half of all of the teaching that takes place in the church is done by sisters,” he said. “Much of the leadership provided is from our sisters. Many service opportunities and activities are planned and directed by women. The counsel and other participation of women in ward and stake councils, and in general councils at church headquarters, provide needed insight, wisdom and balance.”
3. Men and women are equal in God’s eyes and in the eyes of the church, but equal does not mean that they are the same.
“Men and women have different gifts, different strengths, different points of view and inclinations,” he said. “That is one of the fundamental reasons why we need each other. It takes a man and a woman to create a family, and it takes men and women to carry out the work of the Lord in the church.”
4. When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which is by definition priesthood power. Access to the power and blessings of the priesthood is available to all of God’s children, he said.
Blessings of the priesthood are not limited to men alone, they are available to all who have entered the waters of baptism and subsequently received their endowment in a temple. All who enter the House of the Lord officiate in the ordinances of the priesthood. This applies to men and women alike, he said.
5. The world needs women of the church who know the doctrine of Christ and who can bear testimony of the gospel truths.
All — women, men, young adults, youth, young boys and girls — have the Lord and his church to defend, protect and spread throughout the earth, Elder Ballard said. More distinctive, influential voices of faith from women are needed — for only women can show the world what women of God who have made covenants look like and believe.
“None of us can afford to stand by and watch the purposes of God be diminished and pushed aside,” he said. “I invite particularly you sisters here and throughout the church to seek the guidance of heaven in knowing what you can do to let your voice of faith and testimony be heard.”
Marianne Holman is a reporter for the LDS Church News in Salt Lake City. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org