BYU WOMEN’S CONFERENCE – May 1999
Every Spring, Brigham Young University hosts a Women’s Conference, where women from all over the world gather to listen to stories and counsel and words from the prophets, specific to women and mothers.
When I got the invitation in my inbox yesterday for this year’s Women’s Conference, to be held virtually, I remembered one of my favorite Women’s Conference addresses, from years and years ago, with Marjorie Pay Hinckley. I found it! I laughed, listening to Sister Hinckley. And I cried.
For this post, I just wanted to share some of my favorite parts of that address. Enjoy:
“I hope that all of you find joy in your children. If not, you are in trouble!”
“I did my best to keep their summers unstructured when they were young, so they’d have time to explore and lie on their backs, and listen to the birds. They built tree houses and ran through the fields, they spent their summer nights playing kick the can. And when fall came and school began, I sent them off to school with a twinge of sadness…
One summer day, our oldest boy turned up missing. There was work to be done. And as the hours ticked away, I practiced the speech I’d give him when he came home at meal time – which I knew he would. Finally, when he came, I said, ‘Where have you been?’ And he said, ‘Down in the hollow.’ ‘And what have you been doing down in the hollow?’ ‘Nothing.’ For some reason I did not pursue the conversation I’d planned. Years later, he was returned from his mission and a senior at university. It was finals week, and he was under a lot of pressure to get into the graduate school of his choice. Things were not going very well with his girlfriend. The pressures of adult-life were beginning to be felt. I watched him as he drove home from school one afternoon. He got out of the car and kicked a clod of dirt. He came in the kitchen, straddle a chair backwards and said, ‘Mom, I had a wonderful childhood, didn’t I?’ And I thought, ‘I’m glad he enjoyed it!’ I said, ‘I hope you thought you did have a wonderful childhood. You did complain a lot about the work you had to do.’ ‘Oh, it was wonderful,’ he said, ‘The long summer days when you could lie on your back in the hallow and listen to the birds sing and watch the ants build their castles.’ The memory of a peaceful summer’s day sustained him when the pressures of adult life began to crowd in.”
“Do you remember in the story of Mordecai and Esther, Esther was to go to the king, in a effort to save her people from destruction. She knew that the punishment for appearing before the king without an invitation was death. Mordecai responded to her by saying, ‘Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’ (Esther 4:14). That message applies to each of us. Women today find ourselves in different circumstances. We may ask, ‘Is life fair? Was this what I was born to do?’ Perhaps our greatest quest is to live worthy to know the Lord’s will concerning us – what we are meant to do. During WWII we were encouraged to plant gardens. My husband dug 3000 holes in the property next to our house, and he planted 3000 tomato plants. You can just guess what that did to me. He hoed them and he weeded them, and he irrigated them at 4:30 in the morning. But when the tomatoes were ripe, I spent my days picking them. Boxes full. We put up a sign: TOMATOES FOR SALE. Toward the end of the crop, we couldn’t give them away. My back ached. And I could have said at that time, ‘Is this what I was born to do??!’ But the tomatoes went on people’s food shelves and the money we earned payed the taxes on our home that year, to shelter our children. Our efforts had made a difference…
Nellie was my grandfather’s sister. She never married. And she kind of thought that her life was a waste because she had no posterity. She was a nurse. And when mother’s babies were born, she would come up from American Fork and she would move in with us for a week or two, and she would take care of mother and the baby. When my mother was 91 and was floating in and out of consciousness, she kept say, ‘Oh, if only Nellie were here. She could make me comfortable.’ I’ve thought about that a great deal. We all have our place. We all have our own unique opportunity to make someone happy and comfortable. The Gospel calls us to stretch ourselves, to embrace our talents and to concentrate on our strengths. To be productive. And to reach our full potential. Let us not waste our time in bitterness saying, ‘Is THIS what I was born to do??!’ But rather as Esther was asked, ‘Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?'”
Sister Hinckley closes with a quote that she has said for many years, and I have grown up hearing:
“Oh, how we need each other!”
This past General Conference, there were a couple of addresses that brought the same thought to mind: I’ve received gifts that I couldn’t have gotten on my own. Life, first of all. Second chances. My husband, my children. Oh, how we need each other!
Many years ago, my sister-in-law, Amelia, typed up a very long document, listing all the people she could think of in her life, that had been formative in her life. It was inspiring for me to read. But, I would bet you anything, it was even more inspiring to write! Oh, how we need each other!
I want to something similar. I want to have that experience myself – to be so full of gratitude that I don’t have enough paper to write the good that people have done for me, but to try anyway. Oh, how we need each other!
I will do this. But tonight, let me start with my Savior, Jesus Christ. He is both my Savior and my Redeemer. In His mercy, He has shaded me, in His love, He has lighted the way before me in the dark. He has offered me a better way, and then offered it again and again. He is my Exemplar. And His grace is sufficient. “O how great the goodness of our God” (2 Nephi 9:10). Oh, how I need Thee!