Sunday, July 19, 2009

On callings and stealing

I got a calling today! I haven't had a calling since I was released as RS President in our last ward in November. Thankfully, I'm not RS Pres, and this is my first calling ever that is not in the Relief Society at all, and contrary to my biggest worries, it is not in Primary or Nursery either. I am the new Mia Maid Advisor! I am so excited to work with the Young Women (and maybe go to Girls' Camp next year, hence my post last week...)

Anyway, here is a talk I gave in May in our new ward on Virtue. I should have known it would get me a calling in the Young Women! (There is a particularly funny part about accidentally stealing a skirt, below with the **stars** , it could be a post all its own...)


It hasn’t yet been ten years since I graduated from the Young Women’s program, but in that time two significant additions have been made to the Young Women’s theme. First to be added was the statement that we are preparing to “strengthen home and family” and the second and fairly recent is the addition of the eighth value, Virtue. It now reads:

'We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places" (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, Integrity and Virtue.We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.'

It comes as no surprise to me that being prepared to strengthen home and family is something that requires virtue.

When I was given the subject of my talk for today, I knew immediately that the most recent General Young Women’s meeting would have been about virtue, having just added virtue as a Young Women value. The addresses from that meeting and from Sister Dalton’s address last October are the source of my talk. And while virtue is often something we think of only in the context of young women preparing for marriage, I hope today to discuss the quality as it relates to your life, man or woman, young or old.

'Virtue “is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards.” (Preach My Gospel (2004), 118) It encompasses chastity and moral purity. Virtue begins in the heart and in the mind. It is nurtured in the home. It is the accumulation of thousands of small decisions and actions. Virtue is a word we don’t hear often in today’s society, but the Latin root word virtus means strength. Virtuous women and men possess a quiet dignity and inner strength. They are confident because they are worthy to receive and be guided by the Holy Ghost.[i]'

It would not be possible to list comprehensively the influences that surround us requiring special attention to the value of Virtue. You know what they are. You know what you see and hear every day—around every corner. When you turn on the TV or the radio, do an internet search, peruse the magazine covers in the checkout line, watch a movie. There are so many things that represent low or no moral standards.

The Destroyer seeks to take advantage of this time in what Spencer W Kimball described as this, the great day of his power,[ii] so as covenant people, with the knowledge of the true and restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we are held to an even higher standard of righteousness. We must strive daily to exemplify virtuous attributes.

'What does it mean to return to virtue? We are calling for a return to moral purity and chastity. Virtue is purity. Virtue is chastity. The word virtue has also been defined as “integrity and moral excellence, power and strength” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Virtue,” at; see also Luke 8:46). The core of a virtuous life is sexual purity, and yet this definition has almost been erased by the world. The prophet Mormon taught that chastity and virtue are “most dear and precious above all things” (Moroni 9:9). They go together. You cannot have one without the other, and “we believe in being … virtuous” (Articles of Faith 1:13).[iii]'

And let me add to that list that the price of a virtuous woman is far above rubies. Prov. 31: 10

'Virtue brings peace, strength of character, and happiness in this life. Our Heavenly Father knew that we would be faced with many choices and challenges, and virtuous living would prepare us to succeed.[iv]'

Purity. Chastity. Integrity. Moral excellence. Let me add to that Truth. These are high moral standards from which we must pattern our thoughts and behaviors.

As parents and leaders, it is our responsibility to teach children and youth the standards required for a virtuous life. Let us teach them how to identify righteous thoughts and behaviors and translate them into daily patterns, and ultimately a lifestyle of virtuous living. And let us be an example to them. Let us show them line upon line and precept upon precept.

Moral Purity. I’ll turn to the account of Joseph of Egypt and his encounter with Potiphar’s wife. Day by day, she cast her eyes upon Joseph and begged him to lie with her. Joseph knew it would be wickedness and a sin against God to do so, and he continually refused. Her last attempt to seduce him went like this: “12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.” (Genesis 39) I will never forget my 6am Seminary teacher’s animation as she demonstrated what it would be like to "get you out" of this type of situation.

I use this example to show that Joseph understood the moral values of virtue and chastity. He had been taught right principles, and it had become a pattern of living for him. Having already established the pattern of virtuous living, Joseph instinctively knew what the right choice would be when Potiphar’s wife was standing at the door luring him in.

Let me share a few personal examples of how certain standards were taught to me and how making them a pattern has blessed my life and given me strength.

When we were old enough to count to ten, my Dad started giving my siblings and me an allowance of ten pennies per week. It was in order to teach us the principle of tithing.
(1) I was taught the standard.
(2) It became a pattern.
(3) I always remember the action that is to be taken in order to live this principle.

Because the pattern is already established, there is never any question about how many pennies out of each dollar will go to tithing. When the temptation comes to pocket that money, and it does, it is confidently dismissed, with the reassurance from the Holy Ghost that I’ve made the right choice.

It is in this way that we can establish patterns for ourselves and teach them to our children.

****Another example. This week I indulged in some shopping at the mall. I tried on a couple of things, tossing each item on top of the stroller as I went. Then I went to the register to make my purchase, had a friendly conversation with the cashier, and went my way, not realizing that I had waltzed right out of the store with two skirts still sitting on top of my stroller. An hour later, as I was heading to my car, I looked down in horror to see the skirts unpaid on the stroller. My blood ran cold. The kids were tired and hungry and we were on the other side of the mall and so I sighed “What a pain” but there had been no question in my mind that they should be returned immediately and with a profuse apology. I am so glad that I had already established the pattern of honesty years before, so that in moments like this there would be no question as to the action that I should take.

It is in the moment of truth, in the moment of a test, that we act upon that knowledge we have and upon the standards that we wish to live. It begins with daily effort.

Elder Bednar said, “Small, steady, incremental spiritual improvements are the steps the Lord would have us take. Preparing to walk guiltless before God is one of the primary purposes of mortality and the pursuit of a lifetime; it does not result from sporadic spurts of intense spiritual activity.”[v]

Brothers and Sisters, choose now to establish good habits of prayer and scripture study and church attendance. Choose now to establish patterns of worship and temple worthiness. Choose now to establish patterns of chastity, honesty, integrity, and discipline. It is not too late. If you’ve gotten all the way to the parking lot, or all the way home, it is not too late to return the skirt. It’s not too late to walk out of an offensive movie. Or to dress modestly. It’s not too late to change your behavior towards another person, or to change the subject of conversation. It’s not too late. Choose today and every day what patterns you will establish so that in the moment of truth, you will have the Holy Spirit with you to guide you and strengthen you in making right choices.

Okay, the big question. What if you brought the skirt home and wore it out?

I turn to President Monson’s words: “If any has stumbled in [his or] her journey, there is a way back. The process is called repentance. Our Savior died to provide you and me that blessed gift. The path may be difficult, but the promise is real: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”6 “And I will remember [them] no more.”7[vi]

'Remember, it is the cleansing power of the Atonement that makes it possible for us to be virtuous. We all make mistakes, but “because the Savior loves you and has given His life for you, you can repent. Repentance is an act of faith in Jesus Christ. … The Savior’s atoning sacrifice has made it possible for you to be forgiven of your sins. … Determine to partake worthily of the sacrament each week and fill your life with virtuous activities that will bring spiritual power. As you do this, you will grow stronger in your ability to resist temptation, keep the commandments [remain clean], and become more like Jesus Christ” (Young Women Personal Progress [insert, 2009], 3). [vii]'

Blessings of Living a Virtuous Life
When I was in high school, my parents had a spell of several years where on two separate occasions they were wrongfully accused, and another instance where they felt their prayers were not answered over a certain subject. It was a rough patch for them.

At times they felt alone. But they had not betrayed their standards or forgotten their covenants. Even though openly mocked and falsely accused, they knew they were in good standing with the Lord, and that the Lord trusted the decisions they would make. Through counseling with their Bishop, and through counseling with the Lord in prayer, they were reassured. It is by living virtuously day by day that we are able to withstand temptation and “the hail and mighty storm [that may] beat upon us”, (Helaman 5:12). It is then that our righteous patterns pull us through—we can receive the guidance of the Holy Ghost and strength and forgiveness from our Savior, Jesus Christ.

'As you climb, don’t allow yourself to descend into the willows. Stay high on the mountain. You are God’s precious daughters [and sons]! Because of the knowledge of our divine identity, everything must be different for us: our dress, our language, our priorities, and our focus. We must not seek guidance from the world, and if our true identity has been clouded by mistakes or sins, we can change. We can turn around and repent and return to virtue. We can climb above the willows. The Savior’s Atonement is for you and for me. He invites each of us to come unto Him.[ …] As you live a virtuous life, you will have the confidence, power, and strength necessary to climb. [ … ] As you grow and blossom, your personal purity will enable you to become a force for good and an influence for righteousness in the world. I truly believe that one virtuous young woman [or man], led by the Spirit, can change the world. [viii]'

[i] Elaine S. Dalton, “A Return to Virtue,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 78–80
[ii] Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” Tambuli, Aug 1977, 1
[iii] Elaine S. Dalton, “Come Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the Lord,” Ensign, May 2009, 120–23
[iv] Mary N. Cook, “A Virtuous Life—Step by Step,” Ensign, May 2009, 117–19
[v] David A. Bednar, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 80-83
[vi] Thomas S. Monson, “May You Have Courage,” Ensign, May 2009, 123–27
[vii] Mary N. Cook, “A Virtuous Life—Step by Step,” Ensign, May 2009, 117–19
[viii] Elaine S. Dalton, “Come Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the Lord,” Ensign, May 2009, 120–23


Petersen Palace said...

yay for YW!!! It is SO fun! Oh and I still have your basket, I'll bring it by tomorrow

Sarah Stiles said...

Nice talk! Funny, I just gave a talk on virtue recently as well.

My dream calling is in YW. I was Mia Maid advisor once, for a short time. It was nightmarish, because NONE of the girls wanted to be in church or have anything to do with religion at all. It was soo hard!

I have been in the Primary program since Cameron started nursery, except for last year in our old ward when I was the RS Secretary. I keep hoping they will call me as YW Camp Leader. When I lived in Texas as a YW myself, even the leaders looked to me for guidance, since I knew the whole campsite like the back of my hand, lol. After I had gone to college, they tried to bring me back as the First Year Camp Director - at only 20! Too bad I had summer classes:-(