Sister Carole M. Stephens encouraged women at the General Relief Society Meeting on Sept. 29 to avoid the noise of the world and hardened hearts by asking themselves a series of questions to discover if they have experienced a true change of heart.
“When we were baptized, our hearts were changed and awakened to God,” said Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. “While on our mortal journey, we need to regularly ask ourselves, ‘If I have experienced a change of heart, can I feel so now, and if not, then why not?’ ”
Stephens shared stories about the early Saints, who understood that following the teachings of the church and the counsel of prophets, including the journey to Utah, would be hard and sacrifice would be required. After participating in a re-enactment of the pioneer trek, Sister Stephens said she found a new understanding and respect for the women who made that journey years ago.
“I thought about my sisters, those who had pulled and those who continue today to pull their handcarts alone,” said Sister Stephens. “Nearly 20 percent of the women in those (pioneer) handcart companies were alone for at least a part of the way. These were women who had not married, were divorced or were widowed. Many were single mothers.”
Stephens told the congregation that even women from different backgrounds, with different circumstances, can come together in a common goal, because they are all on the same path.
“Each of us has had and will continue to have adversity in our lives,” she said. “This mortal life is a time of testing, and we will continue to have opportunities to use our agency to choose what we will learn from the adversity that will surely come. … It isn’t enough to just be on the journey; we must be awake to our duty and continue with faith as we draw upon the comforting, strengthening, enabling and healing power of the Atonement.”
Sister Stephens described Relief Society as the uniting vehicle that teaches women in the Church how to draw on the blessings of the Atonement.
“Relief Society prepares women for the blessings of eternal life,” Stephens said. “by awakening us spiritually to increase faith in personal righteousness. Let us begin with ourselves. Let us begin where we are. Let us begin today. When we are spiritually awake, we will be better able to strengthen families and homes and help others.”