September 2014 General Women’s Meeting: Sister Neill F. Marriott
This past Saturday eve, Sister Neill F. Marriott, represented the Young Women General Presidency. She began her remarks by suggesting that there are “two responsibilities we carry: adding gospel light and truth to our lives, and sharing that light and truth with others.” Then she asked if we know how important we are, and shared a quote from Elder Russell M. Ballard affirming that “we need more distinct voices of women.” She addressed us as “Sisters,” and told us, “You strengthen my faith. You carry a circle of influence with you wherever you go.”
Shortly thereafter, she shared a quote from everyone’s favorite, President Deiter F. Uchtdorf that I wish I would have recorded more in full. What I did record touched upon “a darkening world” and the gospel as “a joyous message.” Sister Marriott emphasized the light. “If you want to give your light to others, you have to glow.
Where there is a temple, it pushes back the darkness. As an earlier General Authority, President George Q. Cannon expressed “Every temple completed… lessens the power of Satan on the earth, and increases the power of God and Godliness.” Sister Marriott asked, “Isn’t our purpose similar to these houses of the Lord, to push back darkness in people’s lives?”
There was one moment in her life, when she prayed in the temple, and “was given a painful truth about herself.” She was selfish, and a bit prideful. She continued her prayer, crying to God, “I don’t want to be that woman, but how do I change?” The answer was simple: she needed the Redeemer. She knew that “He was [her] only hope.” As such, she “long[ed] to cling only to Him.”
Quite beautifully, she “felt his love keenly and knew He would teach Her.” While she “still fights weaknesses, she still receives instruction.” She “felt lighter and joyful.”
Next Sister Marriott turned to the scriptures, quoting both from the Doctrine and Covenants and the New Testament. From the former, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24). From the latter, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). “We are temples. Like temples, we have light.”
She discussed some of the many worthwhile roles that we may play.
Among those she listed were, perhaps unsurprisingly, mother, daughter, and sister, but there was also “wage earner”(!). Its inclusion felt like a small and big thing at the same time. In her role of mother, Sister Marriott stands in relation to eleven children. She showed us a picture of them when they were young, standing hand in hand on a beach. Remembering that earlier period, she said, “My days are full of forgettable things” such as “folding laundry” and “reading children’s book”s [–which I believe is never forgettable!]” Still, she understood that those activities “carry eternal significance.” Alluding first to “small and simple things,” she offered that “Small acts of service and kindness is how most of us continue with God.”
Sometime after this, she shared a story about one of her children getting lost in a big crowd, and the remainder of the family searching frantically and fruitlessly, until another child, a girl, suggested that they pray. Sister Marriott spoke directly to the primary girls and young women, “Please keep reminding your parents to pray.”
Then, after that, she shared another story of a group of young women in Alaska inspiring her to memorize the Living Christ. (I was personally pleased that it was this document, rather than another that sometimes hangs beside it on Mormon walls.) It brought depth to her Sunday covenant renewal, and depth to her relationship with Christ.
She ended with Him. ‘We do not walk around healing on the roads that Christ walked. We do not heal the blind. We do not raise the dead.’ But, we do these things spiritually. (I admit I longed to hear her talk about the time when Mormon women were healers.) “With Christ’s power and light, we can push back darkness.”
I was grateful for so many things in her talk. I was grateful for her voice, which indicated not only her personal heritage of being raised in the American South, but her warmth, sincerity, and earnestness. I was grateful for her example of honest humility. In every story she shared, one thing rang out: she is teachable. She was teachable when she spoke to God, but also when she spoke to her young daughter, and young women in Alaska that she was only beginning to know. I was grateful that she shared an intimate experience about both seeking and finding the spiritual help that she needed. I was grateful that she drew upon the scriptures, and culled out of them such hopeful, yet challenging messages. We are temples. We are houses of God. We are light. I was grateful above all for the combined message: women can be seekers, receivers, and sharers of light and truth. The one thing I wish I heard is the one thing I often wish was heard: language about our Mother. I wish that she spoke of Heavenly Mother when she spoke of God, or at least spoke of Heavenly Parents. I will notice this, in every talk, every time.
What I was grateful for in the meeting in general was also many things. I was grateful to see my friend and former ward mate, Sister Janet Nelson, sitting on the stand alongside the other, newly called, General Young Women Board Members. I was grateful for the vast sea of purple via the choir. With others, I rejoiced to witness Sister Dorah Mikhabela’s momentous opening prayer. I was grateful for the Korean primary girls who sang “I Love to See the Temple” in their own tongue. I was grateful for the tiny bows peeking out from tiny heads of attending primary girls each time the audience was scanned. I was grateful that I didn’t detect any “Primary Voice” or “Mom-ese” in the speech of the female speakers, though there were children present. As such, I felt less infantilized in this meeting than in almost any other.
I was grateful for the multitude of women’s voices we heard in the subsequent video segment, with sister after sister sharing her testimony on the temple, similarly in her own tongue. (One sister, “I saved money each night.” A girl, “the temple means a lot to me.” A mother swaying her baby, while I was swaying mine. A woman who lost her children, “I knew I was in the house of the Lord.” Another sister’s encouragement.) It might have been the first moment a General Meeting made me feel like we are part of a worldwide church. It was also my favorite part of the evening. Though, I also thought on the testimonies of other women I know, who feel hurt when they go to the temple, and do not feel peace. I wish that there could have been room for those voices, too.
I was grateful for the moment the conductor, Sister Mary Wixom, announced that it would “be our privilege to hear from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf,” and thought, “Yes, yes it is.” I was grateful for much of President Uchtdorf’s words, including and especially his multiple and explicit mentions of “Heavenly Parents” and “Eternal Parents,” his purposeful phrases suggesting that the meeting we were watching was a session of General Conference (“as we continue General Conference” and “remaining sessions”), and his witness that we will always be daughters of Eternal Parents. “We didn’t earn it,” and “we won’t lose it.” God knows the times we have given “heartfelt, hopeful prayers,” and all of the times we “have hung onto fading light.” (That last description resounded and resounded again.)
There were only a few things that I longed for and didn’t hear. President Uchtdorf was the full speaker to reference Heavenly Mother. Some women were quoted in the talks, but many more could have been. I don’t recall hearing any reference to our spiritual foremothers, Emma, Eliza, Emmeline, or others of their ilk.
All in all, I give three cheers/”Amens!”