Hugh Carey, Deseret News
As Latter-day Saint women faithfully follow Jesus Christ, they will “reap the rewards of righteousness" — the reward of spirituality, the reward of righteous families, the reward of happiness, the reward of prospering in the land and the reward of peace, said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“The Lord God is indeed a sun and shield and will give grace and glory," he said, offering concluding remarks at BYU Women’s Conference and making reference to the conference theme found in Psalm 84:11. “No good thing will be withheld from them that walk uprightly.”
More than 11,000 women from across the globe attended the two-day conference, held May 1-2, and sponsored by BYU and the Relief Society.
Elder Cook was accompanied by his wife, Sister Mary G. Cook, who also offered remarks.
“I feel a great responsibility in speaking to you wonderful women,” said Elder Cook. “You have my love and admiration for who you are, and what you accomplish in this difficult world.”
He asked the women to not “underestimate the power and impact of your capable, loving, and sensitive influence” on others.
“It seems to be part of your special nature to feel that no matter how hard you work and what you do; it is never enough,” he said. "Sometimes, despite the fact that everyone else feels you have been spectacular, you may feel inadequate and ineffective. Yet the excellent work you do, the kindness you show, and the love you exhibit are blessings beyond measure to those who have the privilege of associating with you. And it is enough.”
Elder Cook explained that the women’s conference theme includes the scriptural promise “no good thing will be withheld from them that walk uprightly. My purpose today is to identify some of the rewards of righteousness and point out ways in which we can be and are now blessed in these turbulent times,” he explained.
First, however, he spoke of a world “literally in commotion.”
“Many of the challenges are in the spiritual realm," he said. "They are societal issues we as individuals cannot necessarily resolve but nevertheless concern us.”
Despite these troubling issues, he said, there are practical rewards individuals can achieve — even at a time when righteousness across the world is in decline.
“It isn’t that the battle between good and evil is new,” he said. “But today a much higher percentage of people are willing to mistakenly conclude that there is not a moral, righteous standard to which all people should adhere.”
That said, the Church has never had more faithful members, Elder Cook explained. “Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, together with others who have similar moral values, represent an island of faith in a sea of doubt and disbelief.”
Elder Cook chronicled ideas to help individuals and families better understand and achieve the rewards of righteousness.
The reward of spirituality. “We are so much a part of this world,” Elder Cook explained. “The material aspects of day-to-day living are a specific challenge. Society tends to look at everything through the lens of worldly rewards.”
Quoting President Spencer W. Kimball, Elder Cook taught that idols can include credentials, degrees, property, homes, furnishings and many other material objects.
“Sometimes the lens of the world causes us to focus on issues not quite as dramatic as aspiring to great wealth, but nonetheless, takes us away from deep spiritual commitment,” he said.
The base line or starting point for reviewing our life and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ is baptism, he said
“The great debate across much of the world is about temporal day-to-day economic issues,” he noted. “Yet there is very little discussion about returning to Christlike principles focused on preparation to meet God and the condition of our spirits. We need to focus our lives and increase emphasis on spiritual matters.”
The reward of righteous families. “It should be noted that today no community is immune from evil, contention, and unrighteous temptations,” said Elder Cook.
Years ago, he said, Elder Harold B. Lee, then a senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave specific advice to Church members worried about temptations in their communities.
Calling the counsel “simple and profound,” Elder Cook said said Elder Lee asked members to: “First, create Zion in our hearts and homes. Second, be a light to those among whom we live. Third, focus on the ordinances and principles taught in the temple.”
Elder Cook said in building Zion in their hearts and homes, individuals need to emphasize religious observance in the home by having daily family prayer and scripture study and holding weekly family home evening. “In this context we can teach and train our children. We do this with love and kindness, avoiding undue criticism of both our children and our spouses.”
However, regardless of where people live — and even if they do everything right — some children may make unwise choices that lead to forbidden paths.
“Accordingly, it is important to help our young people determine in advance what they will say or do when improper or immoral conduct is proposed.”
Elder Cook said he and his wife talked to their own children about accountability to the Lord. “We pointed out that we follow Christ’s example when we dress modestly, use clean and appropriate language, avoid pornography — which, by the way, now needs to be taught to even to Primary-age children so that they can have pure lives.”
Elder Cook said he believes Latter-day Saints can raise righteous children in almost any part of the world if they have a firm foundation of Jesus Christ and His gospel.
“My counsel is that we need to focus our energy on strengthening our families by talking, rejoicing, preaching and prophesying of Christ that we may enjoy the reward of righteous families so we can be eternal families.”
The reward of happiness. “Lucifer has created a counterfeit or illusion of happiness that is inconsistent with righteousness and will mislead us if we are not vigilant,” said Elder Cook.
Many of the problems across the world are occurring because the secular world has been pursuing an incorrect definition of happiness, he said.
Elder Cook quoted a study on success and happiness being conducted over the past 70 years.
“The study showed that college entrance scores and grade averages did not predict either success or happiness in later life,” he said. “One area where there was a high correlation was childhood family happiness.”
He said it was interesting — but not surprising — that the study was completely in line with what the scriptures and the Church have taught about the family. “The emphasis the Church has made on family home evening, family prayer, expressions of love, family togetherness and family traditions are the very kind of activities that the study indicated would produce happy, successful adults.”
Love, he said, is the key ingredient to happiness.
The reward of prospering in the land. “Let me assure you that prospering in the land is not defined by the size of your bank account,” said Elder Cook. “It has a much fuller meaning than that.”
The scriptures are clear that living the commandments "allows us to prosper in the land," he said.
“Prospering and being wealthy are not necessarily synonymous. A much better gospel definition of prospering in the land is having sufficient for our needs while having the abundant blessing of the Spirit in our lives. When we provide for our families and love and serve the Savior, we will enjoy the reward of having the Spirit and prospering in the land.”
The reward of peace. Thirty-five years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball taught that major growth would occur in the Church because many good women will be drawn to the Church in large numbers, Elder Cook said. “He declared, ‘This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and are seen as distinct and different – in happy ways – from the women of the world.’ This has truly happened and will continue to do so in the future."
Sister Cook said with their gospel knowledge, Latter-day Saints should be the happiest people in the world. “We can’t let the sorrows and tribulations of mortality deflect us from the promise of a better, glorious, and magnificent eternal life,” she said.
Sister Cook grew up in the Church, attended Primary and other Church meetings, read the scriptures, prayed and sang songs of the gospel. She knew the Church was true and never doubted.
However, “shortly after I was baptized, my parents filed for divorce. Part of it involved disputes over Church commitment and conduct incompatible with the gospel,” she said. “My mother, sister, brother and I went to live with our grandmother — our mother’s mother. She was a widow, and I can’t imagine how she dealt with three lively children for two years.”
Sister Cook attended third and fourth grades while living with her grandmother. “When I think back toward those years, I was feeling a little insecure about my family situation, and I remember an experience I had as I was walking home from mid-week Primary one day.”
She said suddenly she felt the most overpowering feeling of love. “It just enveloped me. I felt that the Lord knew me, and that I was important to Him. It was the first time I recognized the power of the Holy Ghost in my life.
“I realized that we make our own happiness no matter what trials, tribulations, or sorrows we face in this life. We choose based on our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to be of good cheer.”
Sister Cook said from this experience she learned three basic things:
“First, the blessing of having the Holy Ghost as a constant companion and the comfort provided when we are especially in need.
“Second, living the commandments brings happiness and joy.
“Third, I knew I wanted to have a happy family life.”
Her parents resolved most of their differences after two years of separation, and her family reunited. “Things weren’t always great, but years later when I was a wife and mother myself, my parents were sealed in the temple, and I was able to be sealed to them.”
Sister Cook said having a happy heart and desiring to be happy, can turn a trying day into a tolerable one.
“More than once I have told myself, ‘This, too, shall pass.’ And it does,” she said.
She closed by telling the women that they can be of good cheer.
“As we suffer the sorrows and joys of mortality, let us keep our eyes focused on the prize,” she said. “Be of good cheer, for we know the outcome, we know the truth; we know the Savior and His infinite Atonement made in our behalf. We know the Father’s plan of happiness.”