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President Russell M. Nelson speaks Oct. 4 during the Sunday morning session of the 185th Semiannual General Conference.

President Russell M. Nelson declared that faithful, loving and courageous women will, as prophesied, draw fellow women and their families to the Church in unprecedented numbers.

"We, your brethren, need your strength, your conversion, your conviction , your ability to lead, your wisdom and your voices," he said. "The kingdom of God is not and cannot be complete without women who make sacred covenants, and then keep them, women who can speak with the power and authority of God."

The recently called president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said it was difficult to bid farewell to three powerful leaders and friends — President Boyd K. Packer, Elder L. Tom Perry and Elder Richard G. Scott. But he found comfort in the faith and tranquility demonstrated by their surviving wives, Sister Donna Smith Packer and Sister Barbara Dayton Perry. (Elder Scott's wife, Sister Jeanene Watkins Scott, preceded him in death.)

"Through their husbands' final hours, and continuing to the present day, these stalwart women have shown the strength and courage that covenant-keeping women always demonstrate," he said. "It would be impossible to measure the influence that such women have, not only on families, but on the Lord's Church, as wives, mothers and grandmothers; as sisters and aunts; as teachers and leaders; and especially as exemplars and devout defenders of the faith."

Such attributes have been found in women since the days of Adam and Eve. "Yet, the women of this dispensation are distinct from the women of any other, because this dispensation is distinct from any other. This distinction brings both privileges and responsibilities."

Almost four decades ago, President Spencer W. Kimball prophesied that much of the major growth of the Church in the last days would come because of strong and devout women.

President Nelson added that the Church needs women who know how to make "important things happen" by their faith. They must be courageous defenders of morality and families "in a sin-sick world."

"We need women who are devoted to shepherding God's children along the covenant path toward exaltation; women who know how to receive personal revelation; who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment, women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families, women who teach fearlessly."

President Nelson said his life has been blessed by women of such capacity. He spoke of the heartbreak he felt as a heart surgeon, 58 years ago, when one of his pediatric patients died following a challenging operation. The little girl who died was the third child from the same family to die of heart complications.

After the failed surgery, he returned home, grief-stricken, and cried all night long. His first wife, Dantzel (who died in 2005), stayed by his side all night, listening to his lamentations. Then in the morning, Sister Nelson told her husband to get dressed, go back to the lab, go to work and learn more. Don't quit.

"How I needed my wife's vision, grit and love," he said. "I went back to work and learned more. If it weren't for Dantzel's inspired prodding, I would have never pursued open-heart surgery and would not have been prepared to do the operation in 1972 that saved the life of President Spencer W. Kimball."

The Church, he added, needs the impressions, insights and inspiration of its sisters. "We need you to speak up and speak out in ward and stake councils. We need each married sister to speak as a 'contributing and full partner' as you unite with your husband in governing your family. Married or single, you sisters possess distinctive capabilities and special intuition you have received as gifts from God. We brethren cannot duplicate your unique influence."

He concluded: "It is converted, covenant keeping women — and I include my dear wife Wendy — whose righteous lives will increasingly stand out in a deteriorating world, and who will thus be seen as distinct and different in the happiest of way."

jswensen@deseretnews.com

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