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Audrey Blake
Sister Elaine Dalton speaks to the Relief Society sisters of the Bonneville YSA Stake and Pioneer YSA Stake at the University of Utah LDS Institute building on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — A Sunday night fireside at the University of Utah LDS Institute building felt like a reunion of sorts — a Young Women leader reuniting with her girls who are now women, and she never having met many of them personally.

Sister Elaine Dalton, who served as general president of the Young Women for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 2008-13, spoke to Relief Society sisters from the Bonneville and the Pioneer YSA Stakes, many of them of teenage young women during her 11 years total as a member of the Young Women General Presidency.

“As I’m sitting here, I’m feeling like this is a divinely orchestrated moment in time for me because I feel like Heavenly Father is allowing me to see you, and there are so many of you, the young women that I love...to see you now after X amount of years,” Sister Dalton said. “But as I look out and I see your faces and I see the light that you radiate, which, I’m not kidding you, is absolute tangible light that is in your eyes and in your faces. You just are filled with light.

"And as I see that, I feel like Heavenly Father has done another one of those tender mercies just to allow me to see some of the fruits of the things he allowed us to work on and do for you to prepare you for such a time as this.

“And I have to say right now that he is so pleased with you, and so am I. You are everything, you embody and you exemplify everything I prayed you would be every single day. You are everything we prayed for, and I am so so grateful to you for taking advantage of the things that were there to prepare you.”

Sister Dalton reminisced on experiences during her time as general president, including her proposal to add “virtue” as one of the Young Women values. She recalled submitting the proposal to the First Presidency and then learning that, in just three days, her proposal had been approved unanimously. She noted that many have asked why virtue wasn’t always included if the addition was inspired.

“I think the reason that it wasn’t is there has never been a time like this, and the Lord actually wanted to put a spotlight on that new value and for a period of time after that was added, everyone would say the young women theme and they’d say all the values and then they’d forget virtue and then they would say, “And virtue!” So it was kind of like a punctuation mark put on virtue,” she said.

Sister Dalton spoke as if giving her former charges a pep talk for a new phase in their lives.

“There has never been a time like this," she said. "I’ve never seen the opposition be greater, but I’ve never seen the opportunities be greater, and as my husband and I sit up here looking out at you, there is so much hope because you really are the change-the-world generation. You’re the ones who will change the world.

"You are the ones who have been spoken of by prophets, seers and revelators all through the scriptures. You’re the ones who have been prophesied about. You are the ones who will lead the world and who will lead the women of the world because you are ‘different in happy ways,’” she said, referencing a quote by former LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball.

Sister Dalton told of a trip last month to New York City, where she and her husband found themselves driving through the city during the Women’s March.

“We were in a cab, and as I watched those women marching and yelling, and should I say, behaving anything but ladylike and using language that was very unbefitting of daughters of God,” Sister Dalton said. “As I watched all of that take place, my heart just sunk and I thought to myself, ‘What would happen if all those women were marching and calling to the world for a return to virtue?’”

She acknowledged the difficulties facing women in today’s world.

“Satan knows you’re here. He knows who you are, and he knows what time it is, and I believe that he has gotten more cunning and more sophisticated than ever before,” she said. “So perhaps I’m not just here because Heavenly Father wants me to see an answer to a prayer, but perhaps I’m here tonight to also tell you, keep going. Don’t stop. Keep arising. Keep shining. Stay close to the Lord. Remember who you are. Remember that you have a divine mission to perform here on the earth and it has only just begun because you are some of the elect spirits.”

She offered words of encouragement and caution.

“The Lord is mindful of you. He has a plan for each of your lives and as you stay close to him and trust in him, he will direct your paths so don’t get discouraged, don’t get delayed, don’t get distracted by all the things that are going on around us. Don’t get disqualified from doing the work that will be your finest hour,” she said.

Dalton also touched on loving oneself, taking care of the human body and dating.

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“Nothing is wrong with you,” she told the women in regard to frustrations with dating. “We have a tendency as women...everything that doesn’t happen, we blame ourselves. Don’t blame yourselves. But when you are asked out, if you are pressured or pushed by someone who has taken you on a date to do something that you know is totally not right and is totally compromising all the standards and everything you have been taught to believe in as a young woman...do not come down.

“You be picky. You be fussy. You stay scarce and classy.”

Sister Dalton, who has run 17 marathons, compared life to a marathon and shared her hope of a future reunion she believes will be even sweeter than the one she was experiencing Sunday night.

“I really hope that we can meet again at that finish line, and I think that will be an absolutely glorious day when you come across that finish line," she said. "That will be one of the most magnificent celebrations.”