A landmark figure in the leadership of women and young women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sister Chieko Okazaki also had broad appeal as a writer and speaker. Her 13 books and tapes collectively sold around half a million copies, according to Gail Halladay, managing director of marketing for her publisher, Deseret Book. Sister Okazaki was the first minority to serve on the church’s Young Women’s Board, in 1961. She also was the first minority woman to serve in a general presidency, when she served as a counselor to President Elaine L. Jack in the general Relief Society presidency from 1990 to '97. Her positive messages of hope and faith made her a popular speaker, and Deseret Book sold four tapes of talks she gave, beginning in 1992. She soon became a successful author, too. The first of her books, "Lighten Up!," was published in 1993. Here is a look at her nine books and her tapes and talks. Read more about her 'power of goodness' here
This was Sister Okazaki's first book, published in 1993 and the biggest success in terms of copies sold.
Her explanation of the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ and how it related to the experience of women continues to be shared widely on the Internet:
"We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer — how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism. Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not know and recognize. On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy.
"He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth-grader, when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down’s Syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old, when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs, when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only visitors are children, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week, when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He’s been there.
"He’s been lower than all that.
"He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.
"You know that people who live above a certain latitude experience very long winter nights and can become depressed and even suicidal, because something in our bodies requires whole spectrum light for a certain number of hours a day.
"Our spiritual requirement for light is just as desperate and as deep as our physical need for light. Jesus is the light of the world. We know that this world is a dark place sometimes, but we need not walk in darkness. The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, and the people who walk in darkness can have a bright companion. We need him, and He is ready to come to us, if we’ll open the door and let him."
Excerpt: "No act of compassion is ever futile or wasted. Each choice to act from tenderness feeds our own spirits and becomes a conduit by which the pure love of Christ can spill into a world hungry for such transforming, abounding, infinite love."
Excerpt: "One of my favorite books is 'What Is a Mother: Children's Responses.' It is dedicated to presenting 'a view of Mother by those who keep her under closest surveillance and probably know her best — her children.' Listen to the voices of three little children who answered the question, 'What is a mother?'
"Lizann: Who is a mother? She knows what is important. That is why God asked them to be a mother.
"Laura: A mother is just like God except God is better.
"Harry: If I forget to tell my mother I need my shepherd costume tomorrow morning, she finds one in the night. That is a mother!
"Motherhood! Power, perfectness, and a few miracles thrown in for good measure! Yes, we mothers all have moments when we feel that we actually can be as wonderful as, at our best, our children think we are."
Excerpt: “Adversity is frequently a call to do something great with our lives.”
Excerpt: "We know that service is indispensable for bringing us close to the Savior and letting us feel his Spirit. In nothing do we resemble the Savior more than in serving others. So in nothing should we feel greater love and joy than in service."
Excerpt: "Sometimes we get discouraged because the needs in the world around us seem so great and our resources seem so few.
"We think, 'We’re not doing enough. We can’t do enough. Nobody could do enough.' When the we think like that, we focus on what is left undone, and we lose the joy that comes with service. I want to tell you that we don’t need to compare ourselves to anyone else, either collectively or as individuals.
"Concentrate on the joy, not the job.
"We can do great good when we work as a united sisterhood, as long as we don’t burden ourselves with unrealistic expectations that rob us of the joy of achievement."
Excerpt: "We live in times of turmoil and menace. Our need for a sanctuary has never been greater. Homes, wards, and friendships can be places of sanctuary, but only if we develop in our hearts a sanctuary where God may dwell."
Excerpt: "A sanctuary is a holy place, a place hallowed to God, a place of safety and refuge. In these times of stress, of menace, and of danger, what is our sanctuary? Where can we find sanctuary?
"I have particular interest in the concept of sanctuary because these last few years have seemed to be years of such turmoil and stress for me. Each March is the anniversary of the death of my husband, Ed. My son and daughter-in-law experienced the sorrow of losing a child in death just a few days before he was due to be born. My brother underwent surgery for a cranial tumor. My mother had an operation for a hip replacement. My sister-in-law died of cancer of the pancreas, and my daughter-in-law's mother died of a very fast-acting cancer.
"You can see why, in the changes and turmoil of my life, the hope of finding a sanctuary of peace and safety is such a powerful one. Nor do I think I am the only one who is struggling with heavy burdens. Looking at women in church, well-dressed and clean, sitting in a beautiful setting, I'm sure many would think, 'Oh, Mormon women are a privileged group, free of sorrow, stress, and burdens.' I know better. In almost every group are those who are surviving the ongoing pain of divorce, of wasted potential, of faltering faith, of bearing the wounds of a beloved child or sibling who has used his or her agency to make terrible choices that have brought great suffering. In your family, or in the family of someone close to you, is someone working through the difficult realizations of chronic physical illness, of mental or emotional instability, of physical or sexual abuse, of same-sex attraction, of chemical dependency, of injustice done to you or a loved one, of sorrow, of loneliness, of discouragement. All of us have moments, at least—and for some of us those moments stretch into years—when we are heart-hungry for the feeling of sanctuary. Where can it be found?
Excerpt: "I want to encourage us to make each contact we have with another woman one of kindness and respect, because we never know what kinds of connections we are weaving. Sometimes we're afraid of someone who seems different. Sometimes we feel desperately duty-bound to defend our own life choices, to the extent that we have to think women who have made other choices are wrong. A great burden is lifted from my heart every time I think of the scripture, "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). I don't want to judge. I want to accept, to understand, to love, and to help where I can."
Excerpt: “Both the New Testament and the Doctrine and Covenants talk about the importance for members of the Church to be ‘of one heart and of one soul’ or of ‘one mind.’ (Acts 4:32; D&C 45:65-66). Sometimes we think this means that we have to look alike, sound alike, talk alike, dress alike, and have the same number of children. I think what it really means, above all, is that we need to love the Savior with all our hearts. At that point, we will have the ‘mind of Christ’ (1 Cor. 2:16) to unite us in soul with others. As we think about situations and problems, the frustratingly complex ethical and moral dilemmas will become clearer and simpler because we will know what Jesus would do in a given case, and we can do what he would do, just as he was able to do what the Father would have done in his place.”
After Sister Okazaki died Monday, a commenter on DeseretNews.com wrote: "Disciples, in particular, is special to me, as it was published around the time that we were coming to grips with the extent of our youngest son's profound disabilities. A section in a later chapter of that book was just what I needed to accept the situation and press forward. Sister Okazaki dedicated her life to being one of Heavenly Father's instruments in bringing comfort and joy to untold numbers of women around the world."
Sister Okazaki described what she called sparrow prayers, sunshine sent into our lives by Heavenly Father before we even ask for it and at unexpected times:
"It's been my experience that sparrow prayers are delightful surprises, happy little 'I love you' messages from God. And since one of their characteristics is that they're not the kind of answers that finds a cure for cancer or stops a war, they're always astonishing because they didn't have to be answered. So they're also always characterized by pure grace and love. They're unbirthday presents. They're surprise packages."
Excerpt: "The word Abide has two meanings: one is to stay, to continue, to wait patiently; and the second is to endure unchanged. Abide is a woman's word; it is a home word. So much of what we have to do is to endure, to be consistent, to rest unchanging, to wait, to stay, to dwell to remain. Abiding is not a flashy or a glamorous quality; it does not make a lot of noise or cause a lot of upheaval. But at the same time, it is not a passive quality. Abiding takes tenacity and integrity and a strong awareness of the power of choices. It is a verb."
Now retired, then-Deseret News columnist Jerry Johnston reviewed Sister Okazaki's final book and said she and other LDS women were providing the lessons he needed most in life.
"They show us," Johnston wrote, "if you want to send a message — a message about generosity, perspective, right-thinking and heart — don't tell a woman — ask her."
Excerpt: "We must believe that God not only has the power to help us, but also the will."
Excerpt: "Don't you think, as I do, that there are times when each of us is a member of the minority and times when we belong to the majority? I think we need to be comfortable in both roles and very comfortable in crossing barriers just as fast as we can identify them, so that no one feels permanently excluded."
Excerpt: "I want to be sure you understand exactly how I feel about diversity. I love differences. They make us interesting and challenging and delightful. What they don't make us is good or bad, and I think we forget that sometimes."
Sister Okazaki was at her best in person, with her bright smile and friendly eyes, and as a speaker she was arresting. Among her most-remembered talks was first delivered in 1992 at a regional conference in Oregon. Titled "Healing from Sexual Abuse," it was an address she gave repeatedly and one that Deseret Book recorded and released to acclaim. Four of her talks were released as recordings:
"The Power of Charity" (1992)
"Healing from Sexual Abuse" (1993)
"Valuing People: Six Lessons in Leadership" (1993)
"Christmas Presence" (1993)
She also spoke in LDS Church General Conference sessions: