In an uncharacteristically forceful address to the women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Gordon B. Hinckley admonished church members to guard their families against the evils of society that threaten their homes.

"Never before, at least not in our generation, have the forces of evil been so blatant, so brazen, so aggressive as they are today," President Hinckley said at the General Relief Society Meeting Saturday evening. "There is a reason for it. I feel it is simple to define. I believe our problems, almost every one, arise out of the homes of the people."The home is under siege, President Hinckley said. Continuing his theme of "fatherless homes," President Hinckley also spoke out against mothers who are absent from the home, who leave the care of their families to others.

"I think the nurture and upbringing of children is more than a part-time responsibility," he said. "I recognize that some women must work, but I fear that there are far too many who do so only to get the means for a little more luxury and a few fancier toys."

The result, President Hinckley said, is that family relationships become strained, homes become fractured and broken, and society sinks further into a moral-less mire.

Evidence of society's descent is apparent, President Hinckley said, pointing to the "repugnance" of abortion, the evils of marital infidelity and pornography, the tragedies of children killing children and the rise of gangs. He cited the soaring divorce rates, even among LDS couples.

Also indicative of America's moral crisis is the "sleaze" that has blossomed out of recent political scandals.

"Things we dared not speak about in earlier times are now constantly projected into our living rooms . . . Some to whom we have looked as leaders have betrayed us. We are disappointed and disillusioned. And their activity is only the tip of the iceberg. In successive layers beneath that tip is a great mass of sleaze and filth, of dissolute and dishonest behavior."

The home should be a shelter from the moral refuse, President Hinckley said, and women should be the home's central figures.

"I do not hesitate to say that you who are mothers can do more than any other group to change this situation." And, he said, "if there is to be change, if there is to be a return to old and sacred values, it must begin in the home. It is here that truth is learned, that integrity is cultivated, that self-discipline is instilled, and that love is nurtured."

The General Relief Society Presidency also extended its invitation to women as they face the rigors of building stronger homes and stronger selves.

The Relief Society is a source of direction, purpose and light, said Mary Ellen Smoot, general Relief Society president. Through it, women can strengthen their faith, discover and develop their talents, and receive joy from service.

The organization can also be a balm for the pains of loneliness, said Second Counselor Sheri L. Dew. Not only do women have the society of women, with whom strong relationships can be formed; but it also helps women learn ways to build a strong relationship with their God, whose companionship is the source of peace and enlightenment.

So empowered, women can become examples to the world, Dew said.

"Where may the people of the world look to find women of virtue and integrity? Women who are beacons of goodness because their countenances radiate the light of Christ? To us, the sisters of Relief Society. This is not hyperbole. It is our mandate . . . The Lord trusted us enough to place us on stage during this pivotal era in the world's history. We don't have the luxury of living beneath ourselves or being casual about seeking the gifts of the Spirit. But we are up to the challenge."