In 1999, Mary Ellen Smoot, who was then president of the Relief Society presented a new and official declaration. The Relief Society is the women’s auxiliary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons. The Declaration was created to outline what Mormon women believe and how they live. The teen girls had a theme they recited weekly, and now the women had one of their own. The Declaration helps to show how Mormon women are followers of Jesus Christ:
“We are beloved spirit daughters of God, and our lives have meaning, purpose, and direction. As a worldwide sisterhood, we are united in our devotion to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Exemplar. We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity who: Increase our testimonies of Jesus Christ through prayer and scripture study. Seek spiritual strength by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Dedicate ourselves to strengthening marriages, families, and homes. Find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood. Delight in service and good works. Love life and learning. Stand for truth and righteousness. Sustain the priesthood as the authority of God on earth. Rejoice in the blessings of the temple, understand our divine destiny, and strive for exaltation.”
This declaration focuses on the most important aspects of Christianity, particularly for women. Mormon women focus on learning the teachings and example of the Savior, because, as Jesus taught Mary and Martha, women also have a responsibility to learn the gospel. They take those teachings and put them into practice in their own lives, regardless of the life they find themselves living.
While the world puts motherhood down as unimportant, Mormon women know it is the greatest honor God gives to women. They understand that if they are blessed with children, they are being given responsibility to raise one of God’s own children. Is there any higher honor than this? God loves each of His children and wants the best for them—it is a mother’s primary responsibility to make sure that happens. One of the Savior’s last actions before being hung on the cross was to make sure His mother would be cared for. He knew family mattered, and Mormon women make an effort to do the same. If they don’t have children, they are encouraged to support mothers or to help children in other ways.
Mormon women are encouraged to set high moral standards and to live them even when it’s hard or the world mocks them for it. They understand that this life is a small part of the eternal life we’ve been given and we have to live with an eye toward the eternal. The things of this world are temporary and the world’s standards are always changing. God’s standards do not change and Jesus Christ taught a moral standard that could withstand the test of time. Mormon women try to live their lives to those eternal standards because they love and trust the Savior. Through this, as the declaration states, they gain eternal strength.
The declaration calls on Mormon women to understand their destiny. Their destiny is not honor, praise, wealth, or popularity in this world. It is to live the life the Savior called them to live. Mormon women are followers of Jesus Christ.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that have appeared in LDS magazines. She is married to Lincoln Bittner and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two girls. Terrie became a Mormon at the age of seventeen and has been sharing her faith online since 1992. She can also be found blogging about being an LDS woman at LatterdaySaintWoman.com.