Empowering Young Adult Women through Female Role Models in the Old Testament

Jean B. Bingham and Barbara Morgan Gardner

President Jean B. Bingham and Barbara Morgan Gardner, "Empowering Young Adult Women through Female Role Models in the Old Testament," Religious Educator 23, no. 1 (2022): 130–147.

President Jean B. Bingham is the seventeenth General President of the Relief Society. At the time of her call in April 2017, she was serving as First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency. She has served in many ward and stake Young Women, Primary, and Relief Society callings. She also taught early-morning seminary and served as an ordinance worker in the Chicago Illinois Temple.

Barbara Morgan Gardner (barbara_morgan@byu.edu) is an associate professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU.

young woman holding a candleMother Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Esther, and others demonstrated their faith through their actions. Today's young adult women can too! Add to Faith, by Walter Rane. © Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

The following is Barbara Morgan Gardner’s interview of President Jean B. Bingham about women in the Old Testament and young adult women today.

Barbara: What do you remember about teaching the Old Testament as an early-morning seminary teacher?

President Bingham: I love the Old Testament and loved teaching it. I taught early-morning seminary for six years, and for two of those years the subject was the Old Testament. I loved helping in the process of opening students’ eyes to the stories and truths of the Old Testament. Most of my students had never read the Old Testament and didn’t have the background or context that helps make the stories and experiences come alive. To increase their appreciation and understanding, as a class we would celebrate the Jewish holidays during the school year. I would make a booth for Sukkoth and make traditional foods so they could just taste them and familiarize themselves with the people and their culture. I would create a mini Seder when we read about the Passover in the Old Testament so they could get a flavor of how the people lived and worshipped. I wanted them to see that the people in the Old Testament built their whole lives around their religion.

In our day, too many of us, including our youth, think or at least act like our lives and our religion are two different things. In teaching the Old Testament I wanted them to see what it looks like to have the gospel of Jesus Christ permeate every piece of their lives. I wanted them to understand that seminary and Church were a part of their lives, not a separate activity they participated in during the week. I wanted them to see how religion, for those in Old Testament times, influenced their family associations, work, how their spent their time, etc. I wanted my students to understand the power and value contained in the process of studying and applying the principles found in that book. Teaching students the truths of the Old Testament brought such great joy into my life.

Barbara: As a Relief Society General President, you have a unique perspective on the gifts and challenges of the women of the Church, especially our young adult women. What are you seeing as some of the needs and strengths of the young adults today?

President Bingham: As General Relief Society President, I have direct responsibility and many opportunities to work with the young adults in the Church throughout the world. I see the importance of helping them understand who they are. Our young adults need to understand that they have a unique identity and purpose in life. Some of them need help figuring that out.

On the other hand, I have met and watched some amazingly focused and compellingly talented young adults who already know who they are. They have paid the price to know their purpose on earth, and they are going about helping their peers understand those same things. I have been visiting young adult wards every other week for months now. I always have an opportunity to bear my testimony, but honestly, the most powerful thing I experience is watching the young adults teach and lead and build each other. I have witnessed some powerful teaching and leading coming from our young adults. They are serving in stake Relief Society presidencies and training each other at the ward level. The interaction between them is so natural. The peer-to-peer mentoring is a great asset and way to lift each other. They see role models in each other and see areas in which they want to improve.

As leaders and teachers, we need to raise our expectations as well as our understanding of young adults. We have to see their potential and put them in places and give them opportunities to thrive and lead. We need to expect that our young adult women who have served missions or who have had significant experiences in living on their own, or who have been receiving an education, have learned to rely on the Lord. We need to see them as solid in the gospel. These young adult women have developed their own testimonies and have confidence in themselves and in the Lord. These young adult women need to be in positions to share their testimonies and experiences with others. They have had honest, from-the-heart experiences as they have applied what they know and become what they now are. I’m sure the young adult men are the same.

Barbara: How can we use the stories and truths of the Old Testament to help our young adults and youth today?

President Bingham: All youth and young adult women, regardless of their life experiences and level of testimony, need righteous female role models. There are many faithful and strong women alive today who can serve as mentors and leaders to these younger women, but the Lord has also placed female role models in the scriptures. The Old Testament is a great source of female role models. These women of the Bible possessed the qualities of and proved themselves to be great mentors to women of all ages, but their lives and decisions are especially important for the younger generation. As our youth and young adult women learn from these biblical women, the young adults will become powerful mentors to their peers both in and out of the Church and will be leaders and teachers of the rising generation. Mother Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Rachel, Esther, and others demonstrated their faith through their actions. Today’s young adult women can too! Each of them, although their circumstances were unique, demonstrated that their clear priority was knowing and serving the Lord their God. Each one of them chose to make and keep covenants with God. Each of them chose to keep the commandments. Significantly, each one of them chose to follow the prophet of her day.

Eve, for example, made a covenant with God and was determined to courageously fulfill her promise. Eve was clearly an independent and wise thinker, yet she also understood the significance of unity and counseling in making decisions. I’m confident Eve and Adam learned the gospel together and became very aware of their in-between situation. I’m sure they discussed over and over the ramifications of their decisions. Both Eve and Adam helped each other keep the commandments God had given them and were true to the covenants they made with God and to each other. They likely analyzed their situation as married couples do, wondering together why they were commanded to do certain things, why they could eat certain fruit and not others. They likely pondered on the command to multiply and replenish the earth and discussed how to make that happen in their current situation. In Moses 5 we learn that Adam and Eve labored together, prayed together, studied together, and so forth. They learned to become interdependent in doing God’s will.

In all of this, Eve recognized that something needed to change to get them from their current state of paradise to their mortal ability, as commanded by God, to multiply and replenish the earth. Eve must have had great faith coupled with courage and wisdom to make the decision and take the step to move them forward. She knew that if they continued doing what they were doing, they wouldn’t be able to fulfill what seemed to be the most important commandment. Eve acted. Perhaps empowered by Eve’s courage, Adam chose to do the same and the two of them moved forward together. Adam apparently needed Eve’s example of courageous action to be able to see that this was the best decision. He then chose to do the same, and together, they moved forward. I would imagine that the covenants Eve and Adam made were similar to the covenants we make in the temple today. As the youth and young adult women of the Church today act courageously and faithfully in keeping their covenants and are willing to be equally yoked and move forward in a unified manner, they will be incredible influences for good.

Sarah is another great example of a righteous female mentor. Sarah was clearly a beautiful woman. It seemed that wherever Sarah and Abraham went, she was desired by others, including the king of Egypt. Sarah courageously went among the people and with her husband into what would be difficult circumstances. Although we do not have many of Sarah’s words recorded in scripture, it is clear by her actions that she was a faithful woman. Sarah was a woman of the covenant who, in accordance with God’s laws, entered into a celestial marriage with Abraham, which covenant leads to exaltation. Sarah and Abraham entered into the covenant together and received the promises of the celestial blessings together. Sarah is a critical part of the Abrahamic covenant. There is no Abrahamic covenant without Sarah. It wasn’t like Abraham made a covenant with God and Sarah was just on the side waiting. No, she made the same covenant and was promised the same blessings. The Abrahamic covenant requires both a man and a woman who jointly covenant, and the blessings are poured out upon them both. Sarah chose to make a covenant with God. This was her covenant as well. She was promised, along with Abraham, that she would have seed as numerous as the sands of the seashore and the stars of the sky.

Imagine the faith and trust Sarah must have had in the Lord to believe that she would not only bear but give birth to a healthy baby, which would be the beginning to her having posterity to count beyond the sands of the sea. By the time of Isaac’s birth, she would be in her nineties! There’s a good reason she chuckled when the prophecy was given! She knew her physical state. She knew the reality of mortality and her own personal situation. The amount of faith and trust a woman in her circumstance would need to believe that she could successfully carry and give birth to a baby is immense. She recognized it was only possible through a miracle from God.

Sarah did not see the Abrahamic promise fulfilled in mortality, but she had faith in God, including His timing. Although Sarah lived to see the birth of Isaac, she died before she saw the fruit of that promise of posterity as numerous as the sands of the sea. There was a level of obedience that was required of Sarah that was very high, and she obeyed without receiving many of the promised blessings in mortality. The blessings of the Abrahamic covenant were fulfilled through Sarah. Sarah was a covenant women of the covenant line who kept God’s commandments and whose righteous actions have led to the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant in the lives of uncounted numbers of people—even to equate to the sands of the sea.

How powerful for our youth and young adult women today to understand that they have the ability as individuals to enter into covenants with God and that their righteous decisions will literally influence large numbers of people! How powerful for our young adult women to know that like Sarah, God will fulfill His promises in His own time and way and will bless them with abilities beyond their own if they will but trust and obey Him. I would imagine Sarah did not think as a youth or young adult woman that she would be barren and that all of her pleadings by the Lord for that blessing would be answered in her golden years. Yet there is something Sarah must have done in her younger years to prepare her for when the real trials came. She must have prepared herself years in advance to answer the call of the Lord, whatever that call would be. How important is it to help these youth and young adults be prepared before the difficult decisions and circumstances arise.

Unlike Eve and Sarah, we meet Rebecca as a single youth / young adult woman. She clearly was prepared when the time came to act, even at a young age. Rebecca stood out among other women. Rebecca wasn’t waiting for an opportunity but rather living a covenant life that would be enhanced according to her righteous decisions. When the opportunity presented itself, when Isaac’s servant asked for her hand in marriage for his master, she was willing and ready to continue on her covenant path. She was clearly already worthy, already serving, and understood her purpose, at least in part. She seemed to have clear priorities. Rebecca was on her path of learning to recognize the voice of the Spirit, even at this young age. And she was not commanded to go, but rather we are told that she stated, “I will go.” She chose for herself and was worthy for the opportunity and inspiration that came. Because of her obedience and purity, she recognized the hand of the Lord. We need to be prepared to recognize God’s hand and be willing and ready to covenant with Him when the opportunity presents itself. As women, we must prepare ourselves to be ready to fulfill the measure of our creation according to the timing of the Lord. Rebecca was an example of a righteous woman whom the Lord used to fulfill His purposes. Because of her righteousness, she became the mother of and had incredible influence on Jacob and the entire house of Israel. The influence and power of one covenant-keeping woman is incredible. It was also to Rebecca that the Lord spoke regarding the future of God’s covenant children. Rebecca knew, even before their birth, who would be the birthright son. She had the knowledge and faith to fulfill the guidance of the Spirit in placing her son Jacob where he needed to be in fulfilling the commands of God.

And how painful must it have been for Leah to always feel like she was second to Rachel and to know that Jacob married her because he was tricked. It says in the scriptures that Jacob hated Leah. Yet Leah, even in this difficult situation, did not leave her covenant path because of her situation. She had made a covenant with God, and it was God she would continue to obey. How awkward it must have been for Rachel to have a relationship with Jacob knowing the circumstance of his relationship with Leah. How distraught Rachel must have felt when she was unable to bear Jacob a child when the culture at that time praised and honored women who bore children and her older sister and all the handmaids could. What must Leah and Rachel have overcome in order to dwell with each other? What personal pride must they have had to set aside in order to stay true to the covenant and not give up or refuse to move forward? Yet both kept their covenants with the Lord. It wasn’t the circumstance that determined their faithfulness and resulted in eternal blessings but rather their decisions.

Life’s personal circumstances can be so painful when they don’t fit societal or personal norms. We see from the examples of Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel that we must keep an eternal perspective. We must have faith and trust in God and continue on the covenant path regardless of our personal circumstances, or in fact sometimes because of our circumstances. I know personally how it feels to have a longing heart and how painful it can be, and yet as I keep an eternal perspective, I also recognize that no blessing will be withheld as I, and all others, make and keep covenants. Each woman has to understand that she is a daughter of God and that He loves her more than she can imagine and will only give her what she truly wants in the eternities. We cannot allow ourselves to compare our circumstances, trials, and blessings with that of other women. Eve’s circumstances simply were not the same as Sarah’s, and even Leah and Rachel, who lived at the same time and were sisters, had extremely unique circumstances, yet each woman made significant contributions as they continued on the covenant path.

And what of all the unnamed women of the scriptures? Most of the women we have record of we know because of the man they were married to. Yet I’m sure there were many faithful women who, just like women today, were covenant-keeping daughters of God, who were on the covenant path and will be equally blessed. They too will receive the privileges of the covenants of Abraham and Sarah because they were living, although perhaps quietly, the covenants they made with God. Some of these women, perhaps like Rachel, will have waited years to be married in this life; some may perhaps be married in situations like Leah that were not ideal. Like Sarah, some may have to wait to have children in this life, or perhaps do not bear children at all. Like Esther, some may be in positions that are not ideal or of their own choosing but recognize the dependence of others on them and are willing to serve in those roles. There are as many circumstances as there are people both in Old Testament times and today. Although perhaps not all women’s trials are demonstrated in the scriptures, many examples of faithfulness and being true to the covenant path and following the prophets regardless of individual circumstances are. Every covenant-keeping woman will receive the blessings of Abraham and Sarah and Rebecca and Isaac and Leah, Rachel, and Jacob. Regardless of whether or not your name is known to others, it is known to the Lord, and His promises are fulfilled not because of popularity but because of righteousness. Every needful blessing will be given to every faithful woman. The Old Testament is a testimony of how individual faithful women receive the promises of the Lord. Each woman must remember that first, she is a daughter of God, and second, God wants her greatest happiness. He will give her only what will make her eternally happy.

Barbara: What are some specific principles we can learn from the lives of the women of the Old Testament?

First and foremost is obedience. Obedience is the first law of heaven. The three pillars of the plan of salvation, including the Creation, Fall, and Atonement of Jesus Christ, all have obedience as their foundational component. In Genesis we learn of the Creation. We know that Jehovah is the creator of the earth under the direction of His Father. When He created the heavens and the earth, the elements obeyed! Eve chose to partake of the fruit in her desire to obey God’s command. She recognized that it would be impossible to obey God’s command to multiply and replenish the earth without partaking of the fruit. Because of this decision, Eve and Adam initiated the Fall. As their posterity, we all inherit the effects of the Fall, including physical and spiritual death. Their bodies and all of their posterity’s bodies became mortal, putting them and us in a position of dependence on Him who was perfectly obedient: Jesus Christ. Christ was the Son of God as well as the son of mortal Mary. Like all of us, He had agency. Through His obedience, as we learn in section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Christ gained power. This power was and is the only power sufficient to overcome the effects of the Fall. We also know that Christ’s power increased line upon line. With this power He was able to resurrect Himself and resurrect others, thus allowing Him and all people to overcome physical death. Because of His perfect obedience, He is able to save mankind. As we strive to become obedient like Jesus Christ, we too will be endowed with power to overcome the effects of our own mistakes.

Although all of this is not spelled out in the Old Testament, there is no question it is alluded to. Isaiah teaches about Jesus Christ, His suffering, and His Atonement in Isaiah 53. He wrote that Christ was “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (verse 3). Isaiah then writes, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. . . . He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (verses 4–5). Christ did all He could for us and overcame the effects of the Fall through His obedience. The Old Testament allows us to see how others respond to their tests of obedience. Hopefully we will learn from these faithful women and men and choose to be obedient. In our day we have a distinct advantage in that we have a prophet of God who gives us direction on a frequent basis. Just as in the Old Testament, those who keep God’s commandments and follow the prophet’s counsel will be blessed.

From the Old Testament we also learn that the covenant path requires sacrifice. Throughout the Old Testament we see example after example of the Lord requiring sacrifice and then blessing those who are willing to sacrifice. Without sacrifice, how are we to become like the great Jehovah, who would be willing to sacrifice all things? He is the greatest mentor when it comes to learning the principle of sacrifice. In the Old Testament the Lord uses His servants, both men and women, as a foreshadow to the Savior. Of these great mentors, the Lord would require them to give their all. As President Russell M. Nelson taught, in these lives we see people who “let God prevail.”[1] The greatest sacrifice is giving of yourself for God’s purposes. It is in the giving of ourselves that we become happy and feel true joy.

There are many examples of women who sacrificed or who let God prevail; Esther is one of my favorites. Unlike Rebecca, Esther found herself in a position she did not choose for herself. The scripture says she was “brought also unto the king’s house” (Esther 2:8). I would imagine that although she was quite beautiful, it was her purity that set her apart from the others. Her purity gave her a level of confidence that was likely unmatched at her time and was exactly what was needed to save her people. She is a clear example of one who, like it says in Doctrine and Covenants 121:45, “let virtue garnish [her] thoughts unceasingly,” and she received the promised blessing of having her “confidence wax strong in the presence of God,” which also seemed to give her confidence in interacting with others.

Esther’s confidence is critical because she is going to be asked to be willing to sacrifice her own life, literally, for God’s chosen people. Although the king had set a royal crown upon her head, he had recently done the same thing to Vashti, and Vashti was no longer queen. Esther’s response to Mordecai’s plea for her to present herself before the king (when appearing unbidden was punishable by death) reveals her faith in God as well as her willing, selfless sacrifice. With the knowledge that all Jews were fasting for her, she declared, “So will I go in unto the king; which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Esther had prepared herself for this day. She knew the power of fasting. She knew what it meant to place her life in God’s hands, and she was prepared to do it. By presenting herself before the king and doing as Mordecai suggested, not only would she be revealing to the king and all others that she was a Jew (which was in and of itself punishable by death), but she ran the risk of death even before she was able to state the purpose of her visit. Going forward with courage, trusting in the Lord, Esther put her own future, her comfort, ease, and literally her life on the line. She was prepared for this willing sacrifice. Like Abraham, Esther was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. Imagine the influence Esther had on future generations! Adults and children, boys and girls alike were fasting for her by name. Throughout the rest of her life and generations to come, she would be their role model, their example of a faithful woman who put God even before her own life. They would see this beautiful, pure, courageous woman who was willing to sacrifice all for God—and she was someone they knew. She was one of them.

As members of God’s covenant house of Israel, we too are being asked to give of our time, comfort, ease, etc., for the benefit of God’s children. Like Esther, women both old and young can gain the confidence that comes only through living a virtuous life. With that confidence we can be effective in sacrificing what is less important for that which is eternal, and by making that decision, not only save ourselves but be the literal saviors of others. Imagine the influence of a body of believers who are invested in this work together. Those who fasted for Esther were sacrificing as well. We may not know their names, but we know they were unified in their sacrifice, and God answered their prayers.

In Old Testament times, animal and other sacrifices were very much a part of their lives. What they were doing was more than giving of their wealth; they were giving of themselves. Their sacrifice was a symbol of being willing to give their best to the Lord. In our day we are not being asked to give animal sacrifices, but we are being asked to give up anything that would keep us away from the covenant path or from the Lord. The real purpose of the sacrifices of the people of the Old Testament was to draw them closer to Jesus Christ. Elder Neal A. Maxwell talked about giving our will, our hearts, which is the only thing that is actually ours to give. Sacrificing not only demonstrates to God that He is our priority, but it reminds us that He is. The world wants us to focus on status, wealth, pride, independence, positions, self, and popularity. Although not bad in and of themselves, all of these things can be used to exert false power. God desires that we sacrifice the world and become humble, righteous, interdependent, and obedient. He wants us to lose ourselves in the service of others. The world teaches that it’s all about me, or my ego. The Old Testament clearly teaches that happiness and prosperity come not from serving and building up self but rather in serving others and helping them come unto Christ. Any young adult who has really sincerely served someone else is happier than if they had stayed in their apartment watching Netflix and eating nachos!

Another principle from the Old Testament is unity. Adam and Eve had to work in unity. In Moses 5 we read that Eve and Adam labored together, “called upon the name of the Lord” together, “blessed the name of God” together, and “made all things known unto their sons and their daughters” together (Moses 5: 1–12). Another unified couple we don’t think of often is Noah and his wife. There is no way Noah prepared for and got all the people, animals, etc., on the boat by himself! He had a wife who worked hard with him, side by side, in unison. Since we know she was on the ark, we also know she must have been righteous. What kind of discussions must they have had at night! It is clear that they supported each other on the covenant path. They clearly both made and kept sacred covenants with the Lord and recognized their interdependence as they were on the covenant path. They recognized that their eternal destiny, as well as that of future generations to come, was dependent on each other. Both individuals in a marriage need to be willing to make and keep sacred covenants. There is power in unity, there is power in people reasoning and counseling and learning and moving forward together. There is power in learning from each other and depending on each other.

I think of the principle of faith when I reflect on all the unnamed women of the Old Testament, perhaps especially the Hebrew midwives. It wasn’t just one either. Yes, the one we are familiar with is the one who took care of Moses, but there were others who knew what was right and creatively made the right things happen, regardless of the personal consequences. They had faith in the Lord and acted on what was right. They were faithful to the Lord and faithful to what they knew to be true. Commanded by the king to kill all the male babies, they found ways to succor and save souls. They fulfilled their divine roles as women as they gave life and they protected life.

Barbara: What advice do you have for our young adult women as they walk the covenant path?

President Bingham: First of all, do not wait! Make contributions today! In your process of preparation, recognize that you are making important decisions now. You are already having an impact. You do not need to wait to get married, go on a mission, or have children to fulfill the measure of your creation. What you are doing to prepare right now is important. How is your scripture study? How are you drawing closer to Christ? What have the prophet and the Spirit specifically told you to do—and are you doing it? How is your relationship with the Lord? What are you doing to better hear Him? How is your testimony? Make eternal principles and actions a priority in your life. Don’t wait to make right choices in the future; make right choices now, and let the Lord guide you as you walk the covenant path.

Young women have opportunities today that were not available to most women throughout previous eras. You do not have to have a specific role in the Church or reach a certain desired destination or circumstance to contribute and make a difference. There are so many ways to contribute to the world in your own families, in your neighborhoods, wards, employment, communities, etc. Don’t wait! Waiting on the Lord does not mean that you are waiting for Him to use you, but you are trusting in the Lord and having faith in His timing, purposes, and blessings. It means that you are moving forward on His path, obediently and thoughtfully, trusting that He is the author and finisher of your faith. Every individual is unique, and everyone is needed for their own specific gifts and talents. Continue to discern those gifts and talents and improve upon them. Your influence will not just happen when you are at your peak but rather throughout your entire life. Decide now to serve or continue to serve the Lord. The Lord knows who you are, what circumstances you are living in, and what you are able to offer. He needs you to be the best you. Each of us can have an impact in different ways and at different times and circumstances. Do not wait for life to happen. Make it happen.

And second, the righteous women of the Old Testament based their decisions on faith in Jesus Christ, not fear. Rather than making decisions based on fear, make them based on faith. Recognize that God has a different plan for each of His daughters. Don’t make decisions based on what others are doing but rather on what is right for you. I know many fantastic, even stellar, women who have recognized that their lives are not what they would have chosen but have proactively become amazing contributors in their professional fields, such as in law, music, education, medicine, business, social work, etc. They have come to recognize that God’s plan is better than their own. Find your passion and faithfully move forward. For some women that means getting married at a younger age and focusing on raising children. For some that may mean extending your influence through continued education. Yes, a master’s degree may take a couple of years, and a law degree may take three, and a PhD or medical degree more, but you’re going to get older no matter what you do! When I hear young adults say that they don’t want to do such and such because it will take too long, and they will be such and such age by the time they accomplish the goal, I simply respond, “How old will you be in two years if you don’t get a master’s degree or if you don’t go on a mission, or if you don’t put forth effort in your chosen area?” Put yourself in a position to be of greater influence. Don’t be afraid of making choices that take effort. We have eternity to fulfill all that we desire. Keep moving ahead with your own personal development, based upon the guidance of the Spirit. Develop your talents wherever you are according to your circumstances.

A third key is to look for ways to serve. Learn to blossom by taking interest in something significant to you, whether that be in formal education, strengthening your family, becoming the favorite aunt, reaching out and loving children or the elderly, etc. Reach out in your circumstances, and be more engaged in meeting the needs of others, especially those who cannot meet their own needs. Look for who needs you and what you uniquely can provide. Ask who needs you as a confidant, or who needs your friendly smile. Lift and strengthen whoever you associate with in your own circles. There are people that you can uniquely influence and who would love to be around you. Trust that the Lord has placed you where you need to be, but don’t be stagnant. Like Rebecca, be ready to go where the Lord needs you; like Eve, have the courage to make the hard decisions that will move you and others forward. Recognize that to others you may be the Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Rachel, or Esther they need for encouragement. When people watch your life, they are in a sense reading your stories of faith, courage, conviction, and obedience. Let others see that like the women of the Old Testament, there are women today who make and keep covenants, who keep the commandments, and who follow the prophet of today even under difficult and perhaps unpopular situations and who value unity.

Barbara: As we study the Old Testament, we learn about priesthood and temple ordinances. As the Relief Society General President, what would you like our younger women to understand regarding these topics?

President Bingham: First, the sisters need to understand that temple ordinances and the covenants we make with God literally give us power. What kind of power? Power to resist temptation, to discern right from wrong and truth from error, the power to stay on the covenant path, and so much more. There is so much knowledge and information in the world designed to deceive, distract, demean, and discourage. There is so much confusion. By making and keeping our temple covenants, we are able to see clearly and have the power necessary to overcome and discern and discard all the filth and darkness. The temple covenants empower us to create righteous individuals, strong marriages, and rock-solid families. The temple teaches us the true interdependence of men and women. When the world would have us compare and contend, the temple teaches us the power of a righteous woman and a righteous man working together on the covenant path. It’s incredible. The temple clarifies what so many struggle to understand. Our temple covenants endow us with the power to become all that we are designed to be. This is not available anywhere else. God has designed us all to become spectacular. We all have divine potential. Making and keeping covenants gives us the power to do that.

It’s also important to recognize that Satan hates the temple and would like to destroy anyone on the covenant path. He will use whatever tactic is necessary. He will make sacred things seem strange, pure love seem hateful, right seem wrong, obedience seem restraining, and sacrifice seem pointless. While Satan would like to limit and destroy God’s power, our prophet today is clearly trying to enhance and bring to light God’s power. Satan is trying to drag those on the covenant path off and into forbidden paths. Satan is trying to make people weak and lose focus on what really matters.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the temple and the priesthood available there. The power and authority of the temple is available to both men and women. In our day, both women and men receive God’s power and authority in the temple through their covenants. In the temple, we receive the same power, the same authority, the same blessings, and with little exception, the same wording is used with women as it is with men. This power and authority associated with temple covenants commences in the initiatory and continues through the endowment and sealing. The highest ordinance in the Melchizedek Priesthood is the sealing ordinance, which is found today only in the temple. This sealing ordinance can only be done in unity between a wife and husband. Eve and Adam, Sarah and Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac, Leah and Rachel and Jacob all received these ordinances in their day, and we are receiving them now. We don’t know exactly what was said and done then, but I believe that it is similar to the covenants we make in the temple today. Like the faithful women of the Old Testament, we too can call upon God’s power.

Sisters, do not wait to receive your endowments and make sacred covenants with the Lord in His holy temple. Do not think that because you are not going to get married soon or have decided that you’re not going on a mission that you should wait to go to the temple. This may have been the case in the past, but this is not the case now. We need strong, endowed young adult sisters to make covenants with the Lord now, to keep those covenants and be endowed with His power. If you haven’t received your endowment, according to the guidance of the Spirit, prepare yourself to receive your endowment and go. If you have received your endowment, return often and be reminded of the covenants you have made and continue to be filled with God’s power by returning to His house and renewing those covenants.

For centuries, temple attendance was a one-time opportunity for most sisters, if the opportunity even presented itself. If you are among those who are only able to go once, do all you can to rehearse your temple covenants in your mind. Regardless of how many times you go, remember that you wear the garment every day, which will remind you of the sacred covenants you made in the temple. If you are one who is blessed to have a temple nearby, go as often as wisdom permits.

I would teach and remind our young adult women that wearing the temple garment is a privilege. There is power in the garment. The more excuses we find to not wear the garment, the less power we have. The more we choose not to wear the garment for whatever reason, the further off the covenant path we are going. Temple garments are not just underwear, but rather they are symbols of our commitment to love and serve God. We need to treat them as sacred and wear them as a privilege. I would encourage young adult women to think about what covenants are associated with their garments and ponder on what they heard, saw, and felt in the temple each day as they put the garment on. I would encourage them to revere the temple garment and recognize that as we keep our covenants with God, we are blessed in ways we may not even recognize. I would remind young adult women that as we keep our covenants, no blessing will be withheld from us.

Barbara: What advice do you have for religious educators of youth and young adults at this time in the world’s history?

President Bingham: I would encourage religious educators to recognize that these young adults today are powerful. These young adult women can be trusted. There are young adult women in your classes that are covenant-making and covenant-keeping daughters of God who are keeping commandments and believe in and are following the prophet today. Remember that these young women are paying and have paid a heavy price to stand out among those of their same age group. Remind them that they don’t need to know the end result in order to act in faith. Many of the young men we see are equally focused on righteous goals. United as young adult men and women in helping one another continue in faith, they have incredible strength and power.

I so admire the seminary, institute, and religious educators at our Church schools. They have a great opportunity to influence youth and young adults to stay on the covenant path. The position of being a religious educator, whether full time or voluntary, is so important. You are a direct point of contact to help students understand and help motivate them to live their covenants. Because of your position and who you are, you are in a unique position to help strengthen, mentor, and teach these youth and young adults. Although their testimonies may be powerful, they still are young and need you to be a bridge builder and a guide. They need your examples and to know you have confidence in them.

You are where you are for a reason. Believe in them, guide them, be mentors to them in and out of the classroom, and give them opportunities to mentor each other. As teachers and leaders, we have to trust them and allow and provide opportunities for the young adults to lead—and expect them to lead. Many young adult women have learned to rely on the Lord and have abilities and confidence that are untapped. Use these women, empower them, help them on their way, and reinforce the righteous choices that they are making. Help them to see the impact of their righteous choices, and help them be in positions where they can unite their faith with others.


[1] Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” Ensign, November 2020, 92.