I do not know the context for this document, by Apostle Matthias F. Cowley, published in 1903. It reads like an extemporaneous speech rather than as a written paper, and without further information I would guess it was delivered at a YLMIA conference that year.
We congratulate the daughters of Zion on their being, like the Prophet Nephi, born of goodly parents; of fathers and mothers who, as did our father Abraham, go out from the lands of spiritual darkness to the place appointed of God for the gathering of His people, — to the Land of Zion where the Church of Christ, in the last days has been established never again to be taken from the earth, — the land of Adam, of Jared and his brother Mahonri-Moriancumr; the land of Joseph and of his posterity afterwards, where the pure in heart should find an asylum of peace and rest.
The mothers of our young ladies have toiled and suffered for the Gospel’s sake. Their self-denial and devotion to righteous principles, guided by the hand of Omnipotence has made them the noblest mothers in the world. They have been earnest, thorough and sincere. What they have done has been done well. Pre-natal conditions, youthful environments and above all pre-existent characteristics has produced in their posterity vital powers, virtue, truth and earnest thrift.
The prospects of the daughters are great, for the purposes of the Lord in them are the grandest and the noblest ever predetermined for any generation of women since the worlds began. Withal, the responsibilities resting upon them are correspondingly great and imporant.
“What’s worth doing at all is worth doing well” is an old adage and a true one. It is a singular fact in this world of hallucinations that evil things are often well done and many people are in deadly earnest in a bad cause while many who know the truth and have espoused a good cause manifest a spirit of contented indifference. It has been said concerning the Latter-day Saints, “Our enemies are active; our friends passive.” The young ladies of Zion, as well as the boys, should be earnest in every good word and deed, especially in their efforts to understand the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They should make it a part of their very being. They should feel the Gospel in spirit and in truth, and not merely know it from an intellectual standpoint.
In every walk of life we see indifferent, half-completed work. Girls become infatuated with pleasure-seeking, and by constant indulgence are often blinded to the useful achievements of house-work and industrial pursuits so essential to their well-being. “where the treasure is, there will the heart be also.” The gambler is infatuated with his profession. A man will stand at the pool table for hours and push a billiard ball with a wooden stick, or sit at a table playing cards, completely absorbed, it may be for fun, but most generally it is with ambitions to outdo his companion and win sums of money. When the game is over he sleeps and dreams of gambling. What has he learned? What good has he done to humanity? None at all, and even if his playing has not been for money he has wasted time and talent.
In our pursuits of recreation it is right to be sincere and earnest, but these pastimes should be elevating and refining. The games employed by the gambler will too often lead to drunkenness and other kindred evils. The young ladies of course do not gamble or engage in the grosser evils, but they have a great mission to help reform the opposite sex and wield a good influence. Manya wayward young man has been saved from ruin and degradation by the influence of his mother, his wife, his sister or his sweetheart. Any young woman who fails to exert her influence for good over her associates, whether boys or girls, is guilty of a wrong. “He that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is a sin.”
President Joseph F. Smith has recently advised us against the wasting of time and talent in play cards. In this counsel, his brethren in authority are one with him. We hope that the girls and boys, as well as the men and women, will all heed this counsel. If they do, the blessings of the Lord will attend them and they will see more clearly by the light of the spirit of truth the propriety of it. Let me here incidentally remind the young ladies that right-spirited obedience to the counsel of the presidency of the Church will, in due time, be attended by a personal and convincing testimony that the counsel is right.
Be thorough in every laudable work. If some one else can do the same thing well in half the time you can, don’t be discouraged. Don’t try to imitate others, be your own natural self, and exercise the gifts and talents with which the Lord has endowed you.
If your financial limitations will not permit you to wear as costly clothing as your neighbor, don’t feel ashamed, and don’t coax father or mother to encumber themselves to assist you to do so. Contentedness, the spirit of the Lord, the living within one’s income, — these are the gems of true life and conduct.
Our Heavenly Father never designed monotony in His creation. The scientist tells us that no two blades of grass are alike, and that no two beans upon a parent stem agree as to size and color. The earth is diversified with mountains, hills, valleys, oceans, lakes, gulfs and rivers to please the eye of man. The soil, the climate and the vegetation all vary for the benefit of mankind and the glory of God. So it is with the gifts, talents and blessings of men and women; all have a place to fill, and no matter how strikingly diverse, they are centers for some force or power.
Our young ladies re especially blessed with bright minds. The Lord has said that “To every man is given a gift by the spirit of God.” (Doc. & Cov., 42:7.) There are many gifts and every daughter in Zion may be the recipient of one or more thereof. Without cultivation these gifts may lie dormant and in tie be taken away as the talent was from the slothful servant. The Lord has said:
“But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths but hide the talent which I have given them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them. And it should come to pass if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away that which they have.” (Doc. & Cov. 60:2, 3.)
The principle thus involved applies to all the Saints alike, men and women, and to every form of labor contemplated in intelligence and truth. To exercise the talents given us we must know what they are and be guided by the inspiration of the Lord to use them properly.
President John Taylor used to tell the young people to do their work thoroughly. He said, “When people look at your work, they will not ask, How long did it take to complete it? but, Who did it?” In what we say and do we should be influenced by the question, What effect will my expressions or my labors have upon the future? The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this.
Evil work and evil deeds may be said and done in obscurity, — in the darkness of the night, but daylight will follow and reveal. So, our words and actions record themselves in some way, whether comprehensible to man or not. They do not fade away as the dew before the sun’s direct ray, but remain firm and everlasting as the “Rock of Ages.” As the constant ticking syllables of time remind every human being that he is fast approaching the great change which comes by dissolution of the body and the flight of the spirit, so sure and certain does his memory go back to the scenes of youth. The aged man oftentimes remembers more clearly the playmates of his boyhood than he does the faces of his friends which he looked upon only last week or yesterday. So as he breaks away from this temple of clay and is ushered into the spirit world, or as he rises with the just, there dawn upon his memory in perfect clearness the scenes and associations of his pre-existent state. He is a witness of all his deeds and words, he needs no accusers.
The Prophet Nephi tells us that the spirit which possesses our bodies when we lay them in the grave will have power to possess them in the eternal world. Death does not so change the spirit of man as to waft him from a state of sin to one of righteousness. His spirit remains the same. He must obey the law of God before he can reap the blessings. His agency is not taken away, he enjoyed and exercised it in the world before, he does the same in this world and will to all eternity. If his course has been evil in this earthly probation, his actions have not only brought ultimate misery and woe to himself, but in many instances blighted the peace and happiness of others not accountable for his sins. In the great hereafter when “He who is filthy shall remain filthy still,” his sinful desires may not be gratified and they certainly will not when the results would bring misery to others. The righteous will be free from the grasp of the wicked. The wicked will dwell in a state of misery and torment. Again, the Prophet Nephi tells us that the devil shall have no power over the spirits of the righteous after they leave this world. The great reward for the living of a righteous life is the bright recollection of good deeds and the eventful salvation from the grasp and influence of sin.
One of the twelve apostles in this age, a man now past three score years, who has served God and kept His commandments from childhood, who was prostrated near to death’s door and had no thought of recovery, bears testimony that his memory reverted without effort to his good deeds, and labors of love for the welfare and salvation of humankind. His little errors and mistakes were not remembered and his soul was full of inexpressible joy and gladness. This, my young sisters, is a practical instance of the state of a righteous man or woman when they are passing from this life to the one beyond. “Death is sweet unto them.” The grave has no victory and death has no sting.
“It does not pay to sin” were familiar words of President Woodruff. How important that our lives should be pure, our spirits obedient and our souls sincere. This life is but a span, a drop in the mighty ocean, a grain of sand upon the seashore. Carlyle calls it, “A dream between two eternities.” And yet how important! It is a life of trial temptation and test. Shall we be weighed in the balance and found wanting? No, not the daughters of Zion. Let them fill the great destiny in store for them by the Providences of our Eternal Father and they will be as ministering angels of salvation in this life and enjoy a fullness of eternal glory in the mansions of the Father.