Sermon by President Elbert A. Smith before the Regional Priesthood Conference, at Independence Missouri January 5, 1927.
(This concluding portion of the sermon is dedicated to the wives and mothers of the ministry.)
It is presumed under the laws of homiletics that the climax of the sermon, the closing thoughts, should sum it up or grow out of it, and it may be that what I have to say in conclusion will appear to wander away from the subject; but if I violate the law of homiletics and offend any of the brethren, at least the sisters will stand by me; and if they be for me, who shall be against me?
It is not given to woman to have the stewardship of priesthood. No; she is not asked to bear the stewardship of priesthood. All that she is asked to do is to go down into the valley of travail from whence come new souls and come up out of that alley bearing in her arms the male child that shall be a priest; to take him to her bosom and feed him and warm him and clothe him; and as he grows older, to teach the priest, who later shall teach the people. When he grows to manhood and becomes the very apple of her eye, as beautiful to her as Apollo, as wise as Solomon, as brave as Daniel, and as good as John the Beloved, when she has invested in him all that she has and all that she is and all she ever expects to have and to be, then to give him to the church and to God; to pray for him all the days of his ministry; and when she has grown old in body and fatal disease is set its hand upon her and she stands in the valley of the shadow of death between the pillars of eternal mystery, to bear, as my good mother did, her last testimony to the divinity of this work that will ring like a golden bell in the heart of her son forever; perchance later to come back unseen and invisible to observe her son and see whether he has kept the trust.
No, it is not given to woman to have the stewardship of priesthood; but every priest sometime is the stewardship of some woman.
I was down in Oklahoma City some months ago, and some one said to me, "Sister Sorden wants to see you. You know Sister Sorden, the mother of Dan, who is over in Jerusalem on a mission. She wants to know if you have time to talk with her?" Why, certainly, if anybody had claim upon my time it was she. So she came and said, "Brother Smith, what about my son, Dan?"
Well, Dan had been gone a long time-two years, three years, four years, five years, six years, in a foreign field, when every day of those six years if she could have had him with her it would have been worth more to that mother than all the oil wells of Oklahoma. So I said to her, "It must have been a great cross to you to have him gone so long."
"Oh, Brother Smith," she said, "I don't care where my son is or how long he stays just so he is engaged in the work of the Lord."
I was in Plano, Illinois, and stayed in the humble home of Brother and Sister W. A. McDowell. I thought many times while there of how that sister had sent her husband, Brother W. A. McDowell, forth a missionary all these years, and now her son Oliver as a pastor in Michigan, and Floyd as a member of the Presidency - three ministers to whom she had said, "Go preach." When I bade her good-by I felt honored to put my arm around her shoulder and kiss her good-by. Brother Joseph used to say to the ministry, "If you must kiss the women, kiss the grandmothers." And as I kissed her good-by, she said, "Take my love to my son Floyd." She seemed to rise up in stature as she said, "Take my love to my son -- my son Floyd."
No; it is not given to woman to have the stewardship of priesthood, but every high priest has been some woman's stewardship.
Perchance a woman shall marry a missionary. She does not have to preach. I heard a missionary's wife say, "I thank God I don't have to preach." All she has to do is to let him go, and cheerfully tell him good-by so his going may not be hard to him; to stay behind, manage the household, stoke the furnace, manage the business affairs; to be husband and wife, to be mother and father, to love gently like a mother and discipline firmly like a father; when she writes him, to write cheerful letters and leave out the matters that might make him homesick; and when he becomes old and is superannuated to speak to him as did Sister E. L. Kelley when she said, "Edmund, you have been in a very responsible position as Presiding Bishop, and now you are released and retired and put on the
shelf, and furthermore a generation of young people will come to the work who will do things differently from what you did; but let us resolve that whatever comes we will always keep sweet."
No; woman does not have the stewardship of priesthood, but every priest is her stewardship.
Emma Smith was not ordained as a priest. She could not baptize. She could not lay hands on the sick. All she could do was to stand in the doorway of the Mansion House and watch Joseph as he rode away that June morning, go out to the gate to catch the last glimpse of him as he rode over the hill to Carthage; and when the dead body was brought back to her, make a clean bed to lay him on, and after he was buried to set up the altar in her home, close her ears to appeals to go here or there, and say, I have no home but this and no friend but God; to establish her "school of religious education" and teach Joseph and Alexander and David, and later give to the church two men for the Presidency and one for the Quorum of Twelve. She did not have the stewardship of priesthood; but three high priests were her stewardship.
When Mary was crowded out so there was no place for her in human habitation and she must needs lay herself down on the straw in the manger, and the Son of God, from the courts of glory, crept into her arms, he became her stewardship. She taught himthe one who should teach all men. When she took him to the temple to be blessed, Simeon took him from her arms and said, "Mary, because of him a sword shall pierce through thy very soul." Think you that during those forty days and forty nights when he wrestled with Satan in the wilderness Mary slept? And when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane and the twelve apostles could not keep awake, not one hour to watch with him, when they who had the stewardship of priesthood all slept, do you think Mary slept? And when she saw him hanging on the cross. NO, she did not have the stewardship of priesthood; but the great high priest of our profession, who entered once into the holy of holies, was a woman's stewardship.
So it may finally be when his work is all done and the minister comes into the presence of God, and God says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," he will also turn to the man's wife and mother and say, "Exceedingly well done, good and faithful servants; enter in also with him into my joy. Without you, he could never have served; without you he could never have joy."