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33

Prepare Thy Heart

An original recording of this discourse is available at churchhistorianspress.org (courtesy of Church History Library).







Relief Society General Conference

Tabernacle, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah

September 29, 1949


Before her Relief Society general board service, Maud Leone Openshaw Jacobs (1903–1990) and her husband, Joseph, served missions in Palestine and Syria.1 Joseph left for his service as mission president in July 1937. Leone and their children, eleven-year-old Geraldine and seven-year-old Lamont, could not join him until December 1938, after Leone had undergone and recovered from major surgery.2 Leone Jacobs’s mission work included fellowshipping members, learning Turkish, hosting a Christmas party for church members, and preparing meals for mission guests and missionaries.3 She also supported Relief Society and youth activities and played the organ for meetings.4 After England declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939, the Jacobs family was called home, leaving behind seventy-nine members to maintain the church in Asia Minor.5 Jacobs wrote a twelve-page report of her mission, describing Jewish efforts to settle Palestine, the roles of men and women in local culture, and a sad farewell with church members. The Deseret News published her report in two articles.6

Jacobs joined the Ensign Stake Relief Society presidency in 1941, the same year the United States entered World War II. She worked with other Relief Society members in sending soap, clothing, and bedding overseas; supporting the American Red Cross’s Utah headquarters by sewing hospital gowns and bandages; and filling canning assignments at Welfare Square.7 Materials were scarce, so the Relief Society had to be resourceful and act quickly to buy supplies to make blankets, clothing, and other items when such dry goods became available. Members of the stake Relief Society presidency pooled their gasoline ration stamps while Jacobs, the only presidency member with a car, drove them on their expeditions to look for fabric.8

At the war’s end, new Relief Society general president Belle S. Spafford invited Jacobs to serve on the general board, which she did from 1945 to 1956, when heart disease forced her to resign.9 Jacobs’s assignments on the board included planning Relief Society conventions10 and representing the board in community programs such as the Utah Safety Council and the Women’s Legislative Council of Utah.11 She gave the following talk on continually increasing in righteousness at a Relief Society general conference on September 29, 1949, in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

President Clark and brothers and sisters, it is indeed an inspiration to look out into your faces and to contemplate the influence for good that you sisters are, and I am sure that if this influence could be measured in some way, it would exceed by far our most extravagant estimate.12

We do appreciate your loyalty to this organization and to the gospel, and appreciate the love and understanding that you exert in your communities.

I pray that the few moments that I stand before you I may have your faith and prayers and that our Heavenly Father will strengthen me.

One of the most glorious principles of life is that we can always rise above our present level. How discouraging life would be if once we found ourselves involved in unworthy conduct we could not lift ourselves up and out and on to better ways, but we do not have to remain as we are. Each day offers a fresh beginning.

An old man once was reviewing his life to a friend. “When I was thirty I was just no good,” he said, “no good at all, not even to myself, and then one day I had the urge, the desire to right-about-face. I decided I was going to change my direction, and from that day to this I have led a life I was proud of.”

A young college girl paused in her round of excitement one day and said: “I guess I am going with the wrong crowd. I do not think I want to go where they are going.” She did not go that way.

A mother of three husky little boys had never deemed it necessary to give them any religious instruction. Oh, yes, she fed them well-balanced meals, kept them as clean as little boys can be kept, and saw that the bedtime was strictly observed. But one day she pondered thus: “I wonder if I am a really good mother. There seems to be much more to raising a family than merely feeding and clothing them. I seem to have time for my bridge club and our social engagements in the evening, but maybe I am neglecting some very important points.”13 She did something about it.

Lives can be changed, can they not? The course of our lives can be rerouted, but how? Let us call it preparing our hearts.

Well, what does preparing one’s heart mean? It means checking up on oneself, scrutinizing one’s daily life to see what is there, to see what is there of value and what should be thrown out. It means humbling oneself before the Lord. It means ridding oneself of bitterness and selfishness. It means complete forgiveness of all wrongs inflicted upon us, real or imagined. It means opening wide one’s heart to righteousness, putting oneself in an attitude to receive good. It means clothing one’s life differently.

Picture in your mind a field, plowed and harrowed from end to end, leveled near perfectly; weeds burned down along the fence line; everything possible done that is conducive to the growth of good seed. We can put our hearts in that very same condition, in an attitude of receptiveness to good. We can plow under the old useless habits and smooth down the rough places of error, but we hear someone say: “I wish I could enjoy working in the church like Mrs. So-and-so does. I wish I could enjoy living the gospel like she does.”

They can. It is all in the set of the heart. It is all in preparing one’s heart to want that sort of living. We hear other people say: “But I don’t see how you ever get the time for it all.”

In one of our recent Relief Society conventions a bishop said something that I think is very important for us to remember. It was this: “If you are too busy to serve the Lord, you are too busy.”

Yes, if we are too busy to serve the Lord, we are too busy doing other things that are not worthwhile.

In the Old Testament we read this: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it. … For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it.”14

What a lovely ideal for us to work to.

And in the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Therefore, prepare thine heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you.”15

I believe preparing one’s heart is perhaps the most decisive point in progress toward any goal. True, the carrying out of our plans is important too, but once our hearts are fully and staunchly prepared, the action is comparatively easy. Like the poem says: “It is the set of the soul that determines the goal.”16

And I fully believe that as far as living the gospel is concerned, we can do what we want to do, if we want to enough.

Now, in Relief Society we have much help in preparing our hearts for righteousness. We have much help in our wonderful lessons and in our work-day activity, and we not only have help in preparing our own hearts to live, but we have an opportunity to help prepare the hearts of others. Visiting teaching is a wonderful opportunity to help bring back those who are not as active as they should be, little by little, into greater activity in the gospel.

We know that living the gospel means sharing it with others, and visiting teaching is indeed a challenge in sharing the gospel. True, it takes great preparation, great thought and tact and wisdom, and I am quite sure that visiting teaching has not as yet reached its full possibility.

Recently I heard a bishop make a very urgent plea for the Relief Society members to put their arms around our sisters who have drifted away and estranged themselves from the church because they married outside the church. We certainly should endeavor to draw these sisters near to us and, through sheer love and personal interest, make them feel wanted, and that they belong and are needed in our organization.

Remember, if you are too busy to serve the Lord, you are too busy. Prepare your heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and in every way possible help others to prepare their hearts for righteousness. I pray to our Heavenly Father that he will help us to plan the course of our lives in the straight and narrow path, and that we may diligently pursue that course, and I ask it, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Footnotes

  1. [1]Joseph Jacobs’s Armenian parents, Armenag and Osanna Hagopian, were among the first converts in Aleppo, Syria, joining in 1893 and 1896, respectively. (“The Joseph Jacobs Story,” Jan. 4, 2006, 2, CHL; Leone O. Jacobs, “Palestine-Syrian Mission History,” n.d., 1, 4–5, CHL; Alice B. Steinicke, “Leone Openshaw Jacobs,” Relief Society Magazine 32, no. 7 [July 1945]: 406–407.)

  2. [2]Jacobs, “Palestine-Syrian Mission History,” 1.

  3. [3]These activities were recorded repeatedly in two diaries Jacobs kept while on her mission. (See Maud Leone Openshaw Jacobs, Diary, Dec. 5, 1938–Feb. 26, 1939; Feb. 27–June 28, 1939, CHL.)

  4. [4]Jacobs, “Palestine-Syrian Mission History,” 7A; Jacobs, Diary, Feb. 27, June 28, 1939.

  5. [5]Steinicke, “Leone Openshaw Jacobs,” 406–407; Jacobs, “Palestine-Syrian Mission History,” 8–10.

  6. [6]Leone Openshaw Jacobs, “To the Land of Our Savior,” Deseret News, Apr. 5 and 26, 1941.

  7. [7]Steinicke, “Leone Openshaw Jacobs,” 407; Maud Leone Openshaw Jacobs, “Autobiography of Maud Leone Openshaw Jacobs,” 1979, 40–41, CHL.

  8. [8]Jacobs, “Autobiography,” 40.

  9. [9]“Leone O. Jacobs Resigns from the General Board,” Relief Society Magazine 43, no. 4 (Apr. 1956): 241; Jacobs, “Autobiography,” 41–42, 48, 51.

  10. [10]Jacobs, “Autobiography,” 47, 51. Relief Society conventions were held at the stake level and were also called Relief Society stake conferences. During the 1940s, attendees listened to such talks as “Strengthening Community Virtues” (1946), “Why Relief Society Membership Is Vital to Latter-day Saint Women” (1947), and “How I Co-operate with the Bishop in Ward Welfare Activities” (1949). The meetings also included time for discussion led by a general board member. (Annual Group Stake Conventions, 1946, 5; Annual Group Stake Conventions, 1947, 5; and Annual Relief Society Conventions, 1949, 5, Relief Society Conference and Convention Programs, 1916–1975, CHL.)

  11. [11]The Utah Safety Council began in 1939 to promote traffic safety in Utah. By 1945 it expanded its safety efforts beyond traffic to broader safety concerns in the community. The Women’s Legislative Council of Utah formed in 1920 to promote legislation instigated by either political party that would benefit the state of Utah. Jacobs served on the council for six years. (“Utah Safety Council,” Annual Report, 1958–1959, in editors’ possession; Eileen Hallet Stone, “Living History: Utah Women’s Group Still Political after 90 Years,” Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 2, 2010; Jacobs, “Autobiography,” 47.)

  12. [12]J. Reuben Clark Jr., a member of the First Presidency, attended the meeting. (“Verbatim Report of the General Relief Society Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah, September 28 and 29, 1949,” 230, Relief Society Annual Conference Proceedings, 1945–1975, CHL.)

  13. [13]Bridge was a popular card game in the United States during the mid-twentieth century and often a crucial aspect of social life. (Ely Culbertson and Peter F. O’Shea, “Civilization at the Bridge Table,” North American Review 229, no. 2 [Feb. 1930]: 141–147; Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community [New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000], 102–104.)

  14. [14]Ezra 7:10.

  15. [15]Doctrine and Covenants 132:3.

  16. [16]Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “The Winds of Fate,” in World Voices (New York: Hearst’s International Library, 1916), 51.