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She may have trained for and tackled 18 marathons, but Elaine Dalton feels she's just laced up for the run of her life.
Dalton, sustained last month as Young Women general president in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is leading the way for about 555,000 12- to 18-year-old girls worldwide. It's a charge and challenge that took her and her counselors, during their first official meeting together, to the top of Ensign Peak where Brigham Young stood - looking out over the Salt Lake valley - more than 160 years ago.
Recounting the visit earlier this week, she said she asked her counselors what they saw. Both peered out and answered, "We see the temple."
With the Salt Lake Temple looming outside her office window, Dalton said, "That's what it's still all about - a return to virtue."
Ministering to girls "one by one" and ingraining in them a sense of their "divine nature" and "individual worth" is the presidency Dalton, 61 and the mother of six, envisions. By promoting purity and a return to moral choices, she believes young women can establish the foundation that'll embolden them to face adversity and to do anything.
"One virtuous, righteous woman can change the world," she said. "It's an exciting time to be a woman. . . . An opportunity of a lifetime lies before us."
Hers is an optimism apparent in her broad smile and sparkling eyes. Yes, she is concerned about the "confused generation" of young people who are bombarded with information at a speed that can be "a blessing and a curse," she said. "Satan uses all avenues of technology."
Better to block out those booming voices and listen to the quiet one within, she said. "All we have to do is fall to our knees and pray. . . . The spirit speaks to us in simple, soft ways."
To the girl or woman who believes the LDS Church is no longer hers to have because she made a mistake or hasn't married or had children, Dalton emphasized the possibility of change and the need to keep faith while focusing on the long-term race, one designed by a higher power.
As she continues to move along the course, she doesn't want to leave any runners behind. "Even if we lose one young woman," Dalton said, "that's one too many."