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About 20,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 17 gathered at the LDS Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday night to receive instruction and inspiration on the theme, "Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved."
"One virtuous young woman, led by the spirit, can change the world," said Elaine Dalton, general president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Young Women's organization, telling the teens they were facing "gale force winds of opposition, adversity, peer pressure and moral pollution."
Dalton has presided over the LDS Young Women since 2008 and might be nearing the end of what is traditionally a five-year term of service. That announcement could come during next week's General Conference, a two-day event that draws Mormons from all over the world.
"Make sure your relationships with others are such that 40 years from now you will not be embarrassed," Dalton said Saturday, advocating sexual purity and advising to stay away from tattoos, piercings and addictions of all kinds
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the LDS First Presidency, described his youth in East Germany and the journey his family took as they fled separately to West Germany. As the youngest child, he said he traveled with his mother.
"Eventually all of us made it to safety, and we were finally reunited as a family," Uchtdorf said. "What a glorious day that was."
Mormons believe that they once lived in a pre-mortal existence with God and that their life on Earth is a time of testing in order to find their way back.
"Now that you're here on Earth, you might ask how your journey is going," Uchtdorf said. "Are you making choices that will help you return to your Father in Heaven?"
Uchtdorf shared three messages, reminding the young women that God is always with them, that they should love one another and to be of good cheer as they encounter bumps, detours and hazards along their earthly journey.
For 12-year-old Bailey Paxman, of Lindon, Saturday marked her first annual Young Women's meeting, and she said that Uchtdorf's message struck a chord.
"I thought it was really spiritual and really great," Paxman said. "I liked how he talked about the path of our lives."
Ann M. Dibb, second counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, elaborated on holy places and where they might unexpectedly be discovered, saying that Mormon founder Joseph Smith received revelations while jailed in Liberty, Mo., in a building later labeled a "prison temple."
"Some of you young women may be experiencing your own Liberty Jail," Dibb said, encouraging them during times of humiliation and mockery to seek "profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord."
Mary N. Cook, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, urged the teens to research their family roots and participate in temple work.
"Commit to being sealed to your husband by the holy priesthood in the temple as you begin an eternal family unit," Cook said, calling parenthood a "sacred responsibility."
Jaiden Bevins, 12, of Highland, carried a journal under her arm as she exited the LDS Conference Center with her mother, Randi Bevins.
"It reminded me that women are really important in life," Jaiden Bevins said of Saturday's session. "Sometimes I think men are a little more important because they have the priesthood, but then women can save future generations."
twitter: @catmck LDS Church • "One virtuous young woman, led by the spirit, can change the world," said Elaine Dalton, general president of Young Women's organization.