Interview with Elaine Dalton: You are Extraordinary!

(Below is a written transcript of Kristen and Cali’s interview with Elaine Dalton on the One Minute Scripture Study podcast. Please excuse any errors!!)

Kristen Walker Smith:

All right. Welcome friends. We are so excited. We’ve got a special, special guest here on the podcast today. The wonderful Elaine Dalton. And if you are in your twenties or older, you know exactly who she is, but for our younger audience, would you mind introducing yourself?

Elaine Dalton:

Oh, I’d love to. And thank you for having me on this podcast. I get lonely. I love to talk. So I’m Elaine Dalton and I served in the Church on the general level as the General Young Women President from 2008 to 2013. So I have an ongoing interest and passion and desire to help all young women. And I consider myself a young woman. So there you go. There’s no age differentiation there.

Cali Black:

I have to say I graduated high school in 2010. So Sister Dalton, you are my Young Women’s General President that I think of. I just imagine going to the church, listening to your general messages and yeah, you have a special place in my heart.

Elaine Dalton:

Well, do you know, I call all of you my girls. You’re just my girls. I just claim you.

Cali Black:

Absolutely.

Elaine Dalton:

At one of the firesides I spoke at, it was with young men and young women, and one of the young men came up afterwards and he said, “I’ve heard you speak three times now.” And he says, “Sister Dalton, I think that you were assigned in the premortal world to just follow our generation through.” And I thought, “Well, I hope so. I hope that’s the case,” and maybe that’s why I have such a love for all of you.

Cali Black:

I will claim you.

Kristen Walker Smith:

I love that. We’ve got you on specifically today, not only because we’re … I guess you don’t really have fans in the church, but we’re fans. If you can have spiritual fans, we are, but also specifically to talk about your awesome book, No Ordinary Women. And I have to put in a plug for it. This book, I mean, if you’re watching the video, you can see. I have a million post-it notes in it and it is just phenomenal in that you can pick it up and read it in one day and it can change you. It can absolutely change you.

Kristen Walker Smith:

So we wanted to ask you some questions about things that you wrote in the book to help our audience understand a little bit more about how they are not ordinary women no matter how ordinary they feel. Would that be okay?

Elaine Dalton:

That’d be awesome.

Kristen Walker Smith:

All right, Cali, go ahead and start us off.

Cali Black:

Sure. So one thing that I love that I feel like you always made me feel important. Like I had something to share. And so I’ve tried to carry that with me. I can influence my family, my neighborhood, my community, I can change the world and I try and keep that with me. But I also have two kids right now, three and one years old.

Cali Black:

And sometimes my days are make a meal, change a diaper, clean up a mess and repeat times a million. So I’m just wondering what advice do you have for women who are trying to make a difference, but it seems like we’re kind of limited by maybe the circumstances we’re in right now?

Elaine Dalton:

Oh that’s such a good question. And here’s what I’m going to tell you. You are making a difference every day, every hour. And I think so much of the focus is on what we can do out in the world we say. What we can do as far as our earning power goes, as far as a career and so on and so forth. But I don’t think there could be any greater contribution that a woman can make than to raise happy, well adjusted, righteous, contributing children into adults.

Elaine Dalton:

And the effect of that has ripple effects that just go on for the eternities. So say I raised six children. I changed diapers. I did the same thing. I cried about the laundry. I thought, “Oh, I could be doing something meaningful.” And I looked beyond the mark because I was doing the most meaningful thing I could’ve ever done. That my five sons serve missions, the people they converted, the families they changed. And so you set that solid firm foundation in your family and you do that and you change the world.

Elaine Dalton:

But then here’s the giant secret. After your children are raised and out of the house, your house stays so clean, it’s boring. And you have so much time to make a contribution. Look what I’ve been doing. And right now I’m the president of the Stella Oaks Foundation, which is raising money to provide scholarships for young single mothers. So there’s just tons of time to make any kind of contribution you want aside from the gigantic world changing one, which is being a mother. A good mother. And so you can make your home a temple, just keep changing those diapers and just have fun doing it.

Cali Black:

Oh, man I love that.

Kristen Walker Smith:

Oh. I don’t know about having fun changing diapers, but I love that insight.

Elaine Dalton:

No, but it’s funny because now I’m a grandmother and I have my little grandkids come here and I I think it’s the do-over. When you’re a grandmother, then you get to do what you probably should have done all the time as a mom. So they’ll say, “Can I have this?” And I’ll say, “Sure.” Can I go do this? Oh, sure.

Kristen Walker Smith:

Oh, you’re a true grandma. That is awesome. Well, kind of in line with that, another thing you talked about in the book is that the world tries to put women into this mold and it tries to make you think that you don’t have influence and you don’t have power in this world unless you fit into this mold. And I’m wondering if you could describe that mold. What do you feel like it is the world is trying to make us feel like we have to become to be worthwhile?

Elaine Dalton:

Well, I think what’s happening in the world is that we are being put in a position, not so much a mold, but more in a position to compare. To compare ourselves with other people. And when we’re put in that position to compare, sometimes we have a tendency to say, “I want to be like that. I want to have that home. I want to have her hair. I want to even know the color of her lipstick, because if I have the lipstick on, I’ll be her.”

Elaine Dalton:

And I think, again, that takes the focus off the amazing thing that it is that we are individual. That we were created unique and individual. One by one with, with the exact things that we need to perform our unique divine mission here on the earth. Even the color of our eyes, the color of our hair, how tall we are, our personality. We’re custom made to do a very unique theme thing here on the earth.

Elaine Dalton:

And so as we focus on trying to be someone else, we’re totally taken off the mark, which is to focus on being the best us we can be and the best unique, gifted, talented, guided, inspired woman that we can be. Does that make any sense?

Kristen Walker Smith:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I love that. And I think that’s one thing I’ve learned so much as I’ve worked with young women, is that Satan, if he can’t get them through sin, he’ll get them through distraction. And I think you’re so right. You’re so right.

Elaine Dalton:

Yes. Distracted, discouraged, and disqualified. Those kind of just go hand in hand. You get distracted and you forget who you are, then you get very discouraged and then you do things that are not smart and not becoming a daughter of God.

Kristen Walker Smith:

Yeah. Oh I love that. The three D’s that’s super powerful and that kind of fits in with another question I had. You talked in your book about my ancestor, Kristina, which I thought was so exciting.

Elaine Dalton:

I didn’t know that. That’s wonderful.

Kristen Walker Smith:

So if you’re not familiar with this story, there is a statue of Kristina who is my ancestor in Denmark. And she was one of the first people from Denmark to come over to Utah. And she was just a teenager when this happened. And so the sculpture that my uncle made is of her standing against the wind with the wind. Oh, you’ve got!

Elaine Dalton:

Look at it!

Kristen Walker Smith:

Yes. I don’t even have it and I’m related to him. I need to get it.

Elaine Dalton:

I love this. Keep going.

Kristen Walker Smith:

Yes, so it’s the wind blowing against her. And I think that so much of what we face. . . that distraction, discouragement, what was the last D?

Elaine Dalton:

Disqualified.

Kristen Walker Smith:

Disqualified. It’s like the spiritual winds blowing against us. But you talk about these small decisions like Kristina made that one day that she was going to get on that boat and how it’s blessed generations. My family is here because of Kristina. So what do you feel like are the small decisions that we, women and girls are making every day that will make such a big influence on our future and the future generations that come after us? What are those small decisions?

Elaine Dalton:

Well, first you;ve got to look at Kristina. Look at the winds blowing so hard, her ponytail’s straight out. I just love that.

Kristen Walker Smith:

Isn’t it awesome?

Elaine Dalton:

And I think it’s kind of almost symbolic for this day where we’re just getting all these winds of opposition and yet there she is standing firm. And in Denmark, I went to Denmark and stood on that pier with Kristina and she’s bigger than life there. And it’s so amazing. And I remember being with the sculptor, Dennis Smith, who said, “This is my great, great grandmother. And on her decision that day hinged my eternal destiny.”

Elaine Dalton:

And I was so touched by that. And that was a long time before I became the general young woman president. On that decision. So I think we do make daily big decisions. I think getting out of bed in the morning is a big decision sometimes. I think making your bed is a difference making decision.

Elaine Dalton:

I think every decision we make forms little habits that become who we are. I also think that we all need to get in the habit of making inspired decisions. And especially in this day and time, I think more than anything that we should be trying to do is to be able to kneel down in the morning and pray for the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and then try to tune in to how he’s guiding you. And sometimes it’s always different, but as time goes on, I think you’ll become familiar with how he speaks to you and when.

Elaine Dalton:

That’s happened for me. I’m old. It’s taken a long time, but it has happened for me. I know exactly when he’s speaking to me now. And so I think if we can make daily guided decisions how to use our time, who to call, who to reach out to, what we should be doing to develop ourselves, setting our goals and making ourselves mind ourselves. It’s still personal progress.

Elaine Dalton:

We might not have a program, but I didn’t think Personal Progress was ever a program. I think every day we have to say, “I’m going to make some progress today.” And I love what the young women do now. They’re saying, “Make progress spiritually, mentally, physically, and socially.” Just do it. And I love that. So decisions are big. They are. They define everything.

Kristen Walker Smith:

I love that. Oh, that’s so powerful. Cali, you had a question for her though.

Cali Black:

Yeah. And just going off that, I have felt that learning curve where I just remember being a young woman and thinking, “How will I ever be guided by the spirit all day long?” That just seems like such a big thing. And it was never like, “Yes, now I’ve got it.” But I feel like slowly now I can say I have multiple times a day where I’m like, “Okay, do I need to help this kid or do I need to do this?”

Cali Black:

I’m trying to balance my life. And I just get this little thought, like I realize the spirit is just a good thought telling me, “Hey, just play with your kid right now.” And I do it. And then I feel that little quiet assurance that I’m doing the right thing. And I just think it’s this slow progression that doesn’t seem super powerful all the time. But it’s those small moments that I think add up a lot.

Elaine Dalton:

Oh, I love hearing you say that, Cali.

Cali Black:

Yeah. Okay. So my question for you, kind of going back to comparison because I feel like that’s a big thing is women is we’re not only comparing ourselves against other women, but sometimes we get on this slippery slope of, well, this isn’t as bad as something else. I feel like, especially with media watching shows or TV, I sometimes get caught up in, well, it’s not as bad as this terrible thing.

Cali Black:

And so it’s going to be fine or even something that I’ve done before that I may have repented of while it’s not as bad. How do you recommend kind of facing that? Not getting on this desensitization where you’re like, “Ah, I’m sure it’s all fine,” but getting back to what really is truth.

Elaine Dalton:

Well, I call that the scale of descending mediocrity and we just keep saying, “Well, it’s not as bad as,” and then we’re there and then we go, “Well, this isn’t as bad as,” and we just keep descending into mediocrity really when we should be, I think as daughters of God, I don’t think anyone truly comprehends what that means. That we shouldn’t be saying, “It’s not as bad as.”

Elaine Dalton:

We should say, “What is virtuous, lovely praiseworthy and a good report,” and then seek after those things. Because I find that, well, here’s the reason to do it. This is the principle. It’s about having the spirit with you always. And you get in a situation where you’re listening to a movie where there may be two or three words that are very offensive.

Elaine Dalton:

Not only just you, but to the Spirit, to the Holy Ghost. What happens? He’s not going to hang around. He’s holy and he doesn’t do that. And so I think the whole principle is I want to guard what I listen to, what I watch, what I allow into my life, into my home. I want to guard my thoughts because I can’t do this life alone. I seriously, and now even more than ever, I have got to have help because who’s right.

Elaine Dalton:

We’re going, is it him? Is it this? Is it that? And I just am finding more and more, I really need help because everything looks good. Everything looks true and I need that guidance. So back to the Holy Ghost again, and as far as people saying, “Well, I don’t know whether I have it all the time and I can’t really recognize that I’m being guided,” Elder Bednar taught me a great principle.

Elaine Dalton:

He said, “Elaine, you are,” he called me a good girl. “You are a good girl. And you go to church, right? Yes. Do you take the sacrament? Yes. Are you trying to do what’s right? Yes.” And he said, “Then what you need to pay attention to and worry about is when you don’t feel the spirit. Because you carry that with you, when you renew that covenant, you make it at the sacrament to always have his spirit. You’ve become pure, you’ve repented. And so you’re carrying that spirit with you. And as you don’t do anything to cause him to go home, to leave you, you have him with you.”

Elaine Dalton:

So he said, “Pay very close attention when you don’t feel the spirit.” And that was so helpful to me and still is. You walk into a room and all of a sudden you’ll just go, “I don’t feel the spirit here. I better leave or I better be on guard,” or whatever that is. So I’m so grateful to Elder Bednar for teaching me that because most of the time, I think we all have the spirit with us. Look at your eyes. I can see it in your eyes.

Cali Black:

That’s a cool way to flip that around though. I love that. Instead of am I feeling the spirit, instead focus on, when do I know the spirit has left and then make the change then. I’m going to remember that one.

Elaine Dalton:

Just make those decisions. Don’t rationalize. It’s so easy to. There’s some really good shows on Netflix right now. And everyone’s recommending them. And I put one on and thought, “Oh, this will be really great.” And I turned it off in about two seconds because for me, it’s really hard work to get the spirit back once he leaves. And I don’t like to go through all that hard work and fasting and praying and stuff. I like to eat.

Kristen Walker Smith:

I have to say I was so excited when I read that part of the book. Because I made a promise to myself back in my early twenties, probably actually when you were the General Young Women’s President about my media use and it has been hard to stand up for that because there is not a rule. There’s no rule that says exactly what words you should not listen to or exactly what scenes you should walk out on. And so I have struggled for years to explain why I treat media the way I do and why I will not watch what I will not watch.

Kristen Walker Smith:

And when I read that, I thought, “Oh, she just put into words all of these feelings I’ve had.” So it made me cry when I read it. I just thought, “Oh, this is so powerful for young women to realize that you cannot kick the spirit out and expect him to come right back in.” He doesn’t just sit there waiting and he’s like, “Oh, the show’s over. I’m back.” I love what you just said. I think that is a powerful distraction of Satan, those media choices. So thank you for that.

Elaine Dalton:

It’s the same thing how we ask young women to be modest. Modesty for everyone is different. It really is different. And it just depends on, I think when you feel good. When you feel you’re actually portraying yourself as royalty. And so when we say, “Just dress modestly,” it’s not to make the young women unpopular or look crazy. It’s just it’s to have the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead.

Kristen Walker Smith:

Yes. Oh, absolutely. And this is a little bit of an aside, but talking about members of the Godhead, something that you and I have in common is that we both had the experience of having our fathers when we were young become ill and praying for our dads to get better and having them actually not get better. My dad died when I was seven. And how old were you? Were you in college when that happened?

Elaine Dalton:

Yeah, first year at BYU.

Kristen Walker Smith:

Okay. I struggled for years to figure out why I should bother praying if, when I want something so much and I pray so hard and I fast, it’s not going to happen the way I want necessarily. So I would love to hear your insights on that. Why is it worth praying if you’re not going to get exactly what you want out of that prayer?

Elaine Dalton:

Do you know what? That’s a question that I think a lot of young women ask, not just you and me. I think that young women have difficult things they’re facing. Their parents are getting divorced and they’re praying so hard that that won’t happen. And they’re praying so hard for different things. I met one young woman who decided she wasn’t ever going to go to church again because her cat got sick and she prayed and prayed for him to get better and he didn’t.

Elaine Dalton:

And I told her the story of my father, and you’ve probably told that to many young women too. And the answer is, I don’t know why my dad didn’t get better. You don’t know either. But what we do know is what Nephi told us. Nevertheless, I know that God loveth his children. And so I never, when I didn’t get answers to prayers, I never quit knowing that for some reason. That he loved me.

Elaine Dalton:

And so I kept praying and my prayer wasn’t now, “Help my dad get better.” It was, “Why did you take him?” And I pestered the Lord about that, but I didn’t stop praying. I just kept asking and asking. And as you know, in my book, I maybe have told that in the book, I got my answer, but it took a long time and it didn’t come in a concrete this is why.

Elaine Dalton:

It was Proverbs 3:5 and 6. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him. And he will direct your paths.” In other words, “There’s a plan in place, Elaine, and this is all part of a marvelous plan. And someday you will understand all of this and be so grateful to our Father in Heaven.” So I guess my advice to any young woman who’s been praying and felt like her prayers aren’t answered is to just hang on because I can testify now every prayer is answered.

Elaine Dalton:

Sometimes not the way we want, but every single prayer is answered. And every answer comes from a loving Heavenly Father. And it always turns to your good. Always. My dad’s been there when I’ve had babies. My dad’s been there when I got married. My dad has been here when I’ve been ill. My dad was there when I gave my first conference talk. And I know that. I don’t think that heaven is that far away.

Kristen Walker Smith:

I agree. That’s such a powerful testimony. Thank you for that.

Cali Black:

That’s beautiful.

Elaine Dalton:

Thanks for the question.

Cali Black:

As we’re coming to the close here, I was just speaking to a group of young women a couple of nights ago, and I was talking about scripture study and I asked them what’s your biggest struggle with having good scripture study right now? Thinking that they were going to be like, “I fall asleep,” or, “I don’t understand them,” or something. And here these young women were like, “I’m not sure how exactly to use the footnotes effectively.” Or, “Isaiah is a little bit confusing.” And I’m like, “What?”

Cali Black:

These young women were blowing me away with what they were already doing in scripture study compared to what I felt I was doing in scripture study at that time. And yet I know so many of them just feel like your book says ordinary. They feel so ordinary. And yet me, I don’t even feel that old, but I still felt looking at them filled with this love of you are doing so much better than you think you are.

Cali Black:

So I’m just curious if you have any kind of big message that you would want to give to all of the young women or the women in the church of how do we get out of that ordinary feeling? How do we tap into that love?

Elaine Dalton:

Well, I think we’ve talked about some of the principles. One is stop comparing. And the second is let yourself be filled with the Spirit and the light that the Spirit brings because the Spirit will not only testify of the Savior and our Heavenly Father, but he’ll testify to you and your divine identity.

Elaine Dalton:

So those two things are critical. But I think that you should maybe … I did a study a long time ago about who am I? I asked that question. When I study the scriptures, I usually study them asking a question. And when I realized who not only I am, but who every woman and every young woman in the world right now on the earth today is, it was absolutely mind boggling. In fact, when I am in the presence of young women or a group of women, I always feel so humble because I know who they are.

Elaine Dalton:

And in my calling, that knowledge was actually made even more clear to me. I knew who those women were. And I was, I could see the nobility of their spirits, if that makes any sense at all. I could stand at the pulpit and look at a group of women and I could see who God sees. And if anyone ever had that glimpse, oh my goodness. It is absolutely phenomenal.

Elaine Dalton:

But it is also very humbling because you see, we are not ordinary. We have been reserved to be on the earth right now because of how valiant we were in the premortal realms, because we chose Jesus Christ and the plan the Father authored. And we bore such strong testimony of that to others as we fought that war that we’ve been reserved to be here now to do the same thing. To bear that witness and that testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Elaine Dalton:

And I think our prophets have been calling to us for a long time. And President Nelson now even has issued a plea. He says, “A plea to my sisters. Just arise to that stature. You are the women that are fulfilling prophecy right now. You’re the ones who will bring women of the world into the Church in large numbers because you’re different in happy ways.” And so I think I would just in ending, just say, you’re not ordinary. And remember you have to be different from the world in order to make a difference in the world.

Elaine Dalton:

You have to be different. And so value that uniqueness that is yours and value the fact that you have a divine mission and that you are a daughter of a heavenly parents, of our father in heaven and that they love you and that they will guide and direct all of your paths in your life.

Elaine Dalton:

And those are things, these aren’t just words for me. I’ve been all over the world. I’ve been in little huts and sat with women, and I’ve seen the nobility of these women. I’ve seen who they are. And I’ve been in mansions and in castles and with queens. And I’ve seen that too. And if we all could get together and understand who we are and whose we are and why we’ve been reserved to be here on the earth, we could really change the world.

Elaine Dalton:

We’re being a little distracted, but I think that Heavenly Father’s given us this moment in time to be still, to be home, to focus on what matters most and that’s you and your family and getting close to Him and learning in this still time to hear His voice. So that’s just my testimony, but it’s also kind of my sure knowledge. I really know that.

Cali Black:

And I can tell that you really know that. And I love that. I feel that truth in my heart too. And I hope that that’s something that we can all learn and have that be our shared truth that we are powerful and we have bigger purposes than we may see at the moment.

Elaine Dalton:

Yeah. I had one of my granddaughters, she’s just getting ready to go on her mission. If she gets to go where she’s called, she’ll be in Tahiti in a few months. And I said to her, she was a little discouraged. And I said, “Ella, you’re forgetting something. You have just gone through the temple. And you came as a powerful young woman, but now you’ve been endowed with extra power because you’ve been in the temple. You’ve been gifted with power. You can change the world.”

Elaine Dalton:

And I think that’s what we all have to realize is we are changing the world girls, and we can change the world and we will. We will. I have every confidence we will.

Kristen Walker Smith:

Who else wishes that their kids could have Elaine Dalton as their grandmother? You’re amazing. Sign my kids up. I’ll send them to your house. Well, this has just been an absolute pleasure. And the last question that Cali and I ask of each person we interview kind of in line with what you were saying about our need for the Spirit is to ask you, how do you #HearHIm?

Elaine Dalton:

How do I hear Him? I hear Him in so many different ways. I heard Him this morning when I walked out my door early and saw this bright pink sunrise. I hear Him when I listen to music. Sometimes He speaks to me, even in contemporary music, not hymns. Like I was listening to James Taylor and it was “It’s Going To Be A Bright Sunshiny Day.” And I heard Him. I heard Him tell me that. I hear Him when I read my scriptures. I hear Him in the voices of others who are inspired to stop by or to call.

Elaine Dalton:

I hear Him in my granddaughters who call me sometimes at 6:30 in the morning and say, “Nana, are you okay?” They’ve actually, I think had a prompting. They don’t know that, but they’ve actually had a little prompting to call and ask that question because most times when they do, I’m not. And so I hear Him always. I’ve just heard Him talking to you two and I’ve also seen Him as I’ve been able to look in your eyes and see the light of our Savior, Jesus Christ. So thank you both for who you are and what you’re doing and how good you are and let’s just keep trying together. And when we fall down, we get up because the Savior made that possible.

Kristen Walker Smith:

Elaine, I cannot thank you enough for being here and for the powerful testimony that you’ve shared with us. I have felt so built up. Before we got on, I prayed and I said, “Heavenly Father, please just help us to build someone up.” And I know that what you’ve said will. I know it will.

Elaine Dalton:

Thank you. Thank you for bringing the Spirit into my home today. Thank you so much.

Kristen Walker Smith:

You are wonderful.

Cali Black:

Of course. Thank you so much.

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