"I'm telling you, campus never looks better than it does the week after April graduation. The campus never feels better than it does the week after April graduation. Because it's Women's Conference."
President Kevin J Worthen opened this year's BYU Women's Conference, which is co-sponsored by Relief Society, with this warm greeting. Throughout the day, the anticipated 15,000 attendees (and no, they weren't all women) filled auditoriums and conference rooms all across campus to hear uplifting and instructional messages.
Here's are some of the highlights of many of those addresses:
Elder M. Russell Ballard, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Women of Dedication, Faith, Determination, and Action
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, June 7 at 11 a.m. MT)
Elder Ballard gave counsel and guidance, hope and comfort during his Women's Conference address. He spoke on the challenges and opportunities that women face and how if they focus on their faith, they will find great joy.
On the strengths of women:
"Your efforts to nurture in the family, the Church, the school, the community and in the professional world have been a blessing to many, including those who are deceived, lonely, hurt, sick, and aging. This is a Christ-like attribute-a blessing to a world desperately in need of nurturing."
On choices, opportunities and 'having it all':
"One sister may be inspired to continue her education and attend medical school, allowing her to have significant impact on her patients and to advance medical research. For another sister, inspiration may lead her to forego a scholarship to a prestigious medical institution and instead begin a family much earlier than has become common in this generation, allowing her to make a significant and eternal impact on her children now.
"Is it possible for two similarly faithful women to receive such different responses to the same basic questions? Absolutely! What's right for one woman may not be right for another. That's why it is so important that we should not question each other's choices or the inspiration behind them."
On losing and gaining faith:
"I have observed that many of those who start to lose the Spirit have forgotten the very reasons they embraced the gospel in the first place.
"For the vast majority of us, the prime reason we accept baptism and the other ordinances and participate in this work with all our hearts, minds, and strength, has little to do with policy or programs. We did not join the Church because of its position on social issues or because of past practices. We joined the Church because of the gospel's core and eternal message. We joined the Church because the Spirit bore witness that the Prophet Joseph really did see the Father and the Son, and that the Savior's Church has been restored."
Kevin J Worthen, president of BYU
Covenants Connect Us to Heaven
(These talks will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, July 19 at 11 a.m. MT)
Peggy Worthen started her keynote Women's Conference address by recounting the "Parable of the Carmel Apples." It was about an experience from her own childhood where she was tasked by her mother to make caramel apples with her older sister, but they neglected to add water to the caramel, resulting in many apples partially covered with lumpy caramel. The water she overlooked, she said, can be like the covenants in our lives, if we are not careful.
"[Covenants] may seem simple an routine; we may sometimes overlook the need for them," said Worthen. "But, they are the thing that holds everything else together in trying times. Without covenants, things fall apart. With covenants, things come together in large part because covenants connect us to Heavenly Father."
President Worthen distinguished between a covenant of law and a gospel covenant in his keynote Women's Conference address, saying some may see a covenant with God, when looking at it from the perspective of modern laws, as harsh or unfair. Not so, Worthen said, as God does not force us into these covenants. And in fact, if anyone is getting the unfair end of the covenant, it is the Lord.
"The gospel covenants may indeed be one-sided, but if so, it is God - and not us - who gets the short end of the bargain," said Worthen. "God enters into the everlasting covenant solely for our benefit - to help us lead the kind of life He leads, experience the kind of joy He experiences, to be the kind of being He is."
Carol F. McConkie, first counselor, Young Women general presidency
Modesty: Reverence for the Lord
Modesty is much more than a cultural standard. It extends beyond dress to attitude and behavior. Carol McConkie shared stories of young women who dress and act modestly to show that it is their privilege as covenant women to stand as witnesses of God.
"Modesty in dress, appearance, thought and behavior is an individual and personal whiteness that we reverence the Lord and we glorify God," McConkie said.
McConkie also emphasized the importance of resisting judgment when observing others clothing choices. You may ostracize people who are exploring the gospel. On more than one occasion, converts have recounted the warm welcomes they received from ward members while wearing short shorts and tank tops to church. These converts are grateful that members did not judge and instead loved and welcomed them.
Susan S. Taggart, member of Young Women General Board
David L. Beck, Young Men general president
Your patriarchal blessings will see you through the darkest night
Susan Taggart and David Beck both spoke about the importance of patriarchal blessings.
Heavenly Father loves us and patriarchal blessings are a manifestation of His love for us, said Taggart, emphasizing that we need to appreciate and feel the wonder of our patriarchal blessings.
Both emphasized that patriarchal blessings should be looked at with new eyes; as God does, then and only then can we apply them to ourselves.
"A patriarchal blessing is indeed a blessing to be sought- and are indeed personal revelation," Beck said.
Additionally, Beck reminded women to ponder the question, if you continue to live as you are living, will the blessings promised in your patriarchal blessing be fulfilled?
Tad R. Callister, Sunday School General President
Repentance: 'A Fresh View about God, about Oneself, and about the World'
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, August 9 at 11 a.m. MT)
Comparing our life to a free fall from a plane, President Callister explained that repentance is the ripcord that opens the parachute of the Atonement. Without the process of repenting, said Callister, we would be unable to access the healing and empowering blessings of the Atonement.
"If we have faith in Jesus Christ and repent, meaning pull the ripcord, then the protective and saving powers of the Atonement are unleashed on our behalf and we can land unharmed," said President Callister. "Without this spiritual parachute, however, there is no hope; but with it there is every hope of salvation."
The purpose of repentance stretches beyond simply correcting our sins, taught Kathryn Callister.
"[Repentance] is not only to correct us, but also to prefect us," she said.
The principle of repentance applies to all, regardless of their background or social standing. All of us, said Callister, can find the strength to repent and change the direction of our lives.
Michael R. Otterson, managing director for Church Public Affairs
Ally Isom, family and community relations for Church Public Affairs
A Time for a Woman's Voice
Michael R. Otterson and Ally Isom spoke on ways in which woman can use their voices to increase the good in the world.
Otterson compared our basic nature to an operating system. Just as our phones, computers and other devices all have an operating system that guides their functions, we have an operating system as well. Otterson suggests that we can have an operating system programmed to the views of the world or we can have an operating system programmed to the teachings of the Savior. When our operating system is programmed to the teachings of the Savior, we will be able to respond and use our voice in ways that are pleasing to Him.
Isom encouraged women to develop experiences and knowledge that we can share with others. She explained the four things, or the "Nephi Model", which help us find those experiences: be a seeker of truth, be still, be ourselves and be focused on the Savior. If we do these things, we will be ready when our message is ripe and we are prompted by the Holy Ghost to share what we have learned.
"I believe with all my heart that righteous women are being prepared right now all over this planet to use our voices in powerful ways," Isom said. "Trust and rejoice. Trust in His ability to make us more than we think we are and He will help us nail down that perfect message in that perfect way for our voice. And then let your message, your voice, rejoice."
Gaylamarie G. Rosenberg, adjunct faculty, BYU church history and doctrine department
Denise Posse Lindberg, Young Women General Board member
Living a Covenant Life-Guilt Free: Putting Perfectionism in Perspective
(These talks will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, July 26 at 11 and 11:30 a.m. MT, respectively)
The path to perfection is littered with despair and discouragement for those who venture along the trail. Gaylamarie Rosenberg and Denise Lindberg said that the personal expectation to be perfect comes from the adversary. The Lord has different expectations for us and offers encouragement.
"The burden of perfection is not a burden we need to carry," Lindberg said.
The Lord's atonement will help relieve that burden and encourage us to become better without the unrealistic expectation of immediate perfection.
Rosenberg explained that when the Lord created the Earth he did not express dissatisfaction on the fourth day because it possessed no animals. Rather, he was pleased with the progress of each day. When we follow the example of the Savior we too will have patience with ourselves and find happiness in the progress we have made.
Janice Kapp Perry, LDS songwriter
"The Song of the Righteous Is a Prayer Unto Me"
Janice Kapp Perry's address included two live performances: a rendition of the Perry family song, that she sang with her husband, and a medley of her most famous children's songs, sung by the audience from memory.
Perry's message focused on the power of music in understanding and remembering gospel truths. When children learn the gospel through simple songs, the lyrics come back in passing years to strengthen and comfort them.
"Music is one of the greatest tools for getting the gospel inside of us and working," Perry said. "Music is a wonderful way to bear testimony. Music can strengthen us in our trials... Most of all it can teach us the gospel."
Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president
Covenants are an Exchange of Love between God and Us
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, July 12 at 11 a.m. MT)
Bonnie L. Oscarson centered her Women's Conference remarks on the ways that God shows love for His children. That love is the covenants His children make with Him.
"God asks us to enter into these binding agreements, these covenants, with Him because He loves us and He knows that binding us to Him, essentially making God our partner in this life, is the only possible way that we have a hope of returning to Him and receiving exaltation in His kingdom," said Oscarson.
Covenants made throughout our lives, from baptism to the temple, keep us safe. In return, we should show our love for God by serving him, said Oscarson.
"If we want to increase our love for someone, whether it is an enemy or a friend, the answer is to serve them," she said. "The same is true when it concerns our relationship with the Lord. The more we serve Him through our service to others and in Church callings, the more love we have for Him."
General Relief Society Presidency with their supportive husbands: Linda K. Burton, Craig P. Burton, Carole M. Stephens, Marty Stephens, Linda S. Reeves, Melvyn K. Reeves
From I to We: Building Unity in Marriage
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, July 5 at 11 a.m. MT)
When LDS General Relief Society Presidency met Thursday hand-in-hand with their husbands, Sister Linda S. Reeves, Second Counselor, and her husband greeted the audience with a warm, "Mawwwiage is what brings us together today," a popular line from the movie The Princess Bride.
The three couples held an unscripted forum in a living-room-style sitting area in the middle of the Marriott Center. They gave advice on three marital questions: What are some of the challenges that threaten marriage? How can we be guardians of the marriage covenant? and How can we help, strengthen each other and build unity in our marriage?
"Television shows couples in terrible arguments, and then they kiss and make up and everything is OK," Brother Reeves said. "But that is Satan's way of making us believe that we can say hurtful things, and somehow love comes back into the home. But that just isn't true. It is so importance to be kind, and to nurture your marriage."
Rosemary M. Wixom, Cheryl A. Esplin, Mary R. Durham, Primary General Presidency
The Great Plan of Happiness
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, June 28 at 11 a.m. MT)
The members of the Primary General Presidency told stories from their own experiences and shared how those experiences have given them greater insights into the purposes and blessings of the Plan of Salvation.
- Mary R. Durham told about how pushing herself to take care of her family at the expense of her own health resulted in walking pneumonia and valley fever. The recovery process, including a month of sleeping day and night, showed her that she does not need to do everything.
- "Mortality is supposed to be hard, but it doesn?t need to be more complicated," said Rosemary M. Wixom. "We don?t have to endure it alone. There is always one who understands our pain and sorrow."
- "This life is a school; and just as we did in elementary school, we will make mistakes," said Cheryl A. Esplin. "When we ask ourselves what can we learn from these mistakes, we will be stronger and better. But if we are so afraid that we don?t even try, we miss out and the opportunity maybe be gone."
Wendy Watson Nelson
"My soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord"
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, June 14 at 11 a.m. MT)
Wendy Watson Nelson, wife of Elder Russell M. Nelson, delivered the opening session keynote address. She spoke about the power she has found in keeping and acting on the covenants she has made.
I've come to the following conclusion: When it comes to making and keeping covenants with God, nothing is more important! And, nothing is more filled with power! Because, when covenant women keep their covenants, they have greater access to the power of God. The power of God flows into them, and that power, His power, generates a decrease in stress, an increase in energy, more and clearer revelation for their lives, renewed focus, courage to make needed changes, an increase in patience, and more time for what matters!
The more we understand about our covenants and how best to keep them, then we will turn to service, Watson said. In that process, she told of finding deep joy in family history and temple work.
"I have morphed from a woman who basically went into a coma whenever she heard the words 'family history' - to one who now feels an irrepressible urgency to find a birth, marriage, death or census record to uniquely identify - one more ancestor!" said Watson.
Cheryl C. Lant, former Primary general president
Susan W. Tanner, former Young Women general president
Remember Who You Are
For their Women's Conference addresses, Cheryl Lant and Susan Tanner encouraged women to remember their divine nature.
Lant encouraged all to ask whether actions are expressions of divine nature or expressions of the world. Striving to remember who we were before we came to this earth helps us remember our divine nature, she said.
Tanner reminded attendees that divine nature comes from remembering that we are children of our Heavenly Father.
"The phrase 'remember who you are' seems to me to be an admonition. How can we remember this?" said Tanner. "It's when women come to understand who we really are, God's daughters, with an innate capacity to love and nurture, that we reach our potential as holy women."
Laurel Christensen Day, vice president of Product, Deseret Book Company
The Atonement: "The Greatest Expression of Divine Love"
In a recent vacation to Westminster Abbey, Laurel Day was inspired by the words of a priest's prayer which said, "Find safety in His wounds, find comfort through His scars and find peace amidst your pain."
The Lord can look at your scars, or those things that could not or will not be changed in life, and makes them enough for you, enough to fill you with peace and comfort through the atonement, Day said.
"I have found great comfort in a situation that should not have been enough to comfort me. And this is truly one of the greatest mercies of the atonement of Jesus Christ," Day said. "He takes those things that can not be changed; our scars, our wildernesses, our deserts, and makes them our Eden, our garden, our enough."
Kristina Hansen, psychological and assistant clinical professor at BYU
Help and Hope: Coping with Depression
Researchers suggest that the rate of depressive disorders are consistently higher for women than men, and that one out of every four women suffer from this emotional and chemical disorder. To navigate this disorder and respond with compassion and kindness to both ourselves and others, Kristina Hansen encouraged the audience to become educated on the illness.
"Seeking help is evidence of courage, and the very real truth that it's your job to advocate for yourself," Hansen said. "A person that seeks help reflects God's expectation that compassion be offered to all His children, self included.
Shelisa Payne, LDS Church Digital Media Business Manager
Share Goodness: Sharing Testimony through Social Media
Speaking on sharing our testimonies as digital disciples, Shelisa Payne taught about the opportunity to minister one-by-one on social media through simple, natural expressions of faith that are guided by the Spirit.
"Sharing goodness does not have to be to the masses to make a difference," said Payne. "When it comes to sharing our testimony, I look to the Savior, who always ministered one-by-one... There's a lot of opportunity [with social media] for us to do that."
Lillian S. Alldredge, former matron, Salt Lake Temple
Denise Doxey, former member of the Relief Society General Board
Covenants Make the Ordinances Relevant to our Lives
Lillian Alldredge and Denise Doxey spoke about women in the LDS Church who want to feel love and unity with those around them. Both spoke about how temple covenants can make women feel united.
Alldredge related beautiful experiences of faithful, contemporary women who keep their covenants and are enabled through them. Alldredge encouraged attendees to periodically ask the questions: 'Am I woman of faith?' and 'Do I walk a covenant path?'
"Look to the Lord for strength, courage and blessings," Alldredge said.
Doxey reminded the women to be involved in the Lord's work in the temples. Power comes from keeping covenants while faithfully attend the temple, she said.
"All the easy work has been done," Doxey said. "Be involved in the plan of happiness in order to be happy."
Fiona Bulbeck Givens, The God Who Weeps author
Michael Goodman, BYU associate professor of church history and doctrine
"Lord, I Believe; Help Thou Mine Unbelief"
Loss is universal, said Fiona Givens, but she emphasized that the compassion of Heavenly Father can heal it. It's vital to fully care and understand another's burdens to help them overcome pain, she said.
"Platitudes do not work at all," Givens said. "When our pain is real, it does not help to be told to read the scriptures more often. Grief that deep requires deep compassion."
Michael Goodman explained that doubt shouldn't be villainized nor lionized, but it can never be a foundation for faith. Rather, faithful questioning leads to knowledge.
"'Doubt not' is a plea to search and find," Goodman said. "Never encourage doubt, never villainize, but love and invite those we love unto the Savior."
Neill F. Marriott, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency
Wanted: Hands and Hearts to Hasten the Work
If you only had three seconds in an elevator to testify of Christ, what would you say? Neill F. Marriott, who personally finds these opportunities a challenge, asked sisters to be bold and share gospel messages with others often.
Marriott's late daughter Georgia strongly believed in the power of missionary work and recorded her thoughts in several journals. Georgia wrote, "It's like their souls are sleeping inside and all I need to do is tap them awake and they will open their eyes to what was wrong in their life. It seems that the gospel is already in them. They knew it before this life . . . it's simply my job to be the tapper on the shoulder."
"Sisters, can we be tappers on the shoulder?" Marriott asked. "I testify, He is in charge of this work and He is aware of the desires of your heart and will enlarge them and refine you to open your mouth with love."
Elizabeth D. Rose, member of the Relief Society General Board
Conversation Guided by the Spirit: Teaching in the Savior's Way at Home and in Church
Our part in the Lord's work, as Elder Neil L. Anderson put it, is to "return home safely and bring many with us," said Elizabeth D. Rose. She considers it our responsibility to help others return home by teaching them the gospel of Jesus Christ. In her Women's Conference address, Rose urged teachers to use the resources available on LDS.org to help effectively teach gospel lessons in Sunday School classes and at home.
"Learning to teach in a sacred way is not about us it is about Him," Rose said. "When we teach His gospel in His way, we can help others follow Him and become like Him so that they can return home to live with Him."
Writer: Camille Penrod, Ashley Lindenau, Carrie Duford, Brooke Adams and Josh Thomas, Jenna Randle