For the 40th time, thousands of women have come to campus to be uplifted and inspired at the annual BYU Women's Conference. The conference, co-sponsored by the Relief Society, offers more than 180 presenters who share their perspectives and gospel insights on a variety of topics of interest and concern to LDS women of all ages. In his brief opening remarks, BYU President Kevin J Worthen said it was especially fitting that this conference brings so many to the BYU campus to be edified.
"All individuals who come here who we hope we to 'assist in the quest for [their] perfection and eternal life,'" said Worthen, quoting from the BYU Mission Statement. "All instruction, part of which will occur here; all programs, which Women's Conference is; and all services, which we have this wonderful opporunity to give service – the goal is for each of those, is for every individual who comes here to make their own contribution to the 'balanced development of the total person.'"
President Worthen continued, "So what we hope happens here, is what we hope happens here the rest of the year. But you provide an example of when it happens at its best and we thank you for that and hope that you can take part in that process."
Here are highlights from a handful of the addresses.
Elder Dale G. Renlund, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Sister Ruth L. Renlund
One in Charity
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, June 5 at 11 a.m. MDT)
Elder and Sister Renlund were the concluding speakers at this year’s Women’s Conference. Together they discussed charity and how we can develop it here on Earth.
“Conversion to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement is the key to developing charity, the pure love of Christ,” said Elder Renlund. “The development of charity then leads to the development of other Christ-like attributes.”
The Renlunds spoke on agape, the word used by Apostle Paul to describe charity. The also spoke on how charity can be maximized when done in a unified effort. Unity and charity go hand-in-hand.
“The importance of being unified, or ‘one,’ to accomplish the mission of the Church is an important interpretation of this year’s theme,” said Sister Renlund. “In other words, we must be unified, or one, in order to be charitable in the Lord’s way.”
“The relationship between unity and charity is symbiotic,” said Elder Renlund. “Unity leads, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, to charitable actions. Having the attribute of charity leads to unity. Unity results from having the pure love of Christ. Charity leads to unity and unity leads to charity.”
Sister Linda K. Burton, President, Relief Society General Presidency
The Two Great Commandments
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, July 17 at 11 a.m. MDT)
During the Friday morning general session, Relief Society General President Sister Linda K. Burton taught how to truly love Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, by focusing on the importance of coming to know the Lord by turning outward to serve. In part, she said:
You are like the Good Samaritan who goes out of your way to love our neighbors as yourselves. Many have heeded the recent call to kneel in prayer and ask Heavenly Father what you can do to help His children – especially those who are among the 60 million refugees throughout the world.
We have been deeply moved as some have already shared what they have done or are doing to selflessly love their neighbors – even those who may seem as strangers to them. Thank you for keeping the two great commandments – loving your neighbors to demonstrate your love for Heavenly Father!
Sister Carol F. McConkie, First Counselor, Young Women General Presidency
Speak Up and Speak Out
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, July 24 at 11:30 a.m. MDT)
Carol McConkie talked about speaking up and speaking out with courage, faith and humility.
“We speak up and speak out so that we may help others hear, feel and know the Savior’s love,” said McConkie. “We speak up and speak out so that we may defend truth and build the kingdom of God. We speak up and speak out so that we may help prepare a people to come unto Christ in mortality and return to His presence in the eternities.”
Sister McConkie shared that over time she has learned that our ability to speak up and speak out increases when we strive to speak by the Spirit, by the words of Christ and by loving one another as the Savior does.
“When women speak the words of Christ by the Spirit, their words have the power to help others feel God’s love, strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ and find answers to their questions,” said McConkie. “Our words bless others with enlightening, ennobling and uplifting influence.”
Primary General Presidency: President, Sister Joy D. Jones; First Counselor, Sister Jean B. Bingham; Second Counselor, Sister Bonnie H. Cordon
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, July 31 at 11 a.m. MDT)
The new Primary General Presidency—called and sustained in the most recent LDS General Conference—spoke on Friday afternoon about the importance of family unity and how to create it.
Second Counselor Bonnie Cordon first emphasized how families can “knit their hearts together” through scripture study, prayer, Sabbath worship, temple attendance and other church practices.
Jean Bingham, who is serving as first counselor, said family councils motivated by love can bring families together, whether they’re held formally or informally.
“As we participate together in meaningful discussions and associations, we get better at communicating our thoughts of love, interdependence and genuine interest in one another,” Bingham said. “These threads of love, when knitted together, create a flexible yet strong fabric that supports us during challenging times, makes joyful times brighter and binds us together for eternity.”
Primary General President Joy Jones concluded with the message that family unity can also be found through the temple and Jesus Christ.
“We are armed with His power as we leave the temple—the power of eternal unity,” Jones said. “As we carry that power, spirit and love back to our homes, He will help us make our homes more like His.”
Sister Linda S. Reeves, Second Counselor, Relief Society General Presidency
Seven Lessons Learned While Living Life and Seeking Revelation
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, August 7 at 11:30 a.m. MDT)
Linda Reeves shared stories from both her own life and her friends’ experiences. Each story came with a specific lesson on how to understand and respond to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
Some of the advice included not delaying promptings from the Spirit, keeping ourselves clean to hear the Spirit when it calls, seeking guidance from the scriptures and listening when the Holy Ghost urges us to repent. Reeves said these revelatory experiences have brought her closer to Heavenly Father and rearranged her priorities.
“Being able to stand with confidence before my Savior became far more important to me than anything else,” Reeves said.
If ye are not one, ye are not mine
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, July 3 at 11 a.m. MDT)
Kristen Oaks, wife of Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was the concluding keynote speaker for the first day of Women’s Conference. She discussed four points on how we can draw nearer to the Savior: one with Christ, one with ourselves, one in our families and one with our fellow man.
One with Christ: "For each of us here as we face challenges and sorrows which we could not bare alone. His great atoning sacrifice binds us to him, heals us, shields us."
One with Ourselves: "Before I came today, the Lord told me to tell the women to love themselves. Why is this so important? It is vital because our capacity to serve and love others is in direct proportion to love of self. The fact that you are so essential, so important, so central to the success of God’s plan makes you a walking target for the adversary... We know our identity, and as daughters of God, we do not have time to be distracted, diverted or diminished. We live in a world desperate for our goodness, our purity and our testimonies."
One with Our Loved Ones: "Relationships are not built instantaneously... they develop incrementally and are best forged on the foundation of our Savior Jesus Christ... We are not saved in isolation. I testify that loving kindness over prolonged periods of times works."
One with Our Fellow Man: "A world-wide challenge has been given, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and befriend the stranger... One with our God, we know our divine identity as His children. We are joined in one great eternal family. Like any great army we have a plan of action – The Plan of Salvation which makes our purpose clear – where we are to go and how to get there."
Sandra Rogers, BYU International Vice President
Hidden in the Circle of His Will
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, July 10 at 11 a.m. MDT)
Sandra Rogers opened Women’s Conference by emphasizing the importance of the two great commandments: to love God and to love one another. Obedience to these commandments leads to greater charity and unity in Christ.
"We will never get at the heart of solving life’s problems and challenges until we put the first commandment first," Rogers said. "And out of that love of God will come the desire to do His will."
Performing charity and being unified mean little if they’re not guided by the love of the Heavenly Father and the Savior. Rogers urged being one with the Lord in service toward the people around us and through the LDS Church's "I Was A Stranger" refugee efforts. Charitable actions without selfish desires will bring people to the Savior and enable us to accomplish miracles.
"When we love God first and feel His love for us and for others, we can unite with Him in loving others as He does and in serving them as he would," Rogers said. "Our love for others becomes deeper, longer-lasting and more eternally significant when it bears testimony of His great love."
Neill F. Marriott, Second Counselor, Young Women General Presidency
It is Better to Look Up
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, June 12, at 11 a.m. MDT)
Neill F. Marriott, along with her daughters Caroline Marriott, Kate Mitchell and Paige Storheim, discussed looking up to our Heavenly Father in every aspect of our lives.
Each of the sisters touched on times in their lives when looking up helped them through a personal trial. Sister Marriott’s oldest daughter Caroline, spoke on life plans and how they don’t always pan out. Paige spoke on the importance of consistency and how reading the scriptures as a child made such an impact that she now reads with her own family. Kate discussed service and how we need to look at it as an opportunity to help others, not as a burden.
Sister Marriott closed by showing the audience a portrait entitled Forgotten Man by Maynard Dixon. The painting depicts a man sitting on the sidewalk looking down and discouraged as people pass him by. Though he is alone, what struck Sister Marriott was the sunlight falling around him, indicating a warm brightness from above.
"Warmth, comfort, light and truth is coming from above, but He is looking down," said Marriott. "I can’t emphasize enough that we are NOT alone. Reaching out and looking up to Him will bring hope, uplift and guidance."
Tad R. Callister, Sunday School General President
Becoming Holy Like God
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, June 19, at 11:30 a.m. MDT)
Tad R. Callister spoke on the process of becoming holy women and men by becoming like those things that we habitually love and admire. According to Callister, if we love and admire Jesus Christ, then we will naturally become like Him.
"Holiness is not a grim determination to endure to the end," said Callister. "It is not a life of seclusion; it is not an absence of humor or love for life. Rather, it is a self-confidence that each of us is a child of God, coupled with a humility that all we are or can be depends on the Father and His Son."
To help facilitate becoming holy, Callister recommended that we stand in holy places and create holy moments through prayer, service and reading the scriptures.
"It is through such holy moments that we ultimately become holy," said Callister. "Like climbing Mt. Everest, it is done one step at a time.
Carole M. Stephens, First Counselor, Relief Society General Presidency
Taking Counsel and Correction That Will Lead Us to Safety
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, June 26, at 11:00 a.m. MDT)
Carole Stephens used her experiences hiking to illustrate the spiritual path we take to return to our Heavenly Father. Just as when traveling on difficult trails, we need to rely on markers guiding the way and to learn from the experiences of people who have successfully travelled the path before us.
Stephens added that covenants, prophets and Jesus Christ are all spiritual markers that keep us on the path to eternal life. We need to use these tools to become spiritually strong and to help others along the way as well.
"As we continue along the path, one faith-filled step at a time, He will be with us," Stephens said. "As we reach to rescue one another, He will be with us. He will guide us in the way we should go."
Kevin J. Worthen, BYU President
In the Multitude of Counsellors, There is Safety
(This talk will be broadcast on BYUtv on Sunday, June 26, at 11:30 a.m. MDT)
President Worthen spoke about the importance of counseling, which includes giving advice, taking advice and exchanging ideas. This type of two-way communication has been used since the premortal existence and is necessary because of its ability to give us a new perspective and make our lives more productive. We have a 'multitude of counsellors' available to us for direction and guidance in life. He specifically referenced Church leaders, Heavenly Father and close family members – including his wife Peggy – as important counselors who have been a great help to him.
At a time when I felt almost overwhelmed by the responsibilities of my present role as president of BYU, when a series of days brought more complex and confounding challenges than I thought could fit into a twenty-four-hour period, when it did not seem possible to accomplish all that I had already committed to do, let alone the many new, unexpected events that were crowding out any opportunity to prepare for several speaking commitments that were fast approaching, I hurriedly dashed off a draft of remarks for a talk for which I had not left enough time to prepare.
I expressed to Peggy my worries about my inadequacies and my concerns that things seemed to be out of control and beyond hope. I then asked her to read my draft to see if it made any sense, and to help me make it at least coherent. As usual, Peggy made a number of helpful suggestions and corrections.
Later that evening I was hurriedly, and gratefully reviewing her suggested changes, when I came to a paragraph in the talk in which I admonished the prospective audience to look at things from God’s eternal perspective and not through the lens of our temporary mortal circumstances. Next to that paragraph - which I had just written, but clearly not internalized - I saw a hand-written note in Peggy’s elegant penmanship. It said simply, "very good advice, even for a president of a university."
Inspired counsel from a loving wife instantly lifted my spirits and rekindled my faith.
Many other of the addresses from this year's BYU's Women's Conference will be aired on BYUtv throughout the coming months. See the broadcast schedule.