Coverage of the Women’s Session of April 2017 General Conference
Contributed By Church News staff writers
Speakers at the general women’s session of general conference addressed 7.1 million Relief Society sisters in 188 countries who gathered around the world March 25, encouraging them to emulate the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Sister Bonnie H. Cordon of the Primary General Presidency; Sister Carol F. McConkie of the Young Women General Presidency; Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President; and President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, all spoke. Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President, conducted the meeting, which was attended by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency; other Church leaders; and members of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary general presidencies and boards.
A Relief Society choir from Brigham Young University—directed by Jean Applonie and accompanied by Linda Margetts—provided music.
Sister Bonnie H. Cordon
Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency, spoke on trusting in the Lord.
Her remarks focused on the counsel found in Proverbs 3:5–6: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct they paths.”
First, she spoke on the warning, “lean not unto thine own understanding.”
“When we physically lean toward one side or another, we move off center, we are off balance, and we tip,” Sister Cordon said. “When we spiritually lean to our own understanding, we lean away from our Savior. If we lean, we are not centered, we are not balanced, and we are not focused on Christ.”
Sister Cordon then suggested three ways to stay spiritually centered and follow the two admonitions: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart” and “in all thy ways acknowledge him.”
“First, we can come to know the Lord and trust Him as we ‘feast upon the words of Christ for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do'” (2 Nephi 32:3). Scriptures, she said, “enlighten our minds, nourish our spirits, answer our questions, increase our trust in the Lord, and help us center our lives on Him.”
“Second, we can come to know the Lord and trust Him through prayer,” Sister Cordon said.
She shared a memory of a prayer she treasures. Before leaving to travel hundreds of miles from Idaho to Texas for a job over summer break during college, Sister Cordon’s mother asked to say a prayer with her before she left.
“The peace that came from that prayer gave me the courage to trust in the Lord and lean not to my own understanding. The Lord directed my path in many decisions I made that summer,” Sister Cordon said.
“Third, we can come to know the Lord and trust Him as we serve others.”
Sister Cordon shared the story of Amy Wright, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. Her chemotherapy treatments were so difficult that she wanted to stop them altogether. Her husband suggested that they needed to find someone to serve.
Amy wrote to Sister Cordon, “My symptoms gradually worsened to where I generally had one or two ‘OK’ days a month [where] I could somewhat function as a living, breathing human being. It was those days when our family would find ways to serve.”
“On one of those days, Amy's family distributed chemo comfort kits to other patients, kits filled with items to cheer and to help relieve symptoms. When Amy couldn’t sleep, she would think of ways to brighten someone else’s day,” Sister Cordon said.
Service saved Amy’s life, Sister Cordon said. She ultimately found strength to keep moving forward in the happiness she discovered in trying to relieve the suffering of those around her.
“Amy came to trust in the Lord as she came to know Him. If she had leaned even a little to her own understanding, she might have rejected the idea that she serve. Service enabled her to withstand her pain and afflictions and to live this scripture: ‘When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God’ (Mosiah 2:17).”
In closing, Sister Cordon testified, “If we trust in Heavenly Father and in our Savior and lean not to our own understanding, They will direct our paths and will extend the arm of mercy toward us.”
Sister Carol F. McConkie
“We are daughters of Heavenly Father, and each of us has a divine heritage of holiness,” said Sister Carol F. McConkie, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency.
Drawing from a Psalm of Thanksgiving by King David, Sister McConkie shared the scripture, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (1 Chronicles 16:29).
“I see the beauty of holiness in sisters whose hearts are centered on all that is good, who want to become more like the Savior,” she said. “They offer their whole souls, heart, might, mind, and strength to the Lord in the way that they live every day. Holiness is in the striving and the struggle to keep the commandments and to honor the covenants we have made with God. Holiness is making the choices that will keep the Holy Ghost as our guide.“
Holiness is setting aside natural tendencies and becoming a Saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord, Sister McConkie taught.
“Our Father in Heaven knows us. He loves us, and He has provided for us all that is required so that we can become holy as He is holy.”
Sister McConkie shared three ways a woman can act in holiness as a daughter of God.
Holiness is keeping covenants
“We recognize the multitude of tests, temptations, and tribulations that could pull us away from all that is virtuous and praiseworthy before God,” she said. “But our mortal experiences offer us the opportunity to choose holiness. Most often it is the sacrifices we make to keep our covenants that sanctify us and make us holy.”
Sharing the example of a 13-year-old girl named Evangeline from Ghana, Sister McConkie spoke of how the young girl’s effort to magnify her calling as Beehive class president has helped her less-active friends attend church. She visits young women in their homes, gets permission from their parents for them to attend meetings, and even helps them do their chores so they have time to go to church.
“If we will keep the associated covenants, the sacred priesthood ordinances will change us, sanctify us, and prepare us to enter the presence of the Lord,” Sister McConkie said. “So we bear one another’s burdens; we strengthen one another. We retain a remission of sins when we give spiritual and temporal relief to the poor, the hungry, the naked, and the sick.”
Holiness comes as people keep themselves unspotted from the world, make their homes holy places, and reach out to others in kindness and compassion. Holiness comes as a person stands as a witness of God and forsakes the ways of the world.
Holiness is taking the Holy Ghost as a guide
“Holiness is a gift of the Spirit,” Sister McConkie taught. “We accept this gift when we choose to do those things that will increase the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost in our lives.”
Using the example of Mary and Martha in the New Testament, Sister McConkie spoke of learning to “sit at the feet of the Holy One of Israel and give time to holiness.”
“Do we set aside the phone, the never-ending to-do list, and the cares of worldliness? Prayer, study, and heeding the word of God invites His cleansing and healing love into our souls. Take time to be holy that we may be filled with His sacred, sanctifying Spirit. With the Holy Ghost as our guide, we will be prepared to receive the Savior in the beauty of holiness.”
Holiness is becoming a Saint through the Atonement of Jesus Christ
Drawing from the words of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon, Sister McConkie spoke of becoming a Saint—someone who is submissive, meek, humble, patient, and full of love—through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“Do we see our utter dependence on the grace and mercy of Christ our Lord?” she asked. “Do we recognize that every good gift, temporal and spiritual, comes to us through Christ? Do we remember that according to the Father’s eternal plan, peace in this life and in the glories of eternity are ours only in and through His holy Son? …
“I testify that as we come unto the Holy One of Israel, His Spirit will come upon us that we may be filled with joy and receive a remission of our sins and peace of conscience.”
Sister Linda K. Burton
The New Testament contains accounts of “certain women,” named and unnamed, who exercised faith in Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, said Sister Linda K. Burton.
“I have read and passed over the seemingly unremarkable expression ‘certain women’ numerous times before, but recently as I pondered more carefully, those words just seemed to jump off the page,” said Sister Burton.
Sister Burton spoke one year after inviting Relief Society sisters across the globe to participate in the “I Was a Stranger” refugee effort.
“My beloved sisters, how we love you and thank you for your tenderhearted and enthusiastic response to the First Presidency’s invitation and the #IWasAStranger effort,” said Sister Burton. “Please keep praying, listening to the whisperings of the Spirit, and acting on the promptings you receive.”
Sister Burton said whether she is traveling locally or throughout the world, it is not unusual for someone to ask her, “Do you remember me?”
“Because I am painfully imperfect, I must admit that I often can’t remember names,” she explained. “However, I do remember the very real love Heavenly Father has allowed me to feel as I meet His precious daughters and sons.”
Sister Burton said she recently had the opportunity to visit “some beloved women” who are in prison. “As we said our heartfelt goodbyes, one darling woman pleaded, ‘Sister Burton, please don’t forget us.’ I hope she and others who want to be remembered will feel so as I share some thoughts with you.”
Quoting Daughters in My Kingdom, Sister Burton spoke of New Testament accounts of “certain women” who exercised faith in Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, learned and lived His teachings, and testified of His ministry, miracles, and majesty. “These women became exemplary disciples and important witnesses in the work of salvation,” she said.
She shared accounts from the book of Luke recorded during the Savior’s ministry: “And it came to pass … that [Jesus] went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, … Mary called Magdalene … and Joanna … and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him” (Luke 8:1–3).
Sister Burton said that following the Savior’s Resurrection, “Certain women … which were early at the sepulchre; … when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had … seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive” (Luke 24:22–23).
Sister Burton said as she pondered, she remembered two New Testament “certain women” who “bore positive, confident, firm, assured testimonies of the Savior.”
“Though they, like us, were imperfect women, their witness is inspiring,” she said. “Remember the unnamed woman at the well who invited others to come and see what she had learned of the Savior? She bore her certain witness in the form of a question: ‘Is not this the Christ?’ (John 4:29). Her testimony and invitation were so compelling that ‘many … believed on him’” (John 4:39).
And “following the death of her brother, Lazarus, Martha—the beloved disciple and friend of the Lord—declared with what must have been great emotion, ‘Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.’ Consider her certainty as she continued, ‘But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.’ She further testified, ‘I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world’ (John 11:21–22, 27).”
Sister Burton said from these sisters, Latter-day Saint women today learn that ”certain women“ are centered in the Savior Jesus Christ and have hope through the promise of His atoning sacrifice.
Anciently, “certain women” sacrificed as they testified and lived the teachings of Jesus, she said. “Certain women” in the early days of the Restoration did the same.
Sister Burton spoke of Drusilla Hendricks, who with her family was among those who suffered during the persecution of the Saints in Clay County, Missouri. Her husband was permanently paralyzed during the Battle of Crooked River. At one time, when her family was out of food, a voice told her, “Hold on, for the Lord will provide.” Later her son would volunteer for the Mormon Battalion.
“We learn from this ‘certain woman’ that covenant-keeping discipleship requires our willingness to sacrifice,” said Sister Burton.
She said in addition to “certain women” in the Savior’s day and the early days of the Restoration, there are “certain women” today.
“On my recent assignment to Asia, I was once again inspired by the many ‘certain women’ I met,” Sister Burton recalled. “I was particularly impressed with first-generation members in India, Malaysia, and Indonesia, who strive to live the gospel culture in their own homes, sometimes at great sacrifice as gospel living often clashes with family and country cultures. The multigenerational ‘certain women’ I met in Hong Kong and Taiwan continue to bless the lives of their families, Church members, and communities by remaining centered in the Savior and willingly sacrificing to keep covenants. Similar ‘certain women’ are found throughout the Church.”
Sister Burton said a ‘certain woman’ who has blessed her life for decades has battled for the past 15 years the “debilitating, difficult, and progressive disease” called inclusion body myositis. “Though confined to her wheelchair, she strives to be grateful and keeps up her ‘Can Can List’—a running list of things she can do, such as ‘I can breathe, I can swallow, I can pray, and I can feel my Savior’s love.’ She bears her Christ-centered certain witness almost daily to family and friends.”
Then Sister Burton extended the following invitation: “Sisters, when we have become distracted, doubtful, discouraged, sinful, sorrowful, or soul-stretched, may we accept the Lord’s invitation to drink of His living water as did the ‘certain woman’ at the well, inviting others to do the same as we bear our own certain witness: ‘Is not this the Christ?’
“When life seems unfair, as it must have seemed to Martha at the death of her brother—when we experience the heartaches of loneliness, infertility, loss of loved ones, missing opportunities for marriage and family, broken homes, debilitating depression, physical or mental illness, stifling stress, anxiety, addiction, financial hardship, or a plethora of other possibilities—may we remember Martha and declare our similar certain witness: ‘But I know … [and] I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God.’”
“May we remember the many ‘certain women’ who refused to abandon our precious Savior during the excruciating experience He suffered on the cross, and yet hours later were privileged to be certain witnesses of His glorious Resurrection. Let us be found staying close to Him in prayer and scripture study. Let us draw ourselves near to Him by preparing for and partaking of the sacred emblems of His atoning sacrifice weekly during the ordinance of the sacrament and as we keep covenants by serving others in their times of need. Perhaps then we might be part of the ‘certain women,’ disciples of Jesus Christ, who will celebrate His glorious return when He comes again.”
President Henry B. Eyring
President Henry B. Eyring discussed how to find peace “within ourselves, in our families, and with the people around us.”
The same peace the Lord promised to His disciples during His mortal ministry is available to His disciples today, President Eyring said, but in His way, not the world’s.
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:26–27).
At times, individuals may long for peace as they face uncertainty or looming challenges, President Eyring said. The lesson the Lord taught Moroni can be “a guide for us all.”
“If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all [who] humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
Just as Moroni “heard these words,” and “was comforted” (Ether 12:29), “they can be a comfort to all of us,” President Eyring said.
Those who do not see their weaknesses do not progress, he explained. “Your awareness of your weakness is a blessing as it helps you remain humble and keeps you turning to the Savior. The Spirit not only comforts you, but He is also the agent by which the Atonement works a change in your very nature. Then weak things become strong.”
All disciples of Christ will have their faith challenged. “Your defense against these attacks is to keep the Holy Ghost as your companion. The Spirit will speak peace to your soul. He will urge you forward in faith. He will bring back the memory of those times when you felt the light and the love of Jesus Christ,” President Eyring promised.
One of the most precious gifts the Spirit can give is to “bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever [the Lord has] said unto you” (John 14:26). “The memory may be of an answered prayer, of a priesthood ordinance received, of a confirmation of your testimony, or of a moment when you saw God’s hand in your life,” he said.
Father in Heaven is concerned not only about His children's comfort but even more about their upward progress, President Eyring said and quoted Doctrine and Covenants 11:12: “And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good.”
“Most often, the good He will lead you to do will involve helping someone else receive comfort from God,” President Eyring explained.
President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency greet Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President (left), and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Second Counselor, prior to the women’s session of general conference March 25.
The Lord, in His wisdom, brought individuals together in organizations and classes in His Church to increase their power to do good, he said. A young woman, for example, might be asked by her bishop or Young Women leader to reach out to a Laurel who has not been participating.
Success in such an effort, he continued, will take a miracle of change of heart which requires the companionship of the Holy Ghost. “The Spirit can allow you to see the less-active Laurel as the Lord sees her. The Lord knows her heart and your heart, and He knows the possibilities of hearts being changed. He can visit you both with His Spirit to inspire humility, forgiveness, and love.”
President Eyring told listeners that their power to do good would depend on the unity and love that exists among them. “This is another gift of peace that comes through the Holy Ghost.”
Although unity is necessary, “you know from experience, as I do, that such loving unity is hard to maintain,” he said. “It takes having the Holy Ghost as a companion to open our eyes and temper our feelings.”
President Eyring recalled an experience when the Spirit prompted him to exercise patience with his young son. “The unity we seek in our families and in the Church will come as we allow the Holy Ghost to affect what we see when we look at one another—and even when we think of each other.”
The Spirit sees with the pure love of Christ, President Eyring explained before reading Moroni’s description of charity and his exhortation to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons [and daughters] of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure” (Moroni 7:48).
“This is the goal your Father in Heaven has for you, His precious daughters,” President Eyring declared. “He visits you with His Spirit to comfort you, encourage you, and inspire you to keep going.”
A mother and daughter walk to the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, to attend the women’s session of general conference March 25.
Women walk to the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, to attend the women’s session of general conference March 25.
Women stand in line in the rain outside the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City prior to the General Women's Session of the 187th Annual General Conference March 25, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
Women stand in line in the rain outside the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City prior to the General Women's Session of the 187th Annual General Conference March 25, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
The Young Women General Presidency laugh prior to the women’s session of general conference March 25. From left to right: Sister Carol F. McConkie, First Counselor; Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, President; and Sister Neill F. Marriott, Second Counselor.
A combined Relief Society choir from Brigham Young University sing during the general women's session in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
Women inside the Conference Center sing a congregational hymn during the General Women's Session of the 187th Annual General Conference March 25, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency wave to the crowd and choir at the conclusion of the women’s session of general conference March 25.
Women leave the Conference Center in Salt Lake City after attending the General Women’s Session of the 187th Annual General Conference on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.