Women Leaders Answer Questions about Belonging, Doubt, and Inadequacy in First-Ever Sister to Sister Event

Contributed By Valerie Johnson and Rachel Sterzer, Church News staff writers

  • 4 May 2019

Moderator Sister Sheri Dew joins Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President, and Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, at a “Sister to Sister” event at women’s conference at BYU’s Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

The live Sister to Sister event, broadcast from the Marriott Center as part of the 2019 BYU Women’s Conference, began with “a big question” submitted by a woman in the Church who described herself as “tired.”

The pregnant mother of three little boys—ages five, three, and one—who also serves as her ward’s Young Women secretary, wrote, “I happily could sleep for four years, yet I feel pressure to be some contributing professional who makes the world a better place and a nurturing, home sanctuary-making mother with a perfectly clean but appropriately stimulating home full of healthy, nontoxic yet delicious meals and pleasant decor where the gospel is lived and taught always.”

The woman shared that she tries to make time for the scriptures and prayer, stay awake during her temple attendance, and appropriately nurture her little ones. And yet, “Everywhere I look, there are voices telling me to do more, be more, fit more in, spend more, more, more.” Invitations to be better often make her feel more resentful than encouraged, which led her to ask: “How do we balance rest and saying ‘no’ with the high commission given us as covenant-keeping, relief-providing sisters in the kingdom of God?”

“She was expressing feelings that we all have,” Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, said of the question. “We all live in different circumstances ... , but we have similar concerns.”

In the first-of-its-kind event, the General Presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary organizations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met together on May 3 to address some of the real-life concerns shared by women in the Church.

[Watch the event now.]

Sister Jean B. Bingham, Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, and Sister Jones took turns responding to questions submitted by women throughout the world. Sister Sheri L. Dew, former member of the Relief Society General Presidency and executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation, moderated the event.

Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President, holds a bag of popcorn before giving it to Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, who reacts to the gift as Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, reacts as well at a “Sister to Sister” event at women’s conference at BYU’s Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

In her response to the woman who felt she could “happily ... sleep for four years,” Sister Jones said, “It’s easy for us to fall into comparisons—to feel we’re not enough, that we’re not giving enough, doing enough, being enough. When in reality, through our Savior, we are enough.”

President Russell M. Nelson has been encouraging members to deepen their ability to receive personal revelation, she said, and that God is giving away “the secrets of the universe.”

“I’ve decided that the secrets of the universe for me, sisters, are those little assurances, the little reminders, the little promptings that get me through the day,” Sister Jones said. “It’s those little things that guide and help me and give me hope and help me to feel Heavenly Father’s love. And that’s what I would hope for all of you.”

Women take notes as they attend a “Sister to Sister” event at women’s conference at BYU’s Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Sister Cordon, Young Women General President, said of when she feels like the woman who posed the question, “I know I just have to go to my knees. And I ask the Lord, ‘Tell me again you love me. I need to know.’”

Moroni 7:48 says to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love.”

“As soon as I feel that extra dose of love, … I know I can do it,” Sister Cordon said.

Sister Bingham noted that it seems like the woman “is choosing the right priorities, and yet it doesn’t make it easy.” Stretching, growing, and learning are an important part of Heavenly Father’s plan for His children, the Relief Society leader said.

“This dear woman, along with so many others, we have to make choices. We have to prioritize. But the Lord will help when we counsel with [Him] in all of our doings, He’ll help us make those choices and recognize that we’re still going to have challenges and problems. That is part of the plan of our Heavenly Father to help us to grow and to learn.”

Sister Dew then posed a question submitted by a sister who has felt in her experience that women are not that important in the Church. “What suggestions do you have about working more effectively and in greater unity with priesthood leaders, especially when from time to time, some leaders can seem a little dismissive?” she asked.

Moderator Sister Sheri Dew, joins Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President, Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, and Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, at a “Sister to Sister” event at women’s conference at BYU’s Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Sister Bingham immediately could relate, recalling an experience she had with one priesthood brother who would generally leave her seething after every meeting she had with him. “I’d come home, and I’d slam my purse down on the counter,” she said. “My husband would say, ‘Oh, another purse-slammer meeting, huh?’”

Over time, she learned how to work with this brother. “I learned that if I prayed for him, if I worked to understand him and better ways to express myself or approach him, that we worked much better together.”

“Charity never faileth,” she said. “Truly, true love never fails. True love is irresistible.”

Additionally, one should never criticize leaders “because it doesn’t help,” she said. “When you approach it with love, that’s how you find the charity to work forward.”

Sister Jones turned to Ephesians 2:13-14: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”

Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Sister Jean B. Bingham, and Sister Joy D. Jones, with Sister Sheri Dew, left, moderating, participate in the first Sister to Sister event during the 2019 BYU Women’s Conference, held in the Marriott Center at BYU in Provo, Utah, on May 3, 2019. Photo by Madeline Mortensen, BYU Photo.

“The Savior is always our example,” she said. “The Savior is the healer of all relationships.”

Sister Cordon pointed out that oftentimes disagreements happen because of misunderstanding. As an example, she shared an experience her son and daughter-and-law had with an airport official while returning from vacation in Florida in December 2016. They carried a child’s car seat—empty due to the tragic and unexpected loss of their two-and-a-half-year-old during the trip.

The official said that they would be charged for carrying the car seat, and Sister Cordon’s daughter-in-law said that they hadn’t been charged before. With suspicion, the official asked, “Where’s the child?”

Her daughter-in-law could have been offended by this question but “chose to realize that this agent had no idea of the tragedy that went on in her life,” Sister Cordon explained. So with a lot of love and tears, her daughter-in-law explained.

With the expanded vision of the situation, the official was much more willing to work with her and check in the car seat at no extra charge.

A group of women from the Philippines poses for a photo while at women’s conference at BYU in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

The Lord is fresh out of perfect people, Sister Cordon said. And in the Lord’s Church, “We have a wonderful opportunity to do something that I think is remarkable, and that is to sustain [our leaders and others],” she said.

Sister Dew then combined two questions—one from a woman in Mexico asking how to strengthen her marriage and family and another from a single woman about how to feel included in a family-centric Church—for the women leaders to answer.

“Everybody wants to belong. Everyone wants to feel loved, needed, and important,” commented Sister Cordon, quoting 3 Nephi 17:7. “Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are ... afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.”

“As we are friends together and as we open our arms, we realize that we bring each other to the Savior as He asked ... ,” she said. “May we come to the Savior together. May we put our arms around each other and have everybody feel important.”

“The Atonement of Jesus Christ is not exclusionary. It’s infinite,” added Sister Jones. Christ took upon Himself death and our infirmities so that He would know how to succor His people. “It’s so personal, isn’t it? Our Savior knows us so individually.”

Nora Maxwell of Bountiful, Utah, smiles as she listens to Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President, and Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, at a “Sister to Sister” event at women’s conference at BYU’s Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Quoting 2 Nephi 31:20, “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.” Sister Bingham promised, “When we follow through on that scripture, then everyone feels included regardless of the particular situation—married or not, children or not, challenged in many, many ways. With eyes of understanding and compassion, we can make every single person feel like they belong because they do.”

The final question Sister Dew read concerned a sister’s discomfort with aspects of Church history and the Church’s position on certain social issues. “How do I reconcile my testimony with my concerns?” she asked.

“Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not,” Sister Bingham read from Doctrine and Covenants 6:36.

“If I don’t have answers to all the questions, that’s all right,” she said. “It’s good to ask questions; it’s good to explore.”

Some questions will not have answers right now. However, “I have to be faithful enough that I can put that on the shelf and let it rest until I can find that answer because I trust. I trust that [Heavenly Father] loves me enough to help me move forward despite that challenge that I don’t have an answer for right now.”

Renae E Powell poses for photos with her granddaughters Genel McRoberts Anderson and Melanie Cox as they attend women’s conference at BYU in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

It’s essential to stay close to the Holy Ghost and Heavenly Father while asking these questions so the Spirit can do the teaching, Sister Jones said.

“Feeling Heavenly Father’s love is so important because there are so many things in the world that would tear down that feeling of who we are and how much we are loved and how patiently He watches over us.”

Many questions were submitted regarding women’s roles in the priesthood. However, they did not have enough time to go over them. Instead, Sister Bingham and her counselors, Sister Sharon Eubank and Sister Reyna I. Aburto, addressed four of these questions during a session the day before. (Read about their address here.)

The Sister to Sister event will be available in the Media Library of ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

The Sweet Shots, a tennis team from Mesa Arizona, pose for photos while attending women’s conference at BYU in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Women wave as they move to other classes as they attend women’s conference at BYU in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President, gives boiled eggs to Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, after giving a bag of popcorn to Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, at a “Sister to Sister” event at women’s conference at BYU’s Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President, teases Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, before giving her boiled eggs and after giving a bag of popcorn to Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, at a “Sister to Sister” event at women’s conference at BYU’s Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Women listen as they attend a “Sister to Sister” event at women’s conference at BYU’s Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Women wave as they move to other classes as they attend women’s conference at BYU in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Jazlynn Steed, Rachel Ostler, and Christa Ostler talk as they walk to another class as they attend women’s conference at BYU in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.

Joanne Price and Kay Morgan talk as they attend women’s conference at BYU in Provo on Friday, May 3, 2019.
Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.