The annual BYU Women’s Conference for 2021 opened Thursday with women participating virtually around the globe.
Typically, BYU Women’s Conference is the largest two-day gathering of Latter-day Saint women anywhere in the world. The event is held on the campus of Brigham Young University.
More than 180 presenters share their perspectives and insights on a variety of topics, including womanhood and sisterhood, gospel principles, marriage, family and practical and timely topics of interest and concern to women of all ages.
With COVID-19 still looming, this year’s conference is again completely virtual.
As part of the first day general session from the Marriott Center at BYU, the General Presidency of the Relief Society spoke and the newly called Primary leaders introduced themselves.
The Relief Society leadership consists of President Sister Jean B. Bingham, and counselors Sister Sharon Eubank and Sister Reyna I. Aburto.
The Primary presidency includes Sister Camille N. Johnson, with counselors Sister Susan Porter and Sister Amy Wright.
The theme of the conference is “I Am a Child of God, His Promises Are Sure.”
Bingham introduced the women’s discussion on “The Promise of Belonging.”
Aburto noted how hard the past year has been with the pandemic.
“We have lost jobs, parents have become teachers, local church leaders have scrambled to help members,” Aburto said. “We have pleaded with the Lord to be with you.”
She noted that few people had heard of Zoom a year ago and now they can navigate it like teenagers on social media.
Eubank spoke of anxiety and that people’s hearts are more tender toward one another. She encouraged those listening to be inclusive.
“A fundamental human emotion is wanting to belong,” Eubank said. “There are 7.5 million members of the Relief Society. How can we help each other?”
Bingham said several times during the presentation that the goal is to become a Zion society, to become unified and one. She talked of the LDS Church belief in a premortal existence and that those on Earth lived together as brothers and sisters that wanted everyone to return home after mortality.
“I look at you as my eternal sisters,” Bingham said. She also noted that many sisters leave the church because they feel judged.
“We need to open our hearts to everyone,” Bingham said. “We need to be a light, not a judge.”
Bingham also asked women to look outside of themselves and their circle and to see the potential in bringing others into that circle.
“We want every sister in the circle,” Bingham said. “To do that we need to look in the margins. These women need to feel seen and heard.”
She added, “Differences can make our world richer.”
Eubank noted that Christ has eyes to see beyond the differences.
As an example of what she was referring to, she introduced her friend Liv, who talked about her history with the church.
“I left the church after my conversion because I was hurt by the interpretations of the gospel people made,” Liv said. “But my bishop trusted me. My mission president cared about me.”
Liv, said she worked for 20 years to find her place. Along with being a former missionary, she is a Primary president, a sister, a daughter, she attends the temple and she is queer.
“Recognizing who I am made me feel broken,” Liv said. “I’m not broken. I know God loves me.”
“You can never go wrong in showing a person love,” Liv said. “Learn what pronouns to use. A bishop I told about my identity said he wanted to learn more because he had never learned.
“We are the children of God. He will always be with us,” Liv added.
Eubank was touched by her friend’s words and said, “We all have need to understand and be kind.
“We need to make it easier for people to come unto him (Christ),” Eubank said.
Our job as Relief Society sisters is to help each other, Eubank added.
Bingham concluded by encouraging women to strengthen the bonds of sisterhood around the globe and ask, “What can I do?”
In introducing themselves, Johnson noted that the new presidency’s goal is to help children flourish.
“When Primary girls flourish they grow into bold young women,” Johnson said. “We are common women being asked to be involved in an extraordinary work.”
Wright said she has realized that, “Christ shares his sacred work so we can grow. God wants our choices in life to be intentional and he intentionally wants us to choose him.”
Porter shared the story of recently losing her husband. She talked about being in Germany, her husband in a local hospital in a coma with family 5,000 miles away. She would ride the train 45 minutes to get to the hospital, spend the day with her husband, ride home and pack boxes to move back to Utah.
One day while exhausted and packing, she said she heard a voice that said “I did this for you.” Porter knew then that God was with her and that he did not leave her comfortless.
As a practicing lawyer for 30 years, Johnson said she was always practicing. She is not perfect but that practicing faith is important and that if you do that, “practice makes perfect with the Savior.” She also recalled a line from President Russell M. Nelson’s talk from October 2020’s Semiannual General Conference on “Let God Prevail.” On being perfect, Nelson reminded that “perfection is pending.”
Music for the meeting was provided by a virtual choir of 100 women living around the world from Brazil to Germany.