The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held its annual General Conference over the past two weekends. The conference started with the General Women’s Session on Saturday, March 28, 2015, and continued with five more sessions on April 4-5, 2015. That makes a total of six sessions of General Conference. The Women’s Session is for women, young women, and girls age eight years and older.
My post for tonight will be about the Women’s Session. One highlight of the session for me personally came after the session was over. About halfway through the session a video entitled “The Family Is Ordained of God” was shown. I did not see the beginning of the video. I was tired and went to sleep. Imagine my surprise – and regret - when I later saw a picture of my granddaughter from the video. I of course had to watch the video again just to see my granddaughter’s beautiful smiling face. One of my sons by marriage does filming for the Church and included some pictures of his own children; one of them was put in the video.
The speakers at the Women’s Session speak to the needs of females. Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency, spoke to the topic “Filling Our Homes with Light and Truth.” “The concept of being filled with light and truth became particularly important to me because of an experience I had many years ago. I attended a meeting where members of the Young Women general board taught about creating spiritually strong families and homes. To visually demonstrate this, a Young Women leader held up two soda cans. In one hand she held a can that was empty and in the other hand a can that was unopened and full of soda. First, she squeezed the empty can; it began to bend and then collapsed under the pressure. Next, with her other hand, she squeezed the unopened can. It held firm. It didn’t bend or collapse like the empty can – because it was filled.
“We likened this demonstration to our individual lives and to our homes and families. When filled with the Spirit and with gospel truth, we have the power to withstand the outside forces of the world that surround and push against us. However, if we are not filled spiritually, we don’t have the inner strength to resist the outside pressures and can collapse when forces push against us….”
Sister Carole M. Stephens, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, spoke to the topic “The Family Is of God” and based her talk on a Primary song. “The first line of the song teaches: `Our Father has a family. It’s me! It’s You, all others too: we are His children.’ From the family proclamation, we learn, `In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father.’ In that realm, we learned about our eternal female identity. We knew that we were each `a beloved … daughter of heavenly parents’ [Young Women theme]….
“The second line of the song expands on the first. `He sent each one of us to earth, through birth, to live and learn here in families.’ In the premortal life, we learned that we would need a period of mortality. We `accepted [Heavenly Father’s] plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize [our] divine destiny as heirs of eternal life’….
“The third line of the song further explains the purpose of our mortality: `God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be.’ The Savior taught, `Be one; and if ye are not one year are not mine.’ The family proclamation teaches that as beloved spirit daughters of heavenly parents, we have a divine nature, eternal identity, and purpose. God wants us to be one. God needs us to be – covenant-keeping daughters, united in the diversities of our individual lives, who desire to learn all that is needed to be back in His presence, sealed to Him as part of His eternal family….
“The final line of the song returns to where it began: `This is how He shares His love, for the family is of God.’ The Father’s plan for His children is a plan of love. It is a plan to unite His children – His family – with Him….”
Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President, spoke to the topic “Defenders of the Family Proclamation.” “I recently read the story of Marie Madeline Cardon, who, with her family, received the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ from the first missionaries called to serve in Italy in 1850. She was a young woman of 17 or 18 years of age when they were baptized. One Sunday, while the family was holding a worship service in their home high in the Alps of northern Italy, an angry mob of men, including some of the local ministers, gathered around the house and began shouting, yelling, and calling for the missionaries to be brought outside…. They intended bodily harm. It was young Marie who marched out of the house to confront the mob.
“They continued their vicious yells and demands for the missionaries to be brought out. Marie raised her Bible up in her hand and commanded them to depart. She told them that the elders were under her protection and that they could not harm one hair of their heads. Listen to her own words: `All stood aghast. … God was with me. He placed those words in my mouth, or I could not have spoken them. All was calm, instantly. That strong ferocious body of men stood helpless before a weak, trembling, yet fearless girl.’ The ministers asked the mob to leave, which they did quietly in shame, fear, and remorse. The small flock completed their meeting in peace….
“Sisters, few of us will ever have to face an angry mob, but there is a war going on in this world in which our most cherished and basic doctrines are under attack. I am speaking specifically of the doctrine of the family. The sanctity of the home and the essential purposes of the family are being questioned, criticized, and assaulted on every front….”
Even though several priesthood leaders were in attendance – including President Thomas S. Monson, one of his counselors, and two members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles – only one of them spoke, President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency; he spoke to the topic “The Comforter.” “My beloved sisters, it has been a joy for me to be with you. I’ve thought of my mother, my wife, my daughters, my daughters-in-law, my granddaughters – a number of whom are here. This wonderful program has made me appreciate them more. I recognize that having had such a family and such a wonderful family life comes from their having the Savior at the center of each of their lives. We have remembered Him tonight in music, in prayers, and through inspired sermons. One of the attributes of the Savior we most appreciate is His infinite compassion.
“Tonight you have felt He knows you and loves you. You have felt His love for those seated around you. They are your sisters, spirit daughters of our Heavenly Father. He cares for them as He cares for you. He understands all their sorrows. He wants to succor them.
“My message to you tonight is that you can and must be an important part of His giving comfort to those who need comfort. You can play your part best if you know more of how He answers those prayers for help.
“Many are praying to Heavenly Father for relief, for help in carrying their burdens of grief, loneliness, and fear. Heavenly Father hears those prayers and understands their needs. He and His Beloved Son, the resurrected Jesus Christ, have promised help….”
Can you see how each of the speakers gave both challenges and praises? I always come away from the session with a stronger desire to be a better person, a better wife, a better mother and grandmother. I encourage you to link to the various talks for more information than I have given.