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BYU Women's Conference attracts 11,000 from around world

By Marianne Holman Prescott

By Sonja Carlson

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, May 2 2014 12:55 p.m. MDT

More than 11,000 women flocked to BYU's campus for Women's Conference Thursday.

Mark A. Philbrick, BYU

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On his first day on the job as the president of Brigham Young University, President Kevin J Worthen welcomed more than 11,000 women from around the world during the opening session of BYU’s Women’s Conference Thursday morning.

“What a great way to start off my tenure as president of Brigham Young University,” Worthen said. “I can think of very few other things I would rather be doing on my first day here than greeting this group.”

The annual conference — sponsored by BYU and the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — includes two days of more than 100 classes on a variety of topics held in buildings around the BYU campus. This year’s keynote speakers in general sessions on Thursday included Sheri L. Dew, and Bruce C. and Marie K. Hafen.

Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, introduced this year’s conference theme found in Psalm 84, verse 11, from the Old Testament:

“ ‘For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly,’ ” she said. “We are reminded here that the Lord willingly gives protection and his power to help us navigate this life’s unpredictable journey.”

She also invited all to “look for ways in our own lives that we might walk more uprightly before the Lord and commit to do so. And, may we also look for eyes of gratitude.”

Although the majority of “students” at Women’s Conference are a different group than the BYU student body, Worthen spoke of how Women’s Conference fits within the mission of BYU.

“In the very first sentence it says that the mission of Brigham Young University is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection,” he said. He recognized that it doesn’t say “Brigham Young University students,” rather it says individuals, making it a great place for learning for all people — especially those who go home and teach the future students at BYU.

“We hope as you come here you get (the) sense … that you belong to a whole, a worshipping, building, expanding kingdom of God and that you have a role to play in it,” he said.

Dew, who is the CEO of Deseret Book, focused her remarks on the grace of Jesus Christ. Touching on four points — what the grace of Jesus Christ is, what difference grace makes in life, how the Savior makes his power available to all and what must individuals do to gain access to that power — she spoke of the gift given to all through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

“His grace can change our very nature and over time transform us from who we are into who we can become,” she said. “What difference can grace make in our lives? All the difference. … We owe every divine gift and all access to divine power to the grace of Jesus Christ.”

Focusing on the access to priesthood power, Dew said, “Too many women think we don’t have this privilege. But that is not true. Women who have been endowed in the temple have as much access to priesthood power for their own lives as ordained men do.”

Priesthood keys are the manner through which the Lord authorizes the use of his power for both women and men, Dew said, adding that there are distinctions between priesthood keys, authority and power.

“Priesthood keys are required to authorize ordinances, priesthood authority is required to perform ordinances, and priesthood power is available to all who worthily receive ordinances and keep the associated covenants. … Both men and women who serve under the direction of priesthood keys serve with divine authority,” she said.

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