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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Sister Jean Stevens of the Primary general presidency speaks to girls prior to practice session for members of the choir that will perform at the general women's session of general conference.

During a year when the Church is celebrating the 100th anniversary of family home evening and the 20th anniversary of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” general leaders of the Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society organizations are looking forward with great anticipation to the general women’s session of general conference. Though no topics were assigned, leaders say they have felt guided to prepare messages with a focus on homes and families.

Speaking of the March 28 meeting — the first session of the Church’s 185th Annual General Conference — Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, second counselor in the Primary general presidency said, “We all live in a home and we do what we can do to build that home to be a place where love is and where the Spirit can dwell.” She continued, “No matter how many people live in that home, we have a responsibility to strengthen that home.”

Church leaders want to enable women to “stand together to defend the family, and feel confident and valued in their roles within the family,” said Sister Carol F. McConkie, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency.

It is important to “raise our voice in support of families and defend families,” said Sister Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. All women in the Church, no matter their circumstance, are part of a family, she added.

Looking back 20 years, the women leaders said it is hard not to recognize the “extraordinary prophetic” nature of the proclamation on the family, which President Gordon B. Hinckley read during the General Relief Society meeting on September 23, 1995.

“The principles in the proclamation apply to us all,” said Sister McConkie. “They are unique in today’s world.”

The choir, made up of girls age 8 and older, young women and women, will perform numbers that are “powerful in their message of families,” said Sister Esplin. “These dedicated choir members really sacrifice and pay the price in effort and time to prepare. It will be a beautiful experience.”

“You will see in the choir, mothers and daughters and sisters – a beautiful example of those cherished relationships,” said Sister McConkie. “You will see in the audience a sisterhood. We invite everyone to be a part of an effort to strengthen the family regardless of age or circumstances.”

The leaders said that girls age 8 and older were invited to participate in the meeting because girls are baptized at age 8. “It is important for everyone to understand, that when we make our first covenant, “we are covenant daughters of God. And we keep that covenant for the rest of our lives,” said Sister Stephens.

Because of all that is happening in the world today, girls need to be taught and prepared to share the doctrine of the family when they are younger, Sister Stephens continued. “We, as leaders, are recognizing that we all need to be united in this effort to prepare them.”

Sister Esplin said women in the Church also need the Primary girls to be part of the meeting and can learn from the children.

Quoting Alma 32:23, Sister Esplin said; “Little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned.” “These young girls have great things to teach,” she said.

Sister McConkie said a sweet spirit has been added to the meeting by including children. “They are ready because they have set their feet on the path of discipleship. We are giving them a vision of who they are and who they can become.”

Sister Esplin said it is important that they know they are part of the Church’s “worldwide sisterhood. So many attend school where they are the only members of the Church.” There is strength in gathering, “they will see that there are many that believe as they do.”

Sister Stephens said inviting children and youth to the meeting will also help them as they progress from Primary to Young Women and from Young Women to Relief Society. “They step on the covenant path with us beginning at age 8,” she said. “We need to be united on that path and support one another on this earthly journey.”

Sister Esplin added, “We are all the same in that we are all covenant daughters of God. We hope all can feel that unity and love.”

Sister McConkie said everyone — including children and youth — have a responsibility to strengthen their home and family. “When they pray and read the scriptures, that makes a difference in their home.”

Sister Stephens agreed, adding “An important purpose of both Relief Society and Young Women is to ‘strengthen home and family.’ We are united in this work. We are all seeking the same things.”

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“We want the women of the Church to understand that this is their meeting,” said Sister McConkie. “We hope they will come away from this meeting edified, unified, and strengthened, prepared to link arms to help each other along the covenant path back to our Father in Heaven.”

“At a time when the voices of the world are so loud, the women of the Church are blessed to gather together to be fed and lifted, in a safe and holy place,“ Sister Stephens said.

“We never get too old to want to improve and do better,” said Sister Esplin.

sarah@deseretnews.com @SJW_ChurchNews

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