PROVO — In her first time speaking after being sustained as general Relief Society president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sister Linda K. Burton welcomed guests to the annual Women's Conference at Brigham Young University on Thursday morning.
"The depth of your preparation will determine the depth of your understanding and it will enable the spirit to flow freely in the classes that you attend," she said. "Because you have prepared, the Lord will bless and strengthen you and make this a rich and rewarding experience. Then you can use that to go forth and strengthen others at the conclusion of our time together."
The conference, held every spring, is cosponsored by BYU and the Relief Society for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This year's conference theme — "And they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory" — comes from a scripture found in The Book of Mormon.
"We hope the sisters walk away with a greater feeling of sisterhood, a feeling of service, a feeling of how much the Lord loves them and a feeling of how much their Heavenly Father loves them," said Jennifer Johnson, a program administrator for BYU conferences and workshops. "If they leave uplifted and happy, we're happy."
Registration numbers were up to more than 13,000 Thursday morning, with more participants expected Friday. Johnson said that going into the conference there were women registered from almost every U.S. state, along with many from other countries.
"I spoke with women from England, Africa and New Zealand," Johnson said. "And we have around 200 presenters and 1,600 volunteers."
One of the many highlights of attending Women's Conference for Syd Takagi was hearing Sister Burton speak for the first time. "I know Heavenly Father chose [Sister Burton] and so I wanted to know more about her. It was really great getting to know her and her counselors on a more personal basis and the testimonies they have of Relief Society," said Takagi, who serves as Relief Society president of her ward in San Diego, Calif.
In an open discussion format, Burton and her counselors in the general Relief Society presidency, Carole M. Stephens and Linda R. Reeves, spoke during one of the breakout sessions. They talked about the duties of women in the church, and the vital role they play in the gospel.
Sharing personal experiences from their own lives, the Relief Society general presidency spoke of the importance of personal behaviors that invite the spirit into individuals' and their family's lives. Focusing on gospel habits — prayer, scripture study, family home evening and temple attendance — the presidency taught that those are the actions that are vital to filling ones spiritual vessels with living water.
The presidency shared that collectively they have had many experiences in their own individual homes, immediate families or extended families.
"Those have included unemployment, cancer, drug addiction, miscarriages, infertility, death, twins, divorce, adoptions, disability, financial loss, depression, alcohol addiction and pornography," Stephens said. "These experiences have strengthened our testimonies and they have created opportunities for us to rely on, and be strengthened through the atoning power of our Savior, Jesus Christ."
The presidency also spoke of the concept of "intentional parenting," or being very aware of what is going on within the walls of ones own home.
"Prioritize, concentrate on those important things, do those important things everyday, and everything else will fall into place," Reeves said. It doesn't mean that all will be easy, but peace and happiness will come as individuals do the most essential things first, she said.
In addition to the classes, participants were able to be involved in seven service projects during a large service project on Thursday night.
More sessions are scheduled for Friday, including the closing keynote speakers, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen.
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