SALT LAKE CITY — During a historic worldwide gathering Saturday, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked women to unite and walk a “covenant path” back to their Heavenly Father.
This is a "historic meeting,” said President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the LDS Church’s First Presidency, noting it was the first time Mormon women, young women, and girls, 8 and older, have gathered together.
A capacity congregation filled the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City for the meeting, which was translated into 55 languages and sent to millions around the world via the television, radio and the Internet.
President Thomas S. Monson presided at the meeting, which was also attended by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency; other Church leaders; and members of the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary general presidencies and boards.
In addition to President Eyring, presidents of the church’s women’s organizations — Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president; Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president; and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president — spoke at the meeting, which was held one week before the LDS Church’s 184th Annual General Conference. A multi-generational choir of women representing over 290 stakes within a 100-mile radius of the Conference Center provided the music for the historic broadcast.
Also shown during the meeting were two videos: One featured LDS women across the globe singing "I Am a Child of God" in different languages. The worldwide congregation was invited to sing the last verse in the Conference Center and meetinghouses and homes across the globe. A second video featured women of different ages supporting and loving each other along the covenant path that begins at baptism and leads to the temple.
During his remarks, President Eyring spoke about the path “marked by sacred covenants with God.”
“I will talk with you about the joy of making and keeping those covenants,” he said.
Addressing the topic, “Daughters in the Covenant,” President Eyring said no two Latter-day Saints will have the same memories of the day they were baptized.
“But we each felt God's approval. And we felt a desire to forgive, and to be forgiven, and an increased determination to do right," he said.
He told members of the worldwide congregation that they were tutored by their Heavenly Father before they came into this life.
“He helped you understand and accept that you would have trials, tests and opportunities perfectly chosen just for you," President Eyring said. "You learned that our Father had a plan of happiness to get you safely through those trials and that you would help bring others safely through theirs. This plan is marked by covenants with God.”
It is a free choice to make and keep covenants, he explained.
“Only a few of his daughters have the opportunity in this life to even learn of those covenants," he said. "You are one of the favored few. You, dear sisters, each of you, is a daughter in the covenant.”
President Eyring said Heavenly Father sees greater potential in his children than they — or even their earthly mothers — see.
“He sees that glorious potential in all of his daughters wherever they are," he said. "Now that puts a great responsibility on each of you. He expects you to treat every person you meet as a child of God.”
During her remarks, Sister Burton said as true disciples of Jesus Christ, many Latter-day Saint women offer their willing hearts and their helping hands to hasten the Lord’s work.
“Our sisterhood reaches across the generations to those faithful sisters who have walked before,” she said. “Together as sisters and in unity with living prophets, seers and revelators with restored priesthood keys we can walk as one, as disciples, as servants with willing hearts and hands to hasten the work of salvation. As we do so, we will become like the Savior.”
Sister Burton asked women, young women and girls to answer the Savior’s call to become part of his work — the work of a disciple.
She said LDS women cannot do the difficult things they have been asked to do without help.
“Help comes through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and through the helping hands of others.
“You have been sent to earth in this dispensation of time because of who you are and what you have been prepared to do. Regardless of what Satan would try to persuade us to think about who we are, our true identity is that of a disciple of Jesus Christ," she said.
Sister Burton said it is a blessing to be called to give the gift of daily discipleship to the Lord.
“I love the women of the church — young and old,” she said. “I have seen your strength. I have seen your faith. You have something to give and you are willing to give it. You do this without fanfare or publicity, drawing attention to the God you worship not yourselves, and with no thought of what you will receive. That’s what disciples do.”
Sister Oscarson told the women that they need to relax and rejoice in their divine differences.
“We as women can be particularly hard on ourselves. When we compare ourselves to one another, we will always feel inadequate or resentful of others. We need to realize that we all desire to serve in the kingdom using our unique talents and gifts in our own ways. Then we can enjoy our sisterhood, our associations and begin to serve.”
She said women have “so much to learn from one another and we often let self-imposed barriers keep us from enjoying associations which could be among our greatest blessings in our lives.”
There is no other group of women in the world who have access to greater blessings than Latter-day Saint women, Sister Oscarson said.
“We are members of the Lord’s church and regardless of our individual circumstances, we can all enjoy the full blessings of priesthood power through keeping the covenants we have made at baptism and in the temple," she said. "We have living prophets to lead and teach us and we enjoy the great gift of the Holy Ghost, which serves as a comfort and guide in our lives. We are blessed to work hand in hand with righteous brothers as we strengthen homes and families. We have access to the strength and power of temple ordinances and so much more. In addition to all of these magnificent blessings, we have each other — sisters in the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Sister Wixom said LDS women have "a desire to defend and sustain" the kingdom of God.
"We are daughters of our Heavenly Father," she said. "We are covenant-making women of all ages walking the path of mortality back to his presence. Keeping covenants protects us, prepares us and empowers us."
Whether in the Conference Center, a church building or in their homes, Sister Wixom invited all girls ages 8, 9, 10 and 11 to stand and sing the Primary song “Teach Me to Walk in the Light of His Love.” She then invited the rest of the congregation to sing the second verse, that begins, “Come, little child, and together we’ll learn.”
“As women of all ages we walk in his light,” she said. “Our journey on the path is personal and well lit with the Savior’s love.”
She told the women that as they strive to keep covenants, “our feelings of inadequacies and imperfection begin to fade, while the ordinances and the covenants of the temple come alive. Everyone is welcome to walk that path to eternal life.”
Through keeping sacred covenants all can feel the love of Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ, Sister Wixom said.
“Each one of us is on that path. Tonight, we sang about walking the path in the light," she said. "As individuals we are strong. Together, with God, we are unstoppable.”
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company