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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
LDS women from 32 Spanish-speaking wards and branches listen during a fireside at Utah Valley University Sunday.

More than 700 women from 32 Spanish-speaking wards and branches descended on the Utah Valley University campus Sunday for a fireside featuring Julie B. Beck and Silvia H. Allred, the president and first counselor, respectively, of the Relief Society General Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Prior to the fireside, Sister Beck reflected on the unprecedented nature of an LDS function in Utah bringing together so many Spanish-speaking women.

"I think it's a unique opportunity to bring together this many sisters," she said. "I don't think we've done this before, this many Spanish-speaking units together.

"If you meet five sisters, they're probably from five different countries," Sister Beck added. "They have a lot of backgrounds and experiences. They bring a lot of talent to the church. For me it's a blessing to see them and meet them."

Sister Beck and Sister Allred both delivered their talks in Spanish. In her comments to the congregation, Sister Beck commended the women for their faith.

She said: "I know, sisters, that this is your time. ... I feel in you strength and faith. It's because of your faith that you are here tonight. It's not simple to prepare and arrive at a meeting like this. But all of you prepared with the Spirit and arrived here because you wanted to be strengthened in your faith."

Sister Allred's remarks included observations about the growth in the number of church members in Utah whose first language is Spanish.

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"I remember when I attended BYU and attended the Spanish-speaking branch there," she said. "We were a small group then. But tonight, look how many women have come here! The church has grown very much.

"But with fast growth, many challenges also come with it," said Sister Allred. "One of the big challenges is unity. Unity is something very difficult to achieve even in normal circumstances. And when we have to take into account the different cultures, customs, and traditions that we bring with us, then it becomes a bit more difficult to achieve."

Sister Beck's Spanish is aided by the fact she learned as a child to speak Portuguese fluently.

Sister Allred is a native of El Salvador.

e-mail: jaskar@desnews.com