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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Wendy Watson Nelson speaks at Time Out for Women in Salt Lake Nov. 13.

On Friday night at a Time Out for Women event, Sheri Dew admitted to once saying: "We will never take this to Salt Lake City."

"I mean why would you?" Dew, the CEO of Deseret Book, said Friday night at the first Time Out for Women event in Salt Lake City. "Nobody would come."

Dew then looked out over the audience of more than 3,300 local women seated in the Salt Lake City Convention Center and smiled.

"I was wrong," she said.

Time Out for Women events — featuring motivational speakers, music and Mormon products — have been held all over the country for the past seven years, but this is the first time it's been held in Utah's capital city. The event was in St. George Nov. 6 and 7. Next year's tour starts Feb. 5 and 6 in Ogden.

The 19-stop "Sweet Assurance" tour is designed to be a meeting unlike any other, said the tour director, Laurel Christensen.

Dew said women come to meetings to be changed, "to leave different than we came."

She talked about the influence of women and said nothing else quite compares with the phenomenal amount of influence wives and mothers have.

"Think about who you are influencing," she said. "Who's influencing you? We're here. We're on assignment from God."

Other presenters at the event included Sister Wendy Watson Nelson, wife of Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve, and violinist Jenny Oaks Baker on Friday. On Saturday, presenters included musician Hilary Weeks, author Mary Ellen Edmunds, Deseret Book editor Emily Watts, institute instructor S. Michael Wilcox and author Kris Belcher, who is blind.

Belcher may not be able to see the sun, but she can use it to guide her by paying attention to its warmth.

She said that it's the same with Christ. He encourages righteous behavior with warmth and love.

"I knew if I turned my heart to the Savior, I would be all right," Belcher said.

Belcher told her story of faith, tears and trial before an audience Saturday who stood to applaud her when she finished.

Despite serious medical problems that began when she was 7 months old and ultimately cost her both eyes and tested her will, Belcher has retained a sense of humor and sweet humility that touches the hearts of those who hear her stories.

"I don't make these up," she said, after telling a series of funny stories about people who've asked her if she is teaching her children sign language so they can talk to her, finding her way in a canyon outhouse and dealing with a visitor in her home after her prothestic eye popped out onto the floor.

Sister Nelson had plenty of sage advice for the women. Speaking to a packed hall in the convention center, Sister Nelson told the attendees that if they could truly see who they are and who they've always been, their everyday problems would seem to fall away.

"If you could gaze at your premortal DVD, you would see your lives differently," she said. "I believe we come to Earth with a little scroll of things to do while on Earth. We need to keep those premortal commitments."

She said people can better keep commitments and the commandments of God by increasing their spiritual strength on a daily basis.

"Live by three words," she said, relating a story of trying to find her way home in the rain and discovering huge letters painted onto a barn off the road. The words, "Not even once," became a personal mantra for her.

"Use it when it comes to keeping the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity or on the flip side, to avoid missing an opportunity," she said.

The weekend before in St. George, more than 3,000 women heard from musician Kenneth Cope, Emily Freeman, Jill Manning, Watts, Edmunds, Weeks, former counselor in the general Relief Society presidency Chieko N. Okazaki and Carolyn J. Rasmus.

"I noticed last night right away the good energy in this group," Mary Ellen Edmunds, author and former director of training at the Mormon missionary training center in Provo, Utah, told the crowd Nov. 7. "Each of you has a story. You touch my soul."

Edmunds, along with Watts, author and senior editor for Deseret Book Co., kept the crowd in stitches laughing mostly at themselves. In her talk "Rest Assured!" Edmunds joked, "Like a good neighbor, Jesus is there," when talking about a life "assurance" policy. "Our advocate is Jesus Christ, who has paid all our premiums."

And Watts got the crowd roaring when talking about "shopping in the air" and finding in a Sky Mall magazine a foot tanner for those who wear socks and whose feet don't see the sun.

"A little sunlight for your feet?" she snickered. All kidding aside, Watts spoke about believing, helping and enduring as a mom. "Children are the slowest ripening fruit there is. They ripen at different rates. This truth is Heavenly Father loves my children as much as I do. He loves us individually just as he loves your children individually."

Between his musical numbers, Kenneth Cope told attendees about how we live in a world of throwaways. He gave an example of an iPod breaking and how one might send it back to Apple, which may, instead of fixing it, throw it away and simply issue a new one. "Heavenly Father isn't like that," he said. "He doesn't throw us away. Not only does God love broken things, but he loves to use them."

"Heavenly Father can always undo the damage we have done," Watts said. "Sometimes we just don't listen, but he always wants to help." Edmunds read from a letter she received from her nephew who is serving a Mormon mission in Sweden, "I'm working for the perfect boss; the perfect boss hires the best possible employees he can."

"God loves us so much and Jesus is the proof," Cope said. "We're broken, but God is going to fix us; He's determined to fix us, and I will shout this to the rooftops," he exclaimed with passion

Jill C. Manning was swarmed with attendees before and after her presentation, "The Uncensored Truth About Pornography," and thanked attendees for sharing their stories with her. "No matter how you cut it, pornography is just an ugly, dark topic. Tackle it in a way to be helpful and uplifting." The goal of her talk was to leave attendees armed and more determined to protect their families and homes. She suggested three ways to accomplish this: First, ask Heavenly Father how your homes and family may be safeguarded. Second, install filters and controls on all Internet-enabled devices. Third, as a family, create and implement an Internet/media safety plan in the home.

"It's a good break to hear other people's stories and to realize we all have the same situations and we are all going to make it," attendee Barbara Allred of Kanarraville, Utah, said. "It's just a good time out."

Time Out for Women 2010 is scheduled stop in 19 cities, including Ogden (Feb. 5-6) and Logan (Sept. 10-11). Registration begins Nov. 23 on www.DeseretBooks.com/tofw. Discount group prices are available through Dec. 23. A stop in Salt Lake City hasn't been scheduled as organizers are waiting until BYU and University of Utah football schedules are determined in spring to possibly schedule the event.

e-mail: haddoc@desnews.com, kimball@every1counts.net

More online

Go to MormonTimes.com for more about the Time Out for Women events in Salt Lake and St. George.

Registration for the 2010 events begins Nov. 23 on www.DeseretBooks.com/tofwMore online

Go to MormonTimes.com for more about the Time Out for Women events in Salt Lake and St. George.

Time Out for Women 2010 will stop in 19 cities. Registration begins Nov. 23 on www .DeseretBook .com/tofw