SALT LAKE CITY — When life seems unfair, Latter-day Saint women can look to the examples of “certain women” — past and present — who have exercised faith in Jesus Christ and in his Atonement, said Sister Linda K. Burton during the opening session of the 187th Annual General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday evening.
Referencing a phrase found in the New Testament, the LDS Church’s Relief Society general president explained that “certain women” are “exemplary disciples and important witnesses in the work of salvation.”
Sister Burton said she has read in the scriptures and passed over “the seemingly unremarkable expression ‘certain women,’” numerous times. “But recently as I pondered more carefully, those words just seemed to jump off the page at me.”
She asked Relief Society sisters to consider synonyms for the word “certain” as connected to “faithful certain women” — convinced, positive, confident, firm, definite, assured and dependable.
“May we remember the many ‘certain women’ who refused to abandon our precious Savior during the excruciating experience he suffered on the cross, and yet hours later were privileged to be the certain witnesses of his glorious resurrection,” she said.
Speaking during the General Women’s Session, Sister Burton opened her remarks by making reference to the “I Was a Stranger” refugee effort, which she announced in the same meeting one year ago. Her invitation complimented two First Presidency letters, sent in October 2015 and March 2016, asking members to help refugees and support “I Was a Stranger.”
The global response to the “I Was a Stranger” effort powered a record year for LDS Charities in terms of humanitarian contributions, expenditures and international partnerships, according to the LDS Church’s Welfare Department. The Church conducted 488 refugee relief projects in 54 countries in 2016, according to LDS Charities annual report. In addition, hundreds of thousands of LDS women responded to the “I Was a Stranger” invitation from Sister Burton by reaching out refugees in their own communities and recording those acts with the hashtag #iwasastranger.
During her remarks, Sister Burton thanked Relief Society sisters — who now number 7.1 million in 188 countries — for their service. “My beloved sisters, how we love you and thank you for your tenderhearted and enthusiastic response to the First Presidency’s invitation and the ‘I Was a Stranger’ effort,” she said. “Please keep praying, listening to the whisperings of the spirit, and acting on the promptings you receive.”
Thousands filled the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City for the meeting, which was translated and sent to millions around the world.
In addition to Sister Burton, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency; Sister Bonnie H. Cordon of the Primary general presidency; and Sister Carol F. McConkie of the Young Women general presidency also spoke of the life and teachings of the Savior and how they can help LDS women today.
Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president conducted the meeting, which was 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.
During her remarks, Sister Cordon asked women worldwide to “trust in the Lord” through scripture study, prayer and service. “If we trust in Heavenly Father and in our Savior and lean not to our own understanding, they will direct our paths and will extend the arm of mercy toward us.”
Sister McConkie addressed the “The Beauty of Holiness,” during her remarks.
“I see the beauty of holiness in sisters whose hearts are centered on all that is good, who want to become more like the Savior,” she said. “They offer their whole souls, heart, might, mind and strength to the Lord in the way that they live every day. Holiness is in the striving and the struggle to keep the commandments and to honor the covenants we have made with God.”
President Eyring offered a “simple message” on finding peace “within ourselves, in our families, and with the people around us.”
The same peace the Lord promised to his disciples during his mortal ministry is available to his disciples today, President Eyring said.
But all disciples of Christ will have their faith challenged, he said. “Your defense against these attacks is to keep the Holy Ghost as your companion. The spirit will speak peace to your soul. He will urge you forward in faith. He will bring back the memory of those times when you felt the light and the love of Jesus Christ,” President Eyring promised.
One of the most precious gifts the spirit can give is to “bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever [the Lord has] said unto you" (John 14:26). “The memory may be of an answered prayer, of a priesthood ordinance received, of a confirmation of your testimony, or of a moment when you saw God’s hand in your life,” he said.
Christine Crellin traveled from Stonewall, Winnipeg, Canada, to attend the meeting. She said she enjoyed being in the Conference Center with women all working together for the common good. "It made my problems seem small," she said.