Sunday, March 29, 2015

Summary Of 185th Annual LDS General Conference, General Women's Session: Sister Bonnie Oscarson Defends The Proclamation On The Family And Traditional Marriage

The 185th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially kicked off on Saturday March 28th, 2015 with the General Women's Session. Yes, although it occurs a week in advance of the other sessions, the Women's Session is now considered an official part of Conference. One noteworthy innovation: For the first time, the LDS Church allowed female reporters access to cover the event without restriction. Previously, only male reporters were allowed to cover that priesthood meeting. Eventually, even male reporters were not given media access, though they could go in and watch the proceedings without raising suspicions because they were men.

Other Conference Sessions:

-- Summary of Saturday Morning General Session
-- Summary of Saturday Afternoon General Session
-- Summary of Saturday Evening Priesthood Session
-- Summary of Sunday Morning General Session
-- Sunday Afternoon General Session

Video and audio archives and written transcripts are already available on the designated General Conference page. However, the General Women's Session is also available on YouTube, which users of slower computers may find easier to deal with. Total time is 1:27.

Summaries published below are based on the written transcripts of the talks:

-- Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, Second Counselor Primary General Presidency: Sister Esplin spoke of the need to be filled with light and Gospel truth to withstand the pressures of the world. To illustrate her point, she compared two soda cans; one filled, and the other empty. When the empty can was squeezed, it began to bend and then collapsed under the pressure. But when the unopened can was squeezed, it held firm. It didn’t bend or collapse like the empty can -- because it was filled. Compare this with our individual lives and to our homes and families. When filled with the Spirit and with gospel truth, we have the power to withstand the outside forces of the world that surround and push against us. However, if we are not filled spiritually, we don’t have the inner strength to resist the outside pressures and can collapse when forces push against us.

Satan knows that in order for us and our families to withstand the pressures of the world, we must be filled with light and gospel truth. So he does everything in his power to dilute, distort, and destroy the truth of the gospel and to keep us separated from that truth. The takeaway is that we will have to do our best to hold on to whatever light and truth we currently have, especially in difficult circumstances. The answers to our prayers may not come dramatically, but we must find quiet moments to seek greater light and truth. And when we receive it, it is our responsibility to live it, to share it, and to defend it.

-- Sister Carole M. Stephens, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency: Sister Stephens discussed why we each belong to and are needed in the family of God. In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father. In that realm, we learned about our eternal female identity. We knew that we were each a beloved daughter of heavenly parents. Our mortal journey to earth did not change those truths. We each belong to and are needed in the family of God. Earthly families all look different. And while we do the best we can to create strong traditional families, membership in the family of God is not contingent upon any kind of status -- marital status, parental status, financial status, social status, or even the kind of status we post on social media.

Sister Stephens noted that our opportunity as covenant-keeping daughters of God is not just to learn from our own challenges, but also to unite in empathy and compassion as we support other members of the family of God in their struggles, as we have covenanted to do. If we are to be successful in our sacred responsibilities as daughters of God, we must understand the eternal significance of and our individual responsibility to teach truths about our Heavenly Father’s plan for His family. The takeaway is that the sisters belong, are loved, and are needed. They have a divine purpose, work, place, and role in the Church and kingdom of God and in His eternal family.

-- Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President: Being that this Conference marks the 20th anniversary of the Proclamation On The Family, Sister Oscarson's talk proceeded along this theme. She noted that when President Gordon B. Hinckley first read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” 20 years ago, we were grateful for and valued the clarity, simplicity, and truth of this revelatory document. Little did we realize then how very desperately we would need these basic declarations in today’s world as the criteria by which we could judge each new wind of worldly dogma coming at us from the media, the Internet, scholars, TV and films, and even legislators. The proclamation on the family has become our benchmark for judging the philosophies of the world, and she testified that the principles set forth within this statement are as true today as they were when they were given to us by a prophet of God nearly 20 years ago. Sister Oscarson did acknowledge that life rarely goes exactly according to plan for anyone, and she is aware that not all women are experiencing what the proclamation describes. But it is still important to understand and teach the Lord’s pattern and strive for the realization of that pattern the best we can.

There are three principles taught in the proclamation which especially need steadfast defenders. The first is marriage between a man and a woman. We are taught in the scriptures, “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” For anyone to attain the fulness of priesthood blessings, there must be a husband and a wife sealed in the house of the Lord, working together in righteousness and remaining faithful to their covenants. This is the Lord’s plan for His children, and no amount of public discourse or criticism will change what the Lord has declared. We need to continue to model righteous marriages, seek for that blessing in our lives, and have faith if it is slow in coming. We need to be defenders of marriage as the Lord has ordained it while continuing to show love and compassion for those with differing views.

The second principle which calls for our defending voices is elevating the divine roles of mothers and fathers. We eagerly teach our children to aim high in this life. We want to make sure that our daughters know that they have the potential to achieve and be whatever they can imagine. We hope they will love learning, be educated, talented, and maybe even become the next Marie Curie or Eliza R. Snow.

And the third principle we need to stand and defend is the sanctity of the home. We need to take a term which is sometimes spoken of with derision and elevate it. It is the term homemaker. All of us -- women, men, youth, and children, single or married -- can work at being homemakers. We should make our homes places of order, refuge, holiness, and safety. Our homes should be places where the Spirit of the Lord is felt in rich abundance and where the scriptures and the gospel are studied, taught, and lived. What a difference it would make in the world if all people would see themselves as makers of righteous homes. Let us defend the home as a place which is second only to the temple in holiness. The takeaway is that today's women have opportunities and possibilities which no other generation of women has had in the world. Let us help build the kingdom of God by standing up boldly and being defenders of marriage, parenthood, and the home. The Lord needs us to be brave, steadfast, and immovable warriors who will defend His plan and teach the upcoming generations His truths.

-- President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor First Presidency: President Eyring assured the women that the Savior knows them and loves them, and that they have felt His love for those seated around them. They are your sisters, spirit daughters of our Heavenly Father. He cares for them, understands all their sorrows, and wants to succor them. President Eyring's message to them is that they can and must be an important part of His giving comfort to those who need comfort. the women can play your part best if they know more of how He answers those prayers for help. Jesus Christ gave this sweet promise: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The burdens His faithful servants must carry in life are made lighter by His Atonement. The burden of sin can be taken away, but the trials of mortal life for good people can still be heavy burdens.

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