BYU Women’s Conference Theme “Amazingly” Supports New Emphasis on Ministering
Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
- Talking about ministering should be changing how we act.
- Recent changes in missionary lessons and Church curriculum are consistent with “ministering” efforts.
“I believe that President Nelson’s heartfelt plea that we increase our spiritual capacity to receive revelation was not provided just so we can more fully carry out this new vision of ministering, but also to prepare us for even greater challenges and opportunities.” —Kevin J Worthen, BYU president
“Revelation is alive and active in God’s Church,” BYU President Kevin J Worthen told more than 14,000 women from around the world gathered on the Brigham Young University campus on May 3 for the first day of the annual BYU Women’s Conference.
“Knowing that this new emphasis on Christlike ministering was to be announced at general conference, God has, in the preceding months, been preparing the way for that work to be accelerated, even when those who were being inspired may not have recognized the full purposes for which they were being prompted,” he said.
The two-day event—cosponsored by the Relief Society and Brigham Young University—brings together women of all ages and backgrounds to the BYU campus for classes, service projects, and entertainment.
“We know you’ve come to Women’s Conference to enjoy friends and family, to feel energized and encouraged in your discipleship, to experience unity with others who share your faith, and to feel the Savior’s love for you more fully, and to learn more about how to minister as we strengthen one another in the Lord,” said Sandra Rogers, chairwoman of 2018 conference.
“The theme for this year’s conference chosen so carefully … is to strengthen one another in the Lord,” said Sister Sharon Eubank, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, during the opening session. “A lot is going to be said over the next couple of days about how this theme relates to the charge that President Nelson gave us at conference about ministering. And each one of us is going to have to leave the conference on Friday prepared not to just talk about strengthening each other in the Lord, but to give evidence of it by our actions.”
Noting that Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, was in Washington, D.C., on assignment from the First Presidency, Sister Eubank shared the greetings and love of Sister Bingham. “At this very moment she is in the Rose Garden with the National Day of Prayer. … She wishes she could be here.” (See related story.)
With more than 80 classes led by more than 160 presenters on a variety of topics, participants filled classrooms around campus. Participants came from 49 states and 8 countries.
“As we participate together in Women’s Conference I invite you to open your ears so that you can hear what the Holy Ghost is trying to say to you, to teach you about building deeper faith in Jesus Christ, in yourself, and in others,” said Sister Eubank. “I pray that concrete ideas will come to you about how to strengthen specific friends and loved ones and people you care about. If they are spiritually ill, I pray that our service to them will bring them comfort and encouragement until their health is restored.”
Recognizing that the theme for the women’s conference was chosen months before the announcement about ministering in general conference, President Worthen spoke of how the “celestial correlation” shows direction from the Lord.
“The theme is amazingly consistent with the new emphasis on ministry,” he said. “In fact, one might describe ministering as an effort to strengthen one another in the Lord. The theme is so well adapted to highlight, explore, and explicate the new emphasis on ministering that was announced just weeks ago that future observers who are not careful will erroneously assume that those responsible selected the women’s conference theme after the new emphasis on ministering was announced, or at least with full knowledge that the announcement was coming.
“But I know from personal experience that the women’s conference theme was selected early last fall, many months before any public announcements about any changes to quorums or visiting teaching were made. And I am confident that those involved in the selection of that theme were not privy to any special inside information or involved in some intricate effort to coordinate the timing of events and announcements—at least not any effort orchestrated by mortal beings.”
President Worthen shared how revelations and events in the Church in the last 15 years have led up to the recent revelations announced in conference.
“Indeed, viewing events in the last 15 years in light of the recent announcements reveals how the Lord has efficiently and effectively—though not always obviously—been preparing us, as a people, to be able to strengthen one another in the Lord in the new and holier way of ministering that was outlined in general conference.”
Starting first with the change to teaching by missionaries, President Worthen talked of the creation of Preach My Gospel in 2003. The change from a memorized lesson format to a Spirit-led, more flexible teaching method set the foundation to a change in teaching in the gospel.
“This emphasis on spirit-driven gospel teaching was expanded beyond the missionary effort in 2013 with the adoption of the ‘Come, Follow Me’ curriculum for youth,” he said. “Once again, there was a shift from pre-scripted lessons to more flexible, individualized teaching in which the key component was the ability to receive, recognize, and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost.”
Participants attend the opening session of BYU Women’s Conference on May 3. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.
The next step came with the announcement last fall of changes to the adult curriculum.
“Again, this was a shift from a pre-scripted lesson to a more flexible, individualized form of teaching that depends on the guidance of the Holy Ghost, in both the preparation and presentation of the lessons,” he said.
And now, changes to home and visiting teaching.
“By learning to teach in the Savior’s way, we are now better prepared to minister in the Savior’s way,” he said. “The new vision of ministering is, therefore, merely a continuation of the trend that I first noted with Preach My Gospel. Like these prior curriculum changes, this new vision of ministering—this new and holier way of strengthening one another in the Lord—requires us to set aside the pre-scripted lesson previously found in the Ensign and to become more capable of recognizing and responding to the Spirit. …
“… Given the pattern that I have seen, I believe that President Nelson’s heartfelt plea that we increase our spiritual capacity to receive revelation was not provided just so we can more fully carry out this new vision of ministering, but also to prepare us for even greater challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. I am confident that the rush of revelation we have witnessed in the past month is not the culmination of the pattern I have noticed, but merely the latest edition. …
“… The changes seem to be coming faster and faster, which is further evidence that the Lord is hastening His work in its time. Stay tuned and buckle up. I am confident that there is more to come.”
For Melanie Tirrell, President Worthen’s words supported the impression she keeps having during the different classes she has attended.
“I keep feeling, ‘it’s time to step up,’” she said. “It is time to step up, and I am not alone in doing it. We are all here together. I love being around so many women who are coming to learn.”
For her mother, Diane Tirrell, Women’s Conference has become something she looks forward to each year.
“Every year I am going through different experiences, so I glean something different,” she said. “Just this morning I was talking to my husband about something that was bothering me, and in the very first class I received an answer—it was exactly what I needed to hear.”
For Teresa Brooks from Morgan, Utah, attending Women’s Conference has become a way for her to step outside of her everyday routine and meet with other women “who feel the way I feel and value what I value.”
Women walk to classes on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, during Women’s Conference, May 3–4, 2018. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.