BYU Women’s Conference
Primary General Presidency Presentation


Primary General Presidency Presentation

2021 BYU Women’s Conference

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Introduction

President Camille N. Johnson: Dear sisters, it is glorious to be with you today! We are delighted to bask in the collegiality and sisterhood of this BYU Women’s Conference and to connect with you.

I am so very pleased to introduce to you my marvelous, consecrated counselors and friends, Sister Susan Porter and Sister Amy Wright. I have had a number of inquiries about how I went about identifying counselors, so let me offer you a glimpse into that process, which was a miraculous, revelatory experience. I was instructed to seek the Lord’s help and learn His will concerning who should serve. There were no further directions and no mandates. It was for me to determine who the Lord wanted.

I did not know Susan or Amy. But both of their names came to me quickly. Susan was serving on the Relief Society general advisory council, and I learned something about the hope she exudes in a Latter-day Saint Women podcast in which she was featured. Amy was serving on the Young Women general advisory council, and I knew she was a courageous survivor of cancer. I knew very little else about them, but having the impression they were to be called, I sought confirmation through prayer and fasting and more prayer. I submitted their names for consideration, and my impression that we were to serve together was confirmed when they were approved and called.

In an act of great kindness, Elder Cook permitted my husband and me to meet Susan and Amy as soon as they were called. Sisters, it was not a first meeting but a reunion! I was immediately awash in the sensation that I was being reunited with long-time friends! In fact, the first thing I said to them was, “It’s so good to see you again!”

It has been a glorious several weeks becoming reacquainted with them. They are magnificent! They are marvelous, virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy, and oh so very hardworking and determined to do the will of the Lord. I am privileged to work with them, learn from them, and hear them pray. I love them dearly!

We as a Presidency are so thankful for the opportunity to reconnect with the wonderful women who lead Relief Society and the Young Women organizations. They have wrapped their supportive and kind arms around us. We know they share our passion to see Primary children flourish. Flourishing Primary children grow into Young Women who are bold and noble in their pursuit of exaltation, who mature into righteous and charitable Relief Society sisters who teach, nurture, and love the Primary children in one eternal round!

Sisters, we are all connected. We share our collective testimony of that principle. Let us make it a priority to rediscover our connections. Those connections help us belong!

Sister Susan H. Porter: We have discovered these connections amongst us:

In the week before we were sustained in general conference, Amy felt a connection to my late husband, Elder Bruce Porter, who she had never met. She acted on an impression and had flowers delivered to my home in an effort to reach out and support me, as he was no longer here. This act of kindness led to Amy and I discovering that she and Bruce are related! They are both direct descendants of William Bailey!

Sister Amy Wright: Sister Johnson and I discovered that we share the unique privilege of being mothers to all boys. We each have three sons, and her youngest son and my oldest son both served in the Italy Milan Mission.

President Johnson: Susan and I share a German heritage, and both of us have lived there. Susan and Elder Porter lived in Germany twice: once in Munich for a job opportunity with their young family and later in Frankfurt for a Church calling. I spent my first two years of life in Bamberg, Germany, as my dad was stationed there in the US Army.

Dear sisters, we look forward to connecting with you! We are common and ordinary women asked to be engaged in an extraordinary work, and we are thankful to be engaged in that great work with you!

Jesus Christ Is Enough

Sister Wright: The week before Valentine’s Day, I received a phone call inviting my husband and me to meet with Elder Quentin L. Cook. At the time, I had been serving as a member of the Young Women general advisory council. As I hung up the phone the thought occurred to me, “You are going to be released.” I was surprised to discover that I instantly felt peace. The last two and a half years serving with Sister Cordon, Sister Craig, and Sister Craven, along with the other council members, had been a miraculous and revelatory experience that I cherished dearly. I guess I just figured that the Lord intended for someone else to now have an opportunity to experience this sacred sisterhood and incredible trajectory of growth.

In preparation to meet with an Apostle of the Lord, my husband and I decided that we would attend the meeting fasting. The car ride to Church headquarters was filled with silence. I am not sure what the protocol is for conversation when you are preparing to meet a special witness of our Savior Jesus Christ. However, after about 15 minutes in silence, we decided to listen to President Russell M. Nelson’s talk titled “Let God Prevail.” About halfway through his remarks, I had a clear, matter-of-fact impression come to my mind—almost as if someone had simply told me that the sky was blue or the earth was round. The impression was this: “You are going to be called to serve as the Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency.”

Before I could even begin to process this information, almost immediately came a very distinct pattern of uninvited thoughts that flooded my mind. “You are not enough! You are not good enough. You are not smart enough. You are not talented enough. You are not worthy enough.” Every single “not enough” that you could possibly imagine. I closed my eyes and silently prayed that my mind would be clear and that my heart would feel peace. I think that it would be fair to assume that the comfort and peace that I was seeking would come in the form of validations, such as “You are enough. You are good enough. You are talented enough. You are going to do great.” Instead, I was a little taken aback to discover that the impression that came to my mind was this: “You are right. You are not enough. And you will never be your definition of enough. But Jesus Christ is enough. He is more than enough, and everything is going to be okay.”

This experience was a tender reminder to me that this great work “is [His] work and [His] glory,” not mine. Christ is perfectly capable of doing His own work. However, the extraordinary thing is that He shares His sacred work with us so that we can have opportunities to learn and grow.

After my call was extended, Elder Cook led my husband and me into the Quorum of the Twelve boardroom, where I immediately saw Sister Porter with her trademark smile and radiant countenance. I already knew and loved Sister Porter dearly. We have had the privilege of serving together as part of the Utah Area Leadership Council. She is a woman of great faith, tenderness, and capacity. However, as mentioned earlier, this was the first time I had met Sister Johnson. The miracle of this experience is that, instantly, a feeling of love and sustaining and sisterhood filled my entire being from head to toe. It was as if I had just been reunited with a long-lost friend, and it was a joyful reunion! Oh, how I love her! She too is a woman of incredible capacity, who loves the Lord and knows how to hear His voice. And it is a glorious thing to behold! I testify to you, for the Spirit continues to witness to me again and again, that Sister Johnson has been called of God to serve as the Primary General President at this time for a very specific purpose.

I love in 3 Nephi 12 where Christ calls his twelve disciples and then “delivers to the Nephites a discourse similar to the Sermon on the Mount.” Here He is introducing a new way of living, a new kingdom, for “His teachings transcend and take precedence over the law of Moses.” In His kingdom you are blessed if you are “poor in spirit,” if you “mourn,” if you are “meek,” if you are “hungry and thirsty,” if you are persecuted” or “revile[d]” against. These are really hard things, and yet in verse 12 we are admonished to “have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.”

I testify that if we endure our trials and challenges well, we will not only have great joy in heaven, but we can also experience great joy now. There is power and purpose and potential in stretching. Or as my son who is serving a mission in Africa recently indicated, “I am gradually getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.” The path of discipleship is a path of progression and growth. It is a path that is not always easy, and yet it is secure. God wants our choices in life to be intentional. He wants us to intentionally choose Him.

Sisters, our Father in Heaven knows us personally and loves us perfectly. And as we seek guidance and direction in our lives, He will speak to us in a way that we can understand. I also testify that our worth cannot be quantified by any form of earthly measurement, for “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” Our value comes from our identity as beloved daughters of heavenly parents. It is part of our spiritual DNA. Our value also stems from who, through our Savior Jesus Christ, we can become.

This I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Places of Security

Sister Porter: My dear sisters near and far, I feel very humbled to be gathered with you today. I love feeling the strength that comes when we gather together as sisters in the great family of God. And I pray that during the conference we will each receive individual inspiration from our Heavenly Father to answer the questions of our hearts.

I am deeply grateful for the calling to serve our Heavenly Father’s precious children as a counselor in the Primary General Presidency. I am humbled by the opportunity to serve with Sister Johnson and Sister Wright, two loving and devoted disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Two months ago, on the first Friday in February, I turned on my computer at home to join a devotional broadcast via Zoom. The speaker was Elder Walter F. Gonzalez of the Seventy. He spoke about President Russell M. Nelson’s invitation during general conference in October to “make a list of all that the Lord has promised He will do for covenant Israel.” Elder Gonzalez invited those listening to the devotional to share scriptures they had read and promised blessings they had received as members of covenant Israel.

As several people shared their thoughts, I was unexpectedly filled with the vivid memory of an experience I had in December 2016 when my husband and I were serving in Moscow. Bruce was serving in the Area Presidency, and we rejoiced in the opportunity to meet with and learn from members and missionaries as we traveled throughout the Europe East Area.

One morning Bruce woke up and felt short of breath, so we traveled to the hospital to get a chest x-ray. It was determined that he had pneumonia and would need to stay for a few days to receive antibiotics. I went home that evening to pack up some belongings that he would need for his short stay. The next morning when I arrived at the hospital, Elder Taylor, our area medical adviser, stopped me in the lobby. He had just learned that during the night Bruce’s health had taken a dramatic turn for the worse and that he had been placed in an induced coma.

In that moment, everything changed. No longer was this a routine hospital stay but a fight for Bruce’s life, over 5,000 miles away from family. Friends and family offered support and fasted and prayed for us. Preparations began to be put in place so that we could return to the United States to receive further medical care.

For the next 12 days I got up each morning pleading for the Lord’s help as I drove to the metro station, rode for 45 minutes on the subway, and then walked the remaining blocks to the hospital. I sat all day by Bruce’s side in the ICU as he lay perfectly still, unable to talk or move, surrounded by monitors of all kinds. Each evening I reversed my trip, arriving home to gather our belongings in preparation for our move back to Utah.

During the devotional on February 5, the Lord brought that experience clearly to my mind, reminding me that all through those cold, dark days I never felt afraid as I traveled on the subway, standing out clearly as a foreigner. I remembered the peace and calm I felt as I sat by Bruce’s bed in the hospital, and then later at home I was alone, but not lonely, each night.

As I was wrapped in those memories, the Lord spoke clearly to my mind: “I did this for you.”

Tears flowed, and I was filled with gratitude for His loving care during a traumatic time.

In that moment, the Lord let me know in a gentle and loving way that the peace I had felt, the safety I had experienced, and the sense that I was not alone had nothing to do with me and everything to do with a loving Heavenly Father and His Son being on my right hand and on my left, with Their Spirit in my heart and angels bearing me up.

This impression was so strong that I knew there was a reason I would need this reminder of His power in my life.

Nine days after this impression I was sitting in Elder Quentin L. Cook’s office when he extended the call to me to serve as the First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency. I felt overwhelmed by the call. I was also filled with deep gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the knowledge He had given me that He had been with me in the past and I could rely on Him in the future.

Since that day, I have been reflecting on the clear impression I received: “I did this for you.” Sisters, many of you have had traumatic experiences when everything in your life changed in a moment. Some have had trials that have lasted for years. When sorrow and tragedy come to us, we fall on our knees, pleading for help. Sometimes our circumstances do not change. Sometimes it is a challenge to see the Lord’s hand in our lives. Sometimes we are aware of that help, and other times we just soldier on, not realizing that it is by His power that we have the strength to carry on.

During those times, I bear my witness that God, our Heavenly Father, is with us. Even when we can’t feel His presence, He is there.

One of the great blessings our Savior promised to covenant Israel is “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” Whether we feel that comfort at the time or only recognize His help later, I bear witness that He will come, and He will give us comfort and strength in time of need.

As I reflect on the greatest act of lifting burdens and carrying sorrows—our Savior’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross and His triumphant rise from the tomb—I can hear His loving words to me: “I did this for you.”

Sisters, I bear witness that He did it for all of us. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Practicing Perfection

President Johnson: Thank you, Susan and Amy. I told you they’re marvelous.

For the last 30-plus years I have been practicing law. I think there is a reason they refer to it as the practice of law.

I have never taken a perfect deposition nor conducted a perfect cross-examination—there was always another question or a better question I could have asked.

I have never written a perfect brief, because, in retrospect, there was always a point I could have articulated with more clarity.

And I never presented a perfect oral argument before a judge or justices. Almost always in the middle of the night after the argument, I thought of something really clever and persuasive I could have said.

But I believe the service I provided to my clients was not only satisfactory, but it was also of value. I was practicing law with an eye toward changing, improving, and perfecting. My efforts, though imperfect, were sufficient because I was practicing.

One of my best friends in the Book of Mormon is Sariah. I am always delighted to read about her in 1 Nephi. I can identify with her. Her reactions ring true to me. Sariah practiced faith when she left Jerusalem, her gold and silver, and took nothing with her into the wilderness except her family and a few needful provisions. Then recall from chapter 3, Lehi dreamed a dream that the sons of Lehi and Sariah should return to Jerusalem to retrieve the brass plates from Laban.

By the time you get to 1 Nephi 5, Sariah’s sons had been gone for some time—we don’t know for sure how long, but we know that they had traveled back to Jerusalem, gone home to load up all their precious things, and employed several strategies to get the plates from uncooperative Laban. And Sariah was concerned!

Sariah reacted the way I think I might have. She was worried about her sons, she mourned because of them, she complained a bit, and at one point said something to Lehi she probably later regretted about him being a visionary man.

But, sisters, Sariah practiced a little faith. She listened to the comforting words spoken to her by Lehi. She practiced patience. She practiced waiting on the Lord. She practiced supporting her husband. And when her sons returned with the plates of brass, her joy was full! And then she knew “of a surety” that they were on a mission from the Lord. Her practiced faith was so keen, in fact, that she was willing to get on a ship built by her sons, who were not shipbuilders, to sail to an unknown destination, which turned out to be the promised land.

Sariah was practicing. She was practicing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and patience and long-suffering. She was practicing perfection.

We can be perfect in discrete tasks. For example, we can be perfect in reading from the Book of Mormon every day. We can pay our tithing with perfection. Or a piece of music can be played with precision, hitting every note. But I wonder if a musician who performs a piece of music without making a mistake still wonders if the right amount of emotion was expressed. To me it is the difference between mortal perfection—hitting every note right—and eternal perfection—creating a heavenly song. That heavenly song can only be played with and because of the Savior.

President Nelson has taught us, “Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments.”

In Moroni’s final plea to us he said, “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; … love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.”

Remember the brother of Jared and his people, who were directed to build barges according to the instructions of the Lord? The barges were small, light on the water, and tight like a dish.

And in an act of tremendous faith those Jaredites got in the barges they had built and “many times [were] buried in the … sea, because of the … waves which broke upon them … . And … the wind did never cease to blow … while they were upon the waters,” until after 344 days they arrived at the promised land.

But recall that before the Jaredites got into the barges for the promised land, while they were traveling in the wilderness, they “did build barges, in which they did cross many waters, being directed continually by the hand of the Lord.” They had been practicing barge building and practicing faith in the Lord before their 344-day journey began. Of course, the Lord could have led them around those bodies of water while they were traveling in the wilderness. But He didn’t! He let them practice barge building and, importantly, He gave them opportunities to practice their faith in Him. I think their practice prepared them for that very long journey to the promised land. Sisters, we are practicing perfection to return to our heavenly home. And the Savior, whose grace makes eternal perfection possible, gives us opportunities to practice.

Perfection, mortal and eternal, is our objective. Practice makes perfect with the Savior. He makes all the difference. President Nelson has counseled us: “Let us do the best we can and try to improve each day. When our imperfections appear, we can keep trying to correct them. We can be more forgiving of flaws in ourselves and among those we love. We can be comforted and forbearing.”

Sisters, keep practicing! Our dear prophet has reminded us, “The Lord loves effort, because effort brings rewards that can’t come without it.”

I testify that the Lord loves you and wants you to return home. Perfection is pending in Him and with Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.