Q: As the chair of Women’s Conference, how do you organize everything?
SR: There are a whole lot of people who do a whole lot of work to make it happen. I would mislead people if they believed I was the one who was behind this. There are many people on campus and many volunteers who do a whole lot of work to make this happen. I’m just grateful for them. It wouldn’t be a success without all of them. It wouldn’t even happen without all of them. So, I chair it, but a lot of other people do most of the work.
Q: How long have you been going to Women’s Conference?
This will be my tenth Women’s Conference as the chair. I was on the committee for four years before that. So that’s a total of 14 years being involved in some way. Prior to that, I would attend a session or two here or there when I was on the faculty, but probably never attended an entire Women’s Conference prior to that.
Q: What made that first conference you attended different?
The first one I attended was not long after I came back to school from my graduate work in San Francisco. I was asked to give a presentation on taking care of caregivers — talking about people who were taking care of aged parents or children with disabilities.
Q: So, your first experience with Women’s Conference was being a presenter? What was that like?
Because I really hadn’t even been aware of it, I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous and knew there were a lot of people with professional expertise and personal experience with this particular topic, and I was just hoping and praying what I said would be helpful to someone in the audience. It was scheduled, I think, in the ballroom. I don’t think I had given a presentation to that large of a group before. It was intimidating, but everyone was friendly, so it wasn’t frightening. I just felt a lot of responsibility and hoped the information I shared would be helpful to someone.
Q: Since that time, you’ve either been presenting, part of the committee or the chair. It seems like it has become a priority in your life. Why do you think Women’s Conference should be a priority in the life of other women?
That’s a good question, because women are busy people and they have a tremendous amount of things they have to accomplish, or feel they have to accomplish. Our hope is the women who do choose to come to Women’s Conference will feel refreshed — will feel an added strength in meeting all the demands they have. We hope if they have some questions about certain kinds of things, they will feel they’ve recieved some potential answers or suggestions to those questions. We hope they’ll feel encouraged by being with other women who are trying to solve the same problems and meet the same challenges they are. We have, in total, 96 sessions on seperate distinct topics and then six sessions that will be in Spanish. We hope, in those 90 topics, there’s something that might meet a need of many women.
Q: What makes Women’s Conference different than an EFY for adult women?
I think the level of the discussion is in a different place. For example, we usually have been assigned a member of the Twelve. With a huge church of over 14 million people, we don’t have nearly as many opportunities to hear an Apostle speak.
We also have the opportunity to hear from the Relief Society General Presidency, the Young Women’s General Presidency and the Primary General Presidency. These are all women who have been called and set apart and been given an extra measure of the Lord’s spirit and guidance to look after things that matter to women. Either the Relief Society, which covers all of us over 18, or Young Women or small children — all of those things are of interest to women.
We ask our presentors, even those who have experience presenting, to do the spiritual work nessary to to learn what the Lord wants them to tell the sisters who come. It really is one of a kind. It doesn’t get duplicated. We hope people aren’t giving the same message they’ve given in lots of other settings . We hope it’s something that really does meet a need or answer a question.
Q: What do you think conference goers should do to prepare for Women’s Conference?
One of the members of our planning committee said in one of our post conference meetings, “The women who come to Women’s Conference come with great depths of seeking.” I have reflected on that phrase a lot because its an awesome responsibility to try to plan something for someone who comes with great depth of seeking. But we know from our evaluations and from spontaneous conversations that occur with people during Women’s Conference that the ones that seem to get the most out of it are the ones that have pondered a question, dilemma or something they’ve been thinking about and they come with a hope and an expectation there will be some directions, some reenforcement or reassurance, on the thing that mattered to them.
Q: The theme this year comes from 1 Nephi 14: 14, “And they were armed with righteousness and the power of God in great glory.” Where did this theme originate from and why do you feel this theme is so important?
Selecting a theme is our first task when we have our first planning meeting at the end of August every year. I had known we would be getting the wonderful book, “Daughters In My Kingdom,” and I had been thinking about trying to do something that would be a companion or support for the truth we are taught in it. I was reading one day in the Book of Mormon and came across these verses. They come from a moment in time when an angel was showing Nephi the birth of the Savior, what would happen to [Nephi’s] people in the Americas and what would happen on the American continents. One of the things showed to him was this vision of the covenant people of the Lamb who are “armed with righteousness and the power of God in great glory.” It seemed to fit with the spirit of the introduction the First Presidency gave us in “Daughters In My Kingdom.”
Q: In addition to the scriptural theme, the website also displays Minerva Tiecharts painting, “Zion Ho!” Do you feel this painting embodied the theme?
I liked this one because the woman is strong and enthusiastic about what she’s doing and she’s not afraid. She’s encouraging others. She’s offering what seems to be hope to the others.
Q: What are some of the highlights of Women’s Conference?
The thing that gives me the most satisfaction is the spirit that the women bring with them. You add to that the spirit of people who have been preparing for four months, thinking, praying, attending the temple — all those things people do when preparing to give a message. Those things come together in a miraculous way and you feel it. It’s not just that the presenters bring the Spirit or that the women come with the Spirit. But, they both do. That combination together is blessed by heaven. I feel like I watch a miracle happen every year. I recognize the Lord had to have a hand in this, because we’re all limited by our human weakness and frailities. We work hard and do the best we can, but in the end the Lord blesses it and creates a miracle in it.
Q: You mentioned the woman in Techarts painting was strong. Do you feel like Women’s Conference is a way of empowering women?
When you think about it logically, at least for me, I don’t find anything in doctrine or anything in the scriptures where the Lord says, “I really want this one half of my people to be strong and I don’t want this half to be strong.” I think the Lord wants all of his people to be strong. That doesn’t mean they are all strong in the same way, but they are strong in their faith, purpose and covenant. They are strong in relying on Him for answers. I think that makes LDS women very strong.