Sheri Dew speaks of “spiritual wrestlings” at Easter Conference

Sheri Dew speaks of the healing power of Jesus Christ’s Atonement at 2016 BYU Easter Conference. (Kelsie Matheson)

Sheri Dew, CEO of Deseret Book, spoke about standing as witnesses of Jesus Christ and relying on His healing power at the 2016 annual Easter Conference on Friday, Mar. 25, 2016.

Central to her talk, entitled “Standing as a Witness” was the declaration that only those who know can testify.

“We can express a hope, a wish or a belief, but in order to bear witness of something, such that the Holy Ghost ratifies our words, we must know what is true by the confirmation of the Spirit to our minds and our hearts,” Dew said.

Dew continued this thought as she said that people can only “stand as witnesses of Jesus Christ” if they bear witness, and they can only bear witness if they’ve received a witness “from the Spirit that the Savior did indeed rise again the third day and that Jesus Christ is exactly who the prophets and apostles say He is.”

Dew posed two questions. The first was “How do we gain an unyielding spiritual witness that Jesus is the Christ?”

The answer to the first question was that people should ask “enlightened questions.”

Asking questions is not equivalent to doubting, according to Dew. She said she thinks asking questions is less dangerous than not asking questions. Dew said people are blocking revelation if they don’t ask questions.

Enlightened questions, on the other hand, allow people to grow spiritually through what Dew repeatedly termed an experience of  great “wrestling.”

“Questions, especially the tough ones, can propel us to engage in a spiritual wrestle that deepens our witness that Jesus is the Christ,” Dew said.

Such spiritual wrestles increase faith, and faith is important because it “ignites all spiritual growth,” according to Dew.

She told the audience that her life has been “filled with spiritual wrestling,” and said her ongoing battle for truth has led to the Spirit giving her a witness of Jesus Christ.

“I have learned for myself that Jesus Christ is not only the Savior but he’s my Savior,” Dew said.

The second question Dew raised was “What happens to us when we understand what He did for us?”

The answer to this question was to seek to use of the Atonement of Jesus Christ for healing. Dew said that after an opportunity for marriage ended and some more wrestling, she came to understand the Atonement “as a doctrine of healing.”

“The Savior will heal us from sin if we repent. He will heal us from weakness, sadness and loneliness; from hurt, fear and mistakes; from the emotional and spiritual bruises of attempting to live covenant lives in a spiritually hostile word; from the effects of unfairness, abuse and the sins of others; from disappointment, a lack of courage or wavering faith,” Dew said.

Experiencing the Atonement’s healing power is the best way to know of it, according to Dew, and experiencing the healing power comes with spiritual wrestling.

She shared a story of when she needed healing from the Atonement.

One of the general authority training sessions she attended while she was serving as a counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency caused her a great amount of pain.

The conducting general authority repeatedly emphasized that “women were mothers and men were fathers,” Dew said.

Dew grew uncomfortable as the emphasis continued throughout the meeting because she had no children.

“I began to shrink in my chair. I was painfully aware that I was the only person in the room who was neither a mother nor a father,” Dew said. “I had never felt that I didn’t belong in the Church until that morning.”

Dew admitted to the audience that she remained upset about this meeting for months.

She explained that she was assigned to speak in the upcoming General Relief Society Meeting following that meeting. Dew said she did not know what to speak on. Finally, she received the impression to revisit what angered her about that meeting and general authority.

Dew said she prayed asking for forgiveness and asking if she had missed the message of the meeting. Then she received inspirations telling her that she should speak on motherhood.

She said she wrestled with the doctrine and her own feelings about it and said she came to learn that the general authority “had been exactly right.”

“Every woman, regardless of her life circumstances here, has been divinely endowed with the gift of motherhood,” Dew said.

She gave the talk “Are We Not All Mothers?” in the October 2001 General Relief Society Meeting.

Dew said that while her longing for a family has still not gone away, the pain she felt for so long was gone.

“In response to my repentance and wrestling, the Savior healed that pain while teaching me the truth about the eternal nature of women,” Dew said.

She concluded her address by stating that Jesus Christ changed everything and testifying that Christ lives.

Daniel K. Judd, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU, and Eric D. Huntsman, the coordinator of the Ancient Near Eastern Studies program, also spoke at the Easter Conference.

Judd spoke about becoming new creatures in Christ by His grace.

Huntsman focused on the meaning of Good Friday and the Cross.

The BYU Easter Conference is an annual conference put on by the Religious Studies Center.

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