Annual Women’s Conference 44 years in the making

Women who attend BYU Women’s Confrence are able to listen to speakers and participate in service projects that provide items to those in need around the world. (Savannah Hopkinson)

BYU Women’s Conference began as a small group of students but has grown over the years to become a broadcast event with almost 15,000 women in attendance.

The conference was originally an Associated Students of Brigham Young University Women’s Office event that was planned and attended by a small group of BYU students in 1975.

The then-university President Dallin H. Oaks and Church commissioner Jeffrey R. Holland realized the growing importance of discussing women’s issues in a forum setting and encouraged the expansion of the conference to all women of the Church three years after its conception.

Women’s Conference has since become a large two-day event. The event is held every year on BYU’s campus, typically the week after graduation.

Because the BYU campus is large enough to accommodate so many, registration is not limited and walk on registration is available in addition to online advanced registration, according to BYU Conferences and Workshops assistant program administrator Lorelie Sander.

University dorms in Helaman Halls, Heritage Halls and Wyview Park are used to house the sisters attending the conference.

Sander said the Women’s Conference committee and service subcommittee begin organizing and planning as early as August or September.

An official statement coined in 1986 by university President Jeffrey R. Holland guides the purpose of each Women’s Conference.

“To provide a rich experience for women — young and old, married and single, mothers and daughters — (in) a conference content full of intellectual stimulation, cultural enrichment and spiritual affirmation,” President Holland said. 

The committees use this to plan the conference theme and choose session topics, presenters, musical numbers and service projects that happen during the two-day event.

The event is advertised through various social media accounts, emails, printed materials and by word of mouth.

“The best advertising is done by sisters who have attended Women’s Conference before and who share their stories and invite their friends and family to come with them,” Sander said.

About 1,200 volunteers help run the event. According to Sander, these volunteers include committee and subcommittee members, building hosts, hospitality and service team project leaders and service team members.

This year’s conference featured Elder D. Todd Christofferson and his wife, Katherine, as concluding speakers. Members of the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary general presidencies and boards, along with others who bring a diversity of experiences, make up the more than 160 presenters and speakers at the conference, according to Sander.

Seventy sessions are held in the largest lecture rooms and venues in the Marriott Center, Harris Fine Arts Center, Wilkinson Student Center, Hinckley Center, Joseph Smith Building and BYU Conference Center. Sessions in the Conference Center are given in Spanish.

The opening and closing sessions take place with the Friday morning general session and closing session being livestreamed on in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

This year’s conference celebrated its 20th anniversary of service activities and hosted its first ever Sister to Sister event.

In honor of the anniversary, those attending the conference completed 20 projects producing a variety of items that benefitted the community including 225,000 meal kits and 22,000 backpacks filled with school supplies.

“Completed items will be donated to approximately 90 agencies throughout the state of Utah including schools, hospitals, homeless shelters, elderly care facilities, crisis nurseries, veterans associations and homes for the mentally ill,” Sanders said.

The Sister to Sister event was the opening session of the conference and was moderated by Sister Sheri L. Dew with a panel of the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary general presidents: Sister Jean B. Bingham, Sister Bonnie H. Cordon and Sister Joy D. Jones.

Sanders said the event was similar to the Face to Face events the Church hosts for the youth. The general presidents answered questions submitted online and by email from sisters around the world.

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