BYU Women’s Conference expands to accommodate Spanish, Portuguese speakers

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Jenna Alton
BYU Women’s Conference attendees who speak Spanish gather for a photo following a class held in Spanish. Women’s Conference has offered a series of classes in Spanish since 2003. (Jenna Alton)

BYU Women’s Conference is striving to accommodate Church members who do not speak English through multilingual broadcasts and classes.

This year, for the first time, select sessions from Women’s Conference were broadcast in three languages: English, Spanish and Portuguese.

According to Women’s Conference Program Administrator Jennefer Johnson, the general sessions have been broadcast in Spanish for a few years, but the committee decided this year was time to also incorporate Portuguese.

“Offering it in other languages may come in the future, but because of the time zone and how long the conference is run, English, Spanish and Portuguese will be our languages this year,” Johnson said.

The Sister to Sister event and the session with Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were both broadcast in all three languages. The two other general sessions were broadcast in both English and Spanish.

“I’m just really grateful that we could be a part of it and share the message of the Relief Society presidency,” Johnson said. “It’s important to get the message out from the sisters who are called to lead the women of the Church.”

In addition to the multilingual broadcasts, Women’s Conference has offered a series of classes in Spanish since 2003. Johnson said the classes, which are taught by native Spanish speakers, are typically small but still important to offer.

Jenna Alton
BYU Women’s Conference attendees who speak Spanish gather following a class taught in Spanish. Women’s Conference has offered a series of classes in Spanish since 2003. (Jenna Alton)

Cynthia Whitworth, who is originally from Mexico but has lived in Utah for the past 25 years, was one of this year’s Spanish presenters. Along with Tsukie Chacon Hoyos, she taught a class called “Establecer un hogar centrado en Cristo,” or “Establishing a home centered in Christ.”

“It gives us an opportunity to learn in our language, then we can relate and get familiar with the campus,” Whitworth said. “The whole experience is new, so when you come and you hear it in your own language, you get a lot more out of it.”

Whitworth spoke of the sisterhood present in the Spanish classes, which she said are often composed of women who travel to Utah specifically for Women’s Conference.

“We know what it’s like to sacrifice to drive hours to get to a Church gathering, and so it means a lot to us,” Whitworth said. “It meant a lot to me when I saw the sisters coming from so far, just so they can feel welcome and loved. They’re not talking to someone distant, but a true sister in Zion.”

Whitworth’s daughter, Celine, grew up in Utah, but will leave in June to serve a mission in Lima, Peru. Celine said she likes the opportunity to attend the Spanish classes and better learn the language.

“With all the people from different countries, different places coming over here knowing Spanish, it’s good for me,” Celine Whitworth said. “You can feel the love everywhere with these Spanish speaking (sisters).”  

Xinia Villalobos attended many Spanish sessions of Women’s Conference. Villalobos lives in Costa Rica, but was visiting one of her children in Tampa, Florida, and decided to come to Utah for the first time to attend the conference.

“I stumbled upon this great opportunity to come to the conference, something very big for me,” Villalobos said in Spanish. “It wasn’t even in my mind that I’d be able to be here one day. … It’s been very gratifying and I’ve learned a lot.”

Villalobos said the Spanish classes offered in Women’s Conference have been a great blessing for her, especially as she’s been able to connect with other sisters from around the world.

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