'Lift up thy head, rejoice; cleave unto covenants which thou hast made'

Rejoicing in covenants, implementing the gospel literacy effort and focusing on children were among the many topics discussed at the annual Women's Conference at BYU April 28-29. Sponsored by the Relief Society and BYU, the conference was based on the theme, "Lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made," taken from D&C 25:13. Included were keynote and closing addresses, a fireside and 49 sessions from 150 presenters.

This year, about 7,700 attended Women's Conference. Last year, more than 7,000 attended the two-day annual event.BYU Pres. Rex E. Lee welcomed conference participants and offered opening remarks April 28 in the Marriott Center. Focusing on the conference's theme, Pres. Lee said: "We have the gospel. We can hold the very essence of joy in our hands, our hearts and our minds. Of course, there are times of sorrow. Of course, there are hours of concern and anxiety. But the Lord does not want us to sink in our despair; He wants us to `lift up our hearts and rejoice.' He asks us to embrace the promises upon which our joy is founded - those covenants that bind us to Christ and to one another and that actually serve to lighten our loads and help us to eliminate those distractions that bog us down."

Delivering the keynote address was Elaine L. Jack, Relief Society general president. In her remarks, she explained that "to `rejoice in the covenants' is to understand how important they are in our eternal progression. Covenants are the essence of our mortal experience, the measure of our devotion and diligence, when they are kept, honored, renewed and held sacred. Our covenants bind us to God.

"Our covenants embrace the full experience of righteous living," she continued. "Our joy is enhanced when we attend the temple and covenant to follow the Savior and focus with increased resolve on our eternal progression. As we live the covenants we make in the temple, we become much stronger, much more effective.

"Yes, there is power in those eternal commitments. As we live true to our commitments, the ways of the world grow less and less appealing. Each week we renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament. What a blessing to have that reminder, that opportunity to recommit, that moment to reflect, and then look forward."

Speaking of the Lord's sacrifice, Pres. Jack noted: "Christ's suffering on the cross and the pain associated with the Lord's final hours is hard to visualize. He knew exactly what He was doing; He could have withdrawn, but His actions reflected His ability to look ahead with commitment. . . .

"Keeping our covenants is a process," she continued. "We start where we are. We are all imperfect but trying to do better. We are converted, but needing to learn and apply principles, to liken the scriptures unto ourselves.

"And then come the blessings He has promised. These blessings aren't manna from heaven, dropped down to sustain us. These are covenant blessings. Always they are what we need, though sometimes they are not what we want. I've learned a lesson about that, too. When my wants are the same as the blessings the Savior bestows, then I know I am making progress.

"To be a woman of covenant in these latter days is a sacred and holy responsibility. I rejoice, sisters, that we can discern what really matters in this life. Covenants matter.

"Our covenants go two ways. We do our part and the Lord does His. I have told sisters all over the Church to turn to the Lord when you need help, that if we remember Him, He will be there."

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