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Empower women and girls by strengthening identity, relationships and service, says Sister Carol F. McConkie


Discrimination, violence, abuse — Sister Carol F. McConkie has been stunned by the huge degree of inequality women and girls experience around the world.

“It’s much more than I had ever even imagined,” she said, as she has now been serving as vice president of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, Geneva for about a year. This nongovernmental organization committee promotes gender equality and the empowerment and defense of the rights of women and girls worldwide. 

Sister McConkie had already been aware of these things through her calling in the Young Women general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 2013 to 2018.

“But the extent of the inequalities and the abuses is remarkable,” she said on a recent episode of the Church News podcast.

As she works to advocate for and empower women and girls worldwide, Sister McConkie recognizes several key things that will help, including knowing one’s identity, building relationships and serving others.

Read more: How a former Young Women general leader continues to serve women and girls worldwide in her new role at the United Nations

Identity

When Sister McConkie served on the Young Women general advisory council and then as first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, she saw the challenges that young women face around the world: abuse, violence, mental health struggles, dysfunctional families and so forth, she said.

She realized the most important way to advocate for them was to help them understand their divine identity: “They need to realize their purpose and their identity and their destiny, because of who they are as daughters of God.”

Next comes an understanding of their value, and then confidence to know their direction and their purpose in life — and prepare for the eternities ahead. 

“I think that’s why our beloved Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, continues to ask all of us, and especially our youth, to get on and stay on the covenant path. Because the minute they start to make covenants with God, it guides their efforts to be able to fulfill their work on earth,” said Sister McConkie.

Relationships

Knowing one’s divine identity and then getting on the covenant path will allow women and girls to build their relationships with God and Jesus Christ, said Sister McConkie. And then from there, they can build relationships with family members, friends and neighbors.

“I have learned that when we value the relationships, we value Christ, because Christ was perfect in His relationships. He loved His Father, and He did His will. And He loves us. And He did all things for us,” said Sister McConkie.

Creating those relationships leads to understanding of the responsibility and accountability to care for one another and to love one’s neighbor, thereby building bridges.

Listen to Episode 86: Sister Carol F. McConkie, a former member of the Young Women general presidency, on building bridges through service, advocacy and education

“And so we set aside differences, we set aside those cultural things that might otherwise be a point of deterrence or of criticism or of judgment. We don’t go down that path. What we do is recognize that the Savior in His ministry reached out to all people,” Sister McConkie said.

As a little girl, Sister McConkie had only wanted to plant yellow daffodils, and her little garden was beautiful in the spring. But once the season of yellow daffodils was past, the garden became very plain. 

“What we need is to have diversity in the garden, with plants that will grow and look different and be different colors, and grow and bloom at different times,” Sister McConkie reflected. ”That’s exactly a good analogy for what it is we are looking for when we’re building bridges.”

Service

Building bridges leads to serving others, whether it’s a helping hand or a big project, a word of praise or comfort, or sitting by someone new, said Sister McConkie.

Her committee at the U.N. in Geneva, Switzerland, is all about connecting with organizations that are trying to empower and advocate for women and girls.

Sister Carol F. McConkie, middle left, and her husband, Elder Oscar W. McConkie III, left, are pictured with Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé and Sister Sharon Eubank in Geneva, Switzerland, in September 2019.

Sister Carol F. McConkie, middle left, and her husband, Elder Oscar W. McConkie III, left, are pictured with Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé and Sister Sharon Eubank in Geneva, Switzerland, in September 2019.

Credit: Courtesy Carol McConkie

The committee acts as a platform for U.N.-accredited nongovernmental organizations to work together. The organizations include Women’s Federation for World Peace, Optimist International, and groups that work to make sure women have access to health services. 

“There are many areas that we find common ground,” said Sister McConkie. “As a representative of Latter-day Saint Charities, which is one of those nongovernmental organizations accredited at the United Nations, we have many places where we intersect, and can come together and advocate together.”

Sister McConkie and her husband, President Oscar W. McConkie III, recently started serving as mission leaders for the Church’s Salt Lake Inner City Service Mission. They work to foster self-reliance, promote education and serve others.

“Already, we have seen remarkable faith and acts of kindness, and even miracles in this very short time. If this is not pure religion, undefiled, I do not know what it is,” she said.

Sister McConkie said all of God’s children have a responsibility and accountability to care for one another. The Savior asks others to follow His example and love others the way He does and serve them as He would if He were personally on the earth. 

Understanding one’s divine identity leads the desire to make and keep covenants with God, which then leads people to strengthen relationships with Jesus Christ and others. These relationships build bridges and increase the desire and capacity to serve others.

“That is why we do all of these things, because we are the ones He has sent to do this for those that are in need.”

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