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Episode 93: New Primary General President Susan H. Porter on how teaching and serving children can be life-changing

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Incoming Primary General President Susan H. Porter is featured on episode 93 of the Church News podcast.


The work and purpose of Primary is to “help children feel their Heavenly Father’s love and learn about His plan of happiness.”

For President Susan H. Porter, that purpose has meant more to her in the past year as she has served as the first counselor in the Primary general presidency. She was sustained in April 2022 general conference as the Church’s new Primary general president, effective Aug. 1.

In the recent Saturday evening session of general conference, President Porter spoke about how even children can turn to the Savior for strength and healing. She joins this episode of the Church News podcast to share how “out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:33).

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Transcript

President Susan H. Porter: When we are called to serve in Primary, it extends beyond that time we spend with them in class, that we had the opportunity to pray for them, to get to know them, to perhaps communicate with their parents about how best we can support them. That time teaching or serving in Primary, in any capacity, can be life-changing, for not only the little children, but also for us. It will help that calling become so much richer for us.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I'm Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The work and purpose of Primary, the children’s organization in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is to help children feel their Heavenly Father’s love and to learn about His plan of happiness. For President Susan H. Porter, that purpose has meant more to her in the last year while serving as first counselor in the Primary general presidency. Sustained in April as the new Primary general president, she will begin her service on Aug. 1. Born in Oklahoma, President Porter grew up in New York. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. She is the wife of the late Elder Bruce D. Porter, a General Authority Seventy; he passed away in 2016.

In the [Saturday evening women's] session of [April 2022] general conference, Sister Porter spoke about how even the youngest of us can turn to the Savior for strength in healing that will enable all of us to do what we were sent here to do. She joins this episode of the Church News podcast to share how “out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” Welcome, President Porter, to the Church News podcast.

2:11

President Susan H. Porter: Thank you for the invitation.

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I’ve been so excited. I was delighted in April when you were sustained as Primary general president. I was thrilled a year earlier, after working with you a little bit at headquarters, to know that you would not only be working in Primary, but representing women on the general councils of the Church. So, you have to have been pondering and thinking about things in the time since April. Can you tell us what impressions have come to your mind since being sustained as Primary general president in preparation to take that office in August?

President Susan H. Porter: Yes, I think we’ve all been so touched and concerned for the children of the world, what they are facing with being refugees, war, food insecurity, family difficulties. So, there’s been this great desire, what can we do to help children temporally? And then also, what can we do to bless children spiritually, to strengthen their faith in the Lord, so that whatever they’re facing, they know to whom they can turn into whom they can trust? So, on the one hand, I’ve been kind of focusing on what we can do for children to strengthen them. The other part of that is counseling with the presidency and receiving inspiration as to how we can ask children to contribute, to act on the impressions they receive, to act on the covenants they’ve made at baptism. And so, I hope through this conversation that can come out too, is what a blessing it will be for children when we invite them to act and to serve.

Read more: ‘It’s in the doing’ – How Susan H. Porter hopes to help strengthen the faith of children as Primary general president

4:02

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, you know, I love this conversation. I too, have been worried about children. All of us are so worried about children we see, with needs that are physical. I’ve been worried about kids who are isolated during the pandemic, who are home a little more than they might have been before or who have not had contact, especially in those early days. But in just the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to teach Primary. I have a class of the five cutest 6-year-olds in the whole Church. Actually, I’ve been amazed at how much I’m learning from them.

President Susan H. Porter: Yes, isn’t that the truth? You know, we know that young children, they are pure and they are innocent, and so what they learn from their parents at home, what they learn from their Primary teachers and other loved ones, it goes straight to their hearts. They have willing hearts. They have open hearts and they’re very, very pure.

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Young children in Primary listen to a teacher.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

5:02

Sarah Jane Weaver: And let's just talk about how you came to this moment of time where you have the opportunity to pray for and think about the children of the Church. How do you think you were prepared for this moment?

President Susan H. Porter: It has been a blessing for me during the 20 years that my husband, Bruce, served as a member of the Seventy, to do some traveling with him through Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East, North Africa and see many of the beautiful children of this world. We have four children. We have 12 grandchildren that I love with all my heart, and I'm just grateful for this opportunity.

5:42

Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. What did you learn in the last year as you served as a member of the Primary general presidency?

President Susan H. Porter: You know, as we counseled together we thought about the fact that we focus children’s attention on preparing to be baptized. We talk to them about the covenant they’re going to make when they’re baptized. We also prepare them for receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. But one thing we have not stressed very much is the fact that they will be confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that our Heavenly Father views them as an 8-year-old, old enough to be an official member of His Church. And so that is not only an invitation for them to prayerfully consider, “How can I serve as a member of the Church?” but also on us, as leaders and adults, what are we inviting them to do?

When reading the handbook, we found that in the handbook in chapter 29, there’s a sentence, one sentence, that has opened so many people’s eyes and that is, “Any baptized member of the Church may offer a prayer in a Church meeting.” And so as we’ve shared that, as we’ve traveled, you can see people’s eyes opened and they realize what this means for our baptized Primary children. And so we’ve had the blessing of seeing bishoprics inviting 10-year-olds to pray in a sacrament meeting. Some baptized children have been invited to give talks in sacrament meetings.

This has just elevated our Primary children, helping them realize "I can contribute, and I am part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Of course, we're not introducing any new programs around this idea of inviting our baptized members of the Church to contribute. We're simply inviting leaders to seek inspiration for their local units.

For instance, we’ve invited Primary presidencies to consider, “What can you invite your baptized and confirmed Primary children to do in Primary?” We’ve kind of all laughed as I’ve asked many Primary presidencies, “What are the 10-year-olds doing in music time in your ward?” and I kind of slouch down in my chair and lean my head back and I say, “Are they just simply counting the days till they get to go to the Young Men’s and Young Women’s? Prayerfully consider how you can invite them to participate.” And we’ve received beautiful emails and communications back from Primary leaders.

We’ve had Primaries with smaller Primaries, where the junior and senior Primaries meet together, they’ve invited the older class to be mentors for the little ones and so, instead of sitting with classes, you’ve got older children, one by one, sitting with little children, helping them learn the songs. They just report this has completely changed how these 10-year-olds view themselves, that they can be leaders. They can minister. They can contribute to the Church.

9:20

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m amazed at how, just as you were talking, my view changed. You know, I started thinking of references in the scripture when the Lord talks about His people and that anytime someone makes a covenant, they could be included in members of the Church and all of the responsibilities that come from that. And they also have the Holy Ghost, so they can, they can receive inspiration on their own. This is a really beautiful sentiment as we think about the children of the Church. I would love to have you talk a little bit about working with President Camille Johnson, who will take the reins as Relief Society general president on Aug. 1. What was it like to work with her? What did you learn from her, and what was it like to contemplate children with her. and of course, with Sister Amy Wright?

President Susan H. Porter: It was an incredible blessing. I mean, as you know, I did not know Sister Johnson before I was called. I knew Sister Wright some from working with her, which was a very great blessing, but she didn’t know Sister Johnson. But President Johnson is a remarkable leader and a remarkable person. She is an excellent listener and she has this great desire to develop unity.

So, in so many meetings, as we’re meeting with representatives from different departments of the Church who may be working on materials or things for Primary, she would always express that we are on the same team. “What can we do to help you? We’re on the same team, and we want to offer to help and strengthen our relationship.” She’s remarkable.

In our council meetings together, President Johnson, Sister Wright and I, we had that same feeling of unity and love and that kind of single focus for, “What can we do to strengthen children, their parents and Primary leaders who are trying to bless them?” It was a remarkable time for me.

11:32

Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. As you are coming off of that year where you've been thinking about those things, do you have a message for those who are called to serve in Primary right now?

President Susan H. Porter: Yes. It was interesting during the pandemic, when Primaries were not meeting, we realized that some of those who had been called to teach a Primary class understood their calling was to teach a 25-minute lesson on Sunday and didn’t understand their calling was also to minister to the children. And so that wording has actually been added to the handbook to kind of expand the vision that when we are called to serve in Primary, it extends beyond that time we spend with them in class, that we had the opportunity to pray for them, to get to know them, to perhaps communicate with their parents about how best we can support them. That time teaching or serving in Primary in any capacity can be life-changing for not only the little children, but also for us. And I think you’ve mentioned that in your calling in Primary, what a delight it is, and I think the more we have that vision, that it’s also a calling to minister to the children, it will help that calling become so much richer for us.

Read more: New responsibilities for Primary counselors among latest updates to the General Handbook

13:04

Sarah Jane Weaver: I actually feel bad for people who don't have the opportunity to serve in Primary. What a joy it is. And so, I want to talk about some of the other responsibilities that you have had in the past year and that you will certainly have going forward. And one of those we mentioned is to serve on the general councils of the Church. What has that experience been like and what have you learned about how the senior leaders of the Church feel about the voice of women and the contribution of women in the Church?

President Susan H. Porter: Thank you for that question. It has been a great blessing to have the opportunity to serve on these councils. One that I had the privilege of serving on was the Communications Committee of the Church, and I felt like a sponge in that committee, seeing the broad reach of the Church not only in trying to communicate to us as members, but all those worldwide, those not of our faith, those not have any faith, but that great effort to create bridges. And I think in all of the general committees that I served on, there’s a great effort to include the voices of women. I know in many committees, the presiding authority, often a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, if the sisters on the committee have not maybe contributed very much, they’ll often stop the meeting and ask us personally what are our thoughts, making a great effort to make sure that we contribute and then when we do, that our inspiration, thoughts, comments, are considered carefully.

14:52

Sarah Jane Weaver: And you bring such a rich background and experience to the opportunity to share your voice. Some of that came as you served with your husband, Elder Bruce D. Porter, who was a general authority from 1995 to the time he passed away in 2016. What was it like to serve with him in countries abroad and what did you learn about how the Church functions from that experience?

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Elder Bruce D. and Sister Susan H. Porter pose for a photo in 2011. Elder Porter died in December 2016. Sister Porter was called as first counselor in the Primary general presidency in April 2021.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

President Susan H. Porter: It was an incredible experience. Most of his assignments overseas were in the Europe East Area, which was our first assignment in 1995. We moved our family to Frankfurt. That time, we had all four of our children with us. We lived in Frankfurt, and the area presidency commuted into Russia, Eastern Europe, Ukraine, we had Turkey, Greece, North Africa. So, a developing area of the Church, and I was very humbled to see members who face such great difficulties in their life exhibit such pure and strong faith. And then it was a blessing to be assigned back to the Europe East Area and actually be able to live in Moscow. And I remember that my first Sunday attending there in 1995, all of the buildings had been rented, Sunday only, so you couldn’t do anything to improve the space.

When we went back, walked into a Young Women’s room that had beautiful pictures of the Savior, just tears ran down my face to see how much they had grown in the gospel. I think that people in Russia, Ukraine, all over Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, they were very close to my husband’s heart, as that was an area he had studied professionally. And then to be able to witness the gospel in those countries and to see the strong faith and love of God there. We learned so much from their strength and testimonies.

17:11

Sarah Jane Weaver: And of course, you saw the pioneering days of those countries and now you and all of us turn our hearts there again, as Russia and Ukraine are engaged in conflict. Can you share some of your feelings as you think about them and pray for them now?

President Susan H. Porter: Yeah, it's very heartbreaking. Russians and Ukrainians have been a close people over the years. They intermarry. They live in Russia. They live in Ukraine. They each have distinct, you know, cultural backgrounds and histories, but have loved one another. As you know, the only temple in the Europe East area is in Kyiv, Ukraine, and so our Russian Saints just saved and loved the opportunity to go there and receive their temple blessings. So, it's very heartbreaking to witness. In my communications with members there, they are hanging on to their faith. They are so grateful for their faith. They don't know the future, but they know that God is overall and that He will bless them and strengthen them and give them impressions about what to do and hopefully will keep animosity from their hearts, that they continue to love and serve Him.

18:44

Sarah Jane Weaver: We all know that life is not easy for any of us, and it often doesn’t go as planned. Certainly you experienced that when your life took a turn when you lost your husband. What helped you through that difficult time?

President Susan H. Porter: You know, when I was 8 years old and I was baptized and hands were laid on my head and I was invited to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, never in my life had that meant more to me than at that time when my husband passed away. I felt literally the strength of that gift. I felt I was being held up in the loving hands of our Heavenly Father through that gift of the Holy Ghost.

It's interesting, because especially since his passing, but even years before, as he experienced 20 years of serious, serious health challenges, I came to understand how much, maybe sorrow, there is in the hearts of many members of the Church when their lives aren't unfolding in exactly the way they had envisioned or hoped for as a young person in the Church. Perhaps they had envisioned, you know, if I live the commandments, if I do the best I can, then my life will unfold in a certain way, and when it doesn't, I think there's a lot of self reflection and wondering, "Is this because I'm not good enough?"

So, it’s been very helpful, like I say, even when Bruce was serving as a general authority, he didn’t talk about it a lot, but when people found out that he was a dialysis patient, he had had two kidney transplants that failed, he’d had 11 surgeries, that helps them. It helped them see that when we live the commandments, we try to stay close to the Lord. It doesn’t protect us from difficult things.

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Sister Susan H. Porter, left, and her husband, Elder Bruce D. Porter, a General Authority Seventy, pose for a photo during an assignment in Russia. Elder Porter died in December 2016.

Provided by Susan H. Porter

It strengthens us through them. And they could maybe say, “Wow, OK, here’s a member of the Seventy serving, and now I realize he goes home every evening to get on a dialysis machine for four hours so that he could get up the next morning and serve again.” So, it’s that they felt like, “OK, if his life isn’t perfect, he’s got some serious health challenges, and the Lord can still use him, maybe he can still use me, even though I have some difficult situations in my life.” And it’s been interesting to me, as I’ve spoken, you know, in various locations over the past year, people want connection, and so the sisters that come up to me and talk to me, they may have something to say about my remarks. What they really want to talk about is, they want to tell me that they lost their husband, or they’ve lost a child, or they have a family member who stepped away from the Church, or they never had the opportunity to marry. They want to connect with someone who might know what it feels like to not have, perhaps, every blessing at that particular time in their life that they desire and to see that we can still move forward and we can still offer something to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

21:58

Sarah Jane Weaver: I think a lot of us have this idea in our mind that if we do what we're supposed to do, if we live the commandments, that the Lord will protect us from some of the sorrows. And what you're saying is no, He actually sees us through them.

President Susan H. Porter: Yeah, I just reflect on the sacrament prayer. You know, if we take His name upon us and always remember Him, the blessing is that we'll have His Spirit to be with us. The blessing is the Spirit. The blessing is not that the Lord will prevent any difficulties in our lives.

23:13

Sarah Jane Weaver: And now, at a time when a majority of Relief Society sisters in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are single, for whatever reason, whether they never married or they're divorced, or they're widowed, you have an opportunity to take the unique perspective of what it's like to have to do things alone sometimes. What have the last few years been like for you?

President Susan H. Porter: Yes, it’s been interesting to understand and experience being a single person. And like you say, assuming all the responsibilities of making life work. I think the pandemic was especially difficult for single members, single sisters, not only the isolation at home, that when were quarantining at home that may have meant you’re literally alone, which was the case for me. Also, we feel isolated from the body of Christ, the Church. I think many sisters expressed sorrow, who were living alone, that they couldn’t receive the sacrament for a period of time. I also experienced that.

I do have a son and daughter-in-law who live about 10 minutes from me. So, when we felt it was safe, they did have church with me, but there were many Sundays when I was alone. I had some very sweet experiences at home. I remember one Sunday, just sitting on the couch, and I read out loud the sacrament prayers out of the Doctrine and Covenants, out loud and very slowly, and I was just flooded with a feeling of God’s love for me in the gift of His Son. So, I felt that while as single members we do have times where we feel more isolated and alone, we can also take that opportunity to connect with our Heavenly Father and open our hearts so that we can know of His awareness of us and His love for us and His desire to fill us with His Spirit.

I served for three years on the Relief Society general council, and during that time I started thinking about the labels we give to ourselves. And this really hit me after Bruce passed away, because I realized that now, I had a label. For instance, I am a widow, but I thought to myself, “That’s not who I am. That’s an experience I’ve had, a very important experience, a very profound experience, but who I am is, I’m Susan, and I have certain strengths. I have certain weaknesses. That’s who I am.” I started to think about other labels. “I am divorced.” That’s actually not who you are. That is an experience you’ve had. And I wondered how, I can’t change the English language, but it helped me reframe how I think about some of our life experiences and how I interact with others who have had life experiences. I am someone who has experienced the passing of my husband, but I don’t feel that the category defines who I am.

Read more: What President Porter learned about labels after her husband’s death

I hope that in our interactions with one another, let’s say as sisters, as women, but as all members of the Church, that we use President Nelson’s recent invitation when he talked about the three most important identifiers, or labels. “I’m a child of God. As a member of the Church I’m a child of the covenant. And I’m a disciple of Christ.” And those be preeminent and then other life experiences certainly inform our lives, and our outlooks, and our experiences, but that’s not actually who we are.

27:51

Sarah Jane Weaver: I loved that talk and I actually was thinking about it as you started going down the path of labels and I love that, you know, our Prophet identifies of a lot of things before he said, "I am a prophet." I actually appreciated that his role as a husband and a father was not in those top three things. It tells us that there are universal things that define our identity that have nothing to do with the other experiences that are so important in life.

President Susan H. Porter: Yes, and what's most important is how we honor those three most important labels. The most important thing is not if I've had the opportunity to marry or if I've had the opportunity to have children, it's how we honor those most important labels of being a child of God. How are we honoring our covenants? How are we being a disciple of Christ? How are we honoring the opportunities we have had, if it's to be a mother or a father, or to be married, or to have an education, or whatever it is?

29:00

Sarah Jane Weaver: And looking forward, how do we teach those things to children? Those are some pretty important principles.

President Susan H. Porter: You know, I've been thinking about that, especially since President Nelson's talk, where our first identifier, "I am a child of God." So, helping children understand what it feels like for them to receive the Spirit, because that's often how they know deep in their souls, that they are a child of God, when they feel His spirit. So, that connects us, children and all of us to God.

I thought it was so fascinating that, I would have thought the second one was "disciple of Christ." The second one President Nelson said was, "As a member of the Church, being a child of the covenant," and I thought that was so profound. And for me, one thing I thought about is in our world, today, there are many people who say, "I am a spiritual person," you know, "I believe in God, or I believe in a higher power so, I commune with Him in nature, or listening to music, but I do not belong to a church," you know, "That is not part of my spiritual life." So, they feel a direct connection and love for God, but they do not feel that for a church.

So, I thought when President Nelson identified secondly, “We’re children of the covenant,” he’s inviting us to connect in a very real way, not only with our Heavenly Father and His Son, but with His Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And for children, to help them understand when they make that baptismal covenant, they can act as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So, for instance, I was in a sacrament meeting two weeks ago. I was sitting on the stand, and the counselor in the bishopric announced, “Our opening prayer will be given by ‘John Smith.‘” I didn’t know who ‘John Smith’ was, but I looked in the congregation and on the third row a young boy stood up, clearly Primary age. As he stood up, I was just overwhelmed, because you could tell he felt the importance and magnitude of praying in sacrament meeting. And as he offered that prayer, it’s clear his parents had helped prepare him. It wasn’t memorized, but he spoke of the opportunity to partake of the sacrament. He spoke of the opportunity to gather together to worship. And as he closed that prayer, I thought, “That boy has felt the Spirit of the Lord during that prayer.”

So, inviting him to honor his covenants by participating in the Church has now connected him. The Spirit of God has connected him with serving in His Church, and what a profound and important connection to make, so that we can invite those who have made covenants to participate in this Church so they can receive His Spirit through that service, connecting them to His Church.

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Sister Susan H. Porter, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, plays the piano during the Spanish broadcast of the Friend to Friend. The Friend to Friend will be available Feb. 19, 2022.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

32:28

Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and that's so important. Recent polls show that he'll be growing up in a world that is less religious than any other time in the past.

President Susan H. Porter: Yes, and that young boy, let’s just take him, after having offered that prayer, let’s say the next day at school, someone makes fun of his beliefs or the Church. Having had that experience, he is going to be able to know in his heart and to defend his Church, his belief that God is over His Church, because he participates and he has felt God’s Spirit there.

33:10

Sarah Jane Weaver: What a beautiful thing, and what an important thing to give children the opportunity to participate in opportunities like that. I want to shift a little and talk about your own family. Certainly, it’s been a blessing for you to be a mother and a grandmother. What have you learned from those important roles, first as a wife, and then as a mother, and as a grandmother?

President Susan H. Porter: That is a big question. It’s been such a wonderful journey, a journey of growth. I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to be and am a mother and the joy that I’ve experienced along that path. When I grew up, my father was not a member of the Church. So, I was able to see my mother take the opportunity to teach us the gospel of Jesus Christ,and to make every sacrifice she could so that we participated in the Church. Those were the days that Primary was in the middle of the week, Young Women’s was in the middle of the week, Relief Society was, and so we were often at the church four days a week, and we lived 20 miles each way from church. So, it was a tremendous sacrifice on her part to do that single-handedly, and I owe my beginnings of the testimony and the love of the gospel of Jesus Christ to her.

My father was a very honorable man, but growing up, I never received in my life a father’s blessing or, you know, we were baptized by dear friends in the Church. So, growing up, I not only realized the gift of my mother, the power of parents and teaching the gospel, but also the power of the community of our wards and our branches. So, when we talk about family-centered and Church-supported, that Church support needs to be the absolute best it can be for all of us, and I’m grateful for that.

I was very grateful to have the opportunity to be sealed in a temple of God. That was so strong in my heart from my upbringing, and I know that’s so strong in hearts for so many of us. I’ve been thinking about maybe two qualities that I’ve really had to dig deep to try to develop on that path of parenthood and motherhood, and the first is humility. I think we just learn right away when those beautiful, pure spirits come into our home that we are not in control, that these beautiful spirits have lived for eons. They have strengths and qualities that we have the opportunity to help them develop, but we’re not in control. And so humility with Heavenly Father, inviting Him to help us on that journey of teaching them, raising them, preparing them, and then trying to help that child develop their own partnership with Heavenly Father, as they learn to make decisions and walk through their lives.

The second one I’ve thought about is charity, and I think when each of our children were born and they were placed in our arms, I was just filled with a love for them. As we move through life and raise them and love them even more, I’ve just prayed so hard for the gift of charity, which is really the gift of seeing them and loving them as the Savior does and that’s a higher level. That enables us to stand with them through the ups and downs of life, to have revealed to us, our eyes opened more to who they are and who they can become, and then to realize, just as our Heavenly Father does not interfere in our agency, and then they are agents unto themselves and we continue to love as they move through their lives.

37:48

Sarah Jane Weaver: I love this sentiment, because as you talk about your own upbringing, you join an interesting group of Church leaders who also had one parent who was not active in the Church, including President Russell M. Nelson, and President M. Russell Ballard, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and Elder Quentin L. Cook, and Elder David A. Bednar, and so many others. I think a lot of people assume that anyone who’s in a general leadership position comes from, and I want to put quotes around this word, “perfect” family, when reality is much different. All of us are doing the best we can and trying to connect with the Savior any way that we can. You must have very good feelings for both your parents, but how grateful are you for your mother for her commitment to the gospel?

President Susan H. Porter: Yes, as you say, I love my father with all my heart. He was and is a very honorable man. We knew he was perfectly honest in all his dealings and supported us in so many ways throughout our lives. My mother grew up in Salt Lake. She was the youngest of 10 children, just kind of surrounded by lots of cousins, and relatives, and ward and Church members, and kind of flourished in the gospel of Jesus Christ. My father was a research chemist for Corning Glass, and so we moved to Western New York where Church members were few and far between and she was far from her family. We were far from our cousins. I just am so grateful for her conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, her conversion to our Heavenly Father, through thick and through thin. It wasn’t convenient to go to church. It wasn’t easy. It was very difficult and I’ll be forever indebted to her.

39:53

Sarah Jane Weaver: You know, Sister Porter, there's some women that we all know who are questioning and just struggling to find their place in the Church. What is your message to them?

President Susan H. Porter: I'm going to start answering that question by harking back to the example of my mother. My mother was clearly the gospel leader in our home. I remember my mother, all those years ago, wrestling with policies in the Church that seemed to favor men over women. What came out of that for me was that even though she had these questions and maybe she didn't understand certain things, that her allegiance was to our Heavenly Father, to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and to Their Church. She had had so many powerful experiences throughout her life that testified of that to her, that she determined, even if there were things she didn't understand, she would stay true and faithful and then she also looked for ways, like, say, in our small branch, which eventually became a ward, to contribute, and not just in callings, but she always was a contributor, always tried to strengthen and lift others, using her personal influence and testimony to bless others.

41:28

Sarah Jane Weaver: And all of us have access to priesthood power. You have spoken before about the priesthood power that women have from their covenants and the priesthood authority that they receive when they’re set apart in callings. Can you help us understand this a little better?

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Sister Susan H. Porter, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, speaks during the women's session of the 192nd Annual General Conference on April 2, 2022. She will begin service as the Primary general president on Aug. 1, 2022.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

President Susan H. Porter: Yes. This is something I think we’re all striving to understand better, and I’ve thought about, I think it was Brigham Young, who said, “Sometimes we live beneath our privileges,” and I think, certainly that applies in this case. I’ve thought more deeply about this topic of priesthood authority and priesthood power of women, since President Nelson gave that talk on “spiritual treasures,” and then, especially since my husband passed away. I’ve really tried to pray about, and think about, and pray for power that comes from my covenants in my family, as a mother of adult children, as a grandmother. What can that priesthood power do for me? I’ve tried to pray more earnestly for this gifts of discernment, of strength, of ability to communicate clearly, have compassion and maybe even prayed with more confidence before Heavenly Father that He would bless me with those gifts because of my desire, very imperfectly, to honor my covenants.

I've thought also about priesthood authority with the calling to be the first counselor in the Primary presidency and now to begin service as a Primary president. Can I approach the throne of God in prayer with, of course, the deepest humility, but also with confidence, that when we're called we can be blessed with that authority, which is totally different than worldly authority, but authority that comes from inspiration, from following God's will, from speaking clearly in councils? I think of the impact that women across the Church could have if with each calling that came to them, as a Primary teacher, as a Young Women leader, can have profound influence on those they teach and minister to when they speak and act under inspiration of God through that priesthood authority, bringing souls to Christ, changing hearts.

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Sarah Jane Weaver: Thank you so much for sharing your testimony with us. That leads right into my final question. In fact, you pretty much just answered it, but we end each Church News podcast with the same question and we always give our guest the last word. And I hope as we conclude this podcast that you'll answer the question, what you know now after praying for the children of the Church, and after serving in the Church, and after being a member of the Church who has been so blessed by that participation?

President Susan H. Porter: Thank you for that question and this opportunity to ponder, Sarah. My thoughts are going back to how we started this conversation, which is our concern for the children of the world, for all they are facing, physically, emotionally, spiritually, at such a young age, so many children are faced with difficult situations.

I’ve been reflecting on President Russell M. Nelson’s talk to the sisters of the Church in October 2020 when he encouraged us to build places of security. He was referring to Captain Moroni encouraging his people to build places of security against the invading Lamanites, but I’ve been thinking that in today’s world, more than ever before, our children need places of security. They need places where they feel loved by us and by Heavenly Father, places where they belong, where they’re heard, where they’re taught and where they’re safe, and from that place of security, they can serve without fear. I love in 3 Nephi 17:12, when the Savior, He was visiting the Nephites in the land Bountiful after the great destruction. “And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought, so they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst.”

While we can't have Jesus physically in our midst, I pray and hope that in Primaries and home across the Church that we can create places of security where Jesus is in our midst, His spirit can be felt and His peace is real. I do have a love for and testimony of God our Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and witness that President Russell M. Nelson is our Prophet. And I leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I'm your host, Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast and if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on thechurchnews.com

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