Thousands of Latter-day Saint women across the globe gathered for the first session of the 185th Semiannual General Conference.
A capacity congregation of 21,000 women and girls age 8 and older filled the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City for the session.
The meeting was translated and sent to more than 7,400 church buildings in 100 countries via television, radio, satellite and Internet broadcasts.
President Thomas S. Monson presided at the women’s session — which was conducted by Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president — and attended by members of Relief Society, Young Women and Primary general presidencies and boards and many General Authorities.
A Primary, Young Women and Relief Society choir from southern Cache Valley provided the music for the meeting.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, gave the concluding message during the General Women’s Session of conference held Sept. 26.
“As I pondered what I should say to you today, my thoughts turned to the way the Savior taught,” he said. “It is interesting how He was able to teach the most sublime truths using simple stories. His parables invited His disciples to embrace truths not just with their minds but also with their hearts, and to connect eternal principles with their everyday lives.”
Following that example set by the Savior and recognizing that President Thomas S. Monson often teaches through stories that touch the heart, President Uchtdorf gave his message by expressing his thoughts and feelings in the form of a story about a girl named Eva.
“There are two important things you should know about Eva,” he said. “One is that she was 11 years old in this story. And the other is that she absolutely, positively did not want to go and live with her Great-Aunt Rose. Not at all. No way.” Because her mother was scheduled to have a surgery that required a lengthy recovery, Eva’s parents decided that she would spend the summer with her Great-Aunt Rose.
“In Eva’s mind, there were a thousand reasons why this was a bad idea,” President Uchtdorf said. “For one thing, it would mean being away from her mother. It would also mean leaving her family and friends. And besides, she didn’t even know Great-Aunt Rose.”
But no matter how hard she tried to change the decision of her parents, she packed her bags and went with her father to her Great-Aunt Rose’s home. President Uchtdorf explained that “from the moment Eva stepped inside the house, she hated it.” Great-Aunt Rose lived alone — other than her gray cat — and had never married or had any children. Eva quickly noticed the old books, strange-colored bottles and other things in her aunt’s home.
“Even the house itself seemed lonely,” President Uchtdorf said. “It was out in the countryside, where the houses are far apart. No one Eva’s age lived within half a mile. That made Eva feel lonely too.”
At first Eva’s thoughts were focused on her mother, and she would oftentimes stay awake at night, praying that her mother would be well. When word came that her mother’s operation was a success, Eva now just needed to endure the rest of the summer. However, as the summer continued, she began to notice things about her aunt. Eva watched as Great-Aunt Rose sang, laughed, read her scriptures and prayed.
“Over time, Eva made a surprising discovery: Great-Aunt Rose was quite possibly the happiest person she had ever known,” President Uchtdorf explained. Although Great-Aunt Rose lived alone and had a hard time doing simple things such as tying her shoes and walking up stairs, she still managed to find happiness—in nature, in conversations with other people, or even in the process of making marmalade from oranges.
“Soon Eva made another startling discovery: not only was Great-Aunt Rose one of the happiest persons she knew, but Eva herself was happier whenever she was around her,” President Uchtdorf said.
With the end of the summer approaching, Eva asked her aunt a question she had been wondering about for weeks: “Aunt Rose, why are you so happy?” Her aunt took her to a painting in the front room of her home. It was of a girl in a pioneer dress skipping along a bright blue path. Her aunt explained to Eva that there were many dark and dreary days for the pioneers — their life was hard — but in the painting everything was bright and hopeful, and the girl was moving forward and upward.
“Eva was silent, so Great-Aunt Rose continued: ‘There is enough that doesn’t go right in life, so anyone can work themselves into a puddle of pessimism and a mess of melancholy,’ ” President Uchtdorf said. “ ‘But I know people who, even when things don’t work out, focus on the wonders and miracles of life. These folks are the happiest people I know.’ ”
Great-Aunt Rose taught Eva that God created His children to have joy, and that through trusting Him, He will help us notice the good, bright, hopeful things of life. She also taught Eva that the world may not seem brighter instantly, because most good things take patience and work.
When asked how she was able to be happy, Great-Aunt Rose shared that she could either be miserable in her situation, or, make the choice to have faith. Through discovering faith she was able to have hope, which led to confidence in the Lord that “one day everything would make sense.”
Great-Aunt Rose told Eva that as she learned to rely on the Savior, she was able to see how to be happy in the moment — not just looking forward to happiness in the future — and find joy in life. Through filling her life with meaningful things she was able to experience the heart of Christ’s gospel — the pure love of Christ.
“You see,” Aunt Rose said, “everything else in the gospel — all the shoulds and the musts and the thou shalts — lead to love. When we love God, we want to serve Him. We want to be like Him. When we love our neighbors, we stop thinking so much about our own problems and help others to solve theirs. And that is what makes us happy.”
President Uchtdorf concluded his talk by saying, “As you walk along your own bright path of discipleship, I pray that faith will fortify every footstep along your way; that hope will open your eyes to the glories Heavenly Father has in store for you; and that love for God and all His children will fill your hearts.”
[email protected] @marianne_holman