Sister Sharon Eubank recently went to an Asian café for lunch. The “friendly guy behind the counter” told her to pick a starch, pick a protein and pick a sauce.
“I had never thought of lunch that way before and it struck me that there were almost endless combinations made from these three basic building blocks,” she said.
Sister Eubank spoke of some of the many basic ingredients to the feast of each person's conversion. All Latter-day Saints have experiences with these key ingredients, but because each has "such a different look and taste, it is not always easy to compare our conversions."
“Don’t judge if I’m a rice bowl and you’re a taco. No one’s conversion will be exactly like yours, and yet every one of them can be true,” Sister Eubank said.
Sister Eubank, who was sustained to the Relief Society general presidency on April 1, offered the opening keynote address during BYU Women’s Conference on Thursday, May 4, on the theme of becoming “converted unto the Lord.”
In her remarks to women gathered in the Marriott Center on the Provo campus, Sister Eubank discussed three basic “ingredients” of conversion and the role of Relief Society in that process.
The first basic ingredient of conversion is learning to see beyond the mortal limits of time and space. Another name for this ability, she said, is faith.
What does “seeing beyond” mean for a woman in the 21st century? In part, she said, it means, “the fashions of the day, the opinions on Twitter, the handicaps and barriers of this brief mortal life are just that. Brief. They don’t last. We women are called to focus on what lasts.”
Sister Eubank encouraged listeners to act on what they know. “When we act regularly on our testimonies, our vision slowly improves until we are seeing things we had not seen before.”
In describing the second ingredient — using the body as an instrument of power, order and creation — Sister Eubank shared an experience from her own life.
Growing up she had always planned on marrying and having children. “But surprisingly to me I haven’t ended up marrying in this life, and I don’t have my children with me right now. This was a physical grief I could hardly bear for so many years.”
Sister Eubank explained that it is part of a woman’s spiritual birthright to be a creator and quoted President Dieter F. Uchtdorf who said, “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before. Everyone can create. Remember that you are spirit daughters of the most creative Being in the universe.”
But creation isn’t only about children, Sister Eubank said. “There are many, many ways for women to multiply, replenish and create.”
Relief Society, Sister Eubank said, helped her move past this heavy grief. “I was around women who acknowledged emotionally that I am still a creator. Not having my husband and children with me at this time is temporary. Every day I am creating influence, compassion, love, and grace that did not previously exist.”
The third ingredient of conversion, she continued, is to practice unity and love.
Strengthening others is evidence of a woman’s conversion to the Lord. “It is the sauce that gives flavor to the rest of the meal.”
Sister Eubank said she met Sister Jeri Cook when she nervously accepted her first assignment to the Middle East. Sister Cook welcomed her and other missionary couples into her home in Amman, Jordan, with a hug, stories and homemade soup and cake.
“We women are often like Jeri Cook,” Sister Eubank said, who “move the world in increments of soup and cake.”
Women are called to be glue, she continued. “We’re the bonds of unity and kindness. You see it in matriarchs who are the center of things. They reach out and include people, they find meaningful things for each person to do, they make sure the right things are said and done so things keep going, they make it fun, and they make us laugh.”
Sister Eubank said she has been surprised by how many women have told her “I’m not a ‘Relief Society’ type” and then list the ways they don’t “fit in.”
“Relief Society is exactly the place for all of us who don’t fit in,” Sister Eubank declared. “It is organized under priesthood keys for women so that we have a place to grow, progress, build faith, talk about the reality of family life, and mourn with each other for all the stupid, crazy things happening to us as we are mortals.”
For those who say Relief Society is just a sewing circle or a book club for women with similar interests and backgrounds, Sister Sharon Eubank responded, “No. Relief Society has a work to do on the earth.”
The Lord has a stewardship for His daughters in the work of salvation, she explained, and “it can only be done by women who are truly converted unto the Lord.”
Quoting Addie Fuhriman, a former member of the Relief Society general board, Sister Eubank noted that the Lord provided Relief Society as a place where gospel principles can touch the heart of each woman — women "with disabilities, recovering addicts, new in the church, old pioneer stock, American, Syrian, Chilean, Samoan, working, home with kids, wishing to have a job, poor, rich, in debt, happy, depressed, bi-polar, autistic, serving others, being served, liberal, conservative, don’t care, immigrant, gay, converted, and unconverted. The question is: Can we open up the circle of sisterhood to many more kinds of backgrounds and see those backgrounds as valuable instead of as handicaps?" Sister Eubank asked.
If the basic ingredients to conversion are the same — eyes to see, discipline to create, glue to bind — then, just like the Asian café, the combination of those ingredients are as endless as women’s personalities and spirits.
Relief Society is like a kitchen to mix the ingredients of conversion, Sister Eubank explained. “If we let it, Relief Society will make of us women who see beyond the barriers. It will help us repent and practice the discipline of creators. It acknowledges the invisible women who unify and make one, who serve the soup and cake, and who have sticky hands to hold people close.”