In their first public speaking assignment after being sustained as a new Primary General Presidency, Sister Joy D. Jones and her counselors, Sister Jean B. Bingham and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, addressed the topic of unity during BYU Women’s Conference on April 29, 2016.
They joked about being told they look alike, spoke of their diverse backgrounds, and demonstrated through word and action that they were united as a presidency.
“We sat and studied about unity, and wrote this talk together,” Sister Cordon said of the topic that become their theme for that year. “We knew we needed to be unified.”
Some two and a half years later, the three women sat together again and reminisced about the year they served together before Sister Bingham was called as Relief Society general president and Sister Cordon was called as Young Women general president.
They are still united — but in their new roles the word has taken on deeper meaning.
Sister Jones said of the year they served together in the Primary general presidency, “I think we were being taught something.”
Serving together “was no accident,” said Sister Bingham.
Today, the three unified general presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary bring their experiences to the table and learn from one another. They still meet together and discuss the children, youth and women of the Church with the perspective of their new responsibilities.
On Oct. 6, during the 188th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members worldwide will see that unity again as the first Women’s Session of conference is held Saturday evening — between the Saturday and Sunday general sessions.
In preparation for the session, the three leaders drew on lessons they learned as a presidency in 2016 and early 2017.
“There is no ego,” said Sister Jones noting she trusts her former counselors completely.
“We are looking for the Lord’s answers, not our own answers,” said Sister Bingham. “We know we have to listen with open hearts.”
“You have to take your own personal ego and talents and stop and listen to what the Spirit has to offer,” said Sister Cordon. “We can learn from everyone. Everyone has great things to offer.”
The vision they had as a Primary general presidency has not changed, just expanded, said Sister Cordon. “It encompasses all the children, all the youth, all the adults.”
They are still centered “on the purpose to bring Heavenly Father’s children home to Jesus Christ,” said Sister Bingham.
Now they are asking themselves the question: “How can we communicate that to every sister in the Church?”
One way is if the unity — and collaboration — of the current presidents could be mirrored on a local level, the women leaders say.
“We are not in silos in wards or stakes or here,” said Sister Jones. “We are all God’s children. We are all here to serve.”
Working together — not for the Relief Society or Young Women or the Primary — but to strengthen families, individuals and the Church will bring added insight, said Sister Cordon.
The ward Relief Society, Young Women and Primary presidents, for example, could counsel together for the good of a Primary teacher who cannot attend Relief Society or for a young woman getting ready to transition to Relief Society.
A simple part of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that everyone is united in the goal to help others “come to our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ,” said Sister Cordon. “It is a covenant journey.”
Referring to a recent time when the women were having so much fun together that they forgot to push the button on the elevator, Sister Jones said unity makes the gospel joyful. “There is joy in the journey,” said Sister Cordon.
“Women used to sit on their front porches,” said Sister Jones. “Now we close our doors and we are so separate.”
Social media has further isolated youth and women, said Sister Bingham.
There are Church members that are “so lonely,” added Sister Cordon. “We have to be on the front porch after our meetings.”
Some callings further isolate ward members, they said. “I wish every Primary teacher could appreciate how loved they are by Heavenly Father for being there and planting seeds.”
But if a Primary teacher is feeling isolated in this important responsiblity, maybe a Relief Society presidency member could visit her class. “We need to sustain everyone in their callings,” said Sister Cordon.
Sister Jones said Latter-day Saints need to remember that members are all progressing along the covenant path. “We are not progressing alone. We will do that most effectively with the support of others.”
“It is a responsibility of all members to become unified,” said Sister Cordon.