Sister to Sister event: How to deal with unfulfilled expectations, disappointment and feel God’s love

A woman from a close-knit family with no children of her own said she feels a void in her heart when a new niece or nephew is born, even amid all the good things in her life. “How can I feel fulfilled when I’m not able to do the one thing I feel I was born to do?” she asked.

Addressing this question during the Sister to Sister event during BYU Women’s Conference on Friday, Sister Sharon Eubank clarified what it is “we are born to do.”

Each person is born to do three basic things, said the Relief Society general leader. First, choose to love God and others; second, come to know the Savior by repenting and keeping the commandments; and third, establish family relationships on both sides of the veil. 

Those things may happen in a different order than expected, but “if you’re doing any one of those things, you’re fulfilling the thing you were born to do.”

Referencing a statement Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared during April 2021 general conference, Sister Eubank said waiting faithfully upon the Lord for His blessings is “a holy position” and “doesn’t deserve pity.”

And while waiting, she added, “You are in the company of some of the best souls on Earth.”

Iene Caso, left, moderates questions during the BYU Women’s Conference Sister to Sister event on April 30, 2021, with Sister Michelle Craig, Sister Sharon Eubank and Sister Susan Porter.
Iene Caso, left, moderates questions during the BYU Women’s Conference Sister to Sister event on April 30, 2021, with Sister Michelle Craig, Sister Sharon Eubank and Sister Susan Porter. Credit: Nate Edwards, BYU Photo

How to deal with unfulfilled expectations was one of many topics addressed during the Sister to Sister event with Sister Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency; Sister Michelle Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency; and Sister Susan H. Porter, newly called first counselor in the Primary general presidency. 

Watch sessions of BYU Women’s Conference and read talk summaries

Moderated by Irene Caso, who works for the Church’s Communication Department, with input from wellness experts, this Sister to Sister event was the third Q&A-style segment of its kind at BYU Women’s Conference. Questions were submitted prior to the event. 

Personal revelation

After mini-video visits to each of the general leader’s homes to offer a glimpse into their personal lives, the Sister to Sister event began with a question on personal revelation — what to do when praying to feel God’s love and direction but not sensing it. 

Sister Porter said she struggled for a time to feel the Lord’s guidance after her husband, Elder Bruce D. Porter, a General Authority Seventy, died in December 2016. She prayed for “weeks and weeks” to know how to move forward. 

One day she was thumbing through the mail when she stumbled upon a catalog with a painting of the Savior talking to a woman at the well. She felt the Spirit whisper, “That’s what you’re supposed to do.” In other words, sit at the feet of the Savior and learn from Him.

Often, the Lord is giving more revelation than one recognizes, Sister Porter said. When she struggles to recognize the Lord’s voice, she tries to “tune” her heart so she can feel and understand it. 

Sister Susan H. Porter, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, answers a question during the BYU Women’s Conference Sister to Sister event on April 30, 2021
Sister Susan H. Porter, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, answers a question during the BYU Women’s Conference Sister to Sister event on April 30, 2021 Credit: Nate Edwards, BYU Photo

Sister Craig added that spiritual progress is gradual. “We need to do our imperfect best.”

In a question addressed later in the broadcast, a sister said she often feels guilty for working when she doesn’t need to. Though her husband provides well for their family, she likes the feeling of accomplishment. 

“Heavenly Father has made it clear through personal revelation that He is OK with me working, so why do I feel so guilty?” she asked. 

Sister Porter turned to a message from then-Elder M. Russell Ballard given at BYU Women’s Conference in 2015. Elder Ballard said while one sister may be inspired to attend medical school, for example, another may feel she should forgo a scholarship and begin a family.  

“Is it possible for two similarly faithful women to receive such different responses to the same basic questions? Absolutely!” Elder Ballard emphatically stated. “What’s right for one woman may not be right for another.”

Sister Porter said women should withhold from criticizing another’s personal decisions and instead, “create a safe space” and “be a light, not a judge.”

Mental health 

Another sister asked, “How can I feel God’s love when anxiety and depression make it hard for me to feel anything?” She also wondered what she can do to protect her testimony in these uncertain times. 

Acknowledging the “numbness” clinical depression can bring, Sister Craig said she hopes those who are struggling realize that lack of spiritual feeling is not an indication of unworthiness.

Seek professional help, and take care of physical and spiritual health, she said. “Sometimes we just need to hold on with our head what we don’t feel in the moment in own heart.”

Gemma Williams, a mental health counselor, middle, speaks about strategies for building mental and emotional resilience during the BYU Women's Conference Sister to Sister event on April 30, 2021.
Gemma Williams, a mental health counselor, middle, speaks about strategies for building mental and emotional resilience during the BYU Women’s Conference Sister to Sister event on April 30, 2021. Credit: Screenshot YouTube

Sister Eubank introduced a video clip of Gemma Williams, a mental health counselor, who shared practical strategies for building mental and emotional resilience — which is especially critical in times of added stress. 

“I think the biggest mistake that women make is that they compare themselves to themselves on their best day. … We need to give ourselves some grace,” Williams said. She pointed to the Church’s new Emotional Resilience manual in the Life Help section of Gospel Library as one of many resources for help. 

Disappointment

Several questions submitted to conference organizers were about feeling disappointment when loved ones are no longer active in the Church. One sister wondered how she can strengthen her relationship with her adult children who are no longer active.

To address this topic, Sister Craig spoke with Sister Wendy Ulrich, a psychologist and member of the Relief Society general advisory council. 

In a video clip, Sister Ulrich shared the story of a client who has a son leaving the Church. After fasting over a period of many months, her client received the impression: “It’s time now to stop grieving for the son you lost and time to start rejoicing in the son that you have.”

As he began to pay more attention to the things he enjoyed about his son and his good values, “their relationship became sweet again,” she said. 

Sister Wendy Ulrich, a psychologist and member of the Relief Society general advisory council, talks with Sister Michelle Craig of the Young Women general presidency during the BYU Women's Conference Sister to Sister event on April 30, 2021.
Sister Wendy Ulrich, a psychologist and member of the Relief Society general advisory council, talks with Sister Michelle Craig of the Young Women general presidency during the BYU Women’s Conference Sister to Sister event on April 30, 2021. Credit: Screenshot YouTube

Sister Craig quoted Doctrine and Covenants 123:17: “Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”

Women in the Church

The final question the general leaders addressed concerned women’s voices and women serving in leadership roles in the Church. 

Sister Eubank explained that the general women leaders sit on a variety of Church councils and committees. For example, she serves on the Correlation Executive Committee, while Sister Craig serves on the Scripture Committee and Sister Porter serves on the Communications Committee. 

Women’s voices and perspectives are equally important in ward and stake councils, she said. 

Sister Craig highlighted the new calling of area organization advisers, who met for the first time last month. These sisters are called by the area presidency and support the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary organizations in their areas. 

As the event concluded, each bore testimony of the Savior and the power of the Holy Ghost in answering questions. 

“God our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ love each of you,” Sister Porter said. “They are aware of your circumstances. They are aware of those questions in your heart. … And it’s through the Holy Ghost, that great gift, that third member of the Godhead, that we can receive peace and joy.”

Sister Eubank said, “I would encourage any of you to find a couple friends, sit down and talk about your questions and access the power of the Holy Ghost. I hope you can duplicate what you felt among us here today.”

Sister Craig added, “We need each other, and we need Jesus Christ. He is the answer to every question and every concern.”