After three full days of heartfelt testimonies and empowering witnesses, President Camille N. Johnson invited the congregation to sit up.
“Perhaps you are slouching after several days of sitting,” said President Johnson, Relief Society general president. “So, take a minute and check your alignment — chins up, necks straight and your shoulders back. Do you feel better?”
Then President Johnson invited the audience of sisters again to sit up straight, considering “not just the alignment of your chin, your neck and shoulders — but the alignment of your desires — that is, your heart and your mind. Are your heart and mind aligned with the Savior?”
On Friday, May 5, President Johnson delivered the closing keynote session at 2023 BYU Women’s Conference. Her message centered around how sisters can find relief by aligning their goals with God’s goals.
Relief from a backpack of rocks
In April 2023 general conference, President Johnson shared that each person is carrying a metaphorical backpack with burdens of rocks — but Jesus Christ can lighten the load and offer relief. In women’s conference, she explained that God’s children must’ve shouted for joy in heaven when they learned they would come to earth and get this backpack. But why?
“Our hearts and our minds were aligned with [the Savior],” she said. “And so, with an understanding of our mortality, our eternal nature and the possibility of exaltation through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we strapped on our backpacks.”
President Johnson offered three solutions to make burdens in the backpack feel light:
- First, remove the weight of sin through repentance: “Repentance isn’t the elephant in the room. It’s not plan B. It’s plan A.”
- Second, forgive the mistakes and misdeeds of others: “Forgiveness is a process facilitated by the Savior. It is part of the relief He offers us.”
- Third, seek relief from others, especially the Savior.
The power of two
“There are many famous statements out there about the ‘power of one,’” said President Johnson. “... I testify of the ‘power of two.’ Bound to the Savior through the covenants we have made with God, we stay aligned with Him and ‘can do all things through Christ [who strengthens us]’ (Philippians 4:13).”
Over the past four years, President Johnson’s husband, Douglas, had four surgeries to address a misaligned spine and subsequent pain. The fourth surgery, conducted within the past two weeks, straightened his spine through inserted rods and an osteopathy.
“He couldn’t fix it alone,” said President Johnson, emphasizing he needed the help of a physician. “... To be aligned with the Savior, we need to give ourselves over to Him.”
Just as a vehicle’s suspension must be aligned for its wheels to drive straight, she said, one must engage in daily devotion to God — aligning heart and mind to Him through prayer, scripture study, daily repentance, service and listening intently to the Holy Ghost.
“Alignment of our heart and mind with Jesus Christ,” she said, “is at the very heart of how we keep our baptismal and sacramental covenants to take the Savior’s name upon us and always remember Him. It is the way we stay on the covenant path.”
Receiving and offering relief
To prepare for her husband’s most recent surgery in St. Louis, Missouri — an operation that took 10 hours — President Johnson texted a local stake Relief Society president. She explained that she and Douglas would be in town for surgery and that she would let the sister know if they needed help.
The sister, Diana Taylor, texted back and said she would be happy to stay with President Johnson in the hospital. Although originally planning to decline the invitation, figuring she could make it through on her own, President Johnson remembered what she taught last general conference: “We are a conduit through which [the Savior] provides relief.”
She decided to accept Taylor’s offer and found relief as the two met for lunch. President Johnson realized that declining the sister’s invitation would deprive the sister of the blessings from covenant keeping. “If I failed to receive her, I would have failed to receive Him.”
Referencing Doctrine and Covenants 81:5, President Johnson said, “Sisters, we can be agents of the Savior’s relief by aligning ourselves with Him in succoring the weak, lifting the hands that hang down and strengthening those with feeble knees and backs.”
By aligning themselves with the Savior, she said, covenant keepers can be instruments in the Savior’s hands, helping others experience His relief.
“Whenever we do anything to bring relief to others — temporal or spiritual — we are bringing them to Jesus Christ and will be blessed to find our own relief in Him.”