In a time where staying at least six feet apart from others in public is the new norm and individuals are encouraged to stay home to stay safe, the idea of “gathering” feels almost uncomfortable.
Yet despite the contradiction of not being able to actually gather, the theme “Gather All Safely in Christ” for this year’s BYU Women’s Conference seems all too appropriate given the current circumstance and state of the world.
While physically gathering together on BYU’s campus is not an option due the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding social restrictions, the opportunity to “gather ourselves to Jesus Christ and feel his peace and comfort” is always an option, explained BYU Women’s Conference Chair Sandra Rogers.
That’s why the organizers of BYU Women’s Conference this year have decided to move forward with holding a modified version of the conference online. The virtual conference is free and requires no registration.
Beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 1, a live stream of presentations, followed by a Sister to Sister event and several on-demand video presentations, will launch this year’s BYU Women’s Conference digital event.
President Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president and a speaker and participant in the virtual conference, said that for her, BYU Women’s Conference this year will provide a “wonderful chance to gather, even though we won’t be in the same room.”
President Bingham said, “At this time of unsettling events, to ‘gather in Christ’ is one of the most important ways we can feel His love, as well as express the love we feel for one another as sisters in the gospel. Scattered around the globe, we are a body of covenant women who understand why we gather together as one in Christ.”
For all who “tune in” online, President Bingham said, the conference will offer an opportunity to be “informed, inspired and encouraged by the presentations of these wonderful women who are dealing with today’s issues, just like you.”
With a total of seven talks or presentations, the virtual conference will be a highly condensed version of what is normally offered by the annual two-day conference. But the hope of organizers and participants is that the online conference will be a message of strength and hope for all those who participate during these difficult times.
“We are very grateful to BYUB (BYU Broadcasting) and Church Publishing Services for providing the opportunity for us to share this BYU Women’s Conference digital event,” Rogers said. “We understand the power in gathering — as sisters, as members of the Church, and as disciples of Jesus Christ. We believe that through the miracles of technology, we can still experience the charity and sisterhood that has always been the hallmark of the Relief Society.”
In announcing that the conference would be carried out virtually this year, Rogers asked participants to find ways to serve and minister to one another as permitted by their local regulations in lieu of the typical big service events that typically accompany the two day conference.
“Please use every possible safe means to connect with and serve others in the spirit of Gathering All Safely to Christ,” she wrote on the conference website.
Using this momentary pause from the normal hustle and bustle of life to “gather” together in Christ, “we can tune our hearts and minds to more intently and purposefully ‘Hear Him,'” Rogers said. “We appreciate the efforts of our sisters wherever they are to reach out and help one another wherever and however that is possible. We live in an age of miracles and are grateful for the strength, love, and faith we feel from our sisters.”
Speakers and participants in the BYU Women’s Conference digital event include President Bingham; Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency; Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency; Sister Becky Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency; and Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor in the Primary general presidency.