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‘A glorious season to be covenant women’: Church leaders address women at annual luncheon

Women gather to celebrate service in Primary, Young Women and Relief Society organizations

When Claudia Eliason looked around the banquet room at the Church Office Building on Monday, May 13, she was reminded of “the richness of the blessing of being tutored in Primary” — and how it has benefited her in every Church calling since then.

Eliason was one of around 200 women in attendance at an annual luncheon for women who have served in the Primary, Young Women and Relief Society general organizations for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 1972, when Eliason was 26 years old, she was called to be on the Primary board — now known as an advisory council — under Lavern Watts Parmley, who was then the Primary general president.

Eliason was single and teaching at Utah State University and felt much younger than any of the other women and quite overwhelmed.

But one of the other women told her, “Don’t put a question mark where the Lord has put in the period,” Eliason said. “And so I thought, ‘OK, I’ve been called, I’ve got to gear up and move forward with faith.’”

Eliason continued to serve on the board as Naomi Maxfield Shumway became the Primary general president in 1974. Eliason served for eight years total — getting married and having three children during that time period.

“It just was a wonderful experience to serve the Lord at that time. … I just learned so much from the women, they enveloped me with love and tenderness and teaching.”

‘A joyful gathering’

Sister Amy A. Wright, President Susan H. Porter and Sister Tracy Y. Browning, pose with Delpha Baird during a luncheon at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
The three members of the Primary general presidency for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from left, Sister Amy A. Wright, President Susan H. Porter and Sister Tracy Y. Browning, pose with Delpha Baird, front, during an emeritus luncheon for all current and past general presidencies and their councils at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 13, 2024. | Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret News

Primary General President Susan H. Porter welcomed the women to the meeting and reminded them that while some have served or still serve in the Primary and Young Women organizations, as women they all belong to the Relief Society.

“This is a joyful gathering,” she said, as she spoke about how those who are currently serving are building on the service and “anchoring to Jesus Christ” that was done before.

In her remarks to the women, Young Women General President Emily Belle Freeman said, “It is a great time to be a part of the Lord’s work, but it is even a greater time to be one of the women who is helping with God’s plan.”

Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson thanked the women for their service and continued prayers.

“It is, sisters, a glorious season to be covenant women and members of the Relief Society, which brings the Savior’s relief to our brothers and sisters all around the world.”

The three general presidents gave updates on what is currently happening in each of their organizations — for example, continued training in Primary about what baptized children can do as members of the Church; a focus on the eternal truths in the “For the Strength of Youth” guide among the Young Women; and the growing initiative led by the Relief Society to help women and children around the world.

Lifting and supporting each other

President Camille N. Johnson greets Mindy Booth Baxter and her baby daughter at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson, left, greets Mindy Booth Baxter and her 5-month-old daughter, Eliza, during an emeritus luncheon for all current and past Primary, Young Women and Relief Society general presidencies and their councils at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 13, 2024. | Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret News

Mindy Booth Baxter brought her 5-month-old daughter, Eliza, to the luncheon to show her to the other emeritus members of the Relief Society general advisory council with whom she served under then-President Jean B. Bingham — women who had cried with her and prayed with her when she was going through a period of infertility and miscarriage.

“I actually walked in and just had the chills run over me,” Baxter said. “These women are so dear.”

Besides the love and support she received, Baxter spoke about all the experiences of sitting in council together and the Spirit testifying to her of truth: “That certainly binds you together when you have experiences like that.”

She has also had those same feelings and opportunities in her own ward, where the people that she has served with or ministered to become dear friends.

“That happens to all of us, wherever we are in the Church, in whatever capacity we serve and we need each other to lift and support each other,” Baxter said.

See more photos of the event below.

Elaine S. Dalton is embraced by President Emily Belle Freeman at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
Elaine S. Dalton, left, is embraced by Young Women General President Emily Belle Freeman during an emeritus luncheon for all current and past Primary, Young Women and Relief Society general presidencies and their councils at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 13, 2024. | Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret News
Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson speaks to hundreds of women during a luncheon at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson, right, speaks with those gathered during an emeritus luncheon for all current and past Primary, Young Women and Relief Society general presidencies and their councils at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 13, 2024. | Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret News
Coleen Menlove greets Mary Ellen Smoot and OIivia King during an emeritus luncheon at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
From left, Coleen Menlove greets Mary Ellen Smoot and OIivia King during an emeritus luncheon for all current and past Primary, Young Women and Relief Society general presidencies and their councils at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 13, 2024. | Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret News
President Susan H. Porter greets Mary N. Cook and Bonnie Parkin during an emeritus luncheon at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
From left, President Susan H. Porter, Primary general president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, greets Mary N. Cook and Bonnie Parkin during an emeritus luncheon for all current and past Primary, Young Women and Relief Society general presidencies and their councils at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 13, 2024. | Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret News
Diane Wunderli greets Joy D. Jones during an emeritus luncheon at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
Diane Wunderli, left, greets Joy D. Jones during an emeritus luncheon for all current and past Primary, Young Women and Relief Society general presidencies and their councils at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 13, 2024. | Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret News
Sister J. Anette Dennis, President Camille N. Johnson, and Sister Kristin M. Yee stand at their table during a luncheon at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City
The Relief Society general presidency, from left, Sister J. Anette Dennis, President Camille N. Johnson and Sister Kristin M. Yee stand during an unofficial tradition of introductions at an emeritus luncheon for all current and past Primary, Young Women and Relief Society general presidencies and their councils at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 13, 2024. | Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret News
Hundreds of women sit at tables for a luncheon at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City.
Hundreds of women spanning decades of service gather during an emeritus luncheon for all current and past Primary, Young Women and Relief Society general presidencies and their councils at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 13, 2024. | Brian Nicholson, for the Deseret News
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