Part of the purpose of the Primary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help children feel their Heavenly Father’s love and to learn about His plan of happiness. The scriptures teach that children “shall be taught of the Lord and great shall be the peace of the children” (3 Nephi 22:13). During the Saturday afternoon session of April general conference, Latter-day Saints sustained a new Primary general presidency, who will love and teach children.
This episode of the Church News podcast features Primary General President Camille N. Johnson and her counselors, Sister Susan H. Porter and Sister Amy A. Wright. They talk about who they are, what it is like to be called and sustained as a general officer, what they love about Primary, and what they know now after a few weeks of serving in their new callings.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with leaders, members and others on the Church News team. We end each Church News podcast by giving our guests the last word and the opportunity to answer the very important question, what do you know now? We hope each of you will also be able to answer the same question and say, I have just been listening to the Church News podcast and this is what I know now. Part of the purpose of the Primary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help children feel their Heavenly Father’s love, and to learn about his plan of salvation and happiness. In 3 Nephi 22: 13, we learned that children “shall be taught of the Lord and great shall be the peace of the children.” In April general conference, Latter-day Saints sustained a new Primary General Presidency, who will love and teach children today. We are so excited to welcome to the Church News podcast, Primary General President Camille N. Johnson and her counselors Sister Susan H. Porter and Sister Amy A. Wright. Welcome, ladies, to the Church News podcast.
Sister Amy A. Wright: Thank you.
Sister Susan H. Porter: Thank you.
President Camille N. Johnson: What a pleasure. Thank you.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I wanted to start today by having each of you tell us just a little something about yourselves, so that we can all get to know you a little better. Sister Johnson, can you start?
President Camille N. Johnson: Well, I’m the mother of three wonderful sons, who blessed me with three delightful daughters-in-law. And I have three terrific — I call them perfectly perfect — grandchildren, with a fourth on the way in September. And they are the light and the life of my world. I’m blessed to have them all live nearby, and just feel so thankful that I have their influence in my life.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. And how about you Sister Porter?
Sister Susan H. Porter: Yes, I was born in Oklahoma. And then grew up in a small rural town in western New York. And so I never really lived close to a temple or many members of the Church until, I guess, when I came to BYU. So we have four children — two girls, two boys, and 12 grandchildren — six boys, six girls. So we’re just kind of evened out there.
Sarah Jane Weaver: That is very, very convenient that it works so perfectly.
Sister Susan H. Porter: It did.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And Sister Wright, tell us about you.
Sister Amy A. Wright: Thank you. So something that’s a little unique to me is I was born into a family of all boys. I actually have a twin brother. So the joke is that my mom had all boys and I just kind of snuck in there. I married into a family of all boys, and I am the mother of all boys. So every day I pray for a “daughter-in-love” to come along soon, hopefully sooner than later, that I can adore and cherish.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, that is a lot of boys.
Sister Amy A. Wright: It is and it’s been an absolute joy. So much fun.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, let’s just start Sister Johnson. I was so touched when at BYU Women’s Conference when you shared a little bit about the process in which you selected your counselors. I was hoping you might be willing to share that with us again today.
President Camille N. Johnson: I’d be thrilled to share that experience with you, which was very faith promoting and proved to be a revelatory experience. I did not know Susan, and I did not know Amy. I was tasked with identifying counselors and submitting names, and with little instructions other than to seek the Lord’s direction and help in identifying who should serve. And at a time when you’d want to go to the temple. I was thankful to have a home where the Spirit could dwell because it was in the privacy of my own home that I sought the Lord’s help in identifying counselors, and it’s a curious process when the field is wide open. I knew of Susan Porter because she was serving on the Relief Society General Advisory Council. And I knew of Amy because she was serving on the Young Women’s General Advisory Council. I knew very little else about them. I happen to listen to a Latter-day Saint Woman Podcast where Sister Porter was featured and learned something about her background. And I knew that Amy, Sister Wright, was a cancer survivor. But I knew very little else about them. And yet, those two names came to me very, very quickly. In fact, Susan’s name came to me in the middle of the night, the night after the call was issued. And Amy’s name was in my mind immediately as well. And because it’s my personality, I played out lots of scenarios and took several different scenarios to the Lord. But it was clear that Sister Porter, my dear friend Susan, and Sister, Wright, my dear friend Amy, were to serve with me. And I did relate at BYU Women’s Conference the joyous opportunity we had on Feb. 14 to meet for the first time. Elder [Quentin L.] Cook was kind enough to arrange an opportunity for us to meet after the call had been extended to each of them. And yes, it was a meeting. But it didn’t feel that way. It felt very much like a reunion. And as I expressed earlier, my first words were, “It is so good to see you again.” And that’s just how I felt, that I was being reunited and reacquainted with friends that I’d had for the eternities. And so I’m very thankful for the blessing it is to learn from them and serve with them.
Sarah Jane Weaver: It has to be daunting to receive a calling like this to a general Church leadership position. Can each of you tell us what that was like, and what what you may have experienced after receiving the call, but before you were able to share it with the general Church membership?
Sister Amy A. Wright: We were invited not to tell anyone. And so my children didn’t know, my parents, nobody knew. So it was a surprise. They heard from President [Dallin H.] Oaks, just like the rest of the world, which was kind of a sacred thing. But our boys, immediately I burst into tears, and all of a sudden, all of the counsel I gave while they served their missions came back. “It’s OK to be a beginner. Trust in the Lord. You’re going to be fine. There are people there to help you succeed.” These are all the emails I wrote them on their missions. Those words came back to us. So we kind of tell each other that when we head out to a meeting that is beyond our comprehension, sometimes, and we just remind ourselves, “It’s OK to be a beginner,” and that the Lord loves effort, as President [Russell M.] Nelson so beautifully testified.
President Camille N. Johnson: We all had a unique experience, that because we were not in the Conference Center, we were at home, in the presence of family, at the time that people were asked to raise their arm to sustain us. And it was a beautiful moment for me to look around that room with the people that I love the most. I had received permission to tell my boys the night before. So they were all there with me. I had my family there with me and to see them all raise their hands was really quite remarkable. At the time, we could look up at the screen and see the 15 prophets, seers and revelators with their arms raised as well. … The call is overwhelming. That show of support from the people that mean the most was remarkable.
Sister Amy A. Wright: And I love when Sister Johnson said at Women’s Conference, “We are just ordinary women. But we’ve been invited to do something extraordinary. And that’s only possible because of our Savior Jesus Christ.” And you know, again, because of a work situation, Sister Johnson was able to tell her family on Friday. We didn’t have anything like that. And so we waited until Saturday. But my youngest son is serving in Africa right now. And he’d been serving in California for seven months and arrived in Africa the first of March. He was there just long enough to contract COVID. So he’s been really sick and in quarantine. And he was out in the sticks, out in a very remote village. Well, he didn’t have access to internet. And there wasn’t satellite. So he didn’t know that he would be able to watch general conference, listen to it. And so on Saturday, they weren’t able to. And then they needed to be indoors by 6:30 p.m. for safety reasons. And then they would study in the evening and the Health Ministry had just given them the OK to go back out and start contacting, so they were very busy that day. And he said that evening, as they were studying, this is Saturday. He said he had an impression to ask his companion if there was enough data on their phone where he could just listen to one conference address. His first few weeks in Africa had been rough. And he just needed a little bit of home. Just a little connection to home. You know, in his heart to heart, he was hoping it was the Prophet or someone from the First Presidency, but it really didn’t matter who it was. And what he didn’t know is that I was home with a prayer in my heart that our boys would all be able to hear at the same time from a prophet, seer and revelator. But I knew with Luke being in Africa that that most likely wouldn’t be the case. And around 8 p.m. in Côte d’Ivoire, Abidjan, east time, he had an impression to ask his companion if there was enough data. And so he was able to connect. And what he heard was this statistical report and he was crushed. But almost immediately, a phone call came from one of their friends, someone that they were teaching. So he got off and his companion addressed the phone call. And then Luke got back on, Elder Wright got back on. And this time, they were announcing the newly called general authorities and again, his heart sunk. He just, he just wanted some sustenance, even if it was just a couple sentences. And almost immediately, the zone leaders called so he got off again. His companion spoke with his zone leaders. And then he thought, “I’m going to get on one last time.” And as he got on, they had just started to announce the newly called Primary general presidency. So in real time, he heard that his mom was called to serve as the second counselor in the Primary general presidency, the exact same time his brothers did. And that was just a beautiful reminder to me, that when something’s important to us, it’s also important to the Lord. And it’s something that I’ve held on to — to to know that He truly is aware of not only us as sisters, but also our families. Because this really, this calling really directly affects most specifically and intimately our families. And that’s a comfort to know that they are watched over and guided and protected and safeguarded during our service.
Sarah Jane Weaver: How about you, Sister Porter? Can you share your experience?
Sister Susan H. Porter: One thing that was very tender is Elder Cook, who called us, and Elder [Michael T.] Ringwood who serves in the Priesthood and Family Department, were very aware of the fact, of course, that Bruce had passed away. And so I was alone in that knowledge where, you know, Sister, Wright, and Sister Johnson over those six weeks between when we were called and when we were sustained, could council together with their spouses. And certainly I took the opportunity to pray and ask, you know, Heavenly Father that Bruce would, of course, be mindful. We have four children, three of them live in the northwest, so they are out of state, But one of our daughters, [a teacher] lives about 15 minutes away, and so that she could find a substitute [teacher] and come with me when we were set apart, which was a beautiful experience being sustained on Saturday. And then on Wednesday, Brother and Sister Wright, Brother and Sister Johnson, and [my daughter] Lisa was able to come with me to be set apart. The beautiful thing about that is that was the second time we have been in that special room, the First Presidency room because that is the room that we all were able to go to as a family when Bruce was set apart as a member of the Seventy. And she was a young, barely a Beehive. But it was a very sweet experience to be there with her. And to be able to meet with the First Presidency and to have their hands laid on our heads to set us apart with a sacred calling. And as Amy said, of course, we’re totally overwhelmed, feel inadequate. But when those beautiful words of setting apart and blessing are proclaimed, you know that our Lord and Savior will be there to sustain you in all times.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and it has been great for all of us to get to know each of you a little better. We did know Sister Porter a little bit she served for so many years with her late husband Elder Bruce D. Porter, and also knew a lot about a Sister Wright from her service with the Young Women advisory council. Sister Porter and Sister Wright, I’d love to hear some of your experiences on those general advisory councils and what you learned from that service.
Sister Susan H. Porter: It was a marvelous experience. Amy, did you just love it?
Sister Amy A. Wright: It was it was an incredible experience and uniquely enough, that’s how Sister Porter and I got to know each other because we were part of a pilot where they invited a member from each women’s organization to sit with the Utah Area Leadership Council. And that had never been done before. And Elder [Craig C.] Christensen was an incredible mentor and leader who is constantly seeking out and giving us opportunities to get out front and to lead and he expected us to come to those councils prepared to contribute and these dear brethren listened and validated everything we said and our perspective and expanded our vision.
Sister Susan H. Porter: Yes, absolutely. It was a great opportunity for us all to learn together. And I was thinking what Amy was speaking and saying, she didn’t have any daughters. I felt like those women on our advisory councils we were like sisters. Did you feel that way? I know I did in Relief Society. So I’d say, along with the blessing of being in the Utah Area Council, the two greatest blessings: for one, the great sisterhood we developed, and what I learned about counseling together. You know, we would have a problem, maybe an issue that the Relief Society presidency had invited us to ponder. We’d come together and each person would have had kind of their own bit of inspiration. But you could see as each sister made a comment, it sent us a little different direction. And you could see that we ended up getting to a place where none of us could have been themselves. And so I loved seeing how revelatory councils can be. And then the second real blessing was before COVID, when we got to go out and visit with sisters, and meet with Relief Society leaders and women. I just was very humbled at every point, at the strength and conviction and testimony of the women of this Church.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Sister Porter, that’s something you’ve seen a lot. You lost your husband in December of 2016. But you served outside of the United States.
Sister Susan H. Porter: Yes. And what a blessing that was, yes, especially in the Europe East Area, through Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and Russia, to meet with many, many first generation sisters, who had not had the gospel, you know, throughout their lives and yet had studied and prayed and were women of faith and courage was a great blessing.
Sister Amy A. Wright: And, you know, we get asked often what exactly does a General Advisory Council member do. And people are always interested to know that we chair committees, we sit on committees, we serve with working groups, we instruct stake presidencies, bishoprics, ward and stake leaders. And, like you said, we speak in devotionals. We’ve had opportunities to teach and testify at leadership conferences. And so there’s a tremendous opportunity here for sisters to serve and to lead. And I think the thing that really resonated with me the most is that this truly is the Lord’s work. And it’s one work, which is the Work of Salvation and Exaltation. And every single member of this Church has a vital role to play in that work — men and women equally, but also children and youth. And that’s been a wonderful thing to teach and testify about.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And Sister Wright, I didn’t think of this earlier, but when you were talking about being surrounded by so many brothers and sons, what did you learn from the Young Women when you had the opportunity to serve them?
Sister Amy A. Wright: That’s a really great question. And probably the greatest thing I learned first and foremost; it strengthened my testimony of the principle of compensation. If there’s ever anything in our lives that we may think is missing, or lacking, or we maybe don’t even know it’s lacking, the Lord always compensates and in such a beautiful, tender way and exactly the way we need it. I didn’t grow up with sisters, and I don’t have daughters. And yet, I was blessed with daughters to pray for, and to teach, and to counsel and ponder about every single day. And the beauty of it is having all sons: I’ve always prayed for the daughters in the Lord’s Kingdom because those would be my future daughter-in-laws and the mothers of my grandchildren. And so those prayers didn’t just begin with this calling. But all of a sudden, there was this connection. And it’s the same like Sister Porter said, with the sacred sisterhood that you find in serving in this capacity, is there are women in my life that are closer to me then I would imagine even a sister to be. And that’s a beautiful thing. And it goes back to the principle of compensation, where the Lord always blesses us with things that we didn’t even know we needed some time.
Sister Susan H. Porter: This beautiful sisterhood of a presidency, the opportunity to become become one, one heart and one mind in this presidency.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I’m so glad that that as we looked back, you are also looking forward. And so I’d like to shift a little bit and talk about Primary. And we’ll start with you, President Johnson. What is one of your favorite things about Primary?
President Camille N. Johnson: I think one of my favorite things about Primary is that there’s a unique and special opportunity there for the children to recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost and I think it’s particularly important that as parents, and leaders and mentors and stewards of the rising generation, that we help them identify the Spirit when it’s evident, and Primary presents a unique and special opportunity there. Well, let me use a missionary analogy to start with. So when a missionary is teaching a lesson to a friend, there’s a special moment when when the Spirit is felt and an enlightened missionary always pauses and helps that friend recognize what they’re feeling. For some of us it’s warm, for some of us it’s tingly. For some of us It feels like a warm blanket or a wave. It’s different for all of us. But an enlightened missionary recognizes when that moment happens, and seizes upon it, and uses it as a teaching opportunity. I hope that we’re doing the same thing in Primary, because our precious Primary children are having those moments where the Spirit is touching them. And they don’t have to be 8 years old and have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in order for that to happen. We know the spirit manifests itself to our small children. But are we taking advantage of that and seizing upon it, and teaching about it to our Primary children so that they develop a treasure trove of experiences with the Spirit so that they have a confirmation that the Spirit works through them and teaches and testifies to them? Well, isn’t it beautiful that kids learn in Primary a foundation that they take with them all through their lives, but including as missionaries.
Sarah Jane Weaver: President Johnson and her husband, Douglas R. Johnson, had an opportunity to live in South America from 2016 to 2019 where they lead the Perú Arequipa Mission. President Johnson, did I say that? Right. So how you pronounce your mission?
President Camille N. Johnson: It’s Arequipa. Very close.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I hope you had the opportunity more than once to go to Primary while you were there.
President Camille N. Johnson: Yes, I did. And it was a beautiful experience to look into the eyes of those children and see that they were feeling the same Spirit that is familiar all over the world. And so much of the time that Spirit is felt when the children are communicating with each other and with heaven through music. Yes, universal.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Sister Porter, what’s your favorite thing about Primary?
Sister Susan H. Porter: I think I’d have to build off Sister Johnson is the beautiful Primary songs can do more than anything else to invite the Spirit. And I think something about when we’re singing. And I think studies have been done about music, that our hearts seem to be more open when we’re singing, and especially when we’re singing about the Savior, and to actually have an opportunity to feel His love for us to feel that He’s aware of us. And that’s been one of my favorite callings of the Church, the opportunity I had once to be the Primary music leader and to feel that Spirit testify to the children that what they were singing was was in fact true.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and how about you, Sister Wright.
Sister Amy A. Wright: One of the things I love most about our Primary children is, and children in general is that they come to this earth with believing hearts, they are full of faith. And they are constantly looking for connections with each other. They don’t see the differences. They don’t see gender. They don’t see race. They don’t see height. They just want to know what your favorite color is. Or if you have a dog. They’re constantly looking to make connections. And it’s no coincidence that our Savior admonishes us to become like little children. And I think that’s one of their greatest attributes. And the beauty of Primary is it’s a place where they can gather together and that they can receive that second witness of our Savior, Jesus Christ as we teach and testify together. And it’s also a sacred place for those children who maybe aren’t receiving that instruction in home that we have a responsibility where we can increase our efforts and increase that Church support when home support is deficient.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. Well, I want to shift again. and have each of you just talk to us a little bit about you? Sister Johnson, you are like, Sister Wright. You have all sons.
President Camille N. Johnson: Yes.
Sarah Jane Weaver: You guys probably had some rough and tumble homes.
President Camille N. Johnson: Yes.
Sarah Jane Weaver: What I want to know is if each of you had one hour to do anything you wanted to do, and you could do anything, what would it be? I tell my kids all the time that if I had an hour, I would take a nap.
President Camille N. Johnson: If I needed quiet time, I would go for a walk. But to be honest with you, when you posed the question, I guess I thought of my entire family on a boat together in the middle of a lake. There’s something beautiful about being disconnected and all together, and problem solving together on a boat. And I have happy memories of and look forward to future opportunities to have my children and grandchildren together with me on a boat in the middle of a lake.
Sarah Jane Weaver: How about you, Sister Wright?
Sister Amy A. Wright: I am right there with Sister Johnson. My first thought was anywhere outdoors, with our family. We’re a family that loves to go biking and kayaking. I have a mother that just taught us all how to play pickleball. And she’s actually really, really good. So anything outdoors. But probably my favorite thing is we love to go on walks and just hear about what’s going on in their world and process the day. That’s a happy place for me.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. And you Sister Porter?
Sister Susan H. Porter: I think you’re going get three answers. I immediately thought when you asked Sister Johnson, I thought, “Well, two things: outdoors and family.” And for the third thing, our family just loves water. So every year when we plan our reunion, it’s either got to be on the coast or by a lake. If I’m alone, I enjoy the piano and I enjoy sewing. Those are just two things that I enjoyed myself.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. And I always like to ask people what their favorite book is. Now, I know the scriptures are all of your favorite books. We all love the Book of Mormon. But if we take that out of the running, maybe each of you could tell me what your favorite book is.
President Camille N. Johnson: Sarah, we laughed about this beforehand, because I said this is like picking your favorite child, which we are unwilling to do. So I can give you a genre or I can give you a couple of titles. I’ll do both. I love to read about history. And if I can find historical fiction that is close to accurate, I enjoy that the most. “Great Expectations” is one of my favorites. And I love “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which tells an interesting period piece of U.S. history. Those were two that came to mind amongst hundreds.
Sarah Jane Weaver: “To Kill a Mockingbird” is my favorite book, too.
President Camille N. Johnson: Oh, I knew we were kindred spirits, Sarah.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I like to read it every year. OK, Sister Porter.
Sister Susan H. Porter: I enjoy biographies. So there would be a lot of biographies. And I also really love the book “Les Misérables,” by Victor Hugo. Just the stunning act of love and mercy by that priest. Every time I read it, I just say I’m reminded of the Savior and just see the power that ripples through the next 1,000 pages from that act, single act of love and mercy. This gets me every time.
Sister Amy A. Wright: And it’s so true. When you read the unabridged version, you really truly understand the symbolism of both candlesticks.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Wow. OK, Sister Wright?
Sister Amy A. Wright: So I’m going to take a little different approach. I too love historical fiction. … I love to “To Kill a Mockingbird.” But probably one of my favorite, I’m going to choose a children’s literature book, if that’s OK. I am a huge children’s literature enthusiast. My mother-in-law owned to children’s bookstore in Bountiful for years and years. So I have quite the collection. But one of my favorite was actually a book that was given to me as a gift by my Young Women adviser. But this is not that long ago. So she was a librarian. And she would teach a lesson every Sunday. And obviously, it was principle based. And then, at the end, the last five minutes of class, she would read a children’s book that directly related to that principle. And so I started associating children’s books with choice and accountability, good works, integrity. And years later, when I was called to serve as a Young Woman adviser, I wrote this advisor and thanked her for the influence that she had in my life. And she sent me a book called “I’m In Charge of Celebration.” And it’s about a young girl who lives in the desert, and it’s in poetry form. And people always ask her, are you lonely in the desert? And she said, “No. Why would I be lonely, I’m in charge of celebrations.” And then the whole book goes through all these things to celebrate and the beauties that she finds in the desert. And I just love that book, because it reminds me of many of the lessons that this dear adviser, Cathy Gamble, who taught me years ago. But also it’s a principle I’ve tried to apply throughout my life that we truly can find goodness and beauty and light and joy in the common, in the ordinary, in the mundane, as well as in the miraculous. And that’s because of our great creator, Jesus Christ, and especially even in our trials, and our defeat, He is there, and we can still find joy and beauty and things worthy of celebration.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, Sister Wright, I think we’ll have you comment on the next question because it leads right into that. I think all of us look back on life and we like to think and ponder about the great times we have. But we also go through hard times or times of trial and struggle. And are you comfortable sharing one of those and what you’ve learned from that experience?
Sister Amy A. Wright: Yes, absolutely. I think that the beauty of mortality is everybody has a story. And some stories are more obvious than others. But this really is just a big problem-solving opportunity. Every single day, we’re just constantly solving problems, and hopefully inviting the Savior to be part of that problem-solving process. But probably one of the most obvious or well-known struggles that I’ve had or trials in my life was in 2015 and 2016. I battled stage four ovarian cancer. And I was not symptomatic. I went in for a routine, very non invasive procedure. And initially, I was told that I had four months to live before they were able to find the origin of my cancer. And then, when I found out it was stage-four ovarian cancer, and I realized I had a 17% chance of survival. I thought, “Wow, I have won the lottery. This is great. There’s hope.” But you know, it was really interesting. Leaving the doctor’s office that day with my husband and driving home in silence, and my thoughts immediately went to our boys. How do we tell them? What’s this going to look like for our family, and all have those concerns. Our oldest son was serving a mission in Italy at the time, and then our youngest were still in high school and junior high. And I just kept feeling the sinking feeling as we’re driving down this hill. And I just kept sinking deeper and deeper. And in my mind, I asked Heavenly Father, “Am I going to die?” And I had a very distinct impression that everything was going to be OK. And so then I asked, in my mind, “Well am I going to live?” And I received the exact same impression. And I thought that was really interesting, that the Spirit would speak peace to my heart, whether I lived or died. And then almost immediately, from head to toe, I had this overwhelming feeling of relief and comfort knowing that we didn’t have to go home and teach our children how to pray. They already knew how to seek guidance and direction and comfort from the Lord that we weren’t going to be able to give them. I didn’t need to go home and teach them about the scriptures; the scriptures were already a daily part of our family study. And that was a place that they would find a lot of peace as well. We didn’t need to go home and teach them about the plan of salvation, or the doctrines of salvation or anything about the gospel, or what happens when we die, or what happens to our family. Every Family Home Evening lesson, every gospel doctrine class attended, every ordinance or covenant made and kept or participated in, every temple worship, every prayer offered every day of fasting mattered. In that moment, it was too late to put oil in our lamps, we needed every single drop, and we needed it right now. And I was so grateful for that comfort and that vision and that understanding, because it was something that I held on to for the next, just over a year of battling a very aggressive cancer with very aggressive chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. And probably besides our testimony, and our love for the Savior and our reliance on Him, the thing that helped the most is not only drawing from the Atonement of Jesus Christ, but also following in His footsteps. And when we turned inward as a family, especially myself, the world got really dark and dreary. But when we turned outward and looked for ways in which we could serve and lift, even when our capacity was limited, there was light and there was joy. And just like the children’s book, there was cause for celebration.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Thank you so much. Sister Porter, I was so touched by your testimony at women’s conference, when you talked about how the Lord never leaves us comfortless. He will always give us comfort and strength in times of need. Can you talk about how you came to know that?
Sister Susan H. Porter: Yes, you know, early in our marriage, we moved to Munich, Germany. My husband accepted a job over there. And we went over there with a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old. And then while we were there, our daughter was born. And so we had three children under the age of 3. And one month after Lisa was born, Bruce was called to be the branch president. We attended a serviceman’s branch. We were not in the service, but that’s the branch we were assigned to. So he went to work all day. And then was often serving in his calling in the evening. So we were living in a foreign country, of course. And the street and the area that we lived in, every single home was surrounded by a 6-foot-high cinderblock wall. So I had these three little kids, 3 and under, with no real way to connect to people, because I would take them for walks in the stroller, but I would never see anyone and our branch members, most of them, lived, you know, on the military base, which was about 20 minutes away. And so I started to feel very lonely. I began feeling like I was not doing anything to progress or to contribute in the Church in my community. And one day, a sister called me and asked me if I would substitute in her Relief Society class to teach it. And I remember thinking, “Well, I don’t really have anything to offer, but I accept it.” And so I prepared for the lesson. And I went to teach, and I taught the lesson. And after the lesson, a few of the sisters and I were standing there talking, and into my mind came a very clear impression. “The Lord loves a plodder, p-l-o-d-d-e-r. And I knew in that moment that he was aware of me. You know, I may have had these tiny kids, two in diapers in a foreign country. You know, I was not progressing or contributing in any remarkable way. But I knew he was aware of me. And I know for many of our sisters and brothers around the world, we go through times of, you know, like, Sister Wright was saying, health challenges. We may be young moms, whatever it is. And we can be sure that the Lord is mindful of us. And we just keep moving at whatever pace we can. He loves us. And that was a great experience for me.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Great, thank you for sharing that. President Johnson, do you have an experience you’re willing to share?
President Camille N. Johnson: I’ll tell you about a beautiful struggle. That’s a phrase that some of my sister missionaries came up with, and it describes perfectly my experience as a mission leader, when we were called to go to Arequipa in 2016. I did not know any Spanish. And that posed a particular beautiful struggle for me, because I really love people. I’m genuinely interested in people, love to get to know them, and was so anxious to get to know my missionaries. And yet words failed me because I knew very little Spanish. And about 70% of our missionaries were Latino, and knew very little English. The beautiful struggle was that over the course of those three years, and with the help of heaven, my Spanish improved, and my missionaries improved in their English. So oftentimes, I’d say to them, I’m going to speak Spanish to you, and you correct my Spanish and you speak English back to me, and I’ll correct your English and we learn together. And they were patient with the mistakes I made. But the beauty of all of this was in the beautiful struggle was, the Lord really stepped in and filled in the gaps. The things that were most important for me to communicate to my missionaries, and to the members that we love so dearly in that part of the world, where my love for them, and my testimony of the Book of Mormon, and I was able to communicate those things with the help of the Spirit. Sometimes words failed me, but the Spirit made up the difference and that was a beautiful struggle for me.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Thank you. I know each of you were serving in Primary, but you’re also a member of the Relief Society. And I’m interested in how participation in this worldwide sisterhood has blessed your life. President Johnson we can start right with you.
President Camille N. Johnson: Well, the way I see it, it’s an eternal round. His path is straight and His course is one eternal round. And we teach our Primary children of the love that their Heavenly Father has for them, of their divine purpose of their divine nature. And that the Savior is there as their perfect example and guide. The Holy Ghost will attend them. We hope we send them to their Young Women’s experience converted to the notion of of those divine principles, where they flourish. And then become Relief Society sisters, who have the opportunity then to teach and nurture and love the children in one eternal round. And so I see us as all participating in, as Amy referred to earlier, is one great work and I’m thankful to be part of that eternal round. We, as a new Primary presidency, we have been embraced by the Relief Society presidency, Sister Bingham, Sister Eubank and Sister Aburto, and also the Young Women presidency, Sister Cordon, Sister Craig and Sister Craven. They have welcomed us, answered our questions. And it’s really a lovely experience, the nine of us working together, counseling together with respect to the needs of the children, the young women and the women, not just of the Church, but of the world. I view our responsibility as a worldwide responsibility, of course, to the members of the Church, but to the world population at large.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Sister Porter.
Sister Susan H. Porter: I would second everything Sister Johnson said. I love being a member of the Relief Society. And it’s blessed me from the time I was a little girl watching my mother, and the spirit of service that she had. My mother was a great example. She served in the Church, she served in the community, she was always learning. And I learned so much from her example. And then early in our marriage, when we were first married, my first visiting teacher was a young mother, her husband was also a student. She had four or five little kids, they had no car, and she would walk or ride her bike over to our little student apartment at quite a sacrifice, and sit on my couch and bring me the spirit of a covenant woman of God. And I’ve never forgotten that. And then through the years, just having the opportunity to learn from women, again, all over the world, Relief Society women, daughters who have made covenants, and we’re keeping them. And so I’m just so grateful to be a member of the Relief Society.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And how about you, Sister Wright?
Sister Amy A. Wright: Thank you so much for asking this question. Because sometimes we forget that all women are members of the Relief Society organization, irrespective of where we’re serving in the Lord’s Kingdom in the moment. And it really is one of the greatest organizations in the world because there is no other organization in the world where women have more opportunities, not only to serve in presidencies or as president, but also to counsel, to teach, to testify, to expound scripture, to minister, to seek revelation, and then plan and act and execute. It really is a remarkable leadership privilege to be part of this great organization, to not just minister but to lead. And the beauty of this sacred and glorious sisterhood is that it unites women from all over the world in a common cause, which is the cause of Christ. And when we as women stand shoulder to shoulder with righteous men, we can move mountains, or, at the very least, we have the ability to climb them together. And I love that about being part of the Lord’s work and part of such a sacred organization.
Sarah Jane Weaver: That leads us right into our to our final question. We have a tradition at the Church News podcast where we always end with the same final question, and we give our guests the last word. And the question is: What do you know now? So today, I hope that each of you can can answer this question and share with us what you know now after a few weeks of serving in the General Primary Presidency and what you know now after a lifetime of service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And Sister Wright, why don’t we start with you?
Sister Amy A. Wright: So the last couple weeks we have had a crash course in, as Sister Porter so beautifully mentioned the other day, learning church. We have sat on every executive council. We have met with every department manager, head, committee, organization, working group. And one of the things that really, that has really impressed upon my heart and my mind is that there is purpose in every single one of our lives. And as we meet incredible men and women, like you, we are continuously astonished as how the Lord has guided and directed the path of their feet to serve in very specific, tailor-made, specialized capacities to do things that can help move the work of salvation and exaltation forward in such a glorious, magnificent way, in preparation for the Second Coming. And we sit in some of these councils and we’re just astonished as you see the fingerprints of the Lord in every single person’s life. And I really feel like whether you have been called of the Lord to serve in this capacity, and actually called and set apart, or if you’re calling came through the whisperings of the Spirit to pursue a particular education or vocation or to apply for a specific position, that every single person who is serving or working here at Church headquarters was absolutely guided and directed by the Spirit. And that is just a beautiful, beautiful thing to behold. And I testify that this truly is Christ’s work in his glory. And it’s not ours. And that’s really a comforting thing to know. And He is perfectly capable of doing His own work, but He invites us to be part of His work, so that we can have opportunities to stretch and grow. And I think that’s such a powerful manifestation of how much our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ love us. I testify that if we are obedient and faithful, and strive to keep our covenants to the very best of our ability, repenting every day — my husband always says, if we’re not repenting every day, then we need to repent for not repenting — that we truly can become partakers of all of our Heavenly Father’s promised blessings. I can’t even begin to imagine the definition of all, but this I do know that the greatest of which is eternal life and exaltation, which is the sacred privilege to return to live with God the Father, and Jesus Christ, again, as eternal families. And most specifically to live the type of life they live. This is my hope. This is my daily prayer. This is my testimony, in the sacred and holy name of our truest and most constant friend, Jesus Christ, amen.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Sister Porter.
Sister Susan H. Porter: I’ve been so grateful the last few weeks to be able to view the ongoing restoration and the manifestations of how Heavenly Father is hastening His work in its time, it says in the Doctrine and Covenants. And I think, as Sister Wright said, the blessing it’s been to sit on these committees, to learn of the great work that has been going forth to bring forth the great vision of our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus, to prepare for that return of the Savior. And to see consecrated men and women, acting under the direction of our Prophet to bring forth the wonderful changes that we all are experiencing. And to see those who have worked tirelessly for years, to bring the name of our Savior to a world that needs it so much. And to help each of us deepen our testimony and our connection to our Savior. I’ve also felt and thought so much about President Nelson’s talk in 2015, “A Plea to My Sisters” where he wants us to bring our voices. That word has come to me in the last two weeks. In every committee we are in, they want to hear the voices of women. And so we, I think, the three of us feel that responsibility to seek inspiration. I have a sure witness that God our Heavenly Father lives. He loves each one of us. He’s aware of us. He’s aware of our trials. He knows of our sorrows, and He wants to bless each one of us. He sent His Son to suffer for our sins, and to know what it’s like to live on Earth and we can receive the Spirit to guide us and help us in every time of need. I do testify that this is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that we are led by a prophet, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And President Johnson, what do you know now?
President Camille N. Johnson: Consistent with what Amy and Susan have said, I knew this before, because I’d heard it from the pulpit that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are interested in women’s voices, interested in their counsel. And I’ve learned that for certain having participated now for the last several weeks. I thought I might slip in on those first few meetings, and quietly take my place and observe. And I was kindly invited to the revelatory experience that was happening in those councils and asked to share my input, my thoughts, my concerns, not just as a Primary president, but as a woman and as an individual with life’s experiences. I’ve been asked to draw upon all of my experiences in expressing my thoughts. And I am thankful to know that to be true. I believed it before when I heard it from the pulpit. I’ve seen it happen and I felt a sincere interest on the part of others in knowing of the concerns of women and mothers in the gospel. I am so thankful for my testimony of divine nature, of divine potential, of the opportunity to return to a heavenly home with my parents and my family. I am certain that that is possible because of our Savior Jesus Christ. For his willingness to step forward and accept what is a challenge that’s hard for us to even comprehend, but willing to allow us to have that free agency and for Him to make all the difference so that justice could be satisfied so that we can return to our heavenly homes. I’m just so thankful to know of our Savior, to know of His commitment to us all the way to the finish line, for His mercy, for His willingness to keep working with us in our imperfect state and to provide us with the help we need. I testify that the Holy Ghost provides us with comfort and is the manner by which we feel the love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior. I am also certain that the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets, translated by Joseph Smith, with heaven’s help, but written for our day. I can testify from my own personal experience, that the Book of Mormon has the power to do just what President Nelson has promised. And that is the power to console us and comfort us, and provide us with answers that we need to our daily questions to the challenges of each and every day. I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve at this time. With a mighty Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, I testify that he communicates with our Savior Jesus Christ, who is the head of this church. And that he is the Prophet for our time, is my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests to my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.