Episode 141: The Relief Society general presidency on how ‘Jesus Christ is Relief’
President Camille N. Johnson, Sister J. Anette Dennis and Sister Kristin M. Yee join the Church News podcast to talk about faith, Jesus Christ and relief
Episode 141: The Relief Society general presidency on how ‘Jesus Christ is Relief’
President Camille N. Johnson, Sister J. Anette Dennis and Sister Kristin M. Yee join the Church News podcast to talk about faith, Jesus Christ and relief
During the April 2022 general conference, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sustained Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson and her counselors, Sister J. Anette Dennis and Sister Kristin M. Yee.
President Johnson articulated the theme of their global ministry in her April 2023 general conference address, titled “Jesus Christ Is Relief”: “We can partner with the Savior to help provide temporal and spiritual relief for those in need — and in the process find our own relief,” she said.
In 2022, Latter-day Saints answered the call to provide relief as the Church engaged in 3,692 humanitarian projects in 190 countries and territories — with 6.3 million hours of volunteer work and $1.02 billion in expenditures. The Relief Society leaders join this episode of the Church News podcast to talk about faith, Jesus Christ and relief.
President Camille N. Johnson: Clearly, the Church is making great efforts to bless our brothers and sisters, regardless of their membership in the Church, all around the world. And I hope our Relief Society sisters feel like they’re a part of that. Whether they have an opportunity to feed the starving child in Africa or simply help the neighbor across the street, they’re still part of that global effort in providing humanitarian relief. Whenever we provide relief, temporal or spiritual, we’re bringing our brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ. And the interesting fact — and I think I can say it’s a fact now — is that as we provide temporal relief, we have an opportunity to find the Savior for ourselves. And how are the sisters doing it? In small and simple ways, the way they’ve always done it.
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.
Sarah Jane Weaver: During April 2022 general conference, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sustained President Camille N. Johnson, Sister J. Anette Dennis and Sister Kristin M. Yee as the Church’s general Relief Society presidency. President Johnson articulated the theme of their global ministry in her April 2023 general conference address: “We can partner with the Savior to help provide temporal and spiritual relief for those in need — and in the process find our own relief,” she said. The leaders of millions of Relief Society sisters worldwide join the Church News podcast to talk about faith, the Savior Jesus Christ and relief. Welcome, ladies, to the podcast today.
President Camille N. Johnson, Sister J. Anette Dennis and Sister Kristin M. Yee: Thank you.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, it’s so great to have you join us. You’ve kind of had a few months to serve together as a presidency. President Johnson, how’s it going?
President Camille N. Johnson: Well, I felt confident in the names I submitted as counselors. And at this point, I feel ever more confident that the Lord sent me the two angels that I needed on my right and on my left to move the work of Relief Society forward. So, it’s been a blessing to serve for these months with Anette Dennis and Kristin Yee. They’re my dear friends; and as it turns out, I’m quite certain that we’ve been friends for the eternities.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And Sister Dennis and Sister Yee, we hope to have you on the podcast again later so you can tell us all about your lives and about yourself. But for our listeners, maybe you could just introduce yourselves very quickly.
Sister J. Anette Dennis: Well, Anette Dennis; I have four kids, and I have nine grandkids. And my husband and I served as mission leaders in Ecuador, and then again in the temple presidency in Ecuador, and never imagined that I would be in this calling. This is not something that I had ever thought that I would be in. But it is a wonderful opportunity. This year has been so wonderful with our presidency and our advisory council. We are so united, and it’s just been very inspiring to see what the Lord has inspired us to focus on in this last year and come to know what our presidency should carry forward in this year. It’s been wonderful. I love Sister Johnson and Sister Yee; they are amazing, and I’ve learned so much from them. I’m an introvert, and they’re not. And I think a lot before I speak, and it’s been wonderful too. I’ve learned so much from them and to watch them work, and it’s been a great — almost year.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Great. Sister Yee?
Sister Kristin M. Yee: I don’t know if you would say you’re the only introvert on this table. I’m on the extrovert end of the introvert scale, perhaps. But I love being with people, and I love being with these sisters. And it’s a special gift in my life. And a little bit about me: born in Sacramento, California; second of five children; family grew up mostly in California, then my mother moved us to Burley, Idaho, so we had the chance to be in a rural setting and to work on an orchard and learn all the ways of putting in sprinklers, which I still do in my own home. And then I studied illustration and design. I’m an artist and a producer, and I love doing that work. And I love serving in Relief Society. I love being with the sisters of the world. And I love seeing how the Lord loves His daughters in such personal and powerful ways. It’s a real privilege to serve in His kingdom for this time.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And President Johnson, we’re going to link to a podcast we did with you just as you became general Relief Society president after serving as the general Primary president for a year. But when you spoke in April general conference, that address literally took my breath away. I was sitting in the congregation with my three daughters thinking, “Wow, this is their legacy. This is the Relief Society that they’re going to be a part of.” And so, as we start today, I’m hoping you can just talk a little bit about that phrase — “Jesus Christ is relief” — and tell us what the topic means to you and how the inspiration came to you for that talk.
President Camille N. Johnson: Thank you for the opportunity to express my feelings on that. As I — and we as a presidency — reflected upon what it meant to be part of the Relief Society, we spent more than one afternoon at the whiteboard in our council room and brainstormed, and I think we sought the help of heaven. We sought inspiration about what it meant to be part of a Relief Society. And the conclusion we drew is that members of the Relief Society bring their sisters — and their brothers also — to the Savior Jesus Christ, who is the source of all of our relief. He’s the source of our relief from sin. He’s also the source of relief from the burden of mortality. And it was from that brainstorming session that that thought started to take flight. And my first opportunity to speak in general conference as the Relief Society presented an opportunity to raise that.
I had the Sunday morning session of general conference. And if you read my talk, or if you were listening, you’ll know that I did not reference Relief Society. I’m happy, Sarah, that you knew that that’s what I was talking about. Relief Society is in the footnotes, and there are references to the origins of Relief Society in the footnotes to my talk, but the message is for everyone, not just for sisters who are members of the Relief Society. Jesus Christ is the source of relief for all of us, and as we make covenants with our Heavenly Father, through our Savior, Jesus Christ, we are entitled to priesthood power, all of us, men and women. And that power brings us increased capacity, it brings us the relief that we need to work through the challenges of the day.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Wow. Sister Yee and Sister Dennis, do you have anything to add about your feelings for that phrase?
Sister J. Anette Dennis: Well, to me, “Jesus Christ is relief” means that I don’t have to navigate this life and all its challenges alone. And I don’t have to have all the answers to all of life’s difficult questions. And as I follow Jesus Christ and turn to Him for help and strength, I can find peace, and that peace provides so much relief. The Savior has taught me so much about His relief, especially over the last 10 years. Ten years ago this month, my husband and I headed to Ecuador with our 15-year-old daughter to serve as mission leaders. And our 18-year-old son was to leave for his mission two weeks later. About five months into our mission, while we were in a zone conference, we got a call from our son’s mission president in El Salvador. He told us our son was in the hospital, soon to be moved to a more specialized hospital, because he had dengue fever, and he was in very serious condition.
We found out later that the doctors were concerned he wouldn’t make it. We were thousands of miles away, and there was nothing we could do but fast and pray. And we wouldn’t be there in the hospital with him. We couldn’t talk to the doctors and make sure he was getting the right care. We couldn’t do anything. It was completely out of our control. But as we turned to the Lord in prayer and submitted our will to His, we felt a great deal of peace. We didn’t know if our son would live or die. But we felt assurances that everything would be all right, whatever the outcome. That peace provided us great relief, and that peace came through the Savior and the power of His Atonement. We have experienced that peace at many different times through many different challenges that our family has experienced. And that feeling of peace has always brought great relief. And I do feel that Jesus Christ truly is relief.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Beautiful.
Sister Kristin M. Yee: When I think of relief, I think of a partnership; someone to carry the load with me, someone to understand what I’m feeling and thinking and the concerns I have in my mind — that eternal companionship and that partnership we have through a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. That’s what I think about that brings me the most relief. And as Sister Johnson and Dennis have talked about, that relief from sin, to know that I am redeemed is something I don’t know if I have words for, to receive a cleansing joy that only comes through Him, to know I can try again, and again, and again, is something I’m just so grateful for. That relief to know that I can receive His forgiveness if I sincerely repent is a great joy in my life, and that partnership with Him and all the things that we are doing.
And especially as a single sister in different places in my life, there are many challenges I need to consult with someone. And that Someone, capital S, is my Savior and my Heavenly Father, for those things which are in my mind and heart and to turn to them instantly, always, and to know I’m heard and understood completely brings great relief. My circumstances don’t always change, but my heart does, and the peace that I receive and the confidence I receive, and the ability to see more as He sees me, gives me that capacity to do what He’s asking me to do. And I’m so ever grateful for that.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And I’m so thankful that we could talk about spiritual relief; all of us need that in our lives. And I’m thankful there’s another part of that, which is temporal relief. President Johnson, you were just in Africa, you actually witnessed some of the temporal relief that the Church provides every day, especially when it comes to helping children and families. Can you tell us a little bit about what you learned from that trip?
President Camille N. Johnson: Clearly, the Church is making great efforts to bless our brothers and sisters, regardless of their membership in the Church, all around the world. And I hope our Relief Society sisters feel like they’re a part of that. Whether they have an opportunity to feed the starving child in Africa or simply help the neighbor across the street, they’re still part of that global effort in providing humanitarian relief.
One of the things that was just so poignant to me was that in Africa, we were reaching the most vulnerable populations; children and mothers who were desperate and hungry and needed education and needed the relief, the temporal relief, that we were able to provide. I was so touched that we found them and overwhelmed by feelings of love for them and the love that our Heavenly Father has for them individually. So, that we had been put in a place and a position so that we could help in those remote locations just reassured me or gave me even greater confidence and a testimony that our Heavenly Father is aware of each of His children.
Sarah Jane Weaver: In 2022, the Church gave over a billion dollars in humanitarian aid to bless the Lord’s children all over the world. Something that is not included in that figure that is so remarkable to me is the hours and hours of service that comes from our own members. How are Relief Society sisters all over the world providing relief?
President Camille N. Johnson: Well, whenever we provide relief, temporal or spiritual, we’re bringing our brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ. And the interesting fact — and I think I can say it’s a fact now — is that as we provide temporal relief, we have an opportunity to find the Savior for ourselves. The example I used in my conference talk is the paralytic man who was brought by his friends to the Savior. But they found the Savior as well. They thought they were providing temporal relief in just bringing him there, but they received spiritual relief in finding Him. And how are the sisters doing it? In small and simple ways, the way they’ve always done it, looking out for their neighbor, being listening ears to someone who just needs someone to talk to. They don’t have to be grand efforts, but just our simple, everyday efforts are making a difference and bringing our friends closer to the Savior.
Sister J. Anette Dennis: When I was in Trinidad, back in September, we had a trip, and I was able to meet with a group of Relief Society women. And it was amazing to me how many of the women had lost family members and especially husbands during the pandemic. It was so sad the number of family members they had lost in the pandemic. And I was listening to an older woman who had been just a rock and an example to so many of her sisters. She lost her husband — they had been a strength to their ward, and she lost her husband — and she talked about that experience, how difficult it was. But other sisters talked about how she was the one that went out and gave them comfort and relief, even during her time of sorrow. And they just lifted each other, and it was beautiful to see this is something that the Relief Society does and something that’s such a blessing, that we can belong to Relief Society because we’re a sisterhood. But this small group of sisters just gave each other relief in times of very great tragedy. And it just was an example to me of what we can do as sisters.
Sister Kristin M. Yee: It’s a cycle, isn’t it? Every time we need help, He points us to someone else in need. And then in there, we find that relief that you, Sister Johnson, just spoke about. And ministering is a powerful tool that He knows that will bless us and answer our prayers. And many times, we don’t feel we have the strength, and we need to ask for that strength because we’re not always perfectly positioned; we don’t feel like we have the time or the energy or the ability to receive or to give. And He knows that. And I think part of that, sisters call upon our Heavenly Father to receive the strength to minister, and so in return, receive those gifts and blessings that they need.
And as Sister Johnson said, we’ve been always doing this. And I think it’s because it’s in the heart of every sister to nurture. It’s just in our natures to care for others. The Lord knows the Relief Society is built and instituted to be able to provide that relief and to act upon the virtues in our hearts and allows His love to come through freely because it is already instilled in us in such a way.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, you know, I had an experience a few years ago: The Relief Society had asked sisters to help with refugees coming into their communities. And I wanted to participate and answer that invitation, and I was looking for a way to do that. And I remember praying about it. And one night, I got such a clear answer on what that would look like. And it just came right into my heart that the Lord, instead of reaching out to a refugee, wanted me to help a family member who was struggling with so many different issues. There were self-reliance issues, and there was mental health issues, and there was all kinds of things that were going to be hard to tackle. And I remember receiving that answer and getting back down on my knees and saying, “Heavenly Father, I would like a different refugee,” because I wanted something that was a little more public that I could share on my social media. I wanted something that I could feel good about. I wanted to put in less effort and feel like I changed something, and this felt hard and long-term. And I can’t say that I have had great success with that. I can say that I have grown closer to the Savior as I’ve tried to do that.
What advice do you have for people who are just trying to do this, and sometimes it doesn’t feel as great as we like to present it? How do we provide relief day to day, month to month, year to year?
President Camille N. Johnson: I think your example is a great one, Sarah. You got on your knees, and you asked for an answer, and when you got the one you didn’t care to hear, you got back on your knees and asked a second time for reconfirmation that that’s really what He wanted for you. But I do think that’s the key. The Prophet’s told us we’re not going to be able to survive spiritually without the ability to receive and then act upon the promptings of the Holy Ghost. And you did just that, and that’s the answer. I think you’re absolutely right; it’s so much easier to say, “I donated to the orphanage in Peru. It feels so good to me. I just can imagine how thrilled those children were to receive whatever my donation was.” That feels better, easier and detached, as opposed to me having to deal with my ornery neighbor or my disagreeable family member. And yet, who’s going to take care of those people that are closest in my sphere of influence? It ought to be me.
And sometimes, just — it’s hard to come up with the solutions for those people that are closest to us. But we can, and we can get them if we turn to the Lord for help. Jesus Christ is the source of our relief and their relief. But we go in prayer to our Heavenly Father through the Savior Jesus Christ and ask for inspiration from the Holy Ghost to know what to do next. And then you just take the step. And then you ask again, “Am I going in the right direction?” and reaffirm that you’re doing what you should be doing. But I think your example is perfect.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Wow, thank you so much.
President Camille N. Johnson: The other thing is, in your example, you didn’t get to check that person off your list. That’s the other thing. We still kind of like our checklist mentality, and when we donate to the orphanage in Peru, “Check. I checked my humanitarian efforts. I provided temporal relief.” We’re not doing that anymore, and we’re not doing checklists; we’re doing higher and holier, which means your assignment from heaven that you received when you asked is long-term, and you may never check it off.
Sarah Jane Weaver: What do you think are some of the greatest challenges facing women today, especially when we look at all that we have in front of us as Latter-day Saints?
Sister J. Anette Dennis: I think some of those challenges are feeling alone. Especially because of our technology right now, we’re so used to just texting or looking at things online, and we’re not spending a lot of time together. And I think that’s one of the challenges that women have right now is technology. And it’s incredible because it should be the generation that’s most connected because we can connect to people all over the world. But the studies show that the loneliness that is felt in this day and age is greater than it’s ever been. And so, I think as we go out — and as Sister Johnson just said — as we go out and find ways to connect with others, the Lord provides His relief through us. We’re those instruments that He does that with, and I’ve seen it in our own lives.
My daughter deals with some emotional health things. And I think that’s a very big challenge right now with sisters around the world, in emotional and mental health. And I’ve just watched as people do small and simple things — they would just sit and listen to her, go on a walk or things like that — that just mean so much. And she’s come to know that the Savior is with her through that. As we do that kind of thing, that feeling of loneliness, that feeling that is so prevalent right now in our society — as we go out and walk across the street and talk with our neighbors, we walk around the block with someone that might be feeling lonely, we also feel filled by the Savior, as Sister Johnson said; we find our own relief that way.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And I want to direct a follow-up question to that to Sister Yee because she’s younger than the rest of us and actually grew up with technology. How do we connect to one another in a time when we are first and foremost connected to our phones and to social media?
Sister Kristin M. Yee: The thought that just comes to mind is: The first connection that helps you to connect well with others is connection with God. If that’s the first relationship where we spend our most time and we find our greatest validation — I mean, especially as women, I think we’re seeking validation all the time. We’re looking at, “Are we doing this, OK? Am I saying this right? Do I look OK?” And you have those thoughts and that validation. A good friend of mine called and said, “What we need more in this world is vertical validation, with our Heavenly Father and our Savior.” And if we are in sync with Them, and we have that connection, we understand what They feel about us, it’s going to be a lot easier to open up and look around and see others as He sees you, because you understand how He feels about you. Now, you understand what He feels about your neighbor, He feels about you, Sarah, He feels about all of us. And you can see that more readily when that relationship is centered in Him. So, taking that first step to center with Him allows us to open that communication to see things differently.
And also following the Spirit in that space. When you have a lot of devices, you’re going to know when you feel great about being on one or not great after you get off of one for how many hours or minutes you’ve been on something. And I’ve noticed that in my life; I get on there for a moment, but I have to be really purposeful with how I’m using technology. And I rarely want to get on there, to be honest, because I don’t always feel uplifted, or I don’t always feel directed or growth or anything in that space unless I’m looking for something specific or to connect in a specific way.
And so, I try to spend more time connecting with Him, which allows me to connect with the right people. And I’m also able to hear the Spirit better to know who I should connect with. There’s a lot of people that we can connect with in our lives. You can spend your whole day texting and calling the world and emailing. But only He knows who’s the most important people that you need to be with that day. And it’s so helpful — especially, I feel like, in this presidency — to understand where are our ministry and our focus. And even on your personal level, all the people that you can connect with, He can direct you in that and help you to know in our prayers, and as we ask, “Who today, help me to feel” — even though you might have 1,400 things on your to-do list — “what are the three most important things?” And maybe not even on your list are people or things that you need to follow up with according to His desire and His will. And that always ends up being the better list, when we get it from Him.
Sister J. Anette Dennis: There are — in the space of those that are struggling with depression, anxiety, those kinds of things — often they can’t feel that connection. They can’t feel that love from the Lord even though they try to find it. But when someone goes and connects with them personally and brings their love to them, it’s amazing how it opens their heart, and they can start feeling the Savior’s love for them even when it’s been difficult. So, I agree so much with what Sister Yee said. You know, in that space, we can try to connect with heaven first, but there are some that haven’t been able to, but it’s through those around them, that feeling, that love, that oftentimes opens that, where they can begin to feel the Savior’s love and care for them.
Sarah Jane Weaver: That actually makes me think of one of my favorite things that I’ve ever observed from President Nelson. We were in Peru; he was meeting with a group of youth. And this young girl — actually, she almost sounded desperate — but she yelled out to him as he was leaving the room and said, “President Nelson, my family is inactive in the Church. What should I do?” And he turned, and he looked at her right in the eyes. And he said, “You and I are just alike.” Now, that phrase caught my attention because we had been in Peru maybe eight hours, and President Nelson had met with the president of that nation and was just about to address tens of thousands of members in that country in an arena, where they had all traveled miles and miles and miles to hear him speak. And now he’s saying to a 14-year-old, who is maybe the only member in her family, certainly the only active member in her family, “You and I are just alike.”
And he said he too was raised in a home where he had parents who are not active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And then the advice he gave her was so sweet. He said, “The way forward is simple. Your family and your friends will see the light of Jesus Christ reflected in you.” And maybe that’s what that means when we say that as we reach out to provide relief, we get it back.
President Johnson, what’s the best way for us to figure out how to share the Savior’s light?
President Camille N. Johnson: Well, we’ll know if we ask. It depends on if we want to do it His way or our way. So, we may think the best way is for — as Sister Yee just described — for me to look at my list of a hundred things to do and prioritize it on my own. And I’ll probably get a few good things accomplished. But if I want to do it in the best possible way, I start my morning with scripture study, I get on my knees to say my prayers and then I ask Him to help me with respect to prioritizing that list of a hundred. And sometimes we’ll come up with things that we haven’t listed, I mean, that He wants us to do first. So, the best way is to turn to Him and seek His help.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And sometimes I want to do it my way.
President Camille N. Johnson: Absolutely, yeah.
Sarah Jane Weaver: So, it’s always hard,
Sister Kristin M. Yee: But it’s often not convenient to follow those small promptings because let’s say you had a plan to do this and someone crosses your path. And you know He’s put them there for a reason, and you know you need to pause. And I was just thinking of the Savior in that respect. His ministry was a ministry of pausing and stopping. He was always going somewhere, but He stopped to heal the leper, He stopped to teach, He stopped to lift. And so, what does that tell us?
President Camille N. Johnson: And He ministered in different ways. It wasn’t a “one size fits all,” everybody gets the text message ministry. But it was “What does this individual need?” Sometimes, just some words of encouragement. Other times, a touch.
Sister Kristin M. Yee: Other times, it was a full, “let’s sit down and minister.”
President Camille N. Johnson: Yeah, a sermon.
Sister J. Anette Dennis: Haven’t you noticed that when we’re assigned to go places, often I feel that it’s not really for that meeting we go to do; it’s not often for that women’s devotional or the Relief Society instruction. But we are ministering to the one. He has someone that needs our attention. And it’s been amazing to me to watch that. He is so concerned about the one that we have gotten an assignment to go to instruct or to speak. But yet, really, He’s sending us there for that one.
And I had that opportunity just recently when I was in Dallas, to be in the home of someone that needed to know of His love. She had stepped away from the Church and had so many questions, but just sitting with her and hugging her and letting her cry and telling her that He knew her and loved her, and feeling that Spirit. She told me after that she will never forget that because she felt His love. And I think that’s why we’re sent. And it’s interesting to watch because we could be sent anywhere. And I’ve heard the Apostles say the same thing, you know, that these assignments are inspired. And it’s often for the one.
Sister Kristin M. Yee: I think it is. We see that in all of our ministries. He answers prayers that you don’t know that you’re answering at times. So you just think, even He can use you to answer a prayer if we’re willing to go and put ourselves in that position, to open our mouths and to testify and to feel and to stop and love.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And it may also be knowing who we are. President Johnson, I’ve heard you talk about or quote President Russell M. Nelson’s talk on identity, where he said there’s three identities that each of us should understand.
President Camille N. Johnson: Oh, we’ve talked a lot about that. That first one is that we’re children of a loving Heavenly Father. And when we know who we are, as Sister Yee just said, we look at others differently. We treat them differently. We have to know who we are and that we’re loved and valued. That second identity, child of the covenant, oh wow — there’s so much power in that. But it’s an identity that we choose. We choose to be children of the covenant. We choose to make covenants, we choose to keep covenants. And when we do, we have access to that priesthood power that increases our capacity. And then the last is disciple of Jesus Christ. That was the last identity that he used. And of course, that represents not just our relationship between God and us, but also with others. As we’re disciples of Jesus Christ, we understand who we are, and our relationship with God, then we can look outward as his disciples and bless the lives of others.
I think it’s interesting that President Nelson — and this thought came to me when you were describing his interaction with that 14-year-old girl. He told her that they shared an identity; he helped connect with her in that way. I thought it was most interesting and inspiring as he came up with the three most important identifiers for him, they are ones we can share. He’s the Prophet of God on the earth today, and yet the three most important identifiers he uses for himself are ones that we can all share with him.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I absolutely love that.
Sister Kristin M. Yee: I’m just thinking, and there’s so many identities today that are reaching for us, especially the rising generation coming up. People are clamoring to belong to something: “I must identify with something because everyone else is. So I need to be interesting or important too.” Many people will cling to so many other identities. But those are the three — that you just mentioned, Sister Johnson — the only ones as President Nelson said that will bring us to salvation and exaltation are those three true identities of eternal capacity.
Sister J. Anette Dennis: So important. I love the doctrine of “I am a child of God.” It’s something that our children learn from the time they’re so young, when they sing “I Am a Child of God.” And we don’t understand what an important doctrine that is, because as they truly understand who they are, deep in their hearts, it will help them so much in their lives to be able to avoid things that could bring them harm. I love Moses 1, where God the Father is talking to Moses and showing him all His creations. And He says, multiple times, “Moses, my son,” “Moses, thou art my Son,” “Moses, thou art in the similitude of my only begotten.” And then after He leaves, Satan comes, and he says, “Moses, son of man, worship me.” But Moses knows who he is. And so he says, “Who art thou that I should worship thee? I am a son of God, and only Him will I worship.” It’s an amazing, important doctrine to teach everyone, and it’s so foundational, that if we understand who we really are, everything else becomes clearer. And I just have a strong testimony of that.
Sarah Jane Weaver: When I think of worship, I think of temples. President Dallin H. Oaks just dedicated the Richmond Virginia Temple, and President M. Russell Ballard rededicated a temple in Columbus, Ohio. And President Nelson has announced so many temples; now we have 315 temples that are announced or under construction or dedicated in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Johnson, how do covenants and temples bless the lives of Latter-day Saint women?
President Camille N. Johnson: Well, it is our desire to see every one of our Relief Society sisters endowed in the house of the Lord, holding a current temple recommend. And there are multiple reasons, but one most important reason is that as we make and keep those sacred covenants, we are entitled to priesthood power. And I’ve pondered a lot what that means in the life of a sister. What does priesthood power look like in the day-to-day lives of our Relief Society sisters? And most recently, the thought has come to me: It means increased capacity. We had as a presidency the opportunity to address a group of sisters in Haiti at a Relief Society devotional, and they’re suffering. There’s disorder in their government, natural disaster, disease, food scarcity — and what sort of message of hope could we deliver to those sisters?
I felt impressed to remind them of the blessings and power associated with their covenant keeping. Because as they keep the covenants that they’ve made in the temple, they’re entitled to call down the powers of heaven, priesthood power, and increase their capacity. Now, that may not mean that food scarcity changes, but their increased capacity, their priesthood power, may help them problem-solve the food scarcity so they know how to take a little and turn it into enough for their family. Increased capacity, that priesthood power, may give them the patience they need, the forgiveness that needs to come to their hearts, so that they can endure these earthly challenges. So, the blessing and power of keeping our covenants is a relationship, a covenantal relationship, with our Savior that gives us power and capacity.
Sister J. Anette Dennis: When I was serving in the Ecuador temple as assistant to the matron, I had the privilege of being able to instruct sisters who were coming in to get their endowment for the first time. And at that time, I felt very strongly — even though it wasn’t on the list of things to instruct about — I knew that there were many who were single mothers whose husbands had either left or had died or that might not have a priesthood holder in their home. And I felt so strongly that I needed to help them understand that as they made these covenants in the temple, and as they kept them, they would have priesthood power in their home, even if they didn’t have a priesthood holder in their home. And it helped them so much.
We have so many sisters; this women’s devotional in Haiti, I’m sure there were many sisters there that are heads of household for their family. But upon understanding this doctrine — that as they make and keep covenants with God, they can call down his power to strengthen them and their families — it’s just such an important doctrine to understand. And I’m so grateful that we have these covenants and that we have the ability to go to the house of the Lord.
Sister Kristin M. Yee: I was just thinking, as you’re saying that, Sister Dennis, as we go to the house of the Lord, we learn a lot more about the Savior’s role. And we learn how He is central to all of those blessings. And we begin to understand more of who we were before we came to this earth, what we are doing here, and what He intends for us to do here, and the strength we can receive here, and the blessings we can receive here, and then what He intends for us to become in the eternities.
That eternal perspective, which comes from the house of the Lord, provides that roadmap which grounds us to eternity versus the interim — which is our current life situation — which allows us to make decisions that will give us greater capacity. That capacity that Sister Johnson talked about, that is definitely the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all made possible through Him, and the more we go to the temple, we begin to understand His central part in that role that we receive, as it says in the scriptures, the power of God, and great glory comes upon us. And what for? To our eternal happiness, because He wants us to receive great joy in the eternities. That capacity comes from Him.
Sarah Jane Weaver: In 2018, I covered the dedication of the Concepción Chile Temple. And the temple president shared the sweetest story with me. He said that as they were calling and preparing temple workers to work in the temple, he called in a sister and extended a call for her to be a temple worker. And then she started telling him a little bit about her life; and her husband was very ill, and she was caring for him full time, and she had responsibilities for other family members. And he pulled back, and he said, “Maybe it’s better that you not serve in the temple at this time but that you just come to the temple whenever you can.” And he said the sister pulled out of her purse this battered old copy of her patriarchal blessing, which was given decades earlier and promised that one day she would serve as a temple worker in this Concepción Chile Temple.
And I was just so awestruck by the faith of that sister. You know, she would have received that blessing long before President Gordon B. Hinckley had introduced the concept of smaller temples, and probably long before President Spencer W. Kimball started building smaller temples even 20 years before that. And yet, she had the faith to hold on to that promise and to understand what that meant for her covenants. President Johnson, I am sure you have seen that kind of faith exhibited throughout the world.
President Camille N. Johnson: Well, the example you just gave is an example of a sister keeping the covenant to sacrifice. In her willingness to sacrifice, she trusted that it would bring forth the blessings of heaven — from that beloved hymn, “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.” And yes, all over the world, we see sisters going to what we would describe, I think, as extraordinary effort to keep the covenants that they’ve made, to sacrifice and to consecrate what they have to bless the lives of others. And that is out of devotion to our Savior, Jesus Christ, and it’s because they understand He’s the source of our relief.
Sister Kristin M. Yee: And I love that, Sister Johnson. I was just thinking, we’ve talked about many times, too, not to wait to be perfect to receive His perfect love and power. That’s not what He asks. President Nelson said we just need to believe. We need to believe, and He will help us become perfect.
President Camille N. Johnson: Perfection is pending, in Him
Sister Kristin M. Yee: Don’t wait to receive those blessings of the temple.
Sarah Jane Weaver: What do you wish that all Latter-day Saint women understood?
President Camille N. Johnson: One thing that comes to my mind quickly is that the Prophet has answers for us. I’ve had the rare pleasure of having him look right into my eyes. And in a way that I have never felt it before, I felt the love of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I’m confident and can testify that President Russell M. Nelson is a prophet of God, and he is especially interested in the sisters. And he has answered so many of the questions that they have. And I hope the sisters would turn to his words. He’s spoken so frequently about issues that sisters talk about, and yet it breaks my heart when they turn to other sources instead of him first, because he has addressed so many of our concerns.
So, stay at the trunk of the tree with the Prophet. Look for your answers there, amongst living prophets in the scriptures and by seeking personal revelation. I know the Holy Ghost will bear witness of the truthfulness of the words that President Nelson and his counselors and the Twelve are speaking. And there is hope in the words that he offers. He wants us to be a joyful people. President Nelson has said we’re the women that prophets foresaw and that we need to be “distinct and different — in happy ways.” We should be happy women, not discouraged. And yes, some women are bearing burdens. But I trust that the Savior will carry the load with us if we’ll let Him.
Sister J. Anette Dennis: I wish all women understood that they are truly beloved daughters of heavenly parents. That’s such a beautiful doctrine that we have in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. And I wish they understood, too, that our Savior can understand everything that we would ever go through. Alma 7:11-13 talks about that, that He took upon Himself not just our sins but all of our pains, our sufferings, our sicknesses, our infirmities, so that He would know, it says, “according to the flesh,” what we are going through, and so that He would be able to run to us in our hour of need as we turn to Him, as we reach out to Him, just as Peter did; when he was sinking, he called out and reached out to the Savior.
You know, he could walk on the water as long as he kept his focus on the Savior. But when he put his focus on all of the winds and the waves and the storm, he started to sink. And we always think about, “Well, he didn’t have enough faith.” No, he did. He walked on the water. But what we ought to really focus on is that in his time when he was starting to sink, he reached out and he cried out to the Savior, and the Savior immediately lifted him and walked back with him to the boat. He’ll do the same thing for us. I wish our sisters knew that and knew that they can call on Him and He really will be there for them.
Sister Kristin M. Yee: I was just pondering on those words, and the thought just comes, too, that, to know how much they are truly loved by their Heavenly Father and their Savior, that all that They do for them is out of love. And that — as Sister Johnson was talking about the Prophet — they want to know what’s on the Lord’s mind. They will hear it through his prophet. If you want to know what Heavenly Father intends for His children, you will hear it through His prophets and His apostles. They speak the will of the Lord, and for them — and our prayers can be answered through our covenant relationship. We have so many prayers, we have so many desires, interests and challenges and complexities and individual circumstances that only He knows.
And that’s why that covenant relationship is personal and is tailored and is so important to build and to offer yourself in that way and sacrifice for that, because He is sacrificing everything He can to give us the blessings that we are praying for, and we can receive them. That’s the miracle. We can receive these blessings now through the Savior Jesus Christ and through a covenant relationship, one that He intends for all of His children. It’s nonexclusive. This is not an exclusive club.
He’s gathering His children across the earth, every single one of them. He’s calling to them, to each of us, those within the Church and those without, in small ways. He never stops calling for them home. And so, as we help each other to keep our covenants — and others we invite in ways that are where they’re at right now — to take a step towards, as President Nelson said, anytime you help anyone anywhere to take a step towards making a covenant with God, that step is really individual per child of God on this earth, we will know how to do that through the Spirit to invite or to share, to love, to say hello, whatever that looks like. But as we keep our covenant relationship with Him, the prayers that we have in our hearts will be answered in His time and in His wisdom and in love, and He truly does love His daughters.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And that’s such a beautiful way to sort of end the podcast. We have a tradition at the podcast: We always give our guests the last word, and we always have them answer the same question. And it’s “What do you know now?” And so, we’ll turn the mic over to each of you. And we’ll start with Sister Yee and then go to Sister Dennis, and we’ll conclude with President Johnson, and have each of you answer the question “What do you know now after serving in the general Relief Society presidency?”
Sister Kristin M. Yee: I don’t think it’s new, necessarily, maybe, to me — but it’s deeper, that I’ve learned. And one of them is how much He just loves the one. And we’ll find the one. And He will bless the one. And if we are opening our hearts to serving Him, He will help you to find the one, and sometimes you are the one. But He will find them, and He will bless them, and He will do it in His way. That’s another thing I have always known but deeper: He will do it in His time and in His way. And it is the best way. And if we trust Him, that it will work out for our good and for all those around us to the blessing of our souls in the ways which we need.
Sister J. Anette Dennis: I know now with an even greater depth of understanding than I had before that our Heavenly Father has a special place in His heart for His daughters. He loves His daughters with a love that we can’t even begin to imagine. And when we begin to feel that love in a greater way, it’s very healing, and it brings so much peace. I also, as Sister Yee knows, I know He cares for the one. I know that He knows each one of us so intimately, and He puts us into each other’s orbits in ways that are truly miraculous if we just look for that. Sometimes it’s in such natural ways that we don’t even notice. But He’s trying to show us His love and trying to bless us all the time. We just need to be aware of it; we need to be looking for it.
He can reach out and provide relief in so many ways. But I think He most often does it through others. Because in that way, both are blessed; as Sister Johnson talked about, those friends that brought their friend who was infirmed to the Savior, and by doing that, they found their relief as well. I know that in a greater depth. I’ve always known it, but it has become so clear to me over this last year that we have served together. And feeling His direction, seeing the way He has led us just in small and simple ways to have the focus that we have, it has become very, very clear to me how much He loves His daughters.
President Camille N. Johnson: Well, I have learned the principle that Jesus Christ is the source of our relief and that He will raise us and direct us and bless us. And often it is through the efforts of someone else. And I’ve learned the lesson perhaps the hard way, that when I try to go at it alone and do things by myself, I’m rejecting the relief that He’s trying to offer me through someone else. So frequently I have said — I have rejected help or offers of assistance — with my typical phrase, “I’m good. I’ve got this.” And I’m learning that when I do that, I’m failing to take advantage of the relief that the Savior is providing to me and offering to me through others. He is the source of our relief. I am certain that He lives, that He loves us. He loves sisters. And I know that our capacity to love others increases as we keep the covenants we’ve made with Him, as we draw closer to Him and try to become more like Him.
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, rate and review this podcast so it can be accessible to more people. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests; 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 channels or with other news and updates of the Church on TheChurchNews.com.