The key of life is to submit oneself "joyfully, voluntarily and quietly" to God's will, Virginia H. Pearce told thousands of women gathered at the Marriott Center on Thursday morning.
Pearce, former first counselor in the general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Young Women organization, was the keynote speaker for the 1998 Women's Conference sponsored by the LDS Relief Society and Brigham Young University. The conference is scheduled to continue through Friday afternoon.Pearce compared her idea of the key of life - taken from the definition of "humility" in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism - to the Egyp-tian ankh. The symbol, which resembles a cross, has come to mean the sign or key of life, Pearce said.
"Our sign of life, our key to life in all of its majestic and meaningful simplicity is Jesus Christ," she said.
This year's Women's Conference is expected to draw 15,000 visitors from all over the country to the BYU campus. The annual conference has grown from a small affair put together by a few volunteer BYU students in the 1970s to its current status of challenging Education Week in size and scope.
"It is growing immensely," said BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins. "It's being compared to Education Week."
The 1998 conference offers more than 200 speakers during 100 sessions. Portions of the conference, including Pearce's keynote speech, will be broadcast over the LDS Church satellite system to sites throughout the United States. In addition, many of the talks are to be published by Deseret Book or made available on audio tape.
Conferencegoers regularly fill not only BYU classrooms and dormitories, but also Provo restaurants and hotels. About half the participants come from outside Utah.
Pearce, daughter of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, set the tone for the conference by speaking on the theme, "May Christ Lift Thee Up." She outlined several things that will happen when a person dedicates his or her life to God.
"Our accountability to God will be clearer and our scrambling to meet the expectations of everyone else will be muted," she said. "We will not have the burden of judging ourselves or others by an outward checklist."
In addition, she said, submitting one's life to God makes it easier to keep covenants and obey God's commandments. She recalled how her friend and general president of the Primary, Pat Pinegar, taught her that the best motivation for living God's laws is love.
Pearce told the women assembled that using the key of life will allow them to view routine tasks as something more than drudgery.
"It seems that every task I do - be it visiting teaching, carpooling, solving problems in the workplace, changing diapers, writing memos, making arrangements on the telephone - becomes ennobled if I do them in the spirit of an offering to God," she said.
Also, she said, the key of life helps people to live on a higher plane by thinking of others' needs before their own. She quoted Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who is fond of saying that ethics is "knowing the difference between what you have a right to do, and what is the right thing to do."
Pearce told conferencegoers that living according to the key of life will help them avoid being victimized by either successes or failures, and will ensure their needs will be met.
"Pride and egotism injure a soul as surely as do bitterness and pain of affliction and failure," she said.
Finally, she said, devoting one's life to God will guarantee ultimate success. But those who would do it must be prepared to recommit themselves time and again.
Among the speakers scheduled for Friday are Young Women general president Margaret D. Nadauld; composer Janice Kapp Perry; biographer and general Relief Society second counselor Sheri L. Dew; and Virginia U. Jensen, first counselor in the Relief Society's general presidency.