Approximately 3,000 women attended a free women’s conference in New England on Saturday, May 30, which included a surprise visit from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The conference, titled “Let Your Light Shine 2015” and held in Lowell, Massachusetts, just north of Boston, attracted women from many faiths. More than 350 of the conference attendees represented faiths other than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Women from 13 LDS stakes from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island attended the event. A special meeting was held Friday, May 29, in Weston, Massachusetts, where Sheri Dew, president and CEO of Deseret Book, spoke to 800 women. Her remarks were video-cast live to 22 meetinghouses.
The morning session of the Saturday conference was at the historic Lowell Memorial Auditorium. Lowell Mayor Rodney Elliott welcomed the group, saying that as a husband, father of two daughters and grandfather to two girls, he felt “qualified” to welcome such a large group of women.
"My life has been blessed by the power of women," Elliott said.
Speakers included Sandra Rogers, BYU international vice president and member of the LDS General Relief Society Board; and blogger Stephanie Nielsen, who survived a plane crash and is the author of the memoir "Heaven is Here."
Cynthia Pearce, conference planning committee chairwoman, surprised the audience with the announcement that a special visitor would speak to the conference attendees. Elder Holland then entered the stage.
More than 25 workshops were offered in the Lowell High School buildings in the afternoon in three sessions. Among the presenters were Katrina Lantos Swett, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; David Holland, associate professor of North American religious history at Harvard Divinity School; Jeanne F. Duffy, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School; Whitney Johnson, founder and managing director of Springboard Fund; Alison Caldwell-Andrews, past faculty member at Yale University School of Medicine; and Barbara Morgan, Boston institute director.
Women attending the conference brought gently used articles of clothing to donate to “Catie’s Closet,” a local provider for underprivileged school-aged children and young adults, and handmade fleece blankets and knitted baby hats for Lowell Hospital.
Laurie Low is the director for public affairs for the LDS Church in the Boston area.