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LDS Church’s new Relief Society general presidency speaks about their lives, challenges

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PROVO, Utah — During a time when “the opportunities and options for women” have expanded, many women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are striving to understand their role in the world, said Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, on Friday morning.

One month after being sustained to the Relief Society general presidency, Sister Bingham and her counselors — Sister Sharon Eubank and Sister Reyna I. Aburto — spoke openly and candidly about their lives and challenges.

“Many of us have questions,” said Sister Bingham during Brigham Young University Women’s Conference. “What model should I choose as my own path? How can I express my individuality and develop my particular talents? What is the best timeline for me to pursue an education or further a career or focus on my family? What is my role in the kingdom of God on earth? How can I fulfill my divine potential?

“These questions can trouble our minds and hearts. Today we would like to talk to you about answers to these questions and others.”

Almost 12,000 women participated in the annual conference, held on BYU’s Provo campus. During the conference, dozens of speakers addressed the theme “Converted unto the Lord" (3 Nephi 28:23). Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke during the conference’s closing session on the power of technology and social media.

During her remarks, Sister Bingham said that as she began to get to know her counselors in the newly sustained presidency, she felt a bit intimidated.

“Growing up, although I enjoyed learning, I was not the top student in any class. I cannot boast of any expert skills: … I didn’t participate in school sports at any level. I was never asked to the prom, I wasn’t the president of anything, I was never one of the popular group, and one strikingly attractive friend said to me after scrutinizing my features, ‘Well, you’ll never be beautiful, but you could be cute.’ In other words, I was just average.”

Yet, she explained, even in her ordinariness, “Heavenly Father saw value, and has helped me begin to develop the gifts and graces he knows will help me become all that he has designed me to be,” she said. “Know that your Heavenly Father will provide all that you need to become 'extra'-ordinary as a daughter of God.”

Sister Eubank — director of the church’s humanitarian organization LDS Charities — spoke of feeling overwhelmed when President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, not only issued the call to serve as a counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, but also asked her to keep her job with LDS Charities.

“I had three big problems,” she said. First, she felt positive that if President Eyring really knew her on the inside he would not have called her to the position.

Second, she couldn’t figure out how logistically she would be able to do her job and take care of her family and serve in her calling without "killing some part of her own spirit."

Her third problem was that she “was already really tired.”

While cleaning out a drawer in her bedroom, she found a note written during a 2011 Relief Society board meeting with former Relief Society general president Sister Julie B. Beck.

The paper read: "When you are with people, remember they are each filled with troubles. Lift them to a higher plane. … Remember to keep your own kingdom intact. … When you can’t give more, ... (then) call on the Holy Ghost and angels to come to you. Be still and get full.”

From that message Sister Eubank found the answer to her three problems. “It came from Relief Society and it was about Relief Society,” she said.

During her address, Sister Aburto spoke of a time years ago when she came to a crucial crossroad in her life after the painful decision to divorce her first husband, who suffered from an alcohol and drug addiction. "We had a 3-year-old little boy by then and my soul was full of questions, fears and longings for me and my son," she said.

Weeks later, she learned of the LDS Church, attended a meeting and was later baptized.

"As I stepped into that church meetinghouse, a warm feeling embraced me. ... I had found something that I did not know I had been missing," she said.

During his address, Elder Stevenson asked women to “be mindful of the hazards and risks” of social media, including “idealized reality and debilitating comparisons.”

“Generally speaking, pictures that get posted on social media tend to portray life in the very best, and often in an unrealistic, way,” he said.

To illustrate, Elder Stevenson shared the story behind one of his family photos.

To someone seeing it for the first time, his family may look like “a family of four lovely, well-behaved boys, color-coordinated, enjoying a harmonious family photo opportunity together.”

But the photograph does not reveal the stress and trauma — including grass stains and a bloodied nose — that happened in the moments before it was taken.

“So when you see this beautiful picture, of our family anyway, and lament, ‘Why can't I get things together and be a picture-perfect family like theirs?’ — You all know better!” Elder Stevenson told the women.

“The world usually is just not as bright as it appears on social media. Nevertheless, there is much good that has, and will, come, through these new communication platforms,” Elder Stevenson said.

Elder Stevenson encouraged listeners to utilize the “new and exciting channels of technology” to share “knowledge of the Savior.”

“May each of you have the courage to blog, pin, like, share, post, friend, tweet, snap and swipe up in a way that will glorify, honor and respect the will of our loving Heavenly Father,” he said.