PROVO, Utah — Speaking of their favorite candy, childhood memory, current conundrum, or Christlike attributes, the Church’s new Young Women general presidency introduced themselves and focused their remarks on a central theme — the letter C.
Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Sister Michelle Craig, and Sister Rebecca Craven stood together on the podium during BYU Women’s Conference on May 3. In their first speaking address since being called during the April general conference, the new presidency shared some insight into their personalities — using the letter “C.”
“No one was more surprised than we were when we were called to realize that not only do all of our last names start with the letter C, but they are in alphabetical order,” Sister Craig said. “We have been told that we are referred to on social media as the “three C’s,” “the “C-force,” “C cubed” and “triple C.”
Sister Cordon said the presidency wants the rising generation to know and believe in their divine identity. “As women we need to know this as well and act accordingly, because when we know who we are, we act differently. Understanding our true identity and carefully living the covenants we have made blesses us with confidence, keeps us calm and centered, and helps us make Christlike connections.”
Confidence through covenants
On her first full day of school in first grade, Sister Craven had a difficult time sitting through class. Known to be shy — “I mean really shy,” she said in her own words — the young girl sat at her desk and cried until her teacher walked her down to her older brother’s classroom, where she sat until the end of the day.
“I didn’t learn to read with my class because I was afraid to speak out loud and terrified to ask questions,” she said.
It wasn’t until she learned about her eternal identity that her confidence began to grow.
“I can absolutely tie the change in my confidence to my parents joining the Church when I was still young,” she said. “Learning to live the gospel together as a family provided me with opportunities to grow.”
Through learning the gospel, Sister Craven learned that she was a child of God, how to pray, and how to make friends while in Primary. She learned to speak in front of other people, as well as accept responsibilities to serve others.
“Basically, always saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities to learn and grow and not picking and choosing what only I was comfortable in doing helped me gain confidence that the Spirit would help me do the things I’d been asked to do,” she said. “Even when I was scared and knew I was leaping right out of my comfort corner, I was all in.”
Drawing from the promise found in Ether 12:27 in the Book of Mormon where the Lord promises that weak things will become strong, Sister Craven said that through that promise, confidence comes.
“When we understand who we are, we really should act differently — especially because we have made covenants,” she said. “The understanding of our identity, and taking upon ourselves the name of Christ through our covenants, should determine how we speak, what we talk about, how we dress, what we read, what we do for fun, and how we treat others. Carefully living our covenants allows us to have the steady companionship of the Holy Ghost.”
The more a woman internalizes her identity and lives her covenants with exactness, the more confident she becomes.
“Carefully living the Gospel allows the Lord to protect us from physical and spiritual danger,” she said. “Even though certain situations don’t work out the way we hope they will, and some of those situations can be quite devastating, we can be confident that the Lord knows us, that He is aware of our situation, and that He loves us as His own — because we are his own. This truth brings a peace that cannot be found in a text book or a counseling office.
“When we know who we are the more we want to refine our own character and become more like our Savior — more kind, considerate, less judgmental, more willing to serve and more patient.”
Centered and calm
“There is no particular season of life, or group of women who have the corner on challenges — we all have them,” said Sister Craig. “The question for all of us is what do we take with us and what do we leave behind?”
As the world gets busier and noisier it becomes increasingly important for individuals to be intentional in carving out time for those things that are of greatest importance.
“Each of us is on a trek,” she said. “We may not be trekking with a handcart through the plains of Wyoming, but we are trekking nonetheless. We trek through days and long nights of sick babies, running carpools, helping with homework, working to make ends meet. We trek through relationship challenges, financial challenges, mental and physical health challenges. We trek through overwhelming assignments and our daily list of things to do. Some of us may be trekking through grief, or even loneliness or boredom.”
Although the challenges are different for each person, it is through focusing on those things that “truly matter most” that individuals are able to stay calm and centered in any circumstance.
“When we come to understand what is essential in this life, and in the next, it becomes easier to lighten our load, eliminate excess, set priorities, and reduce distractions that could, if we are not careful, get us stuck in the mud while other handcarts and wagons move on,” she said. “If we are weighed down with guilt, despair, sin and sadness, it is time to set those things aside and fill our carts with faith, with hope, and a regular renewal of our covenants with God.”
Rather than getting caught up in the “thick of thin things,” individuals can be intentional, even in a world of noise and “lots of tumult.”
“Satan knows the greatest leverage point is in that quiet space, so he tries to separate us from those moments,” she said. “He tries to fill us with distraction — we turn on the radio in the moment we get in the car, we put in earphones while we exercise, the TV is on in the background while we work on dinner or do other household chores. These distractions rob of us that quiet place.
“It’s not that these things are bad, but perhaps we are forfeiting something better.”
As the world gets brighter, louder and busier, individuals must make the time and effort to “extract ourselves from the distractions, the noise and the tulmult,” so the voice of the Spirit to get through.
“We have a divine identity, and with it comes a divine purpose and responsibility to serve — to connect with others as our Savior would — to be His hands,” Sister Cordon said.
Defining Christlike connections as “the power and purpose that can be ours as we recognize our divine identities as daughters of God,” Sister Cordon said as a person understands that identity, he or she is willing to “take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ.”
Recognizing the “fallen world” in which women are living in today, Sister Cordon said it is through women understanding their own divine identity and the expectations of God, in addition to living their covenants, that they are able to follow the Savior.
“We are to ‘lift up the hands which hang down and strengthen the feeble knees,’ ” she said.
Sharing a long list of “Christlike connections” — among them feed the hungry, lift those who suffer, listen, nurture, ask for help, give comfort, instill confidence, forgive, defend truth, show patience — Sister Cordon spoke of simple ways women are able to minister to each another through Christlike service.
“Most of us have become very good at hiding our suffering from the world, not wanting to burden others,” Sister Cordon said. “This is why we need that heavenly connection — that inspiration that comes from the Holy Ghost to help us know who needs us.”
Christlike connections come in many forms, Sister Cordon taught. “Cookies are nice, but better still is a timely response to the Spirit and a simple call or text to reach out in a moment of need. It really is as simple as the Savior showed us; He ‘went about doing good’ and so can we. And becoming the answer to someone’s prayer we often find the answer to our own.”
For women attending the annual conference, learning about and hearing from the new presidency has been a highlight.
“It has been fun to get to know their personalities and hear their stories,” said Teresa Brooks, who is from Morgan, Utah. “I can see how important the Savior is to them and have learned from that example.”