SALT LAKE CITY—Women young and old from around the world will gather this weekend for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Semiannual General Women’s Conference that starts off the sessions that will be held the following weekend.
In the past, the Women’s Conference, held only once a year a week before General Conference, was not officially considered the start of the semiannual gathering. In November 2013 it was announced, that starting in 2014, women, young women and girls 8 years old and older would combine for a meeting that would be held semiannually just like the General Session. It replaced the annual Relief Society and Young Women meetings.
“I can’t remember a time I haven’t been going to conference,” said Ginger Sommer, a Relief Society president in her Bountiful ward. “It just seems like forever. It’s just something you do. Relief Society was something I grew up with. I love being able to go with my mom and daughters.”
“It was so neat the first time when they had a choir of women and girls from 8 to 80 sing,” said Rylee Sommer, one of Ginger’s four daughters. “It’s just cool to see other moms, grandmas and sisters there.”
Sommer’s youngest daughter, Ivy, just turned 8 so this will be her first official meeting. “Since she’s one of the girls we’ve already brought her along,” said Ginger.
Sometimes meetings can get a little long when you’re an 8-year-old though. But the Sommer family always goes out for dinner after the meeting as a special treat. “It’s a meeting,” said Ivy. “Being bored has to have a reward. But I guess I like the songs.”
Ginger said it’s nice that the age goes down to 8. “I enjoy that time together,” she said. “It’s interesting to see how all the leaders make it work. Every message is for everyone.”
It’s also a significant time because the Relief Society is celebrating the organization’s 175th anniversary.
“It’s neat to think it’s been 175 years,” said Ginger. “I’ve just realized how global it is. I have a sisterhood in my own home and a sisterhood in my neighborhood but I realize so much more how truly it is worldwide and the value of that sisterhood – even in an 8-year-old. They grow up with it at a young age.”
“I never thought I needed something like that,” said Maren Sommer, who is in high school. “In high school you feel like nobody loves you, but you go there and feel nothing but love. God loves you.”
Ginger said growing up she always felt welcomed by the women in her ward. “When I turned 18 and moved up to Relief Society they listened to my comments and I soaked up what they had to say. You realize you can be friends with an 80-year-old as well as a 20-year-old.”
Although the conference is broadcast on TV locally and held at the Conference Center downtown, most stake centers make it available through satellite and encourage the sisters to come together and enjoy the meeting.
“We like to get dressed up and attend at the building where we’re with other sisters and can focus on it,” said Ginger. “I come out feeling supported in my very humble efforts, with a desire to keep pushing forward in the times we live. I’m a part of a group of women who are all trying our best, even with our mistakes. It’s comforting to me to know that wherever my daughters go they’ll be a part of a family of sisters. I look forward to this time of year – I love it.”