Editor’s note: Many thanks to Lauren Laws for this thoughtful post reflecting on her experience at BYU Women’s Conference. Speaking of BYU Women’s Conference, are you taking advantage of the opportunity to listen to the delayed broadcast presentations that are being shared this month on BYUTV?
Lauren Laws is a sometimes-serious comedic writer who will soon graduate from BYU with a film degree. She is from Salem, Oregon and enjoys being outside, writing song parodies, directing music videos, and coming up with t-shirt slogans. She is sort of fluent in Italian and enjoys eating food from all over the world, especially curry. The project that consumes most her time nowadays is a short musical film that she is writing and producing. It will shoot this fall.
You can read more of her thoughts on Twitter @llawsy or at http://lawsren.blogspot.com
Last year when it was time for BYU’s Women’s Conference I remember sending out an Instagram photo of volunteers setting up for the conference with the caption, “Look out BYU students. The women are coming!”
Many BYU students see Women’s Conference as two days when the lines in the bookstore and the Cougareat are ridiculous and there is a shortage of BYU’s mint brownies. The men’s bathrooms are turned into women’s bathrooms and it is impossible to cross campus at certain hours of the day.
This year I was asked to take press photos and I crossed the threshold from casual observer to field agent. I quickly learned that Women’s Conference is not just a time when women take over BYU in search of brownies and discount BYU merchandise but a time when women from all over come together to share experiences and be uplifted by one another.
Women everywhere share the same heartaches. We have the same questions. We all want to know how we can contribute to society and be better people. Conferences are a chance to gather together and remember that we are the same.
I spent most my time out-and-about, ducking in and out of lectures and focusing more on people’s faces than the speakers but there was one lecture that I sat through titled, “Into the Sunshine: Understanding Depression in Children and Teens.”
The first speaker, Nicki Hopwood, has worked with troubled youth for almost 30 years. The second speaker, Tom Golightly has a PhD in counseling psychology. Credentials aside, both speakers dug deep and spoke from the heart about things that we sometimes like to brush under the table. Nicki referenced personal things from her own life. Sharing our own stories is the key to helping one another. We have to be willing to talk about the hard stuff. In Tom Golightly’s address he stated, “If we don’t talk about hard things we send the message that it’s not okay to feel hard things.”
We sometimes think our lives have to be perfect. Further in her address Hopwood stated, “We tend to make things our fault, not because they are, but because it gives us a sense of control.” We don’t talk about sorrows in our lives because we see it as our own personal weaknesses, but feeling sad does not make us weak, it makes us human. It makes us tender-hearted, loving, and kind. We should embrace the difficulties in our lives and use them for our good.
I remember as a young teenager talking to one of my friends about my brother who struggles with Schizophrenia. It was something that I was never super vocal about because it wasn’t something I felt I had figured out. She then opened up to me about some struggles her own brother was having and how it affected her. I realized in that moment that she would not have felt she could tell me about those things had I not opened up first. In the end, we both felt uplifted because we could relate to each other. That experience made me wonder how many other people were silently struggling, afraid to admit they had difficulties in their lives.
Sometimes we might think that if we are really good we will never be sad. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Pres. Eyring addressed that idea in the closing session of the conference. “Satan, the enemy of our happiness, opposes those who serve the Lord.” When we are doing things right we are going to face opposition.
There are people in my life who have struggled with illnesses, abuse, substances, and a variety of things. Instead of choosing to hide away or try and ignore the issues they have used their experiences to help uplift others and to become more empathetic.
I think God intended for us to face life’s trials together. He could have sent us to earth by ourselves. We could’ve learned about life by sitting alone reading lots of textbooks or watching the Discovery Channel. But we’ve been put into families, communities, schools, clubs, majors, societies, etc. so that we can learn from people–and sometimes be hurt by people–because that is how we become the strong, passionate, loving people we are meant to be.
The different women I interacted with throughout the weekend reminded me what womanhood is about. It is about using our God-given gentleness and sensitivity to make the world a better place. Our vulnerabilities are what give us courage and strength. They increase our capacity to connect with and help one another.
I wasn’t able to attend Women’s conference; but I always look forward to reading or viewing some of the messages. I know from my own life experiences that there are countless families out there that have some kind of mental illness in them. In fact it is probably astounding how many there are in our Mormon Culture. This is one of the struggles we are facing in the world of today. It is always so nice to find someone that we can relate with that is struggling in the same areas. This is where we as women can open up and be more open and compassionate with one another.
This was a great post. Blessings to you!