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SALT LAKE CITY — The 185th annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially began Saturday evening with the General Women’s Session.
Twenty-one thousand women, young women and girls filled the Church's Conference Center in Downtown Salt Lake City, while others watched the broadcast in Latter-day Saint meetinghouses throughout the world and on the Church's website.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Family Home Evening, a weekly gathering among families in the church to share spiritual thoughts and participate in activities with one another. In a specially-produced video shown at the conference, families expressed their love of this program through song.
Conference-goers were also urged by church leaders to fill their homes with light and truth.
"Strong eternal families and spirit-filled homes do not just happen. They take great effort, they take time, and they take each member of the family doing his or her part," said Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, a member of the Church's Primary General Presidency.
Sister Carole M. Stephens, a member of the Relief Society General Presidency , reminded the women that earthly families all look different.
"While we do the best we can to create strong, traditional families, membership in the family of God is not contingent upon any kind of status — marital status, parental status, financial status, or even the kind of status we post on social media," she said.
Strong eternal families and spirit-filled homes do not just happen. They take great effort, they take time, and they take each member of the family doing his or her part.
–Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, Primary General Presidency
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of "The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley delivered to the General Relief Society meeting in September of 1995. Conference-goers Saturday saw a presentation of the proclimation expressed in a special video by different kinds of families in many countries.
"Little did we realize then how very desperately we would need these basic declarations in today's world," said Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President. "Let us be defenders of marriage as the Lord has ordained it while continuing to show love and compassion for those with differing views."
The girls and women were also reminded of their gift of compassion.
"I have seen that miracle time and again: We lighten the loads of others best by helping the Lord strengthen them," said President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the Church's First Presidency.
Many conference-goers said they loved the feeling they experienced and the messages they heard
"President Eyring said, 'Joy always comes after sorrow.' And I love that. It was just so personal to me right now and it touched me," said Tisha Williamson, a West Jordan resident.
Bree Thomas, a Magna resident, said, "I loved that it was all about families — every one is different, every family is different, and mine has a special story as well as anyone else's. And that's what I loved about the whole thing."
Latter-day Saints will join with other Christians throughout the world this week in preparing for Easter. They're also just a week away from and five more sessions of General Conference, which begin on Saturday, April 4.