Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discussed the importance of women’s roles in the home and family and serving others as hundreds of thousands of women, young women and girls 8 years old and older gathered around the world on Saturday, March 28, 2015, for the general women’s session of the 185th Annual General Conference. The session was held at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, and broadcast live in 66 languages to Latter-day Saint chapels, on television and radio and over the Internet.

The general women’s session is the first of six general conference sessions. Women leaders who spoke at the session included (in order of appearance) Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, second counselor in thePrimary general presidency; Sister Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency; and Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency also addressed the women and girls gathered around the world. The meeting was conducted by Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president.

“The sanctity of the home and the essential purposes of the family are being questioned, criticized, and assaulted on every front,” said Sister Oscarson. She called on the women of the Church to be defenders of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which was first read by President Gordon B. Hinckley 20 years ago this year and has become “our benchmark for judging the philosophies of the world.”

“Little did we realize then, how very desperately we would need these basic declarations in today’s world as the criteria by which we could judge each new wind of worldly dogma coming at us from the media, the Internet, scholars, TV and films, and even legislators,” she said.

“Let us be defenders of marriage as the Lord has ordained it while continuing to show love and compassion for those with differing views,” said Sister Oscarson.

Sister Stephens agreed that “attacks on the family have increased” since the proclamation was released. “I believe that understanding of the significance of the family and our membership in the family of God has decreased,” she said.

“Our sphere of influence isn’t limited to our family members,” said Sister Stephens.

Sister Stephens said all families are different. “And 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, social status, or even the kind of status we post on social media.”

“We are very aware that not all women are experiencing what the proclamation describes,” acknowledged Sister Oscarson. “We need to teach our daughters to aim for the ideal, but plan for contingencies.” She added, “We want to make sure that our daughters know that they have the potential to achieve and be whatever they can imagine.”

Sister Oscarson also told the audience that the term “homemaker” needs to be elevated. “All of us — women, men, youth, and children, single or married — can work at being homemakers.”

“Strong eternal families and Spirit-filled homes do not just happen,” said Sister Esplin. “They take great effort, they take time, and they take each member of the family doing his or her part.”

“When filled with the Spirit and with gospel truth, we have the power to withstand the outside forces of the world that surround and push against us,” stated Sister Esplin. “We are continually counseled to increase our spiritual knowledge through prayer and through studying and pondering the scriptures and the words of the living prophets.”

President Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, encouraged the sisters to serve others. “My message to you tonight is that you can and must be an important part of His giving comfort to those who need comfort. You can play your part best if you know more of how He answers those prayers for help.”

“Many are praying to Heavenly Father for relief, for help in carrying their burdens of grief, loneliness, and fear,” he said.

“We lighten the loads of others best by helping the Lord strengthen them,” President Eyring explained. “That is why the Lord included in our charge to comfort others the command to be His witnesses at all times and in all places.”

Music was provided by a choir comprised of women, young women and girls ages 8 and older from congregations in Salt Lake City, Murray, Kamas and Park City, Utah.

General conference continues next Saturday and Sunday, April 4–5 at the Conference Center with two-hour sessions each morning at 10 a.m. (MDT) and afternoon at 2 p.m. (MDT). The general priesthood session will be held Saturday evening, beginning at 6 p.m. (MDT). All sessions will be broadcast and streamed live on the Internet.