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Mental health, cultivating joy, and unfulfilled expectations: A look at the Sister to Sister event at BYU Women’s Conference

by | Apr. 30, 2021

Makes You Think

The Friday session of BYU’s Women Conference began with a Sister to Sister event. Host Irene Caso was joined by Sister Sharon Eubank of the Relief Society General Presidency, Sister Michelle Craig of the Young Women General Presidency, and Sister Susan H. Porter, who was called to the Primary General Presidency during the April 2021 general conference. 

Questions for the discussion were submitted from Latter-day Saint women around the world. The questions and resulting conversations were raw, personal, and full of applicable advice. While each topic discussed is important, here are some of our favorite questions and answers from the proceedings.


‘How can I feel God’s love when anxiety and depression make it hard for me to feel anything?’ 

Sister Craig: I think that’s such an important question. . . . And one thing that I have learned is that a side effect of clinical depression is feeling numb and not feeling the Spirit. I just feel like it’s so important that people realize this is not an indication of their worthiness or their worth . . . when they feel nothing.

You can choose to fight back. Use the resources that are available. If we were physically sick, we would go to a doctor. So seek help [and] medication if necessary. Take care of your physical health and your spiritual health. I think sometimes we need to hold on with our head what we don’t feel at the moment in our heart. 

Sister Eubank: Because I wanted to get a more expert perspective about this . . . Irene and I sat down with a mental health counselor and we talked about some of these questions.

Sister Gemma Williams holds a master’s in clinical social work, she worked in the field for 14 years, and she shared some very practical tips about building up your mental and emotional resilience.

Editor’s note: a previously recorded interview with Gemma was then shown. Find portions of that interview below.

Gemma: The biggest mistake that women make is that they compare themselves to themselves on their best day. Our best today is not going to be the same as our best yesterday or our best tomorrow, so we need to give ourselves some grace.  

Sister Eubank: Gemma, tell us when to get help [with depression and anxiety]. How do we know when [we] hit a line where we might need some additional help?

Gemma: When it comes to getting help, I think we can do a lot of these things . . . we can drink enough water, get enough sleep, eat regular meals, exercise, we can have a social connection every day, [and] we can have a spiritual connection every day. 

If we are doing all of those things and we are still struggling, then maybe those symptoms are more than what we can handle.

Gemma then directed listeners to visit the Life Help section of the gospel library for learning more skills related to building emotional resilience. Sister Eubank added, “Heavenly Father is a huge resource.”


‘What is [it] that you do to cultivate joy in your own life, especially when you’re feeling down?’

Sister Porter: It’s interesting, in the past year. . . joy hasn’t just walked in off the street into my life. . . .“So I love that your question [asked], How can we cultivate joy? Because it’s not showing up on our doorsteps anytime soon. 

I’ve been thinking about how I can move from feeling like I’m hanging in there until I wake up and [this] dream is over, to really experiencing joy. I’ve thought of it in two ways. One is how can I receive more joy and then the other is how can I . . . create more joy. 

Our deepest sense of joy is a spiritual gift. . . . If I can feel peace in my heart that what I am doing is in line with my true spiritual self, [then] that gives you a sense of inner peace and joy. . . In the scriptures it talks about having a fullness of joy, and that can be a little overwhelming because [we] don’t think that we can feel that in this world, but President Nelson said something really powerful this conference. He talked about that this is a gospel of joy because it’s a gospel of progress. And any time we are repenting, changing, [and] growing, we can experience that joy. So that’s how we can receive more joy [by] turning to God [and] opening our hearts to Him. 

The second way [I’ve thought about joy] is how to create joy, and for that I have [a] visual aid. 

Sister Porter then displayed a 3x5 flashcard with the words “nourish,” “connect,” “move,” and “joy” written on it. 

These words help me create joy in a balanced way. I put “nourish” because as women, we tend to not spend time nourishing ourselves—and what an important thing to do! The Savoir did that when He went out to pray. If we want to create some joy. . . we have to do things that nourish our souls. 

[We] “connect” with friendship and laughter [and] moving in happy ways—our daughters are good at this. They just turn on some music and we will have a random five-minute dance party. 

And then finally, “refresh.” That reminds me of President Uchtdorf’s talk years ago about creating things. . . if we can create something that is going to refresh us, it’s going to bring us joy. 


For the next question, Irene Caso described the experience of a woman who came from a close-knit family and had many nieces and nephews, but no children of her own. Caso said this woman felt a void in her heart no matter what other good things she did in life or at church. She then posed the following question:

‘How can she feel fulfilled when she can’t do the one thing she feels she was born to do?’

Sister Eubank: Oh, can I talk about this? That feeling that she’s talking about is such a vivid physical reaction to a desire that is just so deep in our hearts. I am going to share a personal experience. I don’t know how many years [ago], . . .[but] it was Mother’s Day Sunday, I’m walking out of my house to go to the car. I come out and shut the door and there’s all these maple trees around the house and they are letting out those helicopter pods. They’ve come down all over the asphalt on the driveway. . . I walk through them to the car and I realize they’re exactly like me. [I thought, you're] dropping seeds on to something, asphalt, that will never grow. 

And we talk about not being able to do the things you were born to do, there’s a real grief about that. But I have come to think everybody is born to do three things.

Sister Eubank then present the following list of things everyone is born to do. She noted that we may each end up doing them in a different order, but as we are faithful, we will do all of them and fulfill the measure of our creation.

  1. Freely choose God
  2. Come to know Jesus Christ
  3. Establish family relationship on both sides of the veil

You can read more questions and answers from the Sister to Sister event for free on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.  

Elder and Sister Rasband were the concluding speakers of BYU Women’s Conference. They spoke on the conference’s theme: “I am a Child of God; His promises are sure.” Read a full summary of their remarks at Church News.

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