The local Relief Society Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presented a spiritually uplifting event at the Stake Center in Fort Walton Beach. The theme was “Choose Joy ... Make Covenants.” The speakers, singers and musicians combined their talents to magnify this theme.

The Relief Society of Nauvoo, Illinois, was organized on March 17, 1842, and Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith was chosen as president. Minutes later she announced its purpose. “To seek out and relieve the distressed” and “To be ambitious to do good.”

Today there are 7 million women who are members in 188 countries. Members are of all ages and cultures with varied educational backgrounds and circumstances, yet they are able to all work together for they are united in purpose to help others.

“There is no time for division. They do the work of the Savior; they are his hands,” said Linda K. Burton, president.

Prelude music was provided by Ingrid Roberts and the Relief Society Quartet from the Niceville Ward. Conducting this event was Tammy Jones, Stake Relief Society president, who introduced the theme and the motif and how they came about. Sally Reynolds, educational counselor, listed the speakers who would tie the theme together with stories of their lives and their challenges.

Janie Brock was the opening speaker for the conference. Her talk, “Life Is a Beautiful Journey … Twists and Turns Included,” shared the trials and tribulations of a young married couple just starting out in life. Highlighting her message were the blessings offered by her Relief Society sisters when she had to be on bedrest during most of her pregnancy. With love and kindness they served her until she finally had a baby after many previous tragedies. She shared the poem about the oyster which turned irritation into a lovely pearl.

Beautiful music, some of it original, was offered by Kim Frandsen along with her talk “Walk On.” In it, she mentioned her trials with depression following the birth of her child. She credited her Temple Covenants with helping her to overcome her trials at this time in her life. She shared a lovely poem, “Walk On,” which dovetailed with her words of comfort and encouragement.

“We can overcome the storms in our life by using our covenants and the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ” was her message. She said, “Thank you for the opportunity to share some tender parts of my heart with you as it buoys me up to know my experiences and lessons learned can help others in their journey of life.”

Jade Balden, who was born in Vietnam and raised in Australia, spoke of “ Covenants and Joy.” Jade left her war-torn country as a boat person and had many misadventures prior to finding her way to Australia where she grew up with her family. Along the way, they had to face bandits, starvation and two years in a refugee camp. Eventually, they were united in Australia with her bell bottom clad dad. Because of these terrifying experiences she suffered from nightmares and PTSD for many years. It was not until she met the elders of the church and found solace in Jesus Christ and her baptismal covenants was she cured of her illness to find joy and peace in life.

Bearing her testimony as a fairly new member of the church was Christy Mathhews. Christy was searching for her birth mom and just knew everything would be fine once she found her. Her happy ending was not to be, for when she finally found her, her birth mom wanted nothing to do with her. Luckily the Sister Missionaries were there to comfort her and to listen to her troubles. After many trials her covenants helped her overcome her despair.

President Mike Roberts presided at the conference was the final speaker. He encouraged the women of the church to overcome their pain and fill their souls with joy by understanding the scriptures and the parables in them. He used Matthew 13 as an example where Jesus explained why he used parables to illustrate his teachings.

Katrina Dilmore provided the closing remarks to tie the event together and thanked Secretary Pricilla Kelly for ironing all the table cloths and providing the decorated goody bags.

Several videos were shown throughout the sessions to illustrate various concepts. A luncheon was served by the men of the ward under the direction of Marc Strickland.

Heather Pitcher provided the piano playing and chorister was Carolena Graves.