Sunday , April 01, 2018 - 6:42 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — For Mormons, the 188th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will go down as one of the more memorable weekends in recent history.
There were arguably more “Wow!” moments during this two-day conference than in the last few decades combined.
On Saturday, a new prophet and presidency were sustained in a solemn assembly. Two new members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were called. And LDS President Russell M. Nelson announced “a significant restructuring” of the all-male Melchizedek Priesthood quorums in the church, with the high priests and elders combining into one elders quorum.
But that was just the beginning. Because on Sunday, Nelson dropped more big news.
In the Sunday afternoon session, Nelson announced that the home teaching and visiting teaching programs are being “retired.” Home and visiting teaching is a longstanding program where pairs of church members are assigned families in the congregation to visit monthly and watch over. That program would be replaced by something simply called “ministering.”
And then, with just minutes left in the two-day, five-session conference, Nelson announced seven new temples would be built — including one in Layton and one in a “major city yet to be determined in Russia.”
Not bad for a 93-year-old prophet some said was “too old.”
In between Sunday’s big announcements, leaders of the church offered talks with messages of love, unity, faith, revelation, perseverance and — keeping with the theme of Easter Sunday — the hope of the resurrection.
In the Sunday morning session, church members had the opportunity to hear from all three members of the new First Presidency.
Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, said he hoped to increase church members’ desire — as well as their ability — to receive the Holy Ghost. It is an individual’s choice, he said, but the conditions for receiving the Spirit are outlined in the sacrament prayers to always remember the Savior and keep God’s commandments.
“More precious than memory of events is the memory of the Holy Ghost touching our hearts and His continuing affirmation of truth,” Eyring said. “More precious than seeing with our eyes, or remembering words spoken and read, is recalling the feelings that accompanied the quiet voice of the Spirit.”
Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, focused on the Book of Mormon teaching that “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.”
In his talk, Oaks illustrated the power of small and simple things over time with photographs he’d taken on a morning walk. The photos showed concrete sidewalks splitting and cracking.
“Is this the result of some large and powerful thrust from beneath?” Oaks asked. “No, this cracking is caused by the slow, small growth of one of the roots reaching out from the adjoining tree.”
The small and simple things taught in the scriptures and by living prophets — along with prayer, repentance and obeying other commandments — have a similar powerful effect, according to Oaks.
Like a drip-irrigation system, church members were encouraged to receive these small and simple things in their lives.
“In like manner, if you and I are focused and frequent in receiving consistent drops of spiritual nourishment, then gospel roots can sink deep into our soul, can become firmly established and grounded, and can produce extraordinary and delicious fruit,” Oaks said.
As concluding speaker, church president Russell M. Nelson asked members to seek personal revelation for their own lives.
“One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will,” Nelson said.
He said the privilege of receiving revelation is among the greatest gifts from God. He encouraged members to find a quiet place to regularly go, ask questions, and pour out the feelings of the heart.
“And then listen,” Nelson said. “Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions you are prompted to take.”
Other speakers at the Sunday morning session included Claudio D. Zivic, of the Seventy, who admonished church members to endure to the end; Reyna I. Aburto, of the Relief Society General Presidency, who admonished members to act “with one accord”; Larry Y. Wilson, of the Seventy, who spoke about making the Holy Spirit one’s guide; and Massimo De Feo, of the Seventy, who offered a talk titled “Pure Love: The Sign of Every True Disciple.”
“For me, it’s all about love,” De Feo said. “The love of the Father who sacrificed His Son for us. The love of the Savior, who sacrificed all for us. The love of a mother or a father who would give anything for their children. The love of those who serve silently and are not known to most of us, but are well known to the Lord. The love of those who forgive all and always. The love of the ones who give more than they receive.”
During the fifth and final session of general conference, the two newly called members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered brief testimony.
Gerrit W. Gong expressed his humility at receiving his calling.
“Words — at least my words — cannot express the overwhelming feelings since President Russell M. Nelson lovingly took my hands in his, with Susan at my side, and extended this sacred call from the Lord that took my breath away and has left me weeping many times these past few days,” he said.
Gong said as brothers and sisters of the gospel, “we belong to each other” and can be knit together in unity and love.
The other new apostle, Elder Ulisses Soares, said he felt “humble and inadequate” for the job ahead.
“I feel like Moses who considered himself ineloquent and slow of speech,” he said.
Soares testified of a prophet on earth.
“Brothers and sisters, isn’t it a blessing to have prophets, seers, and revelators on earth in these days in which we live, who seek to know the will of the Lord and follow it?” he asked. “It is comforting to know that we are not alone in the world, despite the challenges we face in life. Having prophets is a sign of God's love for His children.”
Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, discussed the new change in home and visiting teaching with the talk “Ministering as the Savior Does.”
Bingham encouraged church members to think how the Savior would minister to others, and ask themselves, “How can I share the light of the gospel with this individual or family? What is the Spirit inspiring me to do?”
Bingham also said that young women ages 14 to 18 will participate in ministering as companions to Relief Society sisters, just as young men their age currently serve as companions to Melchizedek Priesthood brethren.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke in conference for the first time since leaving the First Presidency following Thomas S. Monson’s death. Uchtdorf spoke of the sacredness of Easter Sunday, when Christians commemorate the moment the Savior was resurrected.
“What day most changed the course of history?” Uchtdorf asked.
Bishop Gérald Caussé, the presiding bishop of the church, told the congregation the key to understanding the LDS Church is not to see it through its buildings or organized institution, but through its millions of faithful members striving to be like Jesus.
“In other words, the Church is all about people, Caussé said. “It is all about you, the Lord’s disciples — those who love and follow Him and who have taken His name upon them by covenant.”
Caussé asked church members if they are “active in the gospel,” or if they are merely “busy in the church.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on the topic “Prepare to Meet God.”
Cook spoke of the almost 70,000 missionaries throughout the world, preaching the gospel, and testified the leaders who preside over the church receive divine assistance.
“This guidance comes from the Spirit and sometimes directly from the Savior,” he said. “Both kinds of spiritual guidance are given.”
As the concluding speaker of the weekend conference, Nelson exhorted church members in a talk titled “Let Us All Press On.”
Nelson asked members to study the proceedings of the conference in the coming months.
“I exhort you to study the messages of this conference frequently — even repeatedly — during the next six months,” he said. “Conscientiously look for ways to incorporate these messages in your family home evenings, your gospel teaching, your conversations with family and friends, and even your discussions with those not of our faith.”
Nelson said the message to the world is simple and sincere: Inviting all of God’s children “on both sides of the veil” to partake of eternal life.
Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.
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