LDS Church leaders admonish members Saturday to be unified during semiannual conference
President Russell M. Nelson, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sits in the theater in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City waiting for the 190th Semiannual General Conference to begin Oct. 3, 2020.
Members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints socially distance in the theater at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday.
The 360-voice Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square celebrates 90 years in broadcasting "Music & the Spoken Word."
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were encouraged to continue their quest to become like their savior.
That quest, as acknowledged by church leadership, can be hard during these chaotic times, but now is the time to prepare and be unified.
Speakers addressed many ways to unify, to prepare and come to Christ.
President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of loving one’s enemies and how that should work in today’s living, including politics, racism and law.
“As citizens and as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we must do better to help root out racism,” he said. “At the other extreme, a minority of participants and supporters of these protests and the illegal acts that followed them seem to have forgotten that the protests protected by the Constitution are peaceful protests. Protesters have no right to destroy, deface or steal property or to undermine the government’s legitimate police powers.”
Oaks continued: “The Constitution and laws contain no invitation to revolution or anarchy. All of us — police, protesters, supporters and spectators — should understand the limits of our rights and the importance of our duties to stay within the boundaries of existing law.
“Abraham Lincoln was right when he said, ‘There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law,'” Oaks added. “Redress of grievances by mobs is redress by illegal means. That is anarchy, a condition that has no effective governance and no formal police, which undermines rather than protects individual rights.”
Oaks said, “One reason the recent protests in the United States were shocking to so many was that the hostilities and illegalities felt among different ethnicities in other nations should not be felt in the United States. This country should be better in eliminating racism, not only against Black Americans, who were most visible in the recent protests, but also against Latinos, Asians and other groups. This nation’s history of racism is not a happy one and we must do better.”
Oaks noted the church will not participate in the violence threatened by those disappointed with the outcome of the upcoming presidential election.
“In a democratic society we always have the opportunity and the duty to persist peacefully until the next election,” he stated during his talk.
Elder Quentin Cook, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, also spoke of the need for unity and that is the challenge of this day. The church can be an oasis of diversity and unity, he said.
Cook noted race is not identified on church membership records.
“The culture of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a gentile culture or a Judaic culture,” he said. “It is not determined by the color of one’s skin or where one lives. While we rejoice in distinctive cultures, we should leave behind aspects of those cultures that conflict with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our members and new converts often come from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds.”
Cook added: “If we are to follow President Nelson’s admonition to gather scattered Israel, we will find we are as different as the Jews and Gentiles were in Paul’s time. Yet we can be united in our love of and faith in Jesus Christ.”
Sister Michelle Craig, first counselor in the Young Women Presidency, encouraged members to see through his eyes.
“I witness that Jesus Christ loves us and can give us eyes to see — even when it’s hard, even when we’re tired, even when we’re lonely, and even when the outcomes are not as we hoped,” she said. “Through his grace, he will bless us and increase our capacity. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, Christ will enable us to see ourselves and see others as he does. With his help, we can discern what is most needful. We can begin to see the hand of the Lord working in and through the ordinary details of our lives — we will see deeply.”
In his Saturday morning remarks, President Russell M. Nelson acknowledged the world is going through unique times, but members of the church have the blessing of time to strengthen their faith.
“I pray that we as a people are using this unique time to grow spiritually,” he said. “We are here on Earth to be tested, to see if we will choose to follow Jesus Christ, to repent regularly, to learn, and to progress. Our spirits long to progress. And we do that best by staying firmly on the covenant path.”
Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelves Apostles, said we have mortal tests such as the difficult times that are currently happening, that we should be prepared. Bednar recited the parable of the Ten Virgins.
“Faithfulness is not foolishness or fanaticism,” he said. “Rather, it is trusting and placing our confidence in Jesus Christ as our savior, on his name, and in his promises.”
“As we ‘press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men,’ we are blessed with an eternal perspective and vision that stretches far beyond our limited mortal capacity,” Bednar said. “We will be enabled to ‘gather together, and stand in holy places’ and ‘be not moved, until the day of the Lord come.’ “
In the steps to repenting and developing the desire to become like Christ, we need to learn more of him, said Elder Scott D. Whiting, of the Quorum of the Seventy.
“Christ-like attributes are gifts from a loving Heavenly Father to bless us and those around us,” he said. “Accordingly, our efforts to obtain these attributes will require heartfelt pleas for his divine assistance. If we seek these gifts to better serve others, he will bless us in our efforts. Selfishly pursuing a gift from God will end in disappointment and frustration.”
Elder Ronald A. Rasband reflected on receiving a temple recommend, or when you are recommended to the Lord.
“Our recommend is not a checklist, a hall pass or a ticket for special seating,” he said. “It has a much higher and holier purpose. To qualify for the honor of a temple recommend you must live in harmony with the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Rasband added: “Being worthy to attend the temple, however, has not been suspended. Let me emphasize, whether you have access to a temple or not, you need a current temple recommend to stay firmly on the covenant path.”
The Saturday morning session was conducted by President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency. Music was prerecorded by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, continued Saturday’s conference by beginning the afternoon session on the topic of unity, speaking on what makes sustainable societies.
“The institutions of family and religion have been crucial for endowing both individuals and communities with the virtues that sustain an enduring society,” Christofferson said. “Rooted in gospel principles, these virtues include integrity, responsibility and accountability, compassion, marriage and fidelity in marriage, respect for others and the property of others, service, and the necessity and dignity of work, among others.”
He added: “There is much we can do as neighbors and fellow citizens to contribute to the sustainability and success of the societies we live in, and surely our most fundamental and enduring service will be to teach and live by the truths inherent in God’s great plan of redemption.”
A society, for example, in which individual consent is the only constraint on sexual activity is a society in decay, Christofferson said.
“Adultery, promiscuity, elective abortion, and out-of-wedlock births are but some of the bitter fruits that grow out of the immorality sanctioned by the sexual revolution,” Christofferson said. “Follow-on consequences that work against the sustainability of a healthy society include growing numbers of children raised in poverty and without the positive influence of fathers, sometimes through multiple generations, women bearing alone what should be shared responsibilities, and seriously deficient education as schools, like other institutions, are tasked to compensate for failure in the home.”
Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, invited all nations, kindreds, tongues and people to find God.
According to Eric Hawkins, church spokesman, Gong, “has recently learned that he has potentially been exposed to COVID-19. He is feeling well, but out of an abundance of caution is participating in general conference from home this weekend. His remarks were previously recorded for this session.” Gong’s talk was prerecorded and delivered during the live event, streamed on YouTube.
“Truly, for those with faithful hearts and eyes to see, the Lord’s tender mercies are manifest amidst life’s challenges,” Gong said. “Faithfully met challenges and sacrifice do bring the blessings of heaven. In this mortality, we may lose or wait for some things for a time, but in the end we will find what matters most. That is his promise.”
Gong said, “Heavenly Father invites us everywhere to feel his love, to learn and grow through education, honorable work, self-reliant service, and patterns of goodness and happiness we find in his restored church.”
Gong added: “As we come to trust God, sometimes through pleading in our darkest, loneliest, most uncertain moments, we learn he knows us better and loves us more than we know or love ourselves. This is why we need God’s help to create lasting justice, equality, fairness, and peace in our homes and communities.
“Our truest, deepest, most authentic narrative, place and belonging come when we feel God’s redeeming love, seek grace and miracle through his son’s atonement, and establish lasting relationships by sacred covenants,” Gong said.
Exquisite and unimaginable
Elder Matthew S. Holland spoke of the Exquisite Gift of the Son.
“Regardless of the causes of our worst hurts and heartaches, the ultimate source of relief is the same: Jesus Christ,” he asserted. “He alone holds the full power and healing balm to correct every mistake, right every wrong, adjust every imperfection, mend every wound, and deliver every delayed blessing.”
Holland added: “For anyone today with pains so intense or so unique that you feel no one else could fully appreciate them, you may have a point. There may be no family member, friend or priesthood leader — however sensitive and well-meaning each may be — who knows exactly what you are feeling or has the precise words to help you heal.
“But know this: There is one who understands perfectly what you are experiencing, who is ‘mightier than all the Earth’ and who is ‘able to do exceeding abundantly above all that (you) ask or think,’ ” he said. “The process will unfold in his way and on his schedule, but Christ stands ready always to heal every ounce and aspect of your agony.”
As you allow him to do so, you will discover your suffering was not in vain, Holland explained.
“I witness to you that through the staggering goodness of Jesus Christ and his infinite atonement, we can escape the deserved agonies of our moral failings and overcome the undeserved agonies of our mortal misfortunes,” Holland recounted. “Under his direction, your divine destiny will be one of unparalleled magnificence and indescribable joy — a joy so intense and so unique to you, your particular ‘ashes’ will become beauties ‘beyond anything earthly.'”
Speaking of the unimaginable springing from a worldwide pandemic, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf told members much has happened and will continue to happen during the current pandemic.
“There are still a lot of unknowns about this virus,” Uchtdorf said. “But if there is one thing I do know, this virus did not catch Heavenly Father by surprise. He did not have to muster additional battalions of angels, call emergency meetings or divert resources from the world-creation division to handle an unexpected need. My message today is that even though this pandemic is not what we wanted or expected — God has prepared his children and his church for this time. We will endure this, yes. But we will do more than simply grit our teeth, hold on, and wait for things to return to the old normal. We will move forward, and we will be better as a result.”
Uchtdorf added: “The righteous are not given a free pass that allows them to avoid the valleys of shadow. We all must walk through difficult times, for it is in these times of adversity that we learn principles that fortify our characters and cause us to draw closer to God.”
Secondly, he explained, “Our Heavenly Father knows that we suffer, and because we are his children, he will not abandon us.
“At first it may have seemed that a worldwide pandemic would be a roadblock to the Lord’s work,” Uchtdorf said. “For example, traditional methods of sharing the gospel have not been possible. However, the pandemic is revealing new and more creative ways of reaching out to the honest in heart. The work of gathering Israel is increasing in power and enthusiasm. Hundreds and thousands of stories attest to this.”
As a member of the Presiding Bishopric, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell encouraged members to continue to prepare for more calamities to come.
“From the beginning of time, the Lord has provided direction to help his people prepare spiritually and temporally, against the calamities that he knows will come as part of this mortal experience,” Waddell said. “These calamities may be personal or general in nature, but the Lord’s guidance will provide protection and support to the extent that we heed, and act upon, his counsel.”
Prophets understand the need for us to prepare for the calamities to come, he explained.
In today’s environment, with a pandemic that has devastated whole economies and individual lives, it would be inconsistent with a compassionate savior to ignore the reality that many are struggling, and ask them to begin building a reserve of food and money for the future, Waddell said.
“However, that does not mean that we should permanently ignore principles of preparation … only that these principles should be applied ‘in wisdom and order,’ so that in the future we might say, as did Joseph in Egypt, ‘there was bread,’ ” Waddell said.
President Dallin H. Oaks conducted the Saturday afternoon session with a variety of tape recorded choirs from past conferences providing the music.