Missionary work, talks directed to youth fill Saturday afternoon session
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was the first to address the second session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ semi-annual general conference, telling the audience, particularly the youth, not to fear — to believe.
“For nearly two years, a pandemic of biblical proportions has enveloped our planet, and while that plague brought a halt to almost everything socially, obviously, it did not bring a halt to brutality, violence, and cruel aggression politically,” Holland said. “As if that were not enough, we are still facing long-standing social and cultural challenges, ranging from economic deprivation to environmental desecration to racial inequity and more.”
Holland noted that President Russell M. Nelson has said that this generation of young people has the capacity to have, “more impact (for good) on the world than any previous generation.”
He added, “Our children are the trustees into whose hands the destiny of this church will be placed.”
Holland taught that all have the light of Christ and that all should recognize that.
“Leaders, advisers, friends, family — watch for signs of depression, despair, or anything hinting of self-harm. Offer your help. Listen,” he pleaded. “Make some kind of intervention as appropriate. To any of our youth out there who are struggling, whatever your concerns or difficulties, death by suicide is manifestly not the answer. It will not relieve the pain you are feeling or see yourself causing.”
“In a world that so desperately needs all the light it can get, please do not minimize the eternal light God put in your soul before this world was. Talk to someone. Ask for help. Do not destroy a life that Christ gave His life to preserve. You can bear the struggles of this mortal life because we will help you bear them. You are stronger than you think. Help is available, from others and especially from God. You are loved and valued and needed,” Holland added.
Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy added to Holland’s thoughts, saying, “Here are just a few of the powerful and comforting promises our family found. Imagine the Lord speaking these words to you — to you who are surviving — because they are for you: Fear not. I know your sorrows, and I have come to deliver you. I will not leave you. My name is upon you and my angels have charge over you. I will do wonders among you. Walk with me; learn of me; I will give you rest. I am in your midst. You are mine.”
Kearon spoke clearly to those who have been subject of abuse of any kind that they are not guilty, it is not their fault.
“Though it may seem impossible, feel impossible,” he said, “healing can come through the miracle of the redemptive might of the atonement of Jesus Christ, who is risen ‘with healing in his wings.’ Our merciful Savior, victorious over darkness and depravity, has power to right all wrongs, a life-giving truth for those wronged by others.”
Kearon went on to say there is no place for abuse in the any home around the world, that no people “deserve” to be beaten.
“The Lord Himself is crystal clear in His condemnation of abuse of any kind: ‘But whoso shall offend one of these little ones … it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea,'” Kearon said.
Saying the worth of souls is great in the eyes of God, Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis said, “You have been prepared from before this life and born now to participate in the great work of the gathering of Israel on both sides of the veil, in these latter-days.”
He encouraged youth to prepare to be missionaries, that the world tries to distract youth from this most sacred responsibility using fear and insecurities.
“Everyone will have his or her own set of challenges. Such distractions can arise at precisely the time of embarking in the service of the Lord, and choices that seem obvious later are not always as easy in the moment,” Aidukaitis said. “Serving a full-time mission may seem difficult to us. Perhaps it requires that we give up important things for a moment. The Lord certainly knows this, and He will always be by our side.”
Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of the Quorum of the Twelve, asked listeners one question, “Do you know your story?”
“Born 837 A.D., my 30th great-grandfather, First Dragon Gong, started our family village in southern China. The first time I visited Gong village, the people said, ‘Wenhan huilaile’ (Gerrit has returned),” Gong said. “On my mother’s side, our living family tree includes thousands of family names, with more to discover. We each have more family with whom to connect. If you think your great aunt has completed all your family genealogy, please find your cousins and cousins’ cousins. Connect your living memory family names with the 10 billion searchable names FamilySearch now has in its online collection and the 1.3 billion individuals in its Family Tree.”
When asked where meaning comes in life, most people rank family first. This includes family living and gone before. Of course, when we die, we don’t cease to exist. We continue to live on the other side of the veil, Gong noted
“Discovering family and belonging with ancestors can change our lives in surprising ways. From their trials and accomplishments, we gain faith and strength,” Gong said. “From their love and sacrifices, we learn to forgive and move forward.”
Asking if the plan is working, Elder Adrian Ochoa of the Seventy said, “All of us face boisterous winds that can shake our faith and cause us to sink. When this happens, please remember that Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness has another name — the plan of redemption. The plan was not for us to glide easily through life, never stumbling, never sinking, with a smile always on our face. Heavenly Father knew that we would need to be redeemed. This is why He prepared the plan of redemption. This is why He sent a Redeemer. When we struggle — for any reason — that does not mean the plan isn’t working. That is when we need the plan the most!”
Elder Kevin S. Hamilton of the Seventy added, “One of Satan’s greatest lies is that men and women cannot change. This untruth gets told and retold in many different ways as the world says that we simply cannot change. Or worse yet, that we should not change. We are taught that our circumstances define us. We should ’embrace who we really are’, the world says, ‘and be authentic to our true selves.'”
While it is indeed good to be authentic, we should be authentic to our real, true selves, Hamilton said.
“If our goal is to be authentic to this divine nature and destiny, then we will all need to change,” Hamilton said. “The scriptural word for change is repentance. ‘Too many people,’ President Russell M. Nelson teaches, ‘consider repentance as punishment –something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances … When Jesus asks you and me to ‘repent,’ He is inviting us to change.'”
Hamilton notes three things that requires change. People are required to humble one’s self, have faith in Jesus Christ and through His grace He can make weak things strong.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the final speaker of the session, taught that an individual’s personal conversion includes the responsibility to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.
“In the Lord’s preface to the Doctrine and Covenants a big picture declaration of the Lord’s purpose for us was set forth. He declared, ‘Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; … He further instructs, ‘That the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world…’ That includes full-time missionaries. That includes each of us,” Cook said.
The music for the Saturday afternoon session was provided by a combined choir of students from BYU-Idaho.