LDS President Russell M. Nelson speaks of abuse in first General Conference session
A few minor changes occurred during the morning session of the 192nd Semi-annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — and it had some watching concerned.
Instead of hearing from President Russell M. Nelson as the opening speaker, which is somewhat a tradition, it was his second counselor in the First Presidency, Dallin H. Oaks, who spoke.
Nelson spoke last but tackled a pressing issue for the church. “Abuse constitutes the influence of the adversary. It is a grievous sin. As president of the church, I affirm the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ on this issue. Let me be perfectly clear: Any kind of abuse of women, children or anyone is an abomination to the Lord. He grieves and I grieve whenever anyone is harmed. He mourns, and we all mourn, for each person who has fallen victim to abuse of any kind,” he said.
“Those who perpetrate these hideous acts are not only accountable to the laws of man but will also face the wrath of God,” Nelson added.
Nelson noted that for decades now, the church has taken extensive measures to protect — in particular — children from abuse. There are many aids on the church website.
“I invite you to study them. These guidelines are in place to protect the innocent. I urge each of us to be alert to anyone who might be in danger of being abused and to act promptly to protect them. The savior will not tolerate abuse, and as His disciples, neither can we.”
Following the first session Nelson tweeted: “Some noticed that I sat on a chair to deliver my message this morning. What a help that was! The other day it occurred to me that I have been alive during nearly half of the number of years since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830. That is a lot of years–even though I don’t feel old. My wife Wendy insists that she still can’t get me to act my age. But I will admit that sometimes even small adjustments–such as a chair–help those of us who ‘age on stage.”‘
“I may not ski black diamond runs anymore, but whether standing or seated, I delight in speaking and hearing words of truth. And this weekend will be filled with them. I hope you will join me in savoring the beautiful messages that still lie ahead,” Nelson wrote.
Included in the first session was an announcement of changes to the “For the Strength of Youth” booklet.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke specifically to the “rising generation,” those between 11 and 18 years of age.
“For over 50 years, ‘For the Strength of Youth’ has been a guide for generations of Latter-day Saint youth. I always keep a copy in my pocket, and I share it with people who are curious about our standards,” Uchtdorf said. “It has been updated and refreshed, to better cope with the challenges and temptations of our day. ‘For the Strength of Youth’ will be available in multiple languages this month and will be a significant help for making choices in your life. … This new version of ‘For the Strength of Youth’ is subtitled ‘A Guide for Making Choices.'”
Uchtdorf noted that he believes the savior Jesus Christ would want the youth to see, feel and know that He is their strength. That with His help, there are no limits to what they can accomplish. That their potential is limitless.
“He would want you to see yourself the way He sees you. And that is very different from the way the world sees you,” Uchtdorf added.
“The savior would declare, in no uncertain terms, that you are a daughter or son of the Almighty God. Your Heavenly Father is the most glorious being in the universe, full of love, joy, purity, holiness, light, grace and truth. And one day He wants you to inherit all He has. It is the reason why you’re here on earth — to learn, grow and progress, and become everything your Father in Heaven has created you for,” Uchtdorf said.
President Dallin H. Oaks, of the First Presidency, gave a report of the giving of the church through humanitarian organizations and the Philanthropies Department and charities.
“Our 2021 expenditures for those in need in 188 countries worldwide was $906 million — almost a billion dollars. In addition, our members volunteered over 6 million hours of labor in the same cause,” Oaks reported.”
“Despite all that our church does directly, most humanitarian service to the children of God worldwide is carried out by persons and organizations having no formal connection with our church,” Oaks said. “As one of our apostles observed: ‘God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of his great and marvelous work. … It is too vast, too arduous, for any one people.'”
As members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, Oaks told the members, “We need to be more aware and appreciative of the service of others.”
Oaks noted two organizations as key collaborators — the Red Cross and Red Crescent agencies. The church also has a long record of assistance with Catholic Relief Services.
“We have also had fruitful collaborations with other organizations, including Muslim Aid, Water For People and IsraAID, to name just a few. While each humanitarian organization has its own areas of specialization, we share the common goal of relieving suffering among God’s children. All of this is part of God’s work for His children,” Oaks reported.
Sister Tracy Browning, Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency, told about her lifelong eye sight problems and needing help by wearing glasses and how she sees a distorted world in the morning before putting on her glasses.
“Over the years, I’ve come to recognize that this behavior illustrates my daily dependence on two things: first, a tool that helps me to clarify, focus and ground the world around me; and second, a need for tangible guidance to continually point me in the right direction,” Browning said.
“This simple, routine practice mirrors to me a significant observation about our relationship with our savior, Jesus Christ. In our lives that are often filled with questions, worries, pressures and opportunities, our savior’s love for us individually and as His covenant children, along with His teachings and laws, are available daily resources that we can depend on to be a ‘light which shineth, … (enlightening) our eyes (and quickening our) understandings,'” Browning said.
Elder Dale G. Renlund, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke to members about the framework for personal revelation, taking an example from apostle and pilot Uchtdorf.
“Well-trained airplane pilots fly within the capacity of their aircraft and follow directions from air traffic controllers regarding runway use and flightpath. Simply stated, pilots operate within a framework. No matter how brilliant or talented they are, only by flying within this framework can pilots safely unleash the enormous potential of an airplane to accomplish its miraculous objectives,” Renlund said.
“In a similar way, we receive personal revelation within a framework. After baptism, we are given a majestic yet practical gift, the Gift of the Holy Ghost. As we strive to stay on the covenant path, it is ‘the Holy Ghost … (that) will show (us) all things (that we) should do,'” Renlund said.
He noted that, “With the help of the Holy Ghost we can transform our divine nature into our eternal destiny.”
In the second hour of the morning session Elder Rafael E. Pino, of the Seventy, taught that doing good should be our normal and that each church member’s normal may be different.
He noted four things that should be a normal in the church:
1. Personal and family study of the scriptures.
2. Personal and family prayer.
3. Attend sacrament meeting weekly.
4. Participate frequently in temple work and in doing family history.
Elder Hugo Montoya, of the Seventy, talked about the eternal principle of love.
“We are willing to help each other because we love each other, and my brother’s needs become my needs and mine become his. No matter what language my brother speaks or what country he comes from, we love each other because we are brothers, children of the same Father,” he said.
“I believe that the supreme demonstration of God’s love for us happened in Gethsemane where the son of the living God prayed: ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt,'” Montoya added.