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Absent of church’s president, conference speakers focus on living as eternal families

Saturday morning session

By Genelle Pugmire - Daily Herald | Sep 30, 2023
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Members of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints take their seats on the stand in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City before the morning session of general conference on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. President Russell M. Nelson was participating virtually due to an injury to his back.
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Conferencegoers gather to view the progress on the Salt Lake Temple construction prior to the morning session of general conference near the Conference Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.
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Sister Amy A. Wright, First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency, speaks at the morning session of general conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.
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The sun rises on the Conference Center spire at the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City during the morning session of general conference on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.
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The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes their seats on the stand in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City before the morning session of general conference on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.
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Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provides words of inspiration during the morning session of general conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023.

Two empty chairs assigned to President Russell M. Nelson, prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were noticeable Saturday morning as members joined in the Salt Lake Conference Center to worship during the church's 193rd Semiannual General Conference.

Both leaders are recuperating from health situations. Nelson fell two days after his 99th birthday earlier this month and Holland is slowly improving after a stay in the hospital.

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, presided at the morning conference session, which set a focus for church members on living as eternal families.

"The revealed doctrine of the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that all the children of God -- with exceptions too limited to consider here -- will ultimately inherit one of three kingdoms of glory, even the least of which 'surpasses all understanding,'" Oaks said. "After a period in which the disobedient suffer for their sins -- which suffering prepares them for what is to follow -- all will be resurrected and proceed to the final judgment of the Lord Jesus Christ. There our loving savior, who, we are taught, 'glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of His hands' will send all the children of God to one of these kingdoms of glory according to the desires they have manifested through their choices."

"God's plan, founded on eternal truth, requires that exaltation can be attained only through faithfulness to the covenants of an eternal marriage between a man and a woman in the Holy Temple, which marriage will ultimately be available to all the faithful. That is why we teach that 'gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose,'" he added.

Referring to "The Family Proclamation," Oaks said, "Its declarations clarify the celestial requirements that prepare us to live with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Those who do not fully understand the Father's loving plan for His children may consider this Family Proclamation no more than a changeable statement of policy. In contrast, we affirm that the Family Proclamation, founded on irrevocable doctrine, defines the mortal family relationship where the most important part of our eternal development can occur.

"Salvation is an individual matter, but exaltation is a family matter."

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke of the countless individuals from the pioneers forward who helped build the kingdom of God.

"I am grateful for millions of church members who today are coming unto the savior and pressing forward on the covenant path in the last wagons of our contemporary wagon trains -- and who truly are no less serviceable," Bednar said. "Your strong faith in Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and your unpretentious, consecrated lives inspire me to be a better man and disciple. I love you. I admire you. I thank you. And I commend you."

He used "in the path of their duty" to describe what members are doing to return to God and coming unto Christ.

"I believe the phrase 'in the path of their duty' describes discerning brothers and sisters who look for and sit next to people who are alone in church meetings and in a variety of other settings. They consistently strive to comfort those that stand in need of comfort, without expectations of acknowledgment or praise."

Sister Amy Wright, first counselor in the General Primary Presidency, relayed a story from when she learned she had cancer: "In my mind I asked Heavenly Father, 'Am I going to die?' The Holy Ghost whispered, 'Everything is going to be OK.' Then I asked, 'Am I going to live?' Again, the answer came, 'Everything is going to be OK.' I was confused. Why did I receive the exact same answer whether I lived or died?

"Then suddenly every fiber of my being filled with absolute peace as I was reminded: We did not need to hurry home and teach our children how to pray. They knew how to receive answers and comfort from prayer. We did not need to hurry home and teach them about the scriptures or words of living prophets. Those words were already a familiar source of strength and understanding. We did not need to hurry home and teach them about repentance, the Resurrection, the Restoration, the plan of salvation, eternal families or the very doctrine of Jesus Christ.

"I testify that we should look to Christ and live.

"Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to 'abide the day.' Abiding the day does not mean adding to an ever-increasing to-do list. Think of a magnifying glass. Its sole purpose is not simply to make things appear bigger. It can also gather and focus light to make it more powerful. We need to simplify, focus our efforts and be gatherers of the light of Jesus Christ. We need more holy and revelatory experiences."

Elder D. Todd Christofferson explained the necessity of the keys of the Priesthood and the importance of the sealing power.

"We tend to think of the sealing authority as applying only to certain temple ordinances, but that authority is necessary to make any ordinance valid and binding beyond death," he said. "The sealing power confers a seal of legitimacy upon your baptism, for example, so that it is recognized here and in heaven. Ultimately, all priesthood ordinances are performed under the keys of the president of the church, and as President Joseph Fielding Smith explained: 'He (the president of the church) has given us authority, he has put the sealing power in our priesthood, because he holds those keys.'"

"I testify that President Russell M. Nelson, as president of the church, is the one man on earth today that by his keys directs the use of this supernal power," he added. "I testify that the Atonement of Jesus Christ has made immortality a verity and the possibility of exalted family relationships a reality."

Elder Ian S. Ardern of the Seventy spoke of humanitarian services in Africa: "Our church humanitarian efforts find us quickly responding to natural disasters and binding up the world's widening wounds of disease, hunger, infant mortality, malnutrition, displacement and the often-unseen wounds of discouragement, disappointment and despair."

"As a church, we are grateful to collaborate with other 'hosts' or organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, UNICEF and Red Cross/Red Crescent to assist in our humanitarian endeavors," Ardern said. "We are equally grateful for your 'two pence' or two euros, two pesos or two shillings that are easing the burden that too many around the world are having to bear. It is unlikely you will know the recipients of your time, dollars and dimes, but compassion does not require us to know them, it only requires us to love them."

Elder Robert Daines of the Seventy spoke of being face-blind and warned of being spiritually face-blind. "We want to see Jesus for who He is and to feel His love," he said.

Living so your posterity also have the gospel in their lives was the message of Elder Carlos A. Gordoy of the Seventy.

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