Priesthood session 183rd annual General Conference

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Elder Robert D. Hales

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles held his fists close to the podium as he asked the men of the Church to imagine that the distance between his fists represented the short distance between Church standards and common worldly standards a few generations ago.

“The world has gone far afield,” Elder Hales said as he held one fist still and moved the other one to the side. “The Church will remain constant, it’s still right here, yet the world will keep moving — that gap is becoming wider and wider.”

Elder Hales shared a high school experience from a time when the gap was much narrower. As he traveled with the varsity baseball team, Elder Hales became exposed to “language and behavior that was not in harmony with the standards of the gospel.” When he arrived at home after the first away game, his father perceived what had happened on the bus ride home.

His father, a professional artist, drew a picture of a knight and taught him about the Armor of God from the words of the Apostle Paul: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

“We need this armor.” Elder Hales said. “Today, temptation finds you. Please remember that.”

This is not the first time Elder Hales has talked about the difference between the Church’s unchanging standards versus the world’s drifting morals. In a BYU devotional in 1982, Elder Hales said he used the same hand gesture to illustrate the relative distance between common values and gospel doctrine.

Today, Elder Hales warned of misunderstanding and criticism which may result from standing firm in a world of shifting values.  As God’s children, “we are not authorized to negotiate the conditions of that eternal plan,” he explained.

“Standing obedient and strong on the doctrine of our God, we stand in holy places, for His doctrine is sacred and will not change in the social and political winds of our day,” Elder Hales said.

“I testify that we need not be afraid if we are grounded in His doctrine,” he promised. “It is our sacred privilege to stand with Him!” Prophets of old were able to stand strong because they stood with the Lord.

Jesus, during his earthly ministry, was confronted and accused for his steadfastness — such as when he taught the gospel in his youth to the high priests in the temple or when he stood silent while the chief priests accused him before Caiaphas.

Elder Hales concluded by bearing testimony of how Christ “did not shrink” when he was required to perform the Atonement.

Elder Tad R. Callister

Elder Tad R. Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy addressed the leaders of young priesthood holders.

He noticed three factors that contribute to the growth of a young man during the missionary years: trust, high but loving expectations and training. His talk illustrated how these three principles can be applied to teaching young men so their growth will occur earlier, while serving as deacons quorum presidents, long before missionionary age.

“As an evidence of this trust,” Elder Callister said, “we call deacons quorum presidents by revelation… this assurance helps him know that God both trusts him and sustains him.”

The second and third principle were connected, according to Elder Callister, because an effective leader will set expectations high and then lovingly train young men to meet expectations. For example, the expectation for a deacons quorum president is that he will lead his quorum by receiving revelation. An effective leader will teach the deacons how to obtain, recognize and act upon revelation.

“There is an old saying: Do not die with your music still in you,” Elder Callister said. He concluded, “In like manner I would say to you adult leaders, do not get released with your leadership skills still in you.”

President David L. Beck

David L. Beck, Young Men General President, illustrated one way young men can fulfill their duty as ministers.

He related the story of how an entire high school football team followed the example of their starting quarterback, an Aaronic Priesthood holder, in protecting a girl from further bullying.

“You have probably seen people mistreated like this in your school too,” Beck said, driving his point home. The football team received national attention and became known for being ministers even as they marched through the season to a state championship title. “What began as an effort to minister to one is inspiring thousands of others to do the same,” Beck said.

Beck said young men can begin ministering in their homes to members of their families.

“The next time your mother asks for your help around the house, say something like ‘Thank you for asking, Mom. I would love to help,'” Beck said as many in the audience chuckled. “Some of you might want to brush up on your first aid skills before you try this, because you may send her into shock.”

Beck gave examples of how ministering to family members can improve relationships and strengthen the spirit in the home, and how members of a quorum can reach out to minister to other members of their quorum.

“Minister every day,” Beck ended. “Opportunities are all around you. Look for them. Ask the Lord to help you recognize them. You will find that most consist of small, sincere acts that help others become followers of Jesus Christ.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, addressed the priesthood session by talking about four titles that all priesthood holders share.

“We men sometimes identify ourselves by titles,” President Uchtdorf began. He gave examples of how a title describes one’s role in a family, one’s occupation or one’s position in the Church.

The four titles he describes “may help us recognize our individual roles in God’s eternal plan and our potential as priesthood holders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Son of Heavenly Father. The first title defines us at the most fundamental level. We are all God’s children.

“Unfortunately, none of us quite lives up to everything that this title implies,” Uchtdorf said. “It can be discouraging at times to know what it means to be a son of God and yet come up short. The adversary likes to take advantage of these feelings. Satan would rather that you define yourself by your sins instead of your divine potential. Brethren, don’t listen to him.”

Just as a father would never punish a toddler for failing to walk, Heavenly Father is patient with our stumbles. “Compared to the perfection of God, we mortals are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers,” President Uchtdorf said.

Disciple of Jesus Christ. While we are all supposed to follow Christ, not everyone is supposed to become the exactly the same. Some think that discipleship leads each member to “look, feel, think, and behave like every other” but President Uchtdorf says that this would “contradict the genius of God,” who created each person with a unique identity.

“As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.”

Healer of Souls. Continuing from the idea of following Jesus Christ, President Uchtdorf said those who truly follow also emulate his example as a healer.

“We who have been ordained to the priesthood of God are called to practice ‘the healer’s art,'” President Uchtdorf said.

President Uchtdorf said that a home teacher, a father or a priesthood leader acts as a healer by keeping “in one hand a vial of consecrated oil for blessing the sick,” in the other hand, he said, a loaf of bread for feeding the hungry. Along with both hands full, a priesthood holder is supposed to carry in his heart “the peaceable word of God, ‘which healeth the wounded soul.'” (Jacob 2:8)

Heir of Eternal Life. President Uchtdorf connects the final title to the first one, quoting from Romans chapter eight, which says if we are children of God, then we are heirs of his kingdom.

“It is beyond my power of thought to imagine all that this promise entails,” President Uchtdorf said. “But I do know it is grand, it is divine, it is eternal, and it is worth all of our efforts in life.” President Uchtdorf also cited the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, which reiterates the promise in Romans but includes obtaining the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood as a prerequisite for receiving all that God has.

“Knowing this, how can we not willingly and joyfully engage in serving the Lord and fellowmen and living up to our responsibilities in the priesthood of God?” President Uchtdorf asked.

“Your opportunities for service are endless. If you are waiting on the sidelines, I encourage you to get in the game.”

President Uchtdorf became very emotional as he spoke to those who may feel overlooked or not needed and dedicated the rest of his remarks to encouraging all priesthood holders to feel needed and loved.

He concluded by saying, “I pray that as you ponder the many titles of a worthy priesthood holder you will discover a divine wind at your back, lifting you ever upward, towards the great inheritance you Heavenly Father has reserved for you.”

President Henry B. Eyring

President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, shared a story of a convert to the church who lives in a country where the Church’s missionary work recently began.

The boy was very young when his family came to Utah. Here, the boy’s family was taught the gospel and was baptized, but he was not old enough to be baptized. After the tragic death of his parents, the boy returned to the city where he was born, where he was raised by his grandmother.

Later in his life, he encountered a Church member who was seeking accommodations for missionaries in the area and the 16-year-old was introduced to missionaries as they moved in to begin the work in his city. He was the first convert, and, President Eyring said, “He was the first priesthood pioneer to gather other children of Heavenly Father with him to establish the Church in a city of approximately 130,000 people.”

President Eyring said that the story may seem unremarkable “unless you recognize in it the pattern of God’s hand in building His kingdom.” The 16-year-old boy has directly affected the growth of that area to six members in a few months.

“I have seen it many times,” President Eyring said. He related the story of how he was called to be a district missionary while stationed in Albuquerque.

During his time there, he averaged more than 40 hours of missionary service each week without knocking on doors. “The members filled our plates so full that we often taught two families in an evening,” President Eyring said. “I saw for myself the power and the blessing in the repeated call of prophets for every member to be a missionary.”

President Eyring later moved to Massachusetts. There, he served as a counselor to the district president and witnessed the organization of their first stake after five years.

“Years later I returned to conduct a stake conference there,” President Eyring recounted. “The stake president took me to see a rocky hill in Belmont (Mass.). He told me it would be a perfect lace for a temple of God. One stands there now. When I gaze on it, I remember the humble members I sat with in tiny branches, the neighbors they invited and the missionaries who were teaching them.”

President Eyring cited the April 1959 General Conference, in which President David O. McKay famously stated, “Every member a missionary.”

In 2002, the Church instructed bishops to take on the responsibility of overseeing missionary work in their wards. President Eyring provided a few other examples of how bishops are carrying out this duty such as discussing the progress of investigators in ward council. As these bishops counsel with youth, also, their conversion converts into more dedicated missionary work.

“Whether it is in the large ward where the new deacon will perform his duty to share the gospel and build up the kingdom or in the tiny group far away where the new priest serves, they will be one in purpose.” They will both invite others to come to Christ and President Eyring asked us to “encourage people we love to be cleansed from sin and to happy with us in the kingdom of God.”

President Monson

Church President Thomas S. Monson asserted there is “no proclamation more relevant, no responsibility more binding, no instruction more direct than the injunction given by the resurrected Lord as He appeared in Galilee to the 11 disciples.”

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” he said, quoting Matthew 28:19.

“Missionary work is an identifying feather of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” President Monson said. “Always has it been; ever shall it be.”

President Monson commended the 65,000 missionaries who are currently serving. Since the recent surge of missionaries came after the missionary age change last October conference, President Monson addressed those in the crowd who would have to replace the current missionary force within the next two years.

President Monson’s formula for missionary success included:

Search the scriptures with diligence

President Monson shared one scriptural reference for all to consider. When Alma was reunited with the sons of Mosiah after years of missionary labor, he rejoiced that “they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.” (Alma 17:2)

Plan your life with purpose

President Monson and the entire congregation chuckled when he said, “During no other time does the entire family so anxiously watch and wait for the mailman,” than when a missionary is waiting for his call.  But missionary preparation needs to begin early. “A mission is a family affair,” President Monson said.

Teach the truth with testimony

 From his days as a mission president in Toronto, President Monson told the story of how one convert was affected by the powerful testimony of a young missionary. “That night, I could not sleep,” Elmer Pollard, of Ontario, told President Monson. After dismissing the missionaries, they returned to his door and bore testimony which resounded in his ears that night: “‘Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I know it. I know it. I know it.'”

Serve the Lord with love

A young man sought President Monson’s advice before beginning his mission, asking how he could help his father accept the gospel while he was on his mission. President Monson counseled him to serve diligently and write home every week, letting his father know how much he loved him. The young man’s father and mother traveled to Australia at the conclusion of their son’s mission so that his father could be baptized by him.

“There is no substitute for love,” President Monson said.

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