The Saturday afternoon session of General Conference was filled with insight and counsel from Church leaders about missionary work and the things Church members can do to become more engaged in sharing the gospel. Topics of faith and hope were also present within the addresses of the General Authorities.
President Boyd K. Packer — Quorum of the Twelve
President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke on the current nature of the world’s deteriorating moral values and ways in which individuals can protect themselves through adherence to gospel principles.
He began his address by describing a couple for whom he was recently able to perform a sealing. He related their joy on the day of their marriage and the new responsibility they would have when they start to build their own family.
“Parents today wonder if there is a safe place to raise their children,” President Packer said. “There is a safe place. It is in a gospel-centered home. We focus on the family in the Church, and we counsel parents everywhere to raise their children in righteousness.”
President Packer recounted the words of Moroni and the Apostle Paul in relation to prophecies of the perilous times in which we now live.
“The descriptions Paul and Moroni give of our day are so accurate that they cannot be dismissed,” he said. “For many it may be quite disturbing, even discouraging. Nevertheless, when I think of the future, I am overwhelmed with feelings of positive optimism.”
He then gave counsel and encouragement in regard to the power of reading the scriptures.
“If the language of the scriptures at first seems strange to you, keep reading,” he said. “Soon you will come to recognize the beauty and power found on those pages.”
President Packer also emphasized the power of repentance and the personal nature of the process.
“Repentance is individual, and so is forgiveness,” he said. “The Lord requires only that one turn from their sin, and ‘He will forgive their iniquity, and … remember their sin no more.”
He related the power of repentance to the dust of chalk on a chalkboard. Just as it can be erased and removed, so can sin through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He assured that this was true in every case.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson — Quorum of the Twelve
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve addressed the congregation on the importance of women within the Church and provided counsel as to how they can protect their moral influence.
Elder Christofferson began by expressing gratitude for the influence of good that women have within the Church. He related that women have provided a moral foundation that has been beneficial to the common good in society.
“Women bring with them into the world a certain virtue, a divine gift that makes them adept at instilling such qualities as faith, courage, empathy, and refinement in relationships and in cultures,” he said.
He continued by relating the significant influence some women have had in his life. He mentioned the influence of Anna Daines, a woman who was a positive influence for good in overcoming Mormon prejudices in New Jersey in the 1930s. He also spoke of his grandmother, Adena Warnick Swenson. She taught Elder Christofferson to be conscientious in his priesthood service and also the things that he needed to do to turn him from a boy into a priesthood man.
He praised women in the Church but also acknowledged that all members have shortcomings.
“You don’t have to be perfect; I don’t claim that you are,” he said. “What I mean to say is that whether you are single or married, whether you have borne children or not, whether you are old, young or in between, your morality is vital, and that perhaps we have begun to take it and you for granted.”
Elder Christofferson then provided counsel to protect women from things he feels are threatening their moral influence, including the devaluation of marriage and of motherhood and homemaking as a career, attitudes toward human sexuality, and the erasing of differences between the masculine and feminine in the sake of equality.
Elder S. Gifford Nielson — First Quorum of the Seventy
Elder S. Gifford Nielson, of the Seventy, addressed the importance of missionary work and emphasized that the work is rapidly hastening.
Nielson expressed his excitement for the new developments in missionary work and stated the importance of members becoming anxiously involved in efforts that are taking place.
“We need to be engaged as never before to match the excitement of our leaders and the commitment of our full-time missionaries,” he said. “This work is not going to move forward in the Lord’s intended way without us.”
He commented on the historical nature of recent changes in the Church that have led to the vast increase in missionary work by quoting Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“This is the most remarkable era in the history of the Church,” he quoted. “This is something that ranks with the great events that have happened in past history, like the First Vision, like the gift of the Book of Mormon, like the Restoration of the Gospel, like all of the things that build that foundation for us to go forward and teach in our Father in Heaven’s kingdom.”
Nielson also provided a list of things individuals can do to become more involved in missionary work. First, he suggested to bring someone closer to the Savior and His gospel everyday. Second, he said to pray for the missionaries serving in congregations and their investigators by name. Third, he said to invite a friend to an activity in or out of the home.
Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela — First Quorum of the Seventy
Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela of the Seventy spoke of the small and simple things members of the Church can do to participate in missionary experiences.
Elder Valenzuela related an experience he had when he traveled to the MTC in Mexico. He recounted the beautifully manicured landscaping throughout the campus and the joy that was radiating from the faces of the missionaries who were currently preparing to spread the gospel.
“The innocence and youth of our missionaries exemplify the Lord’s way,” he said. “That those who are humble may ‘invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.'”
He then told of an experience his wife had visiting a woman in their ward named Martha. During a visiting teaching visit to her home, Martha told Sister Valenzuela and her companion to never come back again and she no longer wished to come to church. Sister Valenzuela and her companion responded by asking to sing a hymn with her.
“As they sang, something special happened,” Elder Valenzuela said. “Little by little, the Spirit began to fill the room. Each of them felt it. Martha’s heart began to soften. With her eyes filled with tears, she expressed to her visiting teachers the feelings of her heart. At that moment, she realized the gospel was true.”
Valenzuela continued to explain that after that experience, Martha began to attend church with her daughter, and her family has felt the joy that living the gospel brings.
Elder Timothy J. Dyches — Second Quorum of the Seventy
Elder Timothy J. Dyches of the Seventy spoke about the power of faith and the ability it has to make one whole in times of trial and tribulation.
Dyches related experiences during the ministry of Christ during which individuals exercised faith to make them whole.
“As they went in faith, the miracle occurred,” Dyches said. “Can you imagine the overwhelming joy with each step as they witnessed in real time their bodies being cleansed, healed and restored right before their eyes?”
He then provided council to draw closer to Christ to inherit the blessings that would come in overcoming opposition.
“As we draw near to Him,” he said, “we realize that mortality is meant to be difficult and that ‘opposition in all things’ is not a flaw in the Plan of Salvation. Opposition, rather, is the indispensable element of mortality and strengthens our will and refines our choices.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland — Quorum of the Twelve
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve addressed those suffering from mental and emotional illness and focused most of his remarks on overcoming severe depression.
Elder Holland expressed hope for those who are experiencing severe emotional distress. He said the Savior has promised to lift individuals over these trials as they come unto Him.
“Whatever your struggle, mental or emotional or physical or otherwise, don’t vote against the preciousness of life by ending it,” he said. “Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee.”
He concluded with his testimony of the Atonement and a statement of comfort for those dealing with emotional trials.
“I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand,” he said, “breathtakingly perfect in body and mind. What a thrilling moment that will be!”
Elder M. Russell Ballard — Quorum of the Twelve
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke about the importance of members of the Church becoming engaged in sharing the gospel.
“My message this afternoon is that the Lord is hastening His work,” Elder Ballard said. “In our day, this can only be done when every member of the Church reaches out with love to share the truths of the restored gospel. We need to work together in partnership with our nearly 80,000 missionaries now serving.”
He then explained many members of the Church are hesitant to share the gospel because of fear and a misunderstanding of what missionary work is. He offered comfort to those who were experiencing these qualms.
“Just be positive,” he said, “and those you speak with will feel your love. They will never forget that feeling even though the timing may not be right for them to embrace the gospel. That, too, may change in the future when their circumstances change.”