General Conference: Priesthood session

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Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke to priesthood holders Saturday evening, recommitting members to serve and reach out to others by following the example of Jesus Christ.

Church leaders spoke often of missionary work, priesthood duties and fellowshipping others, addressing priesthood holders about their duty to be compassionate and loving to those they interact with in their quorums, wards, homes and in their day-to-day interactions. They provided advice and many personal parables to illustrate important principles.

Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve and President Henry B. Eyring attended the 183rd Semiannual General Conference. Photo by Maddi Dayton.
Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve and President Henry B. Eyring attended the 183rd Semiannual General Conference. (Photo by Maddi Dayton)

Elder L. Tom Perry, Quorum of the Twelve

Elder L. Tom Perry opened the priesthood session by recounting an experience he had with a teacher in Primary who promised each of the children in her class that if they memorized all the Articles of Faith they could choose the location for an outing for their last class.

The children selected a favorite hiking place at the entrance of Logan Canyon called Turtle Back and climbed to the top of the cliff — and only then realized that their selection may not have been the most ideal for their teacher. They helped her to the top where, after catching her breath, she gave them their final lesson.

The Primary teacher categorized the Articles by highlighting specific teachings in each. These included the organization and order of the priesthood, eternal resources in a mortal journey, member missionaries and aspirational attributes.

Elder Perry compared the doctrine of the Church to a battery in a cell phone — the cell phone is rendered useless when the battery is removed.

The first Articles of Faith outline the basic doctrines of Christ and the nature of the Godhead. After those are understood, the next articles teach of the organization and order of the priesthood, as well as the resources available in mortality.

“We learn that in addition to listening to the still, small voice of the Spirit, and reading the scriptures, that another source of guidance is our Church leaders,” Elder Perry said.

Elder Perry explained that Articles 10–12 are tied to missionary work. He concluded by sharing the attributes found in the 13th Article of Faith.

“All of us should aspire to embody these attributes and lead lives that exemplify them,” he said.

Returning to the cell phone analogy, Elder Perry explained the importance of the Articles of Faith — a lesson he remembers from his teacher back in Primary.

“The truths taught in the Articles of Faith build upon one another like the components of a cell phone mutually support one another,” he said. “Like the elaborate supply chain that adds components to a cell phone, the Articles of Faith supply us with the key doctrines of the restoration.”

At the end of his talk, Elder Perry returned to the adventure of his class in Logan Canyon, where, while struggling to descend the mountain with their teacher, they encountered police officers sent by the Primary president, who feared they were lost.

Elder Perry looks fondly on the memory of that night, understanding its significance.

“Study and learn the Articles of Faith and the doctrines they teach,” he said. “They are among the most important and certainly the most concise statement of doctrine in the Church.”

Bishop Gérald Caussé, Presiding Bishopric — First Counselor

Bishop Gérald Caussé, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, spoke of the need to welcome everyone into the Church, as well as the importance building spiritual unity.

He spoke of when he was first called as a General Authority five years ago, and of the change the call brought into his life. He said the change was made much easier by the welcoming arms of members of the Church.

This experience has been representative for Bishop Caussé of the importance of caring for individuals throughout the world.

“Though the membership of the Church is increasing in its diversity, our sacred heritage transcends our differences,” he said. “We become brothers and sisters, equal heirs to the same spiritual lineage.”

Bishop Caussé described Christ as an example of one who would serve those different than Him.

“Jesus was an example of one who went far beyond the simple obligation of hospitality and tolerance,” he said. “Those who were excluded from society, those who were rejected and considered to be impure by the self-righteous were given His compassion and respect.”

He illustrated this principle by recounting Christ’s experiences crossing cultural and social lines to eat with publicans and tax collectors, touch the leper and speak with the woman of Samaria.

Bishop Caussé then turned to Jean Valjean, a character in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” and his experience with the bishop who overlooked his past to provide him help and assistance. He urged members to extend that same welcome to those in need.

“In this Church, our wards and our quorums do not belong to us,” he said. “They belong to Jesus Christ. Whoever enters our meetinghouses should feel at home.”

Bishop Caussé admonished members to reach out to those who appear at Church buildings and to build spiritual unity within wards and branches — something he described as an important priesthood responsibility.

“Unity is not achieved by ignoring and isolating members who seem to be different or weaker and only associating with people who are like us,” he said. “On the contrary, unity is gained by welcoming and serving those who are new or who have particular needs.”

Elder Randy D. Funk, Second Quorum of the Seventy

Elder Randy D. Funk was mindful of the recent growth to 80,000 missionaries as he encouraged young priesthood holders to prepare to worthily serve a mission.

He illustrated the importance of being prepared to feel the Spirit when he told of a missionary he presided over in the India Bangalore Mission: Elder Pokhrel. Elder Pokhrel had never seen a missionary until he became one; thus, the elder had no idea what to expect, showing up at the MTC with five pairs of denim jeans and t-shirts instead of proselyting clothes.

But even after a rough start, the elder became a strong missionary. Elder Funk told of how Elder Pokhrel overcame feelings of inadequacy, homesickness, language barriers and other challenges to become a powerful missionary who continues to bless India.

Elder Funk spoke of three attributes all missionaries should seek to have to obtain spiritual power: humility, obedience and the ability to hear and follow the Spirit.

“These three attributes are closely interrelated,” he said. “If you are humble, you will want to be obedient. If you are obedient, you will feel the Spirit. The Spirit is essential.”

He admonished everyone to repent of unresolved sins and to live virtuous lives, that the Spirit may accompany them.

Elder Funk responded to those who are unsure if they are knowledgeable enough to serve or feel they have limited talents, abilities or experiences.

“Remember the experience of Elder Pokhrel,” he said. “Prepare as well as you can and know that our Heavenly Father will magnify your humble and obedient efforts.”

He concluded by recounting the experience of Elder Hollings, who also served in India. On his first day in the mission field, Elder Hollings was asked to teach a woman who spoke a language he didn’t know. As he repeated the story of the first vision, the Spirit testified to the woman before the message could even be translated.

“The countenance of that dear sister changed,” he said. “Tears appeared … and before what he said could be interpreted, she asked through her tears in her native language, ‘May I be baptized? And will you teach my son?’”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, First Presidency — Second Counselor

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke with a sense of optimism and hope to those struggling with the difficulties of life, providing insight into how the gospel can make all things possible.

He told of a recent experience he had skiing with his 12-year-old grandson, during which he crashed on the icy slope. President Uchtdorf struggled to get up and, while trying to avoid being seen by others, his grandson came over, took him by the hand, and told him, “Opa, you can do it now.”

President Uchtdorf instantly stood, infused with “confidence, enthusiasm and strength.”

This perspective and experience highlighted the need to reach out to priesthood holders who may be struggling, at times to the point that they stumble and withdraw from their assignments.

“I have watched men filled with potential and grace disengage from the challenging work of building the kingdom of God because they had failed a time or two,” President Uchtdorf said. “Brethren, our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off and move forward.”

He described the tools available to help everyone pass the test of mortality.

“When we stray — when we fall or depart from the way of our Heavenly Father — the words of the prophets tell us how to rise up again and get back on track,” he said.

President Uchtdorf also spoke of the need for Godly sorrow to help lead priesthood holders to happiness.

“Godly sorrow leads to conversion and a change of heart,” he said. “It causes us to hate sin and love goodness. It encourages us to stand up and walk tall in the light of Christ’s love.”

President Uchtdorf also addressed those who felt they needed to walk the path alone, providing a reminder of the role of the Jesus Christ. Those who repent will have the heavenly assurance that they can do it, just as his grandson promised him.

He also discussed the tactics of the adversary that prevent those listening from living up to their full potential. President Uchtdorf reminded members that, despite slip-ups, Jesus Christ provides a way back.

“My dear friends and brethren, no matter how many times you have slipped or fallen, rise up,” he said. “Your destiny is a glorious one. Stand tall and walk in the light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. You are stronger than you realize. You are more capable than you can imagine. You can do it now!”

President Henry B. Eyring, First Presidency — First Counselor

President Eyring provided counsel to priesthood holders about how to rise to a standard of compassion while serving those around them.

He began by telling the story of an elders quorum president who, he said, is likely to represent the situation of many priesthood holders in the Church. The elders quorum president received a plea for help from a man in his quorum. The man hurt his back while moving his wife and baby to a new apartment and, in desperation, reached out to his elders quorum president for assistance.

According to President Eyring, the challenge to this elders quorum president is common to many in the Church.

“The Lord knew you would have such days when He called you to this position,” he said.

He then recounted the parable of the Good Samaritan to emphasize the principle of compassion, reminding priesthood holders that they are as the Samaritan and not the priest or the Levite that passed by the wounded man.

President Eyring reminded priesthood holders about three assurances provided by the Lord:

“First, the Lord will give you, if you ask, the feelings of the compassion He feels for those in need,” he said. “Second, He will provide others, like the innkeeper, to join with you in your service. And third, the Lord, like the good Samaritan, will more than recompense all who join in giving help to those in need.”

He promised priesthood leaders the Lord knows the members of their quorums perfectly and that priesthood leaders can too through revelation.

He illustrated these points by telling of experiences he had as a young priest, when his bishop would invite him to come on visits to members in the ward. He did not understand the purpose at the time, though he does now.

“You young men cannot know what acts of priesthood service the Lord is preparing you to give,” he said. “But the greater challenge for every priesthood holder is to give spiritual help. All of us have that charge.”

President Eyring concluded by urging priesthood holders to raise their standard of compassion, something that would be hard but possible through the Lord. He pointed members to advice in the Book of Mormon for guidance.

“Wherefore my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ,” he said.

President Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

President Thomas S. Monson continued the theme of priesthood service and working to uplift others by speaking of the importance of home teaching.

Home teaching, he explained, is one of the duties of all priesthood holders.

“There are lives to brighten,” President Monson said. “There are hearts to touch. There are souls to save. Ours is the sacred privilege to brighten, to touch and to save those precious souls entrusted to our care.”

He spoke fondly of times when, as a boy, his family would take trips to Provo Canyon. In anticipation of the fishing and swimming they could do, President Monson would urge his dad to accelerate faster. As the Oldsmobile came around a corner, they were quickly stopped by hundreds of sheep.

The sheep were hardly moving, being shepherded by a man on a horse who dozed off and let the yapping dogs and horse do the work.

President Monson contrasted that story, in which the shepherd represented home teachers, with another experience he had in Germany. As President Monson drove to a mission conference, he again encountered sheep, but this time they were following the shepherd and going exactly where he led them.

President Monson spoke of home teaching as a shepherding responsibility, as an assignment to prepare us for a lifetime of priesthood service and a way to prepare young men for missions.

He told priesthood holders how to make their appointments successful by making an appointment in advance and being a true friend.

To the amusement of Conference watchers, President Monson told of President Gordon B. Hinckley and Sister Hinckley’s home teacher, who made a surprise visit at the same time the Hinckleys were hosting a dinner for the Missionary Executive Committee. The man was invited in and given the opportunity to provide a lesson to the three Apostles present.

Also important, President Monson went on, is being a true friend to those home taught.

“A friend makes more than a dutiful visit each month,” he said. “A friend is more concerned about helping people than getting credit. A friend cares. A friend shows love. A friend listens. And a friend reaches out.”

He told of Dick Hammer, who was converted to the gospel after many years of being visited by Willard Milne, his diligent home teacher. When asked if he became discouraged while home teaching, Milne said, “No, it was worth every effort. As I witness the joy which has come to the members of the Hammer family, my heart fills with gratitude for the blessings the gospel has brought into their lives and for the privilege I have had to help in some way. I am a happy man.”

President Monson challenged priesthood holders to recommit to home teaching, take the opportunity now to evaluate their goals, prod their companions and rededicate themselves to the work. He ended with his testimony of the Savior.

“He lived not to be served, but to serve, not to receive, but to give; not to save His life, but to sacrifice it for others,” he said. “With him as our unfailing Guide and Exemplar, we shall qualify for His divine help in our home teaching.”

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