General Conference: Sunday afternoon

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Members of the Church gather from around the world to hear the words of living prophets and apostles. (Photo provided by the LDS Church)

President Henry B. Eyring welcomed all to the final session of the 183rd Semiannual General Conference Sunday afternoon.

Quentin L. Cook, Quorum of the Twelve

Elder Quentin L. Cook warned against the many pitfalls in the world threatening to harm our progress.

He spoke of four “kinds of bondage” threatening our lives today. The first included addictions that can take away personal agency. These addictions can include drugs, alcohol and pornography as well as other destructive substances or practices.

The second included addictions that can take our focus away from the things that matter most in life. Examples of these distractions included “excessive social media, video and digital games, sports, recreation and many others.”

Elder Cook urged members to put family first and to always make family time a priority. The third “bondage” Elder Cook spoke of was various political or ideological beliefs that are not consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He explained that he was particularly concerned that the role of a woman as a mother and a teacher was so criticized by many in the world today.

The fourth “bondage” included compromising situations when individuals are “forced into activities that violate their conscience.”

He urged all to focus on the important cause to protect family and the rising generation in an effort to protect them from the prevalent pitfalls of the world.

Neil L. Andersen, Quorum of the Twelve

Elder Neil L. Andersen spoke of the power of the priesthood and promised that regardless of family and home situation, the blessings of the priesthood can be felt in all homes alike.

“We know that the blessings of the priesthood are abundant in families where a righteous mother and father are unified in guiding their children,” he said. However, he also recognized that not all people are living in traditional family situations.

“We also know that God eagerly provides these same blessings to those in many other situations,” he said.

He explained that although the priesthood is held by worthy men who are members of the Church, the blessings of the priesthood are available to all homes, regardless of whether there is a priesthood holder or not in the home. He explained that although held by men, the priesthood does not belong to men.

“We sometimes overly associate the power of the priesthood with men in the Church,” Elder Andersen said. “A man may open the drapes so the warm sunlight comes into the room, but the man does not own the sun or the light or the warmth it brings.”

He spoke of the special blessings associated with the priesthood and said that “through the ordinances of the priesthood we receive comfort, strength, protection, peace and eternal promises.”

He explained that there are still many things we do not understand about the priesthood. However, Elder Andersen explained, “As surely as we know that God’s love is ‘alike’ for His sons and His daughters, we also know that He did not create men and women exactly the same. … Sacred responsibilities are given to each gender.”

The role of women is equally important, explained Elder Andersen. “Sincerely asking for and listening to the thoughts and concerns voiced by women is vital in life, in marriage and in building the kingdom of God,” he said.

Elder Andersen spoke of the important role women play in the Church and encouraged bishops in the church to seek the counsel of women. “You will feel the guiding hand of the Lord blessing your sacred work even more abundantly,” he said.

David M. McConkie, First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency 

Brother David M. McConkie spoke of specific ways teachers can become more effective in enlightening the understanding of those students they are called to teach.

He began by emphasizing that God heard the humble prayer of the young boy Joseph Smith, and as a result of that prayer, “The heavens were opened.”

Brother McConkie reminded members that just as God spoke to the young boy Joseph Smith, He speaks to people today.

“He spoke anciently; He spoke to Joseph, and He will speak to you,” he said. “This is what sets you apart from all other teachers in the world. This is why you cannot fail.”

He explained the method of teaching effectively in three steps. The first is to always remember as a teacher of the gospel, one is on the Lord’s errand. “The Lord has provided the way for every worthy Latter-day Saint to teach in the Savior’s way,” he said.

Second, he counseled teachers to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ rather than their own ideas or philosophies.

Third, Brother McConkie taught that teachers are to teach the principles of the gospel, focusing on the standard works of the Church, as well as the teachings of apostles and prophets.

Brother McConkie urged teachers to prepare themselves spiritually before entering the classroom. “The first and most important part of your service is your personal, spiritual preparation,” he said. He then counseled teachers to listen to their students and to discern their specific and individual needs.

“After you have prepared yourself and your lesson to the very best of your ability, you must be willing to let go,” he counseled. “When we do this the lesson you deliver is no longer your lesson, but it becomes the Savior’s lesson.”

Kevin Scott Hamilton, Quorum of the Seventy

Elder Kevin Scott Hamilton counseled members of the Church to cleave to their covenants and raise families that are strong in the gospel. He explained that even small decisions can have eternal consequences.

Elder Hamilton spoke of his own father’s family who left the Church based on a seemingly unimportant family decision to skip a Sunday sacrament meeting in order to go on a Sunday drive through the country.

“That Sunday afternoon ride in the country was probably an enjoyable family activity, but that small decision became the start of a new direction, which ultimately led his family away from the Church with its safety, security and blessings and onto a different path,” Elder Hamilton said.

Elder Hamilton outlined the spiritual nourishment associated with respective Sunday meetings, emphasizing that sacrament meeting is a time to “renew covenants, receive an increased measure of the Spirit and to be edified and instructed by the Holy Ghost.”

He taught that Sunday School is important as it is a time to “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.” Priesthood meetings are a time for men and young men to “learn their duty,” while Relief Society meetings are important to help women “strengthen their families and homes and help those in need.”

Elder Hamilton counseled Church members to make a conscious effort to attend all three meetings every Sunday and warned of the consequences from treating these meetings casually.

“The adversary ‘cheateth (our) souls and leadeth (us) carefully away.’ He uses ‘good’ activities as substitutes for ‘better’ or even ‘best’ activities,” he explained.

Elder Hamilton encouraged Church members to be diligent in their Church meetings and recognize the important blessings associated with regular Church attendance.

“May we choose to be diligent and gain the great blessings and protections that come from gathering together and keeping covenants,” he said.

Adrian Q. Ochoa, Quorum of the Seventy

Elder Adrian Q. Ochoa spoke of the perilous times in which we live and counseled members of the Church to strengthen their testimonies and to always “look up” to avoid perilous times in the world today.

Illustrating his point with a personal experience, Elder Ochoa explained that one day, while in his youth, he and his cousins were horseback riding across a prairie one bright, sunny day.

When the boys decided to pause on their journey in order to play marbles, they were unaware of the ensuing storm above them. The boys were caught in a severe thunderstorm, but they were lucky to find a young family who gave them food and shelter for the night.

When morning came, the boys were surprised to see the number of family members who had been searching for them the entire night.

Elder Ochoa explained that just as his family was anxiously awaiting the return of the young boys, “Our loving Heavenly Father is mindful of us. He is anxiously awaiting our return home.”

Elder Ochoa encouraged all to “look to the source of all wisdom and truth” to avoid the pitfalls and distractions threatening to overwhelm our lives. “Nourish your faith and testimony with the word of God.”

He encouraged men and women to always “look up” to avoid the coming storms of life.

He explained, “Today is the time to look up the Source of truth and ensure that our testimonies are strong, prepared for the trials we will surely face.”

He urged members to strengthen themselves both spiritually and temporally. “There is safety in a strong testimony,” he said. “Let us cherish and strengthen our testimonies every day.”

Terence M. Vinson, Quorum of the Seventy

Elder Terence M. Vinson spoke of the innate love Heavenly Father has for each one of us. “I feel His love,” he said. “It’s the sweetest feeling in the world.”

He taught that because of the deep love God has for each one of us, we can learn to rely more readily on him.

“The Lord wants us to develop the faith that will help us rely upon Him in solving our problems, and trust Him,” he said. “Then we can feel His love more constantly, more powerfully, more clearly and more personally.”

Elder Vinson taught that trials and challenges we all face are necessary to our eternal progression. “As I look back at the trials I have faced, it is clear that they have resulted in my growth, understanding and empathy,” he said.

“They have drawn me closer to my Heavenly Father and His Son, with experiences and refining engraved into my heart.”

Although life at times can prove difficult and challenging, Elder Vinson also emphasized God is there to help each of us in personal ways and strengthen us beyond our own capacity.

He related a story about a young boy unable to move a large rock obstructing his ability to play with his cars in his backyard. The young boy pushed and pulled but was unable to move the rock. Elder Vinson explained that the young boy’s father watched his son struggle for a moment and then counseled him to “use all your strength to move a rock this large.”

The young boy explained that he had used all of his strength, to which the father replied, “No you haven’t. You haven’t had my help yet.” The young boy and father together were able to easily move the large rock.

Just as the father helped the young boy, Elder Vinson explained, Heavenly Father is ready to help each one of us in our personal lives and is ready and willing to help us if we will but ask.

“Our Savior wants us to really love Him to the point that we want to align our will with His. … Then he can bless us as He wants to,” he said.

Elder Russell M. Nelson, Quorum of the Twelve

Elder Russell M. Nelson spoke of the importance of our physical well-being as well as our spiritual well-being. He taught that we are all children of God with a divine potential and an important responsibility to protect our bodies both physically and spiritually.

He first spoke of our responsibility as sons and daughters of God.

“As children of God, we should love Him with all our heart and soul, even more than we love our earthly parents,” he said.

He urged members to consider two questions that will determine eternal destiny. “How will you choose to care for and use your body?” he asked, as well as, “What spiritual attributes will you choose to develop?”

He taught that Heavenly Father knew each individual well before their earthly journey began. Elder Nelson reminded members that they were saved and chosen to live in this day and time “to be leaders in His great work on earth.”

“You were chosen not for your bodily characteristics, but for your spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, a thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom and a desire to serve others,” he said.

He taught that one of the important parts of living to our full eternal destiny includes marriage between a man and a woman.

“Regardless of what civil legislation may be enacted, the doctrine of the Lord regarding marriage and morality cannot be changed,” he said.

He encouraged members to “emulate our Savior’s kindness and compassion” while recognizing that “we cannot change His doctrine.”

He ended by testifying of the goodness of the Savior’s way of life. “Each day is a day of decision,” he said. “And our decisions determine our destiny.”

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