General Conference speakers are not assigned topics on which to speak. Themes, however, seem to emerge every Conference weekend.
From stories about lost boys in a desert storm to endearing tributes to those passed on, General Authorities and Church leaders always seem to know what the members need to hear. Talks from the 183rd Semiannual General Conference can be broken down into five major themes:
The general officers and General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints addressed a variety of topics during the 183rd Semiannual General Conference, but one of particular focus was the Atonement of Jesus Christ and its role in repentance.
President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke on the personal nature of repentance and gave counsel for those seeking forgiveness.
“Repentance is individual, and so is forgiveness,” President Packer said. “The Lord requires only that one turn from their sin, and ‘(He) will forgive their iniquity, and … remember their sin no more.’”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve directed his remarks toward those who are enduring serious mental health issues. He taught that hope in the Atonement can help with deep-set psychological wounds.
Elder Holland said he has, through the Atonement, seen these miracles come when others might say hope was lost.
“Hope is never lost,” he said. “If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: If the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.”
Church leaders spoke further on the importance of enduring to the end, especially through trials and storms, as a central component of the doctrine of Christ.
Elder Richard J. Maynes of the presidency of the Seventy retold the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith suffering in Liberty Jail.
“Joseph pled with the Lord in humble prayer that the Saints might be relieved from current suffering,” Elder Maynes said. “The Lord responded by teaching the Prophet Joseph, and all of us, that the challenges we face, if successfully endured, will be for our ultimate good.”
Elder Holland also spoke to those going through difficult times and emotional distress. He reminded listeners that the Savior has promised to lift individuals as they turn to Him for healing and comfort.
“Whatever your struggle — mental or emotional or physical or otherwise — don’t vote against the preciousness of life by ending it,” Elder Holland 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.”
Women and family
Church leaders spoke throughout Conference of the important role women have in the Church as well as the divine gender roles bestowed on men and women to make strong, eternal families.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve emphasized the important role of women in the home and expressed concern about “philosophies that criticize or diminish respect for women who choose to make the sacrifices necessary to be mothers, teachers, nurturers or friends to children.”
In the final talk of the Sunday afternoon session, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve boldly proclaimed the sacred nature of the family and marriage.
“Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fullness of life on Earth and in heaven,” he said. “God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood or misconstrued.”
He added that God’s pattern does not change in the face of opposition. “Regardless of what civil legislation may be enacted, the doctrine of the Lord regarding marriage and morality cannot be changed.”
Another common theme throughout sessions of General Conference was serving through the priesthood.
President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency told the story of the Good Samaritan to encourage priesthood holders to develop the desire to serve. He described three promises the Lord offers.
“First, the Lord will give you, if you ask, the feelings of the compassion He feels for those in need,” President Eyring 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.”
This calling to better serve through the priesthood is not only extended to men. Sister Carole M. Stephens of the General Relief Society Presidency encouraged members not to be shy in asking for help, as the priesthood is given to bless all members of the Church.
Sister Stephens quoted Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve as saying, “Our Father in Heaven is generous with His power. All men and women have access to this power for our help in our own lives.”
President Monson added his testimony of the Savior’s life of service.
“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,” President Monson said.
Hastening the work
President Monson opened Conference with an announcement that the Church had reached a record 80,333 missionaries and 15 million members. A focus on spreading the gospel followed.
“Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him,” he said.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve reminded Church members that sharing the gospel should be natural and easy.
“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,” he said.
Throughout Conference, speakers also implored listeners to reach out to those who have left the Church or who are struggling. Latter-day Saints were promised joy in helping bring these and others to Christ.
“If you are humble, obedient and hearken to the voice of the Spirit, you will find great happiness in your service as a missionary,” said Elder Randy D. Funk of the Quorum of the Seventy.