Former Sunday School General President Russell T. Osguthorpe decided to focus his remarks at BYU’s Women’s Conference on just one word: “one.”
Before Osguthorpe spoke, Lisa M. Leavitt, an associate clinical professor of counselling for BYU, welcomed the “sisters and brave brethren” in attendance. She addressed the crowd first and spoke on “the difference between sins, mistakes and poor and hasty choices.”
Leavitt said she felt unqualified at first when asked to speak at Women’s Conference but then learned she was actually quite qualified given her professional background and the fact that she is “often privy to things shared with few others.” Sharing several powerful stories from both her work and personal life, Leavitt had those in attendance both laughing at times and almost in tears at others.
Projecting an image of Harry Anderson’s iconic “Jesus Praying in Gethsemane” painting onto a screen at the front of the de Jong Concert Hall, Osguthorpe began his remarks. “We know this picture very well; it’s almost part of us” he said. Osguthorpe then gave those in attendance a minute to think of a word that came to mind when seeing the image and then encouraged everyone to share it with the people around them.
The previously jovial crowd turned quiet when given a chance to speak and even had to be reminded by Osguthorpe, after about 30 seconds of complete silence, that, “It’s OK to talk, you can break the rules,” which broke the ice and led to light laughter from the crowd.
“There are lots of words and feelings that come to our mind when we see Christ in Gethsemane … lots of words. … Words are coming at us faster than we can take them in,” Osguthorpe said. “I just want to talk about one word today; this word is ‘one.’ That’s the word.”
Osguthorpe reminded those in attendance that the word “one” was “a doctrinal word that was powerful to the max.” He then went on and shared several scriptural examples to illustrate his point, including: one faith, one heart, one mind, one fold, one shepherd, one God and one baptism, among others. When put before the word in the scriptures the word one “modifies in a powerful, doctrinal way,” Osguthorpe stated.
Another image on the screen was used showing the word “Atonement” with the letters “one” being emphasized. “It’s the middle of this word, Atonement,” Osguthorpe said when the image was displayed. “This is the center of the Atonement, becoming one.” Osguthorpe then went on to explain his remarks and how we may become one with the Godhead by sharing and focusing the majority of his remarks on the Savior’s intercessory prayer found in John 17.
“This was the most important thought on the Savior’s mind just before He went to the cross,” Osguthorpe said. “This is what our goal is in life, to become one with Him and one with another. All the blessings of the Gospel come when we are one with God and one with another.”
After concluding his remarks, Osguthorpe again gave the crowd a moment of silence. This time, however, he asked them to simply write down “one thing you can do to become one with God.”
After several years working in the Church Education System and as a former BYU professor, Osguthorpe served as the Sunday School General President from 2009 to 2014, being released last month at the church’s April General Conference. A former president of the South Dakota Rapid City Mission, Osguthorpe has recently been called as the new president of the North Dakota Bismark Mission. He will begin his service in July.