187th Semiannual General Conference encourages faith and following Christ

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and President Henry B. Eyring depart the Conference Center following the General Women’s Session. (Savannah Hopkinson)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 187th Semiannual General Conference was a time of learning and spiritual renewal, despite the death of Elder Robert D. Hales between the Sunday sessions. The 85-year-old apostle was surrounded by his wife and family when he died, according to a news release from the church.

During the Sunday afternoon session, Elder Neil A. Andersen delivered part of the message Elder Hales would have given had his doctors initially cleared him to be at General Conference.

“When we choose to have faith, we are prepared to stand in the presence of God,” Elder Andersen said on Elder Hale’s behalf. “After the Savior’s crucifixion, he appeared only to those who had been faithful in the testimony of him while they lived in mortality. Those who rejected the testimony of the prophets could not behold the Savior’s presence nor look upon his face.” 

Elder Hales was born on August 24, 1932, in New York City. He graduated from the University of Utah, earned an MBA from Harvard and was also a jet fighter pilot in the U.S. Force. He and his wife, Mary Crandall, have two sons. He was sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on April 2, 1994.

Elder Hales’ final message echoed one of this General Conference’s main themes: following the Savior Jesus Christ.

“If we yearn to dwell in Christ and have him dwell in us, then holiness is what we seek, both body and spirit,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson said during the Saturday morning session.

Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, returned to this theme during the Sunday morning session.

“Lasting joy is found in focusing on our Savior, Jesus Christ, and living the gospel as demonstrated and taught by him,” she said. “The more we learn about, have faith in, and emulate Jesus Christ, the more we come to understand that he is the source of all healing, peace, and eternal progress.

In addition to encouraging members to follow the Savior’s example, Elder John C. Pingree of the Seventy gave special attention to the reality of each person’s divine purpose.

“Have you ever wondered if Heavenly Father has a work for you?” he said during the Saturday morning session. “Are there important things he has prepared you—and specifically you—to accomplish? I testify the answer is yes!”

“The Lord is in the small details of our lives, and those incidents and opportunities are to prepare us to lift our families and others as we build the kingdom of God on earth,” Elder Ronald A. Rasband added during the Saturday afternoon session.

During the Saturday afternoon session, President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke on the Book of Mormon’s abiding importance, referencing President Thomas S. Monson’s April 2017 General Conference talk about the blessings of studying the Book of Mormon.

“My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day,” he said. “I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life.”

President Monson’s health did not allow him to attend General Conference, but President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the first presidency, also referenced President Monson’s April 2017 General Conference talk.

“(President Monson) urged us to study, ponder, and apply (the Book of Mormon’s) teachings,” President Eyring said. “He promised that if we dedicated time each day to studying and pondering and kept the commandments the Book of Mormon contains, we would have a vital testimony of its truth, and the resultant testimony of the living Christ would see us through to safety in times of trouble.”

President Eyring continued, “As we accept President Monson’s invitation to plant in our hearts a testimony of Jesus Christ, we gain the power, the desire, and the courage to go to the rescue of others without concern for our own needs.”

Service was also a prevalent theme in the talks given over the weekend.

“I believe that most members consider service to be at the heart of their covenants and discipleship,” Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President, said during the Saturday morning session. “But I also think that sometimes… we don’t see that some of the most significant needs we can meet are within our own families, among our friends, in our wards, and in our communities.”

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Seventy discussed what to do when miracles don’t come.

“A critical question to ponder is ‘Where do we place our faith?’” he said during the Sunday morning session. “Is our faith focused on simply wanting to be relieved of pain and suffering, or is it firmly centered on God the Father and his holy plan and in Jesus the Christ and his Atonement?”

To rewatch or read highlights from the talks given at General Conference, visit lds.org.

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