188th Annual General Conference full of historic changes

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Newly sustained President Russell M. Nelson waves as he exits the Conference Center with his wife, Wendy Watson Nelson, at the end of the Saturday morning General Conference session. (Savannah Hopkinson)

Historic changes and announcements abounded at the 188th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

During the conference, a solemn assembly was held and two new apostles were called. Additionally, the home teaching and visiting teaching were discontinuedpriesthood quorums were restructured, seven new temples were announced and a new Young Women’s General Presidency was called.

Solemn Assembly

The conference was a time of learning and instruction for members worldwide.

The first solemn assembly in 10 years was held during the Saturday morning session. One is held every General Conference when a new prophet is sustained.

As part of the assembly, quorums and groups were called individually to sustain the new prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring.

First, each priesthood body stood, then Relief Society women and young women, and finally the entire body of the church stood in unison to sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

New apostles

From left: Elder Ulisses Soares; his wife, Rosana Fernandes; Elder Gerrit W. Gong; and his wife, Susan Lindsay, walk out of the Conference Center after the Saturday morning session of General Conference. (Savannah Hopkinson)

During the solemn assembly, Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Elder Ulisses Soares were invited to join the Quorum of the Twelve. They were sustained during the Saturday Afternoon session. Both new apostles were previously members of the Quorum of the Seventy.

Elder Gong is the first Asian-American apostle and Elder Soares is the first Brazilian apostle.

‘Ministering’

In the Sunday Afternoon session, President Nelson announced the retirement of visiting and home teaching in their current form. These practices are to be replaced, he said, with a new initiative called “ministering.” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve and Sister Jean B. Bingham, General Relief Society President, further explained the changes.

“We have a heaven-sent opportunity here to demonstrate pure religion undefiled before God — to minister to the widows and the fatherless, the married and the single, the strong and the distraught, the downtrodden and the robust, the happy and the sad — in short, all of us, every one of us, because we all need to feel the warm hand of friendship and hear a firm declaration of faith,” Elder Holland said. “However, a new name, new flexibility and fewer reports won’t make an ounce of difference in our service unless we see this as an invitation to care for one another in a bold new holier way.”

Sister Bingham announced that young women would be invited to participate in ministering as companions to Relief Society Sisters, a significant change that mirrors young men accompanying priesthood members on home teaching visits.

More information on the new ministering program can be found in the Mormon Newsroom’s press release and at ministering.lds.org.

Elders and High Priests combined

President Nelson invites the priesthood to stand in a display of unity at the end of the Saturday Priesthood session. (Ty Mullen)

During the Priesthood Session, President Nelson announced that elders quorums and high priests will now meet in one ward elders quorum. High priests groups have been discontinued.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson said this change’s purpose is “to accomplish the work of the Lord more effectively.”

The reorganization, as well as further instruction on how to implement it and other policy changes, were major focuses of the talks in the Priesthood Session.

7 new temples

At the close of the conference, President Nelson announced new temples to be built in Salta, Argentina; Bengaluru, India; Managua, Nicaragua; Cagayan de Oro, Philippines; Layton, Utah; Richmond, Virginia; and a major city in Russia that is yet to be determined.

These seven additional temples bring the total number of temples worldwide — either operating, under construction or announced — to 189, according to Mormon Newsroom.

Young Women General Presidency

The Young Women General Presidency was reorganized during the Saturday Morning session. Sister Bonnie H. Cordon was called as the new president, with Sister Michelle Craig as her first counselor and Sister Becky Craven as her second counselor.

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Sister Carol L. McConkie and Sister Evelyn L. Marriott were released as the president, first counselor and second counselor, respectively. They served for five years, from April 2013 to April 2018.

Major themes

One notable theme during the conference was sustaining and supporting prophets, particularly the current living prophet. This was seen in the subject matter of talks as well as the music chosen. Many speakers paid tribute to the late President Thomas S. Monson, as well as voiced their support for President Nelson, sustaining him and bearing testimony of his call.

Thousands of LDS Church members gathered to hear the words spoken at General Conference. (Dani Jardine)

The Lord Jesus Christ who directs his work has today through President Eyring presented his prophet, his anointed leader, to us, his covenant people, allowing us publicly to manifest our willingness to sustain him and follow his counsel,” Elder Neil L. Anderson said in his address Saturday morning.

The Sunday sessions of conference focused on obedience to the commandments, as well as the atonement of Jesus Christ. Because it coincided with Easter Sunday, there was an emphasis on Christ’s resurrection.

“Nothing could be more fitting than to commemorate the most important event that ever occurred on this earth by worshipping the most important being who ever walked this earth,” President Nelson said in his Sunday morning address. “Without our redeemer’s infinite atonement, not one of us would have hope of ever returning to our Heavenly Father. Without his resurrection, death would be the end.”

President Nelson also focused on personal revelation in his Sunday morning address.

“If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation,” he said.

General Authority Seventy Elder Larry Y. Wilson also spoke about personal revelation in his remarks.

“Instead of just listing our problems in prayer and asking the Lord to solve them, we ought to be seeking more proactive ways of receiving the Lord’s help and committing to act according to the spirit’s guidance,” Elder Wilson said.

The worldwide scope of the LDS Church, both for members and nonmembers, was clear in President Nelson’s final Sunday afternoon address.

“Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy and qualify for eternal life.”

Coverage of the 188th Annual General Conference can be found at conference.lds.org.

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