Church leaders emphasize basic principles in General Conference

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(Hannah Miner)
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints waves to members in the Conference Center during the Saturday afternoon session of conference. (Hannah Miner)

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints returned to the basics of the gospel, announced eight new temples and counseled members on the implementation of home-centered gospel learning in the Church’s 189th Annual General Conference.

The Church announced structural changes to the Sunday meeting schedule six months ago, eradicating an hour of church and encouraging members to focus their efforts on teaching gospel principles within their homes. This weekend, Church leaders reiterated the importance of fortifying family spirituality in daily living rather than relying on church attendance.

Home study

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles urged members not to rely on the Church’s structure to tell them everything; instead, he said, members should learn and seek personal revelation within their families.

Elder Bednar compared the home-centered gospel learning updates to the history of former Church President Joseph Smith. Growing up in a faith-filled home with a family who knew the scriptures and read them daily led the late prophet to inquire of the Lord which church was true, he said.

All spiritual preparation in this season of the dispensation of the fullness of times, Elder Bednar said, should be home-centered and Church-supported.

“The ultimate Missionary Training Center is in our homes,” Elder Bednar said. “Our most instructive Sunday School classes should be our individual and family study in our places of residence.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about the need to create Zion to welcome the Savior’s second coming. In ancient times, he said, God took the righteous city of Zion to himself. In contrast, in the last days, a New Zion will receive the Lord at His return.

“The long-standing objective of the Church is to assist all members to increase their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement,” Elder Christofferson said. “Accordingly, He emphasizes the significance of a daily feasting on the Gospel, centered at home and supported by an integrated study curriculum at Church.”

Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the home study program is designed to deepen conversion and help members become more like Christ.

“But remember,” Elder Rasband said, “our homes are only as powerful as the spiritual strength of each one of us within its walls.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed the implications of home-centered study on Sunday worship services. Modified Sunday services, he said, are designed to emphasize the Sacrament as the focal point of members’ weekly worship.

Elder Holland reminded members that the commandment to “go to the house of prayer” and attend Sunday services each week still remains.

He said sacrament meetings should be regarded with more respect. He urged members to arrive to sacrament meetings punctually, to avoid clamor and noise and to eliminate useless announcements that detract from the sacred nature of the ordinance.

“I fear visitors not of our faith are shocked by what can sometimes be noisy irreverence in a setting that is supposed to be characterized by prayer, revelation, hymns and peace,” Elder Holland said. “Perhaps heaven is a little shocked as well.”

He encouraged presiding officers on the stand to set the example for the congregation in reverence and stillness.

“Brothers and sisters, this hour ordained of the Lord is the most sacred hour of the week,” Elder Holland stated. “It is in memory of Him who asked if the cup He was about to drink could pass, only to soldier on because He knew that for our sake it could not pass. It will help us if we remember that a symbol of that cup is slowly making its way down the row toward us.”

Repentance

President Russell M. Nelson focused his remarks in the general priesthood meeting on repentance and said everyone needs to repent. He urged the men of the Church to “do better.”

Some of the ways President Nelson encouraged men to “do better” involved choosing to strengthen relationships at the sacrifice of video games, TV and other media distractions. He encouraged men to honor the women in their lives and become partners with their spouses in an eternal journey of progression.

The battle with sin is real, President Nelson said.

“All of us can do better and be better than ever before. We need to get up off the couch, put down the remote and wake up from our spiritual slumber. It is time to put on the full armor of God and engage in the most important work on earth,” he said.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, focused on repentance in the Sunday afternoon session when he said often, the outcome of our lives is not determined by whether an individual has made good or decent choices, but rather by whether he or she made the better and best choices they could.

“Our present and future will be happier if we are always conscientious of the future,” he said. “As we make current decisions, we should always be asking, ‘Where will this lead?’”

True repentance when a bad decision has been made, Elder Oaks said, is a never-ending privilege, not a punishment.

In the Sunday morning session, Brother Tad R. Callister, who was recently released Sunday School general president, spoke about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which he said acts with the laws of justice to provide safety and wholeness to the recipient. He compared the Atonement to a parachute that catches the fall of a foolish individual while working within the laws of gravity that caused the individual to fall.

Once an individual begins to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost in their life, Brother Callister said, he or she can be sure it is a sign the Atonement is working and repentance is underway.

Finding truth

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about finding truth in a world where many voices seek validation.

“What is truth?” he asked, explaining an understanding of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ teaches members some things are completely, absolutely true for every son and daughter of God.

One of the purpose of prophets, he said, is to help the world discern truth despite the backlash and clamoring perspectives of the world and natural man.

Only an eye of faith will be able to discern what is true and essential, Elder Andersen said.

General Authority Seventy Elder Mathias Held said he and his wife learned to discern truth not just by a rational mind but also by the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost through their conversion to the Church 30 years ago.

As God has given an individual two eyes, Elder Held said, He has given man logic and spirituality to discern truth in the world.

Elder David P. Homer, General Authority Seventy, reiterated these statements when he said false prophets come in many forms, but always teach things that are pleasing to the carnal mind rather than the spiritual.

But, he said, God speaks to us by various means to guide us in our journey. Sometimes, he said, God speaks to our mind and our heart in a still, small voice. Other times, certain thoughts occupy our minds again and again. Our souls can feel simple joy or comfort or the courage to move forward. All of these instances, he said, are examples of recognizing the influence of the Holy Ghost.

“Because our Heavenly Father wants better for us, He makes it possible for us to hear his voice,” Elder Homer said.

Temples

President Nelson announced eight new temples during the Sunday Afternoon Session of General Conference in the following locations:

  • Pago Pago, American Samoa
  • Okinawa City, Okinawa
  • Neiafu, Tonga
  • Tooele Valley, Utah
  • Moses Lake, Washington
  • San Pedro Sula, Honduras
  • Antofagasta, Chile
  • Budapest, Hungary
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