The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced historic changes, including updated temple-recommend interview questions and a revised youth program, as well as offered spiritual guidance to its members during the 189th Semiannual General Conference.
The First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, General Authorities and Auxiliary Presidencies delivered inspirational messages to thousands of members throughout the world.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles highlighted the importance of being on the Lord’s errand and sharing the gospel as best as one can.
“Discipleship is not about doing things perfectly, it’s about doing things intentionally,” he said.
He reminded those in attendance that they do not need to “sell” the gospel. Instead, he said they should not be embarrassed about being a part of it.
“Take upon yourself the name of Christ and don’t be embarrassed of it,” Uchtdorf said.
At the conclusion of his remarks, he invited those who are not members of the Church to join members.
“You will make us better. And, in the process, you will become better as well. Let’s take this adventure together,” he said.
Primary general presidency second counselor Sister Cristina B. Franco also discussed missionary work in her talk. She shared a story about her mother who was able to share the gospel with some Argentines in an airport. The woman her mother talked to found the missionaries upon her return to Argentina, and two months later joined the Church along with her daughter.
Although the family’s father never joined the Church, Franco said she has been great friends with the family since their conversion and is hopeful he will eventually join his family as a Latter-day Saint.
Franco recommended three things members can do to better share the gospel, which are pray for a desire to do missionary work, keep the commandments and pray for inspiration.
President Russell M. Nelson announced plans to construct eight new temples around the world in the following locations:
- Orem, Utah
- Taylorsville, Utah
- Bentonville, Arkansas
- McAllen, Texas
- Freetown, Sierra Leone
- Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
- Bacolod, Philippines
- Cobán, Guatemala
There are currently 166 operating temples around the world. 51 are still under construction or have been announced and will be open in the coming years. With the dedication of the new temples, President Nelson encouraged members and non-members to visit the temple when they are open to the general public.
Changes to the Young Men program
President Nelson and Elder Quentin L. Cook of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced the restructuring of the Young Men’s program, mainly the discontinuing of Young Men presidencies. He said ward bishoprics will now serve in the place of Young Men presidencies with the bishop working with the priest quorum, the second counselor working with the teacher’s quorum and the second counselor working with the deacons.
At the request of President Nelson, Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon also announced changes for the Young Woman’s program of the Church, including an updated Young Women’s theme that puts a greater focus on Heavenly Mother.
The theme now states: “I am a beloved daughter of heavenly parents, with a divine nature and eternal destiny. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I strive to become like Him. I seek and act upon personal revelation and minister to others in his holy name. I will stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places. As I strive to qualify for exaltation, I cherish the gift of repentance and seek to improve each day. With faith, I will strengthen my home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, and receive the ordinances and blessings of the holy temple.”
Cordon also announced structural changes to the Young Women’s program.
“For over 100 years, young women have been divided into three classes,” Cordon said. “Beginning immediately, we invite Young Women leaders and bishops to prayerfully consider the needs of each young woman and organize them by age according to the ward’s specific circumstances.”
She said the previous names for Young Woman class — Beehive, Mia Maid and Laurel — will no longer be used and the term Young Women will be used generally.
Another change to youth programs was the announcement of the discontinuance of the term “Mutual.” Meetings on the stake or ward level will now be referred to simply as “youth activities.”
Making and keeping covenants despite trials
Many church leaders highlighted the importance of making and keeping sacred covenants.
Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles opened the Saturday morning session with a prophetic message reminding members that the reason behind General Conference, along with every other item of the Church, should revolve around the Savior.
“The temple is his house, and he should be uppermost in our minds and hearts,” he said.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also encouraged members to understand the importance of the covenant they made in the temple and with God.
“Our God is a god of covenant,” Gong said. “We may lose faith in God, but he never loses faith in us.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded gathered saints the importance of keeping covenants even though those not held to Church standards may appear to be happier. “The joy of the Saints is enduring,” Christofferson said.
Staying alert and aware of Satan’s deception
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles compared Satan to a cheetah stalking its prey before making its attack on its helpless victim. He encouraged members to be aware of his deceitfulness and gave advice on how to better prepare for temptations.
“Beware of the evil’s beguiling disguises, stay awake and be alert and understand the intent of the enemy,” he said.
Elder Peter M. Johnson of the Seventy warned members of the tactful ways the adversary uses everyday items, such as social media to distract individuals from the most important things in life.
“If we do not understand who we are, it is difficult to recognize who we can become,” Johnson said.
Elder Neil A. Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged members to never think it is too late to overcome Satan.
“Don’t allow your questions, faithless friends or degrees of opposition discourage you,” Anderson said.
Updated temple recommend interview questions
President Nelson closed the final session of General Conference by announcing a revision in the temple recommend interview questions.
“The Lord wants all his children to partake of the eternal blessings available in his temple. He has directed what each person must do to qualify to enter his holy house,” President Nelson said.
The questions have been edited for clarity and to better assess the readiness of individuals who want to enjoy the blessings of the temple.
“Individual worthiness to enter the Lord’s house requires much individual spiritual preparation. But with the Lord’s help, nothing is impossible,” President Nelson said. “In some respects, it is easier to build a temple than it is to build a people prepared for a temple. Individual worthiness requires a total conversion of mind and heart to be more like the Lord, to be an honest citizen, to be a better example and to be a holier person.”
Church leaders throughout the world will receive the interview questions Oct. 7. A full list of questions can be viewed on the Church’s website.
Special General Conference to commemorate First Vision
President Nelson invited members to prepare for a special conference marking the 200th anniversary of the first vision next April.
“In the next six months, I hope that every member and every family will prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel,” President Nelson said. “You may wish to begin your preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price.”
President Nelson also recommended members to study the Come Follow Me program this coming year, which will focus on the Book of Mormon and encouraged members to use the new Book of Mormon videos in their studies and to ponder the significance of the first vision in their own lives.
“Select your own questions. Design your own plan. Immerse yourself in the glorious light of the Restoration,” President Nelson said. “As you do, general conference next April will not only be memorable, it will be unforgettable.”