Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tackled a number of contemporary issues head on and offered messages of hope during the 190th Semi-Annual General Conference.
Broadcast live from the Conference Center Theater, speakers during the Church’s second consecutive all-virtual conference boldly addressed timely topics such as racism, protests, a heated election and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The work of the Lord is steadily moving forward,” President Russell M. Nelson said. “Amid social distancing, face masks and Zoom meetings, we have learned to do some things differently and some even more effectively. Unusual times can bring unusual rewards.”
President Nelson acknowledged the recent racial tensions throughout the United States and called on Church members to “lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice.”
“God does not love one race more than another,” President Nelson said. “His doctrine on this matter is clear. He invites all to come unto Him, black and white, bond and free, male and female.”
“I assure you that your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin,” President Nelson added. “Favor or disfavor with God is dependent upon your devotion to God and His commandments, and not the color of your skin.”
President Nelson’s words were echoed by speakers throughout the conference who condemned racism and encouraged members to find ways to improve the current social climate. President Dallin H. Oaks pleaded with members and citizens to “do better.”
“As citizens and as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we must do better to help root out racism,” President Oaks said. “This nation’s history of racism is not a happy one, and we must do better.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook pressed members to draw from Christ’s example and teachings in order to improve race relations. He pointed out that those who have “accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ have committed themselves to achieving both righteousness and unity.”
“Christ’s ministry and message have consistently declared all races and colors are children of God,” Elder Cook said. “The culture of the gospel of Jesus Christ is… not determined by the color of one’s skin or where one lives.”
Protests and politics
Addressing the protests on racial inequality and police brutality that have frequented the U.S. over the past few months, President Oaks supported peaceful gatherings while denouncing violence and looting. He said although Christ’s teachings were revolutionary, “He did not teach revolution or lawbreaking. He taught a better way.”
“In public actions and in our personal attitudes, we have had racism and related grievances,” President Oaks said. “This does not mean that we agree with all that is done with the force of law. It means that we obey the current law and use peaceful means to change it.”
President Oaks went on to address the increasing political polarity and partisan bitterness apparent in today’s society. With the U.S. presidential election just weeks away, President Oaks encouraged members to let go of anger, regardless of the outcome.
Also addressing the tense political landscape, Elder M. Russell Ballard noted the comforting and healing power prayer can have amid such times. He urged members to exercise faith and “pray for your country and for your national leaders.”
“This is not about politics or policy,” Elder Ballard said. “This is about peace and the healing that can come to individual souls as well as to the souls of countries.”
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf acknowledged the hardships caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and consoled those suffering as a result. While he admitted the pandemic is not “what we wanted or expected,” Elder Uchtdorf spoke on the importance of remaining optimistic and keeping the bigger picture in mind.
“We will endure this, yes,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “But we will do more than simply grit our teeth, hold on and wait for things to return to the old normal. We will move forward, and we will be better as a result.”
Elder David A. Bednar pointed out that mortal tests are vital to eternal progression. He noted that some of life’s most important lessons can only be taught through “challenging experiences.”
“The year 2020 has been marked, in part, by a global pandemic that has proved, examined and tried us in many ways,’ Elder Bednar said. “I invite each of us to consider our ways and examine ourselves. What have we learned during these recent months of lifestyle adjustments and restrictions?”
While acknowledging the worrisome circumstances of today’s society, many speakers outlined their hopes for a brighter future. Sister Lisa Harkness of the Primary general presidency reminded members of the strength that comes from putting their faith in Christ during “turbulent times.” Sister Michelle D. Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, said hope can be found by praying to God for help to better see His power and plan.
President Henry B. Eyring claimed the greatest blessing one can receive during trials comes when members “notice the tribulation of others and try to help.” In attempting to help others, “our backs are strengthened and we sense a light in the darkness,” according to President Eyring.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland promised members that through faith in the Atonement of Christ, burdens caused by the current global circumstances will be lifted “by and by.”
“The path to holiness and happiness here and hereafter is a long and sometimes rocky one,” Elder Holland said. “But, of course, the reward for doing so is monumental.”
At the close of the conference, President Nelson encouraged members looking for a “new normal” in their lives to do so by increasingly turning to God. He also emphasized the importance of temples, which continue to reopen throughout the world, in helping members keep an optimistic and eternal perspective.
President Nelson then announced six new temples to be built at the following locations: Tarawa, Kiribati; Port Vila, Vanuatu; Lindon, Utah; Greater Guatemala City, Guatemala; Sao Paulo East, Brazil and Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
“May we go forward together to fulfill our divine mandate — that of preparing ourselves and the world for the Second Coming of the Lord,” President Nelson said.