Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints addressed several societal issues and provided encouraging words of faith, hope, peace and other gospel principles during the faith’s 191st Annual General Conference held on Easter weekend.
This was the third consecutive General Conference held remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many spoke from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, some general authorities outside the U.S. pre-recorded their messages that were shown during the conference.
Love and inclusion
The concepts of love and inclusion for all God’s children were a common theme in the conference. Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said “we have a primary responsibility to set a tone and be role models of kindness, inclusion, and civility — to teach Christlike behavior to the rising generation in what we say and how we act.”
Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared principles from the story of the Good Samaritan and mentioned the equality of all God’s children. “As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are all equal, with no second-class groups,” Elder Gong said. “All are welcome to attend sacrament meetings, other Sunday meetings and social events.”
General Authority Seventy Elder Jorge T. Becerra expressed the importance of reaching out to people in need and touched on the importance of how members minister to others.
“As we minister we should be led by revelation to those who are most in need, as opposed to just going down a list or visiting people in a methodical way,” Elder Becerra said. “We should be led by the power of inspiration.”
During the Saturday morning session, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, announced a new Primary general presidency. Sisters Camille N. Johnson, Susan H. Porter and Amy Wright were called as the new Primary general presidency while Sisters Joy D. Jones, Lisa L. Harkness and Cristina B. Franco were released.
Sister Jones gave an address on the importance of teaching children the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Becoming like our Savior will not happen randomly,” she said. “Being intentional in loving, teaching and testifying can help children begin at a young age to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost.”
During Saturday’s Priesthood Session, President Russell M. Nelson also talked about ministering and how God’s children need each other.
“God wants us to work together and help each other,” he said. “That is why He sends us to Earth in families and organizes us into wards and stakes. That is why He asks us to serve and minister to each other.”
Leaders addressed numerous social issues during the conference including abortion and abuse.
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve said each son and daughter of God is on their own spiritual journey and the Savior loves each precious child. “If an unanticipated child is expected, let us reach out with love, encouragement, and when needed, financial help, strengthening a mother in allowing her child to be born and continue his or her journey in mortality.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve condemned all types of abuse. “Everyone has the right to be loved, to feel peaceful and to find safety at home,” he said. “In no case are we to be guilty of any form of abuse or unrighteous dominion or immoral coercion — physical, emotional, ecclesiastical or any other kind.”
He encouraged members to heal the world of chaos. “We cannot afford — and this world cannot afford — our failure to put these gospel concepts and fortifying covenants to full use personally and publicly,” Elder Holland said.
President Oaks said the U.S. Constitution and its inspired principles are important to Latter-day Saints because of its role in the restoration of the gospel. “Our belief in divine inspiration gives Latter-day Saints a unique responsibility to uphold and defend the United States Constitution and principles of constitutionalism wherever we live.”
He said although the Constitution as a whole is divinely inspired, not every word of it is divine. “Despite the divinely inspired principles of the United States Constitution, when exercised by imperfect mortals their intended effects have not always been achieved.”
“We should never assert that a faithful Latter-day Saint cannot belong to a particular party or vote for a particular candidate,” President Oaks said, adding that constitutional principles are to be the focus of those governed, rather than allegiance to a particular political leader.
President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, talked about the importance of temples and invited members to always be worthy to enter the house of the Lord and go as often as circumstances allow.
“The only way you can have the feeling of that family embrace forever is to become worthy yourself, and help others, to receive the sealing ordinances of the temple,” President Eyring said.
President Nelson also announced 20 new temples around the world, including Utah’s 25th temple to be built in Smithfield.
President Nelson said temples will open when local government regulations allow. “Do all you can to bring COVID numbers down in your area so that your temple opportunities can increase,” he said.
Forty-one temples are presently under construction or renovation and last year the Church broke ground on 21 new temples.
Hope and the light of Christ
Another common theme during the conference was the principle of hope. President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, related to people suffering from loneliness at this time and encouraged members to turn to the Savior for hope.
He said every faithful, covenant keeping member would be exalted. “I speak of hope in Christ not as wishful thinking,” he said. “Instead, I speak of hope as an expectation that will be realized.”
General Authority Seventies Elders Thierry K. Mutombo and Timothy J. Dyches both spoke about the light of Christ and how it can help carry people through dark times. “Jesus Christ is the light that we should hold up even during the dark times of our mortal life,” Elder Mutombo said. “When we choose to follow Christ, we choose to be changed.”
Elder Dyches testified about the light of Christ and what it can do for people. “Our Heavenly Father did not abandon us to darkness but promised us light for our journey through His beloved Son, Jesus Christ,” he said.