Church leaders encouraged members to commit to intentional acts of faith during the Sunday afternoon session of the 192nd Annual General Conference. They encouraged these acts of faith through keeping covenants, using agency, living the doctrine of Christ and increasing personal conversion.
President Russell M. Nelson concluded the session saying “My prayer is that the Spirit has spoken to you directly about things the Lord would have you do.” He emphasized that now is the time to learn, repent and bless others.
“The adversary never sleeps. There will always be opposition to the truth,” he said. “I repeat my urging from this morning to do those things that will increase your positive spiritual momentum, to keep you moving forward through whatever challenges and opportunities come.”
President Nelson also announced 17 temples to be built around the world.
President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency started his talk discussing how the doctrine of the gospel explains that all of God’s children will end up in a kingdom of glory. The key to receiving salvation, he said, is through the covenants made by the faithful in the temples of God.
Because God loves his children, President Oaks said the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes salvation to all possible.
Elder Adeyinka A. Ojediran of the Seventy said “we have been sent to mortality by a loving Heavenly Father to enjoy the blessing of a body that would become immortal through the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
He pointed out the invitation to come to the Lord is repeated more than 90 times in the scriptures, with more than half as personal invitations from the Lord himself. Elder Ojediran said accepting the Savior’s invitation means partaking of His ordinances and keeping covenants with Him.
“The path to perfection is the Covenant Path and Christ is the center of all ordinances and covenants,” Elder Ojediran said. “A happy ending is assured as we prayerfully study and honor the Savior’s invitation and enjoy His promised blessings.”
Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve highlighted how keeping covenants helps individuals be in “awe of Christ’s gospel,” and leads to happier lives.
“Such a feeling of wonder, inspired by the influence of the Holy Ghost, stimulates the enthusiasm to joyfully live the doctrine of Christ,” he said. “When we live in this way, we become more spiritually resilient and protected against falling into the trap of spiritual apathy.”
Elder Soares characterized spiritual apathy as a loss of excitement, lack of engagement in the gospel, complacency in spiritual development and failing to keep covenants. To combat this, Soares encouraged members to follow the two great commandments: love the Lord our God and love our neighbor as ourselves.
He said intentionally and truly dedicating yourself to look unto Christ and follow His example, helps individuals come closer to Him, grow in enthusiasm and live the gospel better.
“My dear friends, all these things strengthen our spiritual wonder of the gospel and move us to joyfully keep the covenants we make with the Lord — even in the midst of the trials and challenges we experience,” Elder Soares said. “I pray that we will ever stand in awe of Jesus Christ and His complete, infinite and perfect love.”
President Oaks touched upon honoring individual agency, saying promoting religious freedom and other efforts of agency aids Heavenly Father’s plan. “We seek to help all of His children — not just our own members — enjoy the precious freedom to choose.”
He said because the Lord taught to see all of His children as brothers and sisters, we should share our spiritual and temporal abundance with everyone. Part of that, is seeing the bearing and nurturing of children as a part of the Divine plan. “Therefore, we are commanded to teach and contend for principles and practices that provide the best conditions for the development and happiness of children under God’s plan,” he said.
President Oaks said we should use our agency to live peacefully with those who do not believe as we do. “We must seek to share these truths of eternity with others. But with the love we owe to all of our neighbors, we always accept their decisions.”
Elder Randy D. Funk of the Seventy said the gift of agency is not simply the right to choose, but it is the opportunity to choose the right. He encouraged all to choose to join the fold of God, saying it is “not a constraint, but a source of spiritual safety.”
“Similarly, to receive the marvelous blessings promised to those who come into the fold of God requires us to do just that — to choose to come,” Elder Funk said. “My dear friends, please continue the journey — and help others — to come fully into the fold of God. The blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ are immeasurable because they are eternal.”
Elder Funk said there are some who feel they are on the edge of the flock, not fully part of the fold. Sometimes, this is our fault as we step on another’s toes and need to repent or forgive.
“But when we enter the fold of God and keep our covenants with Him, we feel the peace of knowing and trusting that Christ will redeem us from our sins, that the separation of our body and spirit will end more quickly, and that we will live eternally with God in a most glorious manner,” Elder Funk said.
Elder Jörg Klebingat of the Seventy also pointed out the importance of using agency to love others.
“Let us therefore respectfully demonstrate that it is not only possible but essential to love a child of God who embraces beliefs different from our own,” he said. “We can accept and respect others without endorsing their beliefs or actions that do not align with the Lord’s will. There is no need to sacrifice truth on the altar of agreeableness and social desirability.”
Living the doctrine
Many speakers of the afternoon session focused on living the doctrine of Christ.
President Oaks said the Church is known as a family-centered Church, and eternal relationships are also fundamental to this gospel. “Fundamental to us is God’s revelation that exaltation can only be attained through faithfulness to the covenants of an eternal marriage between a man and a woman. That Divine doctrine is why we teach that ‘gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.'”
Satan’s most strenuous opposition is directed at the things most important to Heavenly Father’s plan, President Oaks said.
“Consequently, he seeks to oppose progress toward exaltation by distorting marriage, discouraging childbearing or confusing gender. However, we know that in the long run the Divine purpose and plan of our loving Heavenly Father will not be changed. Personal circumstances may change, and God’s plan assures that, in the long run, the faithful who keep their covenants will have the opportunity to qualify for every promised blessing,” he said.
Elder Klebingat discussed how moral relativists advocate truth as a social construct, and how he sees that as them claiming there is no sin and that man can do no crime. He warned against believing this ideology that is against doctrine, and to “beware the wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
“Today it is almost impossible to courageously live our faith without occasionally attracting a few actual and virtual fingers of scorn from the worldly,” he said.
Elder Klebingat said confidently following the Savior is rewarding, but too often, people will replace faith, obedience and repentance with an illusion of God justifying sin because of his great love for His children. He encouraged all to discern the truth in a confusing world.
He invited members to not be afraid of living their faith in Christ and to not fear the reproach of men. “With the Savior at the helm and living prophets to lead and guide us, ‘who can be against us?’ Let us be confident, not apologetic, valiant, not timid, faithful, not fearful as we hold up the Lord’s light in these last days,” Elder Klebingat said.
He affirmed those who want to be valiant disciples of Christ will find a way despite the adversary offering “enticing alternatives.” He testified that the prophets and apostles of the Church are not ashamed of their testimonies of the Lord, because they are his “prisoners, in the sense that the doctrine they teach is not theirs but His that called them.”
Elder Klebingat warned against listening to the “adversarial” sound from the great and spacious building to go against the doctrine of Christ. “Their desperate decibels are no match for the serene influence of the still, small voice upon broken hearts and contrite spirits,” he said.
Increasing personal conversion
Sunday School General President Mark L. Pace said to increase personal conversion, individuals should make their own experiences with the scriptures.
“Reading or hearing about another person’s experiences and insights can be helpful, but that won’t bring the same converting power. There is no substitute for the time you spend in the scriptures, hearing the Holy Ghost speak directly to you,” he said
President Pace described lessons he learned from the Passover, saying faith and humility were needed for the miracle of protection and deliverance.
“The blood on the doorframe was an outward sign of inward faith in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God,” President Pace said. “I am impressed with the parallel between the way the Lord blessed His people in this Old Testament account and the way He is also blessing His people today.”
He said today we should strive to symbolically place the blood of the Lamb of God on the entrance to our homes by diligently increasing our conversion. “It is the miracle of one person having an experience in the scriptures, and that experience being blessed by the influence of the Holy Ghost.”
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve advised members to give their “heartfelt all” as they become converted to the Lord. He said this can be difficult when trying to divide time evenly between competing interests.
“To distribute your time and energy among your many important tasks will vary from person to person and from one season of life to another. But our common overall objective is to follow the Way of our Master, Jesus Christ, and return to the presence of our beloved Father in Heaven,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “This objective must remain constant and consistent, whoever we are and whatever else is happening in our lives.”
He said our commitment to Him and his gospel cannot be casual or occasional, but instead we must offer our whole souls. “Our offering may be small, but it must come from our heart and soul,” he said.
The Savior should be the motivating power behind all that we do, he continued, inviting all to consecrate their lives to Him.
“When we look at our lives and see a hundred things to do, we feel overwhelmed. When we see one thing — loving and serving God and His children, in a hundred different ways — then we can focus on those things with joy,” Elder Uchtdorf said.