Members and friends of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered from around the world to hear from Church leaders at the 193rd Annual General Conference.
President Dallin H. Oaks conducted, with President Russell M. Nelson presiding. Due to COVID-19, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve was absent, attending from his home.
Leaders spoke about witnessing of Christ, the power of the Book of Mormon, a Christ-Centered Easter and more. To Kimberly and David Luna of American Fork, the overall theme seemed to be “reaching out to all the world to help gather Israel.” The couple will be serving a mission in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“The messages were a little more poignant to us because we are getting ready to go serve a mission. Many times I leaned over to my wife and asked, ‘how do you feel about serving?’ so it seemed to be a consistent message that I felt today,” David said.
Kimberly felt touched by the Spirit, excited to see the prophet and apostles.
“I felt a deep reverence. I was very touched by the Spirit and by everything that was said. It all rang so clear in my heart and it was very moving to me,” she said.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of Quorum of the Twelve was the session’s first speaker, emphasizing the importance of the Book of Mormon, standing as a witness of Jesus Christ and bearing witness of Him.
He reflected on Easter celebrations, referencing the letter the First Presidency sent on Feb. 15 that announced a shorter Sacrament meeting on Easter day, celebrating the holiday with a “single worship meeting commemorating the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Through this approach, Elder Stevenson taught, families and friends are able to spend more time together.
He invited members to make sure their Easter celebrations — “the most important event to ever happen on this earth” — include the reverence and respect the Lord deserves. He reminded the congregation that Easter is Christ-centered.
Additionally, Elder Stevenson suggested families adopt appropriate Christ-centered Easter traditions “found in the cultures and practices of countries worldwide.”
According to Elder Stevenson, Latter-day Saints are endowed with a remarkable Easter gift — the Book of Mormon. This gift of unique witness contains the “most magnificent Easter Scriptures in all of Christianity.”
“Anytime we read and study from the Book of Mormon we can expect remarkable outcomes,” he said.
Some of those outcomes, according to Elder Stevenson, will “increase your eyes to new possibilities. It will increase your hope and fill you with charity. Most of all, it will build and strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ and bless you with a sure knowledge that He and our Father know you, love you and want you to find your way back Home, with a capital H.”
Because of this book, he taught, everything has changed, everything is better, life is manageable — especially the painful moments — and everything is possible.
President Bonnie H. Cordon of the Young Women general presidency followed Elder Stevenson, sharing her experiences with her father’s Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis diagnosis and how he taught her to “never give up an opportunity to testify of Christ.”
According to President Cordon, God’s children live in a fallen world and need Jesus Christ. However, through gaining a personal witness of Jesus Christ, members can experience Christ’s power.
“Through the Holy Ghost we can experience His power every day. As much as we need,” she said.
She taught those in attendance to be active recipients of impressions the Spirit might give, listening for what God might want them to hear and do.
“As we choose to seek Christ, the Spirit will witness of Him in many different situations,” she said.
These witnesses of the Spirit occur as members fast, pray, wait and continue forward. These “holy habits,” as she called them, need to be honored as sacred opportunities to testify of Christ.
Elder Carl B. Cook of the Presidency of the Seventy followed, speaking on the discouragement that comes from the ups and downs of life. He used Zoram, the servant of Laban, as an example.
When Nephi obtained the brass plates, Elder Carl B. Cook taught, Zoram was faced with the choice to follow Nephi and his brothers into the wilderness or possibly lose his life. Zoram was courageous and followed Nephi.
Just as Zoram pressed forward with faith, Elder Carl B. Cook taught those in attendance they can too.
“The God of Heaven and Earth will help us overcome discouragement and whatever obstacles we encounter if we look to Him, follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost and just keep going with faith,” he said.
However through this, members will not be left alone.
“Just as the Savior finished the work He was given to do, He has the power to help us finish the work we have been given,” he said.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong spoke next, teaching about ministering and what can be learned from those who “minister and care as our Savior would.”
He spoke of various ministering opportunities he and other children of God have had, and the vast blessings that have come from it.
“As followers of Jesus Christ, we seek to minister to others as He does because He is waiting to change lives,” Elder Gong said.
Additionally, according to Elder Gong, higher and holier ministering comes through prayer for the “pure love of Christ” and by following the Spirit. It also comes as Elders Quorum and Relief Society presidencies, under their bishop’s direction, oversee ministering efforts, including assigning ministering companionships.
He explained this further, saying that people often need more than a sincere “hello” or a casual “can I help you?” He advised meeting people where they are and building relationships by regularly visiting members in their homes.
“Inspired invitations change lives,” Elder Gong said.
Additionally, he taught that through ministering, one can become closer to Jesus Christ.
“God loveth a cheerful giver,” he said.
Similar to Elder Stevenson’s remarks, Elder Gong tied his message back to Easter, guiding those in attendance to reach out and care in a Christlike fashion this Easter season, “especially to those whom we are privileged by love and assignment to minister.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook followed Elder Gong’s remarks, noting members’ “unique responsibility” to help gather scattered Israel and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
“The Father of our spirits desires His children to be safely gathered home,” he said.
This “home” he mentioned is not reached by worldly success, but by righteousness, keeping His commandments, receiving sacred ordinances and honoring covenants.
Elder Quentin L. Cook expressed how he wants everyone to come unto Christ and receive His eternal blessings.
On gathering Israel, President Russell M. Nelson has said, “Anytime you do anything that helps anyone — on either side of the veil — take a step toward making covenants with God and receiving their essential baptismal and temple ordinances, you are helping to gather Israel. It is as simple as that.”
Elder Allen D. Haynie of the Seventy spoke on the blessings of living prophets.
“Knowing by revelation that there is a living prophet on the earth changes everything,” he said.
He taught that those on Earth today were chosen in the pre-mortal life to be born in these latter days. Additionally, he taught, in these latter days, Christ’s Church will be reestablished on the earth and things are going to “get really challenging.”
However, God’s covenant children do not have to worry or fear these challenges — in part because they are led by a living prophet.
He shared a time when he was in the Church headquarters cafeteria, and happened to share a meal with the First Presidency. Toward the end of the meal President Nelson stood his plastic water bottle straight up, flattened it and replaced the lid, to make it easier for those who handle recyclable materials as it takes up less space in the recycling container. Both President Oaks and Eyring followed. When Haynie asked President Oaks if flattening plastic water bottles was a new recycling requirement of the cafeteria he responded, with a smile on his face, “you need to follow the prophet.”
“Rejoice because once again there is a prophet in Israel,” Elder Haynie said.
President Henry B. Eyring, the second counselor in the First Presidency, was the concluding speaker. He spoke on finding peace, no matter the circumstance.
He mentioned how the Savior knows that all of Heavenly Father’s children yearn for peace, and “He said that He can give it to us.”
He spoke of five truths he learned from teaching of the Savior, including that the gift of peace is given after keeping commandments, the Holy Ghost will come and abide, the Father loves His children and His son, that keeping the Lord’s commandments requires more than obedience and that the Lord loves so fully that he paid the price of sins for all mankind.
He recognized that some of God’s children might not feel this aforementioned peace, even despite fervent prayers. This is Satan’s influence, according to President Eyring, and Satan’s influence is ever-increasing.
Despite this, however, there are reasons for optimism, including the Light of Christ placed in newborn children.
“With that universal gift comes a sense of what is right, a desire to love and be loved. There is an inborn sense of justice and truth in every child of God as he or she comes into mortality,” he said.
Those in attendance at the Conference Center appreciated the opportunity to hear from living prophets.
“It was very special to be able to come in person. It was very special,” Kimberly Luna said.