Latter-day Saints gather to sustain general authorities, leaders in Saturday afternoon session

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President Nelson kisses his wife Sister Wendy Nelson. Thousands of Saints gathered in the Conference Center to listen to the Saturday afternoon session of General Conference. (Robyn Morris Christensen)

Saints gathered in the Conference Center, alongside millions worldwide, to hear inspiring messages and sustain general authorities during the afternoon session of the 193rd Annual General Conference.

In addition to the normal sustaining, President Dallin H. Oaks announced a new Young Women’s general presidency. Sister Emily Belle Freeman will serve as president, with Sister Tamara W. Runia as first counselor and Sister Andrea Muñoz Spannaus as second counselor. President Oaks also announced a change within the Young Men’s general presidency. Brother Bradley R. Wilcox will now serve as the first counselor and Michael T. Nelson as the second counselor.

Haley Bledsoe, a BYU student in attendance, expressed her excitement over having President Freeman as Young Women general president. “She is already a personality that we listen to every week and so you feel like there’s more of a connection. You know who they are personally,” Bledsoe said.

The importance of covenants

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke about the power and importance of covenants when trying to navigate through this mortal life.

He spoke about the Amazon River and how all have a natural flow to their lives. Unlike the Amazon, anyone can choose whether they yield to heavenly powers or “go with the flow,” Elder Renlund said.

He taught that all can access the power of God as they make sacred covenants with Him. He continued by saying these covenants are something that individuals should prepare for, understand and honor.

“Keeping covenants made in baptismal fonts and in temples also provides us with strength to withstand mortality’s trials and heartaches. The doctrine associated with these covenants eases our way and provides hope, comfort and peace,” Elder Renlund said.

He told the story of his grandparents and the importance of covenants to them. Despite his grandfather dying long before his grandmother, she persevered because she knew one day they could be sealed together. Eventually, they were sealed by proxy. Elder Renlund emphasized that she lived as though she had already made covenants.

“As you walk the covenant path, from baptism to the temple and throughout life, I promise you power to go against the natural worldly flow — power to learn, power to repent and be sanctified and power to find hope, comfort and even joy as you face life’s challenges,” Elder Renlund concluded.

Divine direction can be found in patriarchal blessings

Elder Randall K. Bennett of the Seventy spoke about the inspired direction that can come from patriarchal blessings. He shared personal experiences about receiving his own patriarchal blessing at age 12.

“First, through the power of the Holy Ghost, my patriarchal blessing helped me understand my true eternal identity — who I really was and who I could become,” Elder Bennett said.

He mentioned that he studied his patriarchal blessing frequently which provided him with comfort and guidance from the Holy Ghost.

“My patriarchal blessing also helped me desire to be more submissive to the will of my Heavenly Father, and that focus helped me experience joy, despite my personal circumstances,” Elder Bennett said.

Christ can heal us

Elder Peter F. Meurs of the Seventy spoke how Christ looks upon and understands us. He shared the account in 3 Nephi of Christ coming and ministering to the people in America. Christ felt compassion towards these people just as he feels compassion towards individuals today, Elder Meurs taught.

“Similarly, when our Savior Jesus Christ looks upon us, He sees and understands the pain and burden of our sins. He sees our addictions and challenges. He sees our struggles and afflictions of any kind — and He is filled with compassion toward us,” Elder Meurs said.

He shared an experience from his time living in Australia and causing a head-on collision with another car. His family was in the car with him and took on some injuries. Though everyone eventually recovered, Elder Meurs still felt a deep feeling of guilt for causing the accident.

“The Savior’s healing and redeeming power applies to accidental mistakes, poor decisions, challenges and trials of every kind — as well as to our sins. As I turned to Him, my feelings of guilt and remorse were gradually replaced with peace and rest,” Elder Meurs said.

At the conclusion of his talk, he taught that everyone has access to this to the healing and redeeming power of Jesus Christ.

Created to have joy

Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Seventy spoke about the relationship between joy and repentance.

“The gospel message is a message of hope, of ‘good tidings of great joy,’ and the means whereby all can experience peace and occasions of joy in this life and receive a fulness of joy in the life to come,” Elder Christensen said.

He said that though joy is a great gift, it comes at a price and is not casually given. Repentance is how individuals can receive this joy.

“Repentance also requires change, which, at times, can be uncomfortable. But joy and comfort are not the same thing. Sin — including the sin of complacency — limits our joy,” Elder Christensen said.

He shared the story of Alma from the Book of Mormon and how he felt the weight of his sins, but through turning to Christ, he could “remember his pains no more.”

“Repentance brings joy because it prepares our hearts to receive the influence of the Holy Ghost. To be filled with joy means to be filled with the Holy Ghost,” Elder Christensen said.

He concluded his remarks by saying, “I am a personal witness that repenting daily and coming unto Jesus Christ is the way to
experience joy — joy beyond our imagination,” Elder Christensen said.

Trust in the doctrine of Christ

Elder Evan A. Schmutz of the Seventy spoke about how individuals can engrave the doctrine of Christ in their hearts.

“If we are to accept President Nelson’s invitation to have the doctrine of Christ rooted in the marrow of our bones, we must deepen our conversion to the Lord by study, prayer, faithful living and continual repentance,” Elder Schmutz said.

He invited individuals to make prayer and daily communication with Christ a priority in our lives. Elder Schmutz added, “If we trust the doctrine of Christ, we will set aside the shiny things of the world so that we can focus on the Redeemer of the world.”

He said that to do this people can limit or eliminate social media as well as limit time on video games and other excessive and inappropriate entertainment.

Elder Schmutz told a story about a couple, Travis and Kelcie, who trusted in the doctrine of Christ despite having many health problems and an uncertain future. He spoke about how they built their foundation on a rock and, despite these challenges, they cannot fall.

“When we have built our houses on the foundation of a covenantal relationship with Christ, we are trusting the doctrine of Christ and, as we come unto Him, we have His promise of eternal life. People who trust the doctrine of Christ endure to the end,” Elder Schmutz concluded.

Temple and family history work can bind individuals to their families

Elder Benjamin De Hoyos of the Seventy spoke about the relationship between temple work and family history work.

He briefly spoke about the sacrifice he and his wife made to travel to Mesa, Arizona to be sealed in the temple in 1975. It made him greatly appreciate the Kirtland Temple and the miraculous events with the Prophet Elijah.

“Dear brothers and sisters, the construction and proper use of temples has been in any dispensation a sign of the true Church of Jesus Christ,” Elder De Hoyos said. He mentioned how after the Salt Lake Temple was dedicated, President Wilford Woodruff encouraged members to find the records of their ancestors and record their genealogy.

Elder De Hoyos taught that the Lord encourages members to preserve their family history, learn from their ancestors and make arrangements for them to receive essential ordinances. “That is a central focus of the plan of our Heavenly Father: uniting family for this life and for eternity,” Elder De Hoyos said.

At the conclusion of his talk, he mentioned that many people at FamilySearch centers are willing and able to help those who do not feel capable of doing this work. “As we follow the guidance of the prophets and learn how to do our family history and perform the temple ordinances for our ancestors, we will experience great joy to the point that we will not want to stop doing it,” Elder De Hoyos said.

Jesus Christ can strengthen parents and families

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke about the love Heavenly Father has for everyone.

God has given parents the “sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs and to teach them to … observe the commandments of God,” Elder Uchtdorf taught.

He encouraged parents to take on this role joyfully and to not delegate to anyone else. Though Satan will try and distract and discourage parents, he said the Savior can guide and direct them as they seek His help.

Elder Uchtdorf taught that even if a parent’s relationship with their child is less than ideal, Christ can heal relationships. “He heals the sick, and He can heal relationships. He multiplies bread and fish, and He can multiply the love and the joy in your home,” Elder Uchtdorf said.

He mentioned that teachers and other influences come and go throughout a child’s life but parents can be the most steady influence within a child’s life. Elder Uchtdorf emphasized the importance of “small and simple moments,” even when parents’ efforts may seem insignificant.

“Brothers and sisters, daily bread is best prepared and served at home. Faith and testimony are best fostered in normal and natural ways, one bite at a time, in small and simple moments, in the constant flow of daily living,” Elder Uchtdorf said.

He went on to remind parents that God is anxious to offer them a mighty change of heart and to allow the Spirit to guide them. “Through the Savior’s grace, little by little, you’ll develop more of the attributes parents need: love for God and His children, patience, selflessness, faith in Christ and courage to make righteous choices,” Elder Uchtdorf said.

He concluded by comparing raising a child to helping a flower grow — you cannot neglect them or hope they flower spontaneously.

Elder Uchtdorf taught that in Heavenly Father’s plan, families’ relationships are meant to be eternal. “With Jesus Christ, the Master Healer and Savior, there can always be a new beginning; He always gives hope,” Elder Uchtdorf said.

After conference concluded, BYU student Makenna Jex shared some themes that she saw this session. “They talked a lot about covenants and how that binds us to Christ and strengthens our faith and daily living. Our daily choices impact the grand scheme of life,” Jex said.

Everyone continues to hear the words of living prophets, apostles and leaders throughout the weekend as sessions continue tonight and tomorrow.

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