Put down the remote, get up off the couch, talk to the women in your life, and wake up from your “spiritual slumber.”
That was President Russell M. Nelson’s emphatic call to repentance Saturday night at the all-male priesthood session of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Men can “do better and be better in how we honor the women in our lives, beginning with our wives and daughters, our mothers and sisters,” the 94-year-old “prophet, seer and revelator” told the assembled men and boys in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City or watching the proceedings via satellite, TV or the internet.
“Brethren, your first and foremost duty as a bearer of the priesthood is to love and care for your wife,” he said. “Become one with her. Be her partner. Make it easy for her to want to be yours.”
No other interest in life, Nelson said, “should take priority over building an eternal relationship with her. Nothing on TV, a mobile device, or a computer is more important than her well-being.”
Men who need to repent of how they have treated women “should begin now,” he said. “It is your responsibility to help the women in your life receive the blessings that derive from living the Lord’s law of chastity.”
Jesus Christ is “inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit — even the way we breathe,” he said. “He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.”
Too many people see repentance as “punishment — something to be avoided, except in the most serious circumstances,” Nelson said in his only sermon Saturday. “But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify and sanctify us.”
Henry B. Eyring, Nelson’s second counselor in the governing First Presidency, urged his listeners to support and “sustain” the church’s faithful yet fallible leaders.
“You make a promise with God, whose servants these are, that you will sustain them,” Eyring said. “These are imperfect human beings, as are you. Keeping your promises will take unshakable faith that the Lord called them.”
Church members across the world “are generally loyal to each other and to those who preside over them,” he said. “There are, however, improvements we could and must make. We could rise higher in our power to sustain each other. It will take faith and effort.”
The counselor agreed with a pioneer-era apostle who said, “God has chosen his servants. He claims it as his prerogative to condemn them if they need condemnation. He has not given it to us individually to censure and condemn them.”
That earlier Latter-day Saint leader went on to say, “No man, however strong he may be in the faith, however high in the priesthood, can speak evil of the Lord’s anointed and find fault with God’s authority on earth without incurring his displeasure. The Holy Spirit will withdraw himself from such a man, and he will go into darkness.”
Dallin H. Oaks, Nelson’s first counselor, addressed the need to think of the future, always assessing where a decision will lead.
“We make countless choices in life, some large and some seemingly small. Looking back, we can see what a great difference some of our choices made in our lives,” he said. “We make better choices/decisions if we look at the alternatives and ponder where they will lead.”
Members should always “begin with the end in mind,” Oaks said. “For us, the end is always on the covenant path through the temple to eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God.”
Apostle Gary E. Stevenson opened the priesthood session by describing the change that allowed boys who are turning 12 in 2019 to be ordained to the priesthood starting on Jan. 1 at age 11.
For some boys — and their parents — the move was a big surprise.
“Welcome to the brotherhood of the priesthood,” Stevenson told the boys. “This change makes this meeting an historic one — it is likely the largest group of Aaronic Priesthood holders ever to attend a general priesthood session of General Conference,” he said. “In light of this special occasion, I direct my remarks especially to the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood.”
Being in a priesthood quorum is like joining a team, he said, where the “playbook” is “the holy scriptures and the words of modern prophets,”
The gospel, he said, has a game plan, coaches and a role for each person to play.
Stevenson showed slides of Latter-day Saint athletes: in baseball, Jeremy Guthrie and Bryce Harper; in basketball, Jabari Parker and Jimmer Fredette; in soccer, Ricardo Rojas; in rugby, William Hopoate; and, in football, Taysom Hill and Daniel Sorensen.
“While they are extremely successful in their sports, these athletes would be the first to admit they are not perfect athletes or perfect human beings,” he said. “Like each of us, they work hard to be the best in their sport — and to live the gospel. They get up if they stumble and strive to endure to the end.”
Stevenson urged the youthful priesthood holders to “listen to your coaches — your parents, bishop and Young Men leaders,” to learn the playbook and “create your own playbook of how you will prove yourself as a disciple of Christ.”
Do this, the apostle said, “and God will use you.”