A day after addressing timely topics ranging from racism to the recession and politics to the pandemic, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will return Sunday for the final two sessions of the faith’s 190th Semiannual General Conference.
The all-virtual gathering, taking place under the direction of church President Russell M. Nelson, is being broadcast around the world from a theater in downtown Salt Lake City’s Conference Center.
3:55 p.m.: Nelson announces six more temples
President Russell M. Nelson announced six new temples Sunday afternoon, including plans for a 25th temple in Utah.
It will be built in Lindon, the seventh existing or planned temple in Utah County,
The church builds and operates temples so members are prepared to meet their maker, according to Nelson. “The Lord’s ordinances and covenants prepare us for eternal life, the greatest of all God’s blessings."
The other five new temples will be in:
• Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
• Tarawa, Kiribati.
• Port Vila, Vanuatu.
• Greater Guatemala City, Guatemala.
• São Paulo East, Brazil.
Nelson has announced 49 temples since taking the church’s helm in January 2018.
There are now 231 Latter-day Saint temples operating, announced or under construction across the globe.
3:45 p.m.: ‘We are so tired’ of the pandemic, Holland says
Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland assured church members that the COVID-19 pandemic will end — eventually.
“COVID and cancer, doubt and dismay, financial trouble and family trials. When will these burdens be lifted?” he asked with a sigh. “The answer is by and by.”
The 79-year-old Holland, who was briefly hospitalized in June for an undisclosed illness other than COVID-19, expressed frustration with the ongoing pandemic.
“We are so tired of this contagion that we feel like tearing our hair out. ... Everyone agrees that this has gone on much, much too long,” he said. “How long do we wait for relief from hardships that come upon us? What about enduring personal trials while we wait and wait and help seems so slow in coming? Why the delay when burdens seem more than we can bear?”
Those of us living through the pandemic “are not the first nor will be the last to ask such questions.” And, Holland said, while “our Father in Heaven clearly expects us to address these wrenching public issues as well as the personal ones,” there are times “when even our best spiritual effort and earnest, pleading prayers do not yield the victories for which we have yearned.”
He offered his “apostolic promise” that prayers “are heard and they are answered, though perhaps not at the time or in the way we wanted.” And while "God can provide miracles instantaneously … sooner or later we learn that the times and seasons of our mortal journey are his and his alone to direct.
Holland urged Latter-day Saints to exhibit faith but warned that “faith means trusting God in good times and bad.” And, he added, “Christianity is comforting but often it is not comfortable. The path to holiness and happiness here and hereafter is a long and sometimes rocky one,” but “the reward ... is monumental.”
3:30 p.m.: Seventy explains how to access God’s power
Accessing God’s power “is not easy,” said Kelly R. Johnson of the Seventy, “but I have found it is doable by studying it out in our minds and praying for the Holy Ghost to enlighten us.”
Johnson, named a general authority Seventy in April, told church members that it is “crucial” to fill their hearts and souls “with the word of God and the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ.” And, he said, without having that “deep in our hearts, our testimonies and faith may fail, and we may lose access to the power God wants to give us.”
Those who have deep faith “will be able to absorb and overcome the fiery darts, which the adversary will surely send to destroy us.”
3:20 p.m.: Apostle Renlund condemns self-righteousness
Apostle Dale G. Renlund drew on a biblical passage to condemn self-righteousness and call members to their better selves.
In the Old Testament’s Book of Micah, it says: “O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
The passage contains three interconnected qualities for “turning our hearts to God and qualifying for salvation,” Renlund says. " ...To do justly means acting honorably with God and with other people. We act honorably with God by walking humbly with him. We act honorably with others by loving mercy."
To love mercy as God does, he said, “is inseparably connected to dealing justly with others and not mistreating them."
Renlund, a former cardiologist, offered an example from his career decades ago.
In Baltimore, a patient named Mr. Jackson came in with an “alcohol-related” disease, which had taken him to the hospital several times in the past. A well-trained but relatively new doctor, who was already sleep-deprived, balked at having to deal with the patient again.
“She felt it was unfair that she would have to spend many hours caring for Mr. Jackson," Renlund said, “even though his predicament was self-inflicted.”
The assigning doctor gently chastised her, saying, “You didn’t become a physician to judge them. If you don’t understand the difference, you have no right to train at this institution.”
Loving mercy means that “we do not just love the mercy God extends to us, we delight that God extends the same mercy to others,” he said, “..Jesus Christ exemplified what it means to do justly and to love mercy. He freely associated with sinners, treating them honorably and with respect. He taught the joy of keeping God’s commandments and sought to lift rather than condemn those who struggled. He did denounce those who faulted him for ministering to people they deemed unworthy. Such self-righteousness offended him, and still does.”
People who love mercy “are not judgmental,” he said. "They manifest compassion for others, especially for those who are less fortunate; they are gracious, kind and honorable.”
They treat everyone with love and understanding," Renlund said, “regardless of characteristics such as race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and tribal, clan or national differences.”
These aspects, he said, “are superseded by Christlike love.”
3:10 p.m.: Praying takes faith and spiritual effort, says Sunday school leader
Milton da Rocha Camargo, first counselor in the Sunday school general presidency, counseled Latter-day Saints to count their blessings and ask, seek and knock in prayer.
“Asking seems simple, and yet it is powerful because it reveals our desires and our faith,” he said. “However, it takes time and patience to learn to understand the voice of the Lord.”
Seeking answers to prayers “implies mental and spiritual effort — pondering, testing, trying and studying.”
And knocking is to “act in faith,” Camargo said. “When we actively follow him, the Lord opens the way before us.”
3 p.m.: Lord’s prophet prepared church for pandemic, apostle Stevenson says
Apostle Gary E. Stevenson explored the heartbreaking disappointments brought on by COVID-19 and “being blessed during adversity.”
He pointed to the “seership of our living prophet, who prepared us before any hint of a pandemic, enabling us to endure the challenges that have come.”
Two years ago, Nelson introduced the idea of “home-centered gospel learning.” That prepared Latter-day Saints as congregational worship was discontinued, Stevenson said. “Even as the world begins to normalize and we return to chapels, we will want to retain our home-centered patterns of gospel study and learning developed during the pandemic.”
The church president also changed the way members helped one another, in a program now known as “ministering.”
And, Stevenson said, having temples close in March (opening recently only for living rituals) has helped members find "heightened joy in the return of temple ordinances.”
The apostle concluded that “one day, each of you will look back at the canceled events, the sadness, disappointments, and loneliness attendant to the challenging times we are passing through to see it overshadowed by choice blessings and increased faith."
2:40 p.m.: Patience in trials can lead to joy, says Seventy
After the death of his brother last year, general authority Seventy Jeremy R. Jaggi and his family “determined that 2020 would be a refreshing year” that “would surely be a year of joy and rejoicing.”
“Well, here we are — 2020 instead brought the global COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest and economic challenges,” he said. “Our Heavenly Father may be allowing us time to reflect and consider our understanding of patience and our conscious decision to choose joy.”
And, Jaggi counseled, church members must practice patience before they experience joy.
“Just as the trying of our faith works patience within us, when we exercise patience, our faith increases,” said Jaggi, who was named as a full-time general authority in April. "As our faith increases, so does our joy.
2:25 p.m.: Rely on Christ during hard times, Eyring says
Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the governing First Presidency, discussed relying on Christ while enduring trials.
“When you wonder how much pain you can endure well, remember [Jesus]. He suffered what you suffer so that he would know how to lift you up. He may not remove the burden, but he will give you strength, comfort and hope,” Eyring said. “He knows the way. He drank the bitter cup. He endured the suffering of all. You are being nourished and comforted by a loving Savior, who knows how to succor you in whatever tests you face.”
Members should “feast upon [Christ’s] words,” he said, and “exercise faith unto repentance,” be baptized and then keep their covenants with God.
By doing that, Latter-day Saints will see “a change in our natures,” allowing the power of Jesus Christ to “work in us,” he said. “Our hearts can be softened to love, to forgive, and to invite others to come unto the Savior. Our confidence in the Lord increases. Our fears decreases.”
11:50 a.m.: Nelson laments the racism Black people endure
Church President Russell M. Nelson, who has met several times with leaders of the NAACP and has called on members to repent of their racism, forcefully and pointedly repeated his plea in his Sunday sermon.
“Brothers and sisters, please listen carefully to what I am about to say. God does not love one race more than another. His doctrine on this matter is clear. He invites all to come unto him, ‘Black and white, bond and free, male and female,’” he said. “I assure you that your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin. Favor or disfavor with God is dependent upon your devotion to God and his commandments, and not the color of your skin.”
Nelson said he grieves that “our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice,” he said. “Today, I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.”
The 96-year-old Nelson, considered a “prophet, seer and revelator” by millions of Latter-day Saints across the globe, also said he was delighted when he learned recently that “one of the Hebraic meanings of the word ‘Israel’ is ‘let God prevail,’ and 'the very name of Israel refers to a person who is willing to let God prevail in his or her life. That concept stirs my soul!”
“The word ‘willing’ is crucial to this interpretation of Israel. We can choose to be of Israel, or not. We can choose to let God prevail in our lives, or not.”
The gathering of Israel “is happening right now!” Nelson said. “As an essential prelude to the Second Coming of the Lord, it is the most important work in the world!”
It’s “missionary, temple and family history work,” he said, as well as “building faith and testimony in the hearts of those with whom we live, work and serve.”
In these “perilous times … Satan is no longer even trying to hide his attacks on God’s plan. Emboldened evil abounds,” Nelson said. He urged church members to “be determined to let God prevail in our lives, to learn to hear his voice, and to use our energy to help gather Israel.”
11:30 a.m.: Speak more of Christ, apostle Andersen says
Apostle Neil L. Andersen discussed the declining faith in Christ in Europe and in the United States, and encouraged Latter-day Saints to speak proudly of their belief in Jesus.
“While some are neglecting their faith, others are searching for the truth,” Andersen said. “We have taken the name of the Savior upon us. What more are we to do?”
Andersen referred to President Russell M. Nelson’s direction to members, media and others to use the full name of the church.
Nelson “taught us that consistently using the correct name of the church, something that might seem like a small thing, is not small at all,” the apostle said, “and will shape the world’s future.”
Andersen promised members if they think and speak more frequently on Christ “and with less hesitation,” their “words will flow more comfortably…[and] those listening will feel less of a desire to dismiss or debate and a greater willingness to listen and learn.”
It’s already happening among church members, he said, “but maybe we can do a little better.”
“If the world is going to speak less of [Christ],” Andersen said, “who is going to speak more of him? We are! Along with other devoted Christians!”
11:15 a.m.: Leader salutes our ‘everyday’ angels
There are “angels that walk among us in our everyday lives,” said Elder Carlos A. Godoy of the Presidency of the Seventy, including several who helped him when he converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his native Brazil.
He pointed to angels in his own life — the female missionaries who taught him; a young woman who befriended him (and later became his wife); his early-morning seminary teacher; his Young Men president.
“Thanks to all these angels, and many others I encountered during those important early years, I received enough strength to remain on the covenant path, as I gained a spiritual witness of the truth,” Godoy said, speaking to new converts, members returning to the church “after wandering around for a while” or “just someone struggling to fit in.”
“Please, please, do not give up on your efforts to be part of this big family.”
And he spoke to active Latter-day Saints.
“We should remember that it is not easy for new converts, returning friends, and those with a different lifestyle to instantly fit in,” Goday said. “The Lord is aware of the challenges they face, and he is looking for angels willing to help.”
10:55 a.m.: Resist bad thoughts, apostle Soares counsels
Apostle Ulisses Soares urged Latter-day Saints not to yield to temptation and resist when “inappropriate thoughts may penetrate our mind.”
“When such thoughts are permitted and even invited to stay, they can shape the desires of our heart and lead us to what we will become in this life and eventually to what we will inherit for eternity,” he said. "...When we resist the little temptations, which often come unexpectedly in our life, we are better equipped to avoid serious transgressions.”
Soares compared “yielding to temptation” to “approaching a magnet with a metal object.”
“The magnet loses its power over it only when the metal object is placed far from it,” the native Brazilian said. “Therefore, just as the magnet is unable to exercise power over a faraway metal object, as we resist temptation, it fades away and loses its power over our mind and heart, and consequently, over our actions.”
10:40 a.m.: Trials can build faith, says Primary leader
Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor in the general presidency of the children’s Primary, spoke about maintaining faith in the face of challenges.
“Recent events around the globe and in our nations, communities and families have buffeted us with unforeseen trials. In times of turmoil, our faith can feel stretched to the limits of our endurance and understanding,” said Harkness, the first woman to speak Sunday and the fifth to speak during this conference (three of them in Saturday’s women’s session). “Waves of fear can distract us, causing us to forget God’s goodness, thus leaving our perspective shortsighted and out of focus.”
Yet, these “rough stretches of our journey” can not only try faith, but also fortify it, she said. “Regardless of our circumstances, we can intentionally make efforts to build and increase our faith in Jesus Christ. It is strengthened when we remember that we are children of God and that he loves us.”
Faith grows as believers “experiment on the word of God with hope and diligence, trying our very best to follow Christ’s teachings,” Harkness said. “Our faith increases as we choose to believe rather than doubt, forgive rather than judge, repent rather than rebel. Our faith is refined as we patiently rely on the merits and mercy and grace of the holy Messiah.”
She encouraged listeners to rejoice even while enduring trials, she said, because Jesus “is keenly aware of our troubles, cares and sorrows.”
10:25 a.m.: Prayer can get us through, Ballard says
Russell M. Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, called on people of all faiths to “pray for your country and for your national leaders.”
“No matter how you pray or to whom you pray, please exercise your faith — whatever your faith may be,” Ballard said, adding, “We stand today at a major crossroads in history, and the nations of the earth are in desperate need of divine inspiration and guidance.”
He spoke of the pandemic, economic upheaval, peaceful protests and angry riots, but said, “This is not about politics or policy. This is about peace and the healing that can come to individual souls as well as to the soul of countries.”
As to the coronavirus, the 91-year-old apostle said “prayer will influence scientists and help them toward discoveries of vaccines and medications that will end this pandemic.”
“The best way to help the current world situation is for all people to rely more fully upon God and to turn their hearts to him through sincere prayer,” Ballard said. "Humbling ourselves and seeking heaven’s inspiration to endure or conquer what is before us will be our safest and surest way to move confidently forward through these troubling times.”