President Russell M. Nelson ended Saturday’s all-male priesthood session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by addressing lessons men and boys may have drawn from the coronavirus pandemic.
Lamenting the lives, livelihoods, health, peace, even hope that many have lost, Nelson said “there are also some things we have found.”
So, he asked his General Conference audience, “What have you learned ... that you always want to remember?”
The 96-year-old prophet-president then outlined what the global crisis has taught him.
First, that “one of the holiest of places on earth is the home,” Nelson said. “...Between now and the time the Lord comes again, we all need our homes to be places of serenity and security.”
COVID-19 prompted the church to suspend in-person Sunday services for a time, so family members studied the faith’s teachings and scriptures at home.
“Think of how it felt to administer the sacrament [or communion] in your home. How did this affect the way you feel about that sacred ordinance? How did it influence the spirit in your home?” Nelson asked. “How did it affect your family members to see you, their father, grandfather, husband, son, or brother, administer this holy ordinance? What will you do to retain that sacred feeling in your family?”
Second, God wants us “to work together and help each other,” he said. “...That is why he asks us to serve and minister to each other....We can accomplish so much more together than we can alone.”
COVID-19 has affected “everyone in the world at essentially the same time,” Nelson, a former heart surgeon, said. “While some have suffered more than others, we have all been challenged in some ways.”
Third, he told his audience that priesthood is more than a meeting.
“Seek revelation from the Lord. Humble yourself. Ask. Listen,” he said. “...Experience with joy the righteousness you will bring to pass as you are ‘anxiously engaged in a good cause.’”
Fourth, the coronavirus may have suspended many activities that traditionally would have filled members’ days, but slowing down has given them a chance to “hear the voice of the Lord whispering his guidance, comfort and peace.”
The church president encouraged them to continue to do that, even as busyness picks up again.
“Quiet time is sacred time — time that will facilitate personal revelation and instill peace,” Nelson said. “Discipline yourself to have time alone and with your loved ones. Open your heart to God in prayer. Take time to immerse yourself in the scriptures and worship in the temple.”
He invited his listeners to come up with their own lists of pandemic insights.
“The future is bright for God’s covenant-keeping people,” Nelson said. “The Lord will increasingly call upon his servants who worthily hold the priesthood to bless, comfort, and strengthen mankind, and to help prepare the world and its people for his Second Coming.”
Here are highlights from other sermons at the all-male, all-virtual priesthood session:
Dallin Oaks: Christ’s resurrection gives hope, meaning and motivation
On Easter eve, Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency, talked about the importance of Christ’s resurrection.
“The resurrection from the dead is the reassuring personal pillar of our faith,” Oaks said. “It adds meaning to our doctrine, motivation to our behavior and hope for our future.”
It provides perspective and strength to “endure the mortal challenges faced by each of us and those we love,” he said. “It gives us a new way to view the physical, mental or emotional deficiencies we have at birth or acquire during mortal life.”
Faith in the risen Christ “gives us the strength to endure sorrows, failures and frustration,” Oaks said. “Because each of us has an assured resurrection, we know that these mortal deficiencies and oppositions are only temporary.”
We anticipate “future joyful reunions and associations,” he said. “The resurrection provides us hope and the strength to be patient as we wait. It also prepared us with the courage and dignity to face our own death—even a death that might be called premature.”
Beyond the resurrection, Jesus Christ’s “atoning sacrifice gives each of us the opportunity,” Oaks said, “to repent of our sins and return clean to our heavenly home.”
Bless others in God’s name, Henry Eyring counsels
President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the governing First Presidency, shared advice on how to be more effective in priesthood service.
“We can magnify our priesthood service over our lifetime and perhaps beyond,” he said. “It will depend on our diligence in trying to know the Lord’s will and our efforts to hear his voice so that we can know better what he wants for the person we are serving for him. That magnification will come in small steps. It may come slowly, but it will come.”
While it’s natural to “feel small” in service, he added, the Lord “conferred the priesthood…because he loves you and he trusts you to bless people he loves in his name.”
Get up and carry on, former star QB tells members
S. Gifford Nielsen, a former star at Brigham Young University and NFL player, compared getting sacked in 1978 during his first game as a starting pro quarterback with living the gospel.
“At that moment, lying under a pile of those massive athletes, I wondered what I was doing there. I had a decision to make,” the general authority Seventy said. “Would I let my doubts overtake me, or would I find courage and strength to get up and to carry on?”
Nielsen didn’t realize at the time, he said, “how this experience would prepare me for future opportunities. I needed to learn that I could be strong and courageous in the face of difficult situations.”
Believers are “all called upon to do life-changing things as representatives of the Lord,” Nielsen said. “He will not forsake us. This is our time.”
When he hears Christ’s two great commandments — to love God and your neighbor — Nielsen said he detects “a third implied commandment: to love thyself.”
Can we truly love God and love his children, he asked, “if we don’t love ourselves?”
It is important “not to become prideful or self-centered, but to see ourselves as he sees us,” Nielsen said. “...When this truth sinks deep into our hearts, our love for God grows.”
Whether on a football field, in a hospital room, or in any other place, he said, “we can be an important part of these remarkable events — because this is our time.”
Use your imaginations to boost faith, leader tells young members
Ahmad S. Corbitt of the church’s Young Men general presidency urged young Latter-day Saints to “use their imaginations to increase faith in Christ, not ruin it.”
“Imagining lies,” he warned, harms faith.
“My friends,” he said, “intentionally envisioning or viewing things that conflict with who you really are, especially pornography, will weaken your faith in Christ, and without repentance could destroy it.”
Corbitt, the second Black leader to address the conference Saturday, also encouraged setting personal goals, especially short-term goals, which reignite faith.
“When you set a good goal, you are looking forward, as you did before [in pre-Earth life with God],” he said, “and seeing what your Heavenly Father wants you or another to become.”
Apostle Quentin L. Cook urges bishops to shepherd youths
Apostle Quentin L. Cook urged bishops to pay special attention to the needs of the faith’s youths.
The bishop, a lay leader, is the ward’s “spiritual leader” and “a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ,” the apostle said. But he has “a paramount role in serving as a shepherd to guide the rising generation, including young single adults, to Jesus Christ.”
It is crucial to work with this generation, he said, because the “young men who are priests [in the lay priesthood] and the young women of the same age are at a very important stage in their lives and development.”
During a short period of time, he said, “they make decisions that have significant lifelong implications. They determine whether they will qualify for the temple, serve a mission, strive to be married in the temple, and prepare for their life’s work.”
These decisions, once made, Cook said, “have profound spiritual and practical implications for the remainder of their lives.”
The church has 30,900 bishops and branch presidents serving congregations across the world, he said, before speaking directly to these volunteer leaders.
“Your contribution to the kingdom is almost beyond description,” Cook said. “...Bishops, we love you. You are truly the Lord’s shepherds over his flock. The Savior will not forsake you in these sacred callings.”