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Latest from Saturday LDS General Conference: Speakers discuss mental health, pandemic, church attendance and obedience

Go all-in with God, says apostle Jeffrey Holland in first talk since BYU speech. Church President Russell Nelson thanks members who heed COVID guidelines. Dallin Oaks urges all religious types to go to church. Tabernacle Choir sings live at session for first time in two years.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, greet organist Linda Margetts during the close of the afternoon session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 191st Semiannual General Conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

The fourth straight all-virtual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started Saturday with President Russell M. Nelson noting that the world is “still dealing with the ravages of COVID-19 and its variants.”

“We thank you,” the 97-year-old church leader said, “for following our counsel and the advice of medical experts and government officials in your own communities.”

Nelson, a former heart surgeon, and the faith’s top brass consistently have urged members to be vaccinated against COVID-19, assuring them that the shots have proved “safe and effective.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson offers opening remarks at General Conference on Oct. 2, 2021.

Some Latter-day Saints have pushed back against that call — although vaccination rates did rise briefly in Utah after the church’s latest plea in August. A survey from Public Religion Research Institute this past summer showed that 65% of Latter-day Saints were classified as vaccine acceptors.

Meanwhile, apostle Jeffrey R. Holland gave his first public sermon since his controversial talk at church-owned Brigham Young University in August, encouraging members to “take up the cross of Christ, however demanding it may be, regardless of the issue and regardless of the cost.”

General authority Seventy Erich W. Kopischke offered a deeply personal address about people who face mental health challenges. His remarks were the most extensive at a conference on the subject since Reyna Aburto, second counselor in the women’s Relief Society general presidency, and Holland, tackled the tender topic in 2019 and 2013, respectively.

On Saturday morning, for the first time since October 2019, a session featured live performances by a scaled-back Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square (music for the three previous conferences came from recordings).

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square sings at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Church leaders, including Nelson, all wore masks while seated. The authorities, also limited in their numbers, delivered their speeches from the familiar Conference Center Auditorium, as opposed to the downtown Salt Lake City facility’s much smaller theater that hosted previous pandemic broadcasts.

The 21,000 seats in the massive meeting hall, however, were mostly empty due to COVID-19, with only several hundred seeing the proceedings in person. Members of the 16.6 million-member global faith tuned in to the sessions via the internet, television or radio.

Henry B. Eyring, Nelson’s second counselor in the governing First Presidency, noted that the choir members had been vaccinated and tested for the virus. Their numbers were greatly reduced to provide social distancing.

A multicultural choir of members from northern Utah sang at the afternoon gathering, followed by a troupe from BYU in the evening session. All these performers also had been vaccinated and tested, and were spaced apart in the Conference Center.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A multicultural choir from northern Utah sings at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Here are the latest talks and news from the faith’s two-day 191st Semiannual General Conference:

Saturday evening session

President Henry B. Eyring: Get answers by exercising faith

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

The way to receive revelation from God “has not changed from the days of Adam and Eve,” said Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the governing First Presidency. “It has been the same for all called servants of the Lord from the beginning to the present day. It is the same for you and me. It is always done by exercising faith.”

If faith in Jesus Christ has led “to a heart softened through the effects of his atonement,” Eyring told his Latter-day Saint audience, “you will be more able to feel the whisperings of the Spirit in answer to your prayers.”

Eyring’s personal experience with revelation is “that the still, small voice is clear and discernible in my mind when I feel an internal quiet and submission to the Lord’s will,” he said. “...Revelation comes to us in proportion to the degree to which we have sought to take the doctrine of Christ into our hearts and implement it in our lives.”

With sufficient faith, believers “will ask for direction with the intent to go and do whatever he asks,” Eyring said. “We will have developed the faith to know that whatever he asks will bless others, and we can be purified in the process because of his love for us.”

It is hard to “keep the Lord’s commandments without faith and trust in him,” he said. “As some lose their faith in the Savior, they may even attack his counsel, calling good evil and evil good. ... Opposition and trials have long been a seedbed for the growth of faith. That has always been true, especially since the beginning of the restoration and the founding of the Lord’s church.”

Having faith in Jesus will help Latter-day Saints “make and keep the covenants,” he said, “that will allow the Holy Ghost to be your constant companion.”

General authority Marcus B. Nash: Blessings come from sharing the gospel

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) General authority Seventy Marcus B. Nash speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Members have a responsibility to invite others to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, said general authority Seventy Marcus B. Nash, and they can do it in loving and natural ways.

He detailed four blessings that come from such outreach:

• Joy and hope • God’s power in individual lives • Protection from temptation • Healing.

“The gathering of Israel — the greatest cause on Earth — is our covenant responsibility,” Nash said. “My invitation today is simple: Share the gospel. Be you and hold up the light. … Share your life normally and naturally.”

General authority Seventy Alfred Kyungu: On being a follower of Jesus Christ

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) General authority Seventy Alfred Kyungu speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

To be a follower of Christ is “to strive to conform our actions, conduct and lives to those of the Savior,” said general authority Seventy Alfred Kyungu. “It is to acquire virtues.”

The African leader outlined four qualities he finds in Jesus — humility, courage, the ability to forgive, and sacrifice.

On the last virtue, he said, “we can sacrifice our time to perform ministering, to serve others, to do good, to do family history work and to magnify our church calling. We can give of our financial means by paying tithing, fast offerings and other donations to build the kingdom of God on earth. We need sacrifice to keep the covenants we have made with the Savior.”

Kyungu, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, concluded with a prayer that “by following Jesus Christ and drawing upon the blessings of his atonement,” Latter-day Saints “become more and more humble, we are more courageous, we forgive more and more, and we sacrifice more for his kingdom.”

Bradley R. Wilcox: Repentance is a process

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Bradley R. Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency, speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Bradley R. Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency, said some people mistakenly have the impression that repentance is a one-time event, but it’s actually a lifetime pursuit.

He shared the story of a young man struggling with the shame of his pornography usage, who felt unworthy of participating in the gospel because of his relapses. A leader, however, told him that as long as he was honestly trying, he wasn’t being a hypocrite — he was being a disciple.

Wilcox said rather than setting “unhelpful and unrealistic” goals for people trying to change, start with small, reachable ones.

“[God’s] grace is not just a prize for the worthy,” Wilcox said. “It is ‘divine assistance’ he gives that helps us become worthy.”

General authority Arnulfo Valenzuela: Scriptures ‘filled them with joy’

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) General authority Seventy Arnulfo Valenzuela speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Delighting in the scriptures “is more than hungering and thirsting for knowledge,” said general authority Seventy Arnulfo Valenzuela. “...As we study the scriptures, we will better understand God’s plan of salvation and exaltation, and we will trust in the promises that he has made to us in the scriptures, as well as in the promises and blessings of modern prophets.”

When he served a full-time church mission, Valenzuela taught potential converts from the scriptures and “became aware of the power in them and of how they can change our lives,” he said. “Each person to whom we taught the restored gospel was a unique individual with different needs. The holy scriptures, yes, the prophecies written by the holy prophets, brought them to a faith in the Lord and to repentance and changed their hearts.”

The scriptures “filled them with joy as they received inspiration, direction, consolation, strength and answers to their needs,” he said. “Many of them decided to make changes in their lives and began to keep God’s commandments.”

Valenzuela invited his listeners “to have a permanent plan to study the scriptures,” deepening their conversion to Jesus Christ, he said. “When we study the gospel, we are not simply seeking new information; rather, we are seeking to become a ‘new creature.’ The Holy Ghost guides us toward truth and testifies to us of the truth. He illuminates our mind, renews our understanding, and touches our hearts through God’s revelation, the source of all truth. The Holy Ghost purifies our heart. He inspires in us the desire to live according to the truth and whispers to us ways to do so.”

General authority Brent H. Nielson: Trust Christ’s healing power

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Brent H. Nielson, of the Presidency of the Seventy, speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Brent H. Nielson, who serves in the Presidency of the Seventy, shared how his father died of pancreatic cancer despite prayers for and blessings of healing.

The church leader said he wondered why some families receive miracles but his family did not.

But as he turned to the scriptures, Nielson said, he found that Christ can heal physical conditions, but, more importantly, he can heal souls.

“I had mistakenly believed that the Savior’s healing power had not worked for my family,” he said. “As I now look back with more mature eyes and experience, I see that the Savior’s healing power was evident in the lives of each of my family members. I was so focused on a physical healing that I failed to see the miracles that had occurred.”

Nielson added that physical healing will occur when it’s expedient to God’s will, while spiritual healing is offered to all.

Sharon Eubank: ‘So much more to do’

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the general Relief Society presidency and head of Latter-day Saint Charities, the faith's humanitarian arm, speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

The church’s “divine mandate” is to care for the poor, said Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the general presidency of the women’s Relief Society. “It is one of the pillars of the work of salvation and exaltation.”

As needs grow around the world, the governing First Presidency has charged the faith’s humanitarian wing to increase its outreach “in a significant way,” said Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities. Church leaders “are interested in the largest trends and the smallest details.”

In the past 18 months, the faith has responded to hurricanes, earthquakes, refugee displacement — and even a pandemic, she said. “While the more than 1,500 COVID-19 projects were certainly the largest focus of the church’s relief over the last 18 months, the church also responded to 933 natural disasters and refugee crises in 108 countries.”

Eubank, the third women to speak Saturday, mentioned several individual projects, including how some of the Relief Society sisters in Germany noticed that many Afghan women evacuees “were using their husbands’ shirts to cover their heads because their traditional head coverings had been ripped off in the frenzy at the Kabul airport.”

In an act of friendship “that crossed any religious or cultural boundaries,” she said, those Latter-day Saint women “gathered to sew traditional Muslim clothing for Afghan women.”

She quoted Bethani Halls, who said, “We heard that women were in need of prayer garments, and we are sewing so that they can be [comfortable] for prayer.”

Through their “ministry, donations, time and love,” Eubank said, members have been “the answer to so many prayers. And yet there is so much more to do.”

Individual efforts “don’t necessarily require money or faraway locations,” she said. “They do require the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a willing heart to say to the Lord: Here am I, send me.”

Apostle M. Russell Ballard: Love God more than the world

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle M. Russell Ballard speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, invited church members to reflect on whether they love the Lord more than the world.

“Do the things of this world bring us the joy, happiness and peace that the Savior offered to his disciples and that [Christ] offers to us?” Ballard said at the start of the evening session. “Only he can bring us true joy, happiness and peace through our loving him and following his teachings.”'

The senior apostle, who turns 93 next week, said at his age he has attended many funerals.

“I am sure many of you have noticed what I have noticed. When celebrating the life of a deceased family member or friend, it is rare for a speaker to talk about the size of the person’s home, the number of cars or bank account balances. They usually don’t speak about social media posts. At most funerals, they focus on their loved one’s relationships, service to others, life lessons and experiences, and their love for Jesus Christ,” Ballard said. “Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that having a nice home or a nice car is wrong or that using social media is bad. What I am saying is that in the end, those things matter very little compared to loving the Savior.”

In speaking about how today’s world is unsettled, he referred to a 2017 speech that fellow apostle Dallin H. Oaks gave at BYU-Hawaii on the dangers of armed conflicts and climate change.

“These are challenging times,” Oaks said then, “filled with big worries: wars and rumors of wars, possible epidemics of infectious diseases, droughts, floods and global warming.”

One way members can demonstrate their love for God, Ballard said, is by joining family, friends and neighbors in serving others.

“As we focus on loving our neighbors as he loves them,” he added, “we start to truly love those around us.”

Saturday afternoon session

Apostle Gary E. Stevenson: ‘Plain, precious and simple’

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Gary E. Stevenson speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

The gospel of Jesus Christ “is plain, precious and simple,” said Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which requires fulfilling “divine responsibilities” — living the teachings, caring for those in need, inviting others to learn the gospel, and “uniting families for eternity.”

It has been said that the gospel is “simply beautiful and beautifully simple,” Stevenson said. “The world is not. It is complicated, complex, and filled with turmoil and strife. We are blessed as we exercise care not to allow complexity, so common in the world, to enter into the way we receive and practice the gospel.”

Latter-day Saints “should all strive to keep the gospel simple, in our lives, in our families, in our classes and quorums, and in our wards [congregations] and stakes [regional],” the apostle said. “...Doing so will surely bring joy and peace.”

General authority Moises Villanueva: Praise God during trials

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Mexican native and general authority Seventy Moises Villanueva delivers recorded remarks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Mexican native and general authority Seventy Moises Villanueva shared a story about a missionary who faced trial after trial but chose to continue serving cheerfully.

He then shared the story of Book of Mormon prophet Nephi, who also faced difficult challenges but always praised God.

“My dear brothers and sisters, how do we react to our afflictions?” Villanueva asked. “Do we murmur before the Lord because of them? Or, like Nephi and my former missionary friend, do we feel thankful in word, thought and deed because we are more focused on our blessings than on our problems?”

General authority Christoffel Golden: Prepare for Christ’s return

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Christoffel Golden, a South African native and a general authority Seventy, gives recorded remarks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Christoffel Golden, a South African native and a general authority Seventy, said that no teaching or miracle has the power to persuade some individuals to change their beliefs.

This can be seen in scripture stories about people who rejected prophecies about the coming of Christ, he said in a prerecorded sermon.

The modern world is filled with great knowledge, Golden said, but sometimes this camouflages the “unsteady foundation” upon which that prowess is built.

“For those who have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to feel, more than ever before, we are required to confront the reality that we are getting ever closer,” he said, “to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”

Ronald A. Rasband: ‘Follow God’s living prophet’

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Ronald A. Rasband speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Apostle Ronald A. Rasband outlined seven “things of my soul,” things that prepare him, he said, to “hear promptings, that lift my sights beyond the ways of the world, that give purpose to my work in the gospel and to my very life.”

• Love God and Jesus Christ. • Love your neighbor. • Love yourself. • Keep the commandments. • Always be worthy to attend the temple. • Be joyful and cheerful. • Follow God’s living prophet.

“We are distinguished as a church to be led by prophets, seers and revelators, called of God for this time. I promise that as you listen and follow their counsel, you will never be led astray,” Rasband said. “Never.”

The “prophetic mantle is all about revelation,” the apostle said. “...the Lord is directing this work.”

General authority Erich W. Kopischke: Helping those with mental health challenges

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) General authority Seventy Erich W. Kopischke delivers recorded remarks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

German native and general authority Seventy Erich W. Kopischke spoke in a prerecorded message about the pain caused by mental illness.

With his son’s permission, Kopischke shared how his son returned from his two-year church mission after four weeks due to severe panic attacks, anxiety and depression. This was so devastating that he tried to end his own life.

His son survived, Kopischke said, but “it has taken a long time and much medical, therapeutic and spiritual care for him to heal and accept that he is loved, valued and needed.”

He recognized that not every story ends like this and said he sorrows with those who have lost loved ones.

Kopischke also addressed parents who are struggling to identify the nature and severity of their children’s challenges, encouraging them to stay close to the Lord so they can be guided “step by step through the darkest hours.”

Becoming educated and having honest discussions about mental illness, Kopischke added, will allow members to help themselves and others who might be struggling.

He asked Latter-day Saints to watch over and not judge one another, especially when expectations aren’t immediately met.

“For all who are personally affected by mental illness,” Kopischke said, “hold fast to your covenants, even if you might not feel God’s love at this time.”

The Utah-based faith recently released a new manual and videos to help members build up emotional resilience.

The new content, “Finding Strength in the Lord: Emotional Resilience,” provides training materials for Latter-day Saints and others, according to a news release. It covers topics such as developing healthy thinking patterns, managing stress and anxiety, understanding sadness and depression, and overcoming anger.

Help is available

If you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255.

Susan H. Porter: God’s love is not in circumstances, but in his presence

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Susan H. Porter, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Understanding yourself as a beloved child of Heavenly Parents “changes everything,” said Susan H. Porter, first counselor in the Primary general presidency. “It changes the way you feel about yourself when you make mistakes. It changes how you feel when difficult things happen. It changes your view of God’s commandments. It changes your view of others, and of your capacity to make a difference.”

As we receive God’s love, Porter said, “we find greater joy in striving to love and serve as he did, becoming ‘true followers of his son, Jesus Christ.’”

Indeed, God’s love “is not found in the circumstances of our lives, but in his presence in our lives,” said the church leader, widow of general authority Seventy Bruce D. Porter, who died in 2016. “We know of his love when we receive strength beyond our own and when his spirit brings peace, comfort and direction. ... God’s love is not found in the circumstances of our lives, but in his presence in our lives. We know of his love when we receive strength beyond our own and when his spirit brings peace, comfort and direction.”

General authority Ciro Schmeil: How to become like Jesus

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Brazilian native and general authority Seventy Ciro Schmeil delivers a prerecord message at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

In a prerecorded message, Brazilian native and general authority Seventy Ciro Schmeil shared several principles to help members become better disciples of Jesus Christ. They include:

• Ask Heavenly Father for help. • Act in faith so the Lord can guide and direct you. • Study and teach from the scriptures.

Schmeil also said that becoming like the Savior is a lifelong journey and that all Latter-day Saints are in different stages.

“We must keep in mind that this is not a competition, and we are here to love and help each other,” he said. “We need to be acting in order to allow the Savior to work with us in our lives.”

Apostle David Bednar: ‘Not simply a nice idea’

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle David A. Bednar speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

The Book of Mormon, the church’s foundational text, is “another testament of Jesus Christ and the great tool of conversion in the latter days,” apostle David A. Bednar declared in opening the afternoon session.

“Our purpose in sharing the gospel,” he said, “is to invite all to come unto Jesus Christ, receive the blessings of the restored gospel, and endure to the end through faith in the Savior.”

And Bednar said he has seen the power of this faith in the lives of Latter-day Saints as he has traveled across the world.

“The phrase ‘armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory’ is not simply a nice idea or an example of beautiful scriptural language,” he said. “Rather, these blessings are readily evident in the lives of countless latter–day disciples of the Lord.”

Today’s covenant people of the Lord “indeed are armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory,” he said. “I have witnessed faithfulness, courage, perspective, persistence and joy that extend far beyond mortal capacity — and that only God could provide.”

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Saturday morning session

President Dallin H. Oaks: Go to church

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

With the surge of “nones” — those who profess no religious affiliation — still prevalent, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, addressed people of all faiths.

He said he’s concerned that attendance in all churches, from synagogues to mosques to other religious organizations, is “down significantly” nationwide.

“If we cease valuing our churches, for any reason, we threaten our personal spiritual life,” he warned, “and significant numbers separating themselves from God reduces his blessings to our nations.”

Oaks, whose General Conference speech about the U.S. Constitution on Easter in April generated weeks of headlines, also said that some people feel they don’t learn anything at church or feel offended by others there.

“Personal disappointments,” he said, “should never keep us from the doctrine of Christ, who taught us to serve, not to be served.”

Speaking specifically to Latter-day Saints, Oaks said members who forgo church attendance and rely on individual spirituality separate themselves from gospel essentials like priesthood blessings and the fulness of restored doctrine.

Other advantages of church attendance include spiritual growth and the “motivation and structure” for unselfish service.

His remarks come amid a pandemic in which Latter-day Saints have slowly begun worshipping again in person. Some observers worry that many members will never return.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, President Russell M. Nelson and President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, during the 191st Semiannual General Conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Oaks, next in line to take the church’s helm, closed the morning session by emphasizing that he doesn’t believe good can be accomplished only through a church.

However, “the fulness of doctrine and its saving and exalting ordinances are available only in the restored church,” he said. “Church attendance gives us the strength and enhancement of faith that comes from associating with other believers.”

General authority Patricio M. Giuffra: Converted at age 14

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) General authority Seventy Patricio M. Giuffra speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Patricio M. Giuffra, a Chilean native who serves as a general authority Seventy, shared the story of how he and his mother met Latter-day Saint missionaries when he was 14 — the same age that church founder Joseph Smith began searching for religious truth.

During his first lesson with the young proselytizers, Giuffra said four spiritual truths were confirmed to him:

• God listens to all his children’s sincere prayers.

• God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings, united in purpose.

• God the Father and Jesus Christ have bodies of flesh and bones, but they are glorified and perfected.

• Jesus Christ restored the true church and his priesthood authority through Joseph Smith.

“I invite us all to continually increase our faith in Christ, who has changed the lives of my beloved mother and me,” Giuffra said, “and continues to change the lives of all who seek him.”

General authority Clark Gilbert: ‘Focus on where you are headed’

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) General authority Seventy Clark G. Gilbert speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Latter-day Saints believe in “the divine potential of all God’s children and in our ability to become something more in Christ,” said Clark G. Gilbert, a general authority Seventy and commissioner of the Church Educational System. “In the Lord’s timing, it is not where we start but where we are headed that matters most.”

Jesus saw divine potential “in the beggar, the sinner and the infirm,” Gilbert said. “He saw it in the fisherman, the tax collector and even the zealot. No matter where we start, Christ considers what we do with what we are given.”

This principle should “give comfort to those who struggle,” he said, “and pause to those who seem to have every advantage.”

Those who face challenging circumstances should “focus on where you are headed and not where you began,” the educator said, while those who have lots of advantages can be trapped into feeling they are “thriving,” when they may be “quite stagnant.”

Even when things appear to be going well, Gilbert said, “we must seek out opportunities to improve through prayerful petition.”

Apostle D. Todd Christofferson: Not a ‘religion of rationalization’

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle D. Todd Christofferson speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Some modern believers seem to think that “because God’s love is all-embracing,” it is “‘unconditional,” and think that means “God’s blessings are ‘unconditional,’ and that salvation is ‘unconditional,’” said D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “They are not. "

Such people argue that Jesus “‘loves me just as I am’ and that is certainly true,” Christofferson said. “But he cannot take any of us into his kingdom just as we are, ‘for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence.’ Our sins must first be resolved.”

Latter-day Saints “don’t have to attempt the impossible in trying to rationalize our sins away. And, on the other hand, we don’t have to attempt the impossible in erasing the effects of sin by our own merit alone,” he said. “Ours is not a religion of rationalization nor a religion of perfectionism, but a religion of redemption.”

Contemporary society is “a replay of Book of Mormon history in which charismatic figures pursue unrighteous dominion over others, celebrate sexual license,” Christofferson said, “and promote accumulating wealth as the object of our existence.”

In their “warnings against sin,” Latter-day Saint leaders “are not motivated by a desire to condemn,” he said. “Their true desire mirrors the love of God; in fact, it is the love of God. They love those to whom they are sent, whoever they may be and whatever they may be like. Just as the Lord, his servants do not want anyone to suffer the pains of sin and poor choices.”

Apostle Ulisses Soares: Have compassion, don’t judge others

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Ulisses Soares speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Ulisses Soares, a native Brazilian who in 2018 became the first Latin American ever called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke about Christ’s “compassionate and personalized ministering” to all — even to those who were considered sinners and outsiders.

He also said church members should never make “harsh and cruel” judgments of others because everyone needs understanding and mercy for their imperfections.

It’s not easy to understand all of the circumstances that contribute to someone’s attitude or reactions, Soares said. Christ, however, can clearly see all the facets of a situation.

“The Lord fixes judgment upon those who take it upon themselves to judge the supposed shortcomings of others unrighteously,” he said. “Perhaps it would be better if we sit at Jesus’ feet and plead for mercy for our own imperfections… and not spend so much time and energy fixating on the perceived imperfections of others.”

President Bonnie H. Cordon: Youths need to know who they are

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Bonnie H. Cordon, who oversees the church’s worldwide Young Women program, speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

The first female speaker at this weekend’s conference, President Bonnie H. Cordon, who oversees the church’s worldwide Young Women program, said the most important things that youths need to know is who they are and what their purpose is.

“You are a beloved child of Heavenly Parents,” she said. “Remembering this love can help you push back the confusion of the world that tries to weaken your confidence in your divine identity and blind you of your potential.”

Cordon said members’ purpose is to come unto Christ and “actively join him in his great work.”

She also emphasized the importance of inviting others to come unto Christ. For instance, she shared the story of a 15-year-old girl who included her parents and siblings in her goal to read five verses of scripture at breakfast each day.

“Young women and young men, start now, where you are — in your own home,” Cordon said. “Who will you bring to Christ?”

Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland: ‘No halfway’ in God’s kingdom

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland speaks at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

In his first public address since he delivered a hotly debated August speech at BYU, apostle Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of believers giving their whole selves to God.

“In the kingdom of God, there can be no halfway measures, no starting and stopping, no turning back,” Holland said. “When difficult things are asked of us, even things contrary to the longings of our heart, remember that the loyalty we pledge to the cause of Christ is to be the supreme devotion of our lives.”

Admittedly, all people have “some habits or flaws or personal history that could keep us from complete spiritual immersion in this work,” the apostle said. “But God is our Father and is exceptionally good at forgiving and forgetting sins we have forsaken, perhaps because we give him so much practice in doing so.”

Holland, whose recent comments against same-sex marriage to BYU faculty and staff ignited widespread controversy, discussed current conflicts.

“In our present moment we find all manner of divisions and subdivisions, sets and subsets, digital tribes and political identities, with more than enough hostility to go around,” he said. “...When the love of God sets the tone for our own lives, for our relationship to each other and ultimately our feeling for all humankind, then old distinctions, limiting labels, and artificial divisions begin to pass away, and peace increases.”

He drew on an episode in the church’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, when Jesus Christ visited the Americas.

“No longer were there Lamanites, or Jacobites, or Josephites, or Zoramites. There were no ‘-ites’ at all,” Holland said. “The people had taken on just one new transcendent identity. They were all, it says, to be known as ‘the children of Christ.’”

President Russell M. Nelson: There is right and wrong

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Conferencegoers are seated in the Conference Center during the 191st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Nelson opened the two-day meeting by pointing to the return to the downtown Conference Center Auditorium, though it was mostly empty due to the pandemic.

Every message at the conference is “the result of earnest prayer and much spiritual preparation,” Nelson told his listeners. “I invite you to listen for three things during this conference: pure truth, the pure doctrine of Christ and pure revelation.”

Contrary to what some doubters argue, he said, “there really is such a thing as right and wrong. There really is absolute truth — eternal truth. One of the plagues of our day is that too few people know where to turn for truth. I can assure you that what you will hear today and tomorrow constitutes pure truth.”

Listening for “pure revelation for the questions in your heart” will make this conference “rewarding and unforgettable,” he said. “If you have not yet sought for the ministering of the Holy Ghost to help you hear what the Lord would have you hear during these two days, I invite you to do so now. Please make this conference a time of feasting on messages from the Lord through his servants. Learn how to apply them in your life.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) General authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cast their sustaining votes during the 191st Semiannual General Conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Morgan Jones and boyfriend Benjamin Pearson of Salt Lake City spend time on the Conference Center steps before the afternoon session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 191st Semiannual General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.


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