Gordon Monson: Look out, Latter-day Saints, Patrick Kearon is a hard-charging, hard-not-to-like apostle

In his conference debut as an apostle, the British church leader delivers a distinctly Christian message with a distinctly Christian flavor — full of faith, hope, compassion and love, for all.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Patrick Kearon speaks at General Conference on Sunday, April 7, 2024.

Dieter Uchtdorf now has serious competition in the horse race among apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the faith’s most compelling and compassionate speaker.

Newcomer Patrick Kearon is Secretariat to Uchtdorf’s Citation.

Maybe those leaders don’t see their presentations at General Conference in that light, as comparative competitions, but I do. And so do a whole lot of other followers of the faith, so hungry for spoken words that nourish their souls, that do not put them down or push them away in their imperfection, rather that give them hope for a brighter today and tomorrow, a thousand tomorrows, from now on through the eternities.

In his first conference talk as an apostle during Sunday’s first session, Kearon gave a speech that was darn near flawless in the way it was written and the way it was offered. His sense of humor, along with his clear, crisp British accent, accentuated his message even more. The speaker who followed him, general authority Seventy Brian Taylor, even asked as he began his talk if he could borrow Kearon’s accent for about 10 minutes.

Kearon’s talk started off with a good laugh, the leader saying that it’s been said that behind every new apostle stands an astonished mother-in-law.

“I don’t know if that’s actually been said, but in this case, it certainly could be,” he joked. “I suspect that the fact that my mother-in-law is no longer with us does nothing to reduce her astonishment.”

Now, that right there is the way to lift the curtain on any apostleship.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Patrick Kearon and his wife, Jennifer, look to the Conference Center crowd at General Conference on Sunday, April 7, 2024.

Thereafter, Kearon underscored that God’s plan for all his children is inclusive, not exclusive. It is not intended to block anyone, whoever they are, on the roadway to heaven. Instead it is to wave them ahead, to welcome them with open arms, to bring them home. To bring everyone home.

“God is in relentless pursuit of you,” he said. “He wants all of his children to choose to return to him, and he employs every possible measure to bring you back.”

Further, he said this world was created for the express purpose of humans having the refining experiences of mortality, to learn and to grow, to make mistakes, to repent, to love God and our neighbor. The Almighty sent his son, Jesus Christ, to also experience mortality, to set an example for everyone, to atone and redeem. That atoning gift opens the path to return to God, to remove every barrier en route.

“The intent of [God’s] great plan of happiness is your happiness, right here, right now and in the eternities,” he said. “It is not to prevent your happiness and cause you instead worry and fear.”

He added that the intent of the Father’s plan of salvation and mercy is to accelerate your salvation and give you mercy. It is not to deny mercy and inflict pain and sorrow. It is not to keep you out.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Apostle Patrick Kearon, with his wife, Jennifer, at General Conference on Saturday, April 6, 2024.

Kearon encouraged good, clean living, good, clean faith, and by the time he was done speaking, he made it seem as though that boulevard was an uncluttered 10-lane expressway, not 50 miles of bad, bumpy road.

“Jesus’ will is the benevolent Father’s will,” he said. “He wants to make it possible for every last one of his Father’s children to receive the end goal of the plan — eternal life with them. None is excluded from this divine potential.

“If you are prone to worry that you will never measure up or that the loving reach of Christ’s infinite Atonement mercifully covers everyone else, but not you, then you are misunderstanding. Infinite means infinite. Infinite covers you and those you love.”

One last thing: “The Savior, the Good Shepherd, goes in search of his lost sheep until he finds them. He is not willing that any should perish.”

God’s plan is not about roadblocks, Kearon concluded: “It never was, it never will be. Are there things we need to do, commandments to keep, aspects of our nature to change? Yes. But with his grace those are within our reach, not beyond our grasp.”

It’s heartening to hear a conference sermon that reaches out to all Latter-day Saints, all people, regardless of where they are in their faith journeys, appealing not just to the ones who are strictly orthodox, or who might already lean toward the notion that they’re nearly without fault.

If you’re a Latter-day Saint of any sort, that’s what an apostle of the Son of God should sound like, what you hope a disciple of Christ would sound like. If you are of some other Christian persuasion, that’s what a man of God would and should sound like. And whether you’re a believer or nonbeliever, you might think anyone who offers that kind of hope to humans bumping and skidding through life down here in an imperfect world is doing something good.

Patrick Kearon is doing something good. Citation, look out, Secretariat is charging hard out of the gate. That’s the way I happily see it, anyway.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune columnist Gordon Monson.