SALT LAKE CITY — President Russell M. Nelson announced revised temple recommend questions and designated 2020 a bicentennial year of the First Vision as he closed the final session Sunday afternoon of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“General conference next April will be different from any previous conference,” he promised. “In the next six months, I hope that every member and every family will prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel.”
The conference is scheduled for April 4 and 5.
“In the springtime of the year 2020, it will be exactly 200 years since Joseph Smith experienced the theophany that we know as the First Vision,” President Nelson said. “God the Father and his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph, a 14-year-old youth. That event marked the onset of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness, precisely as foretold in the Holy Bible.”
He then called the temple the crowning jewel of the Restoration.
“Its sacred ordinances and covenants are pivotal to preparing a people who are ready to welcome the Savior at his Second Coming,” he said.
He said that because the temple is the House of the Lord and sacred, all who enter must qualify. Then President Nelson read revised temple recommend questions, which will be asked of each member by both a member of their bishopric or stake presidency:
1. Do you have faith in and a testimony of God, the Eternal Father; his Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost?
2. Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and of his role as your Savior and Redeemer?
3. Do you have a testimony of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
4. Do you sustain the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer and revelator and as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers and revelators? Do you sustain the other general authorities and local leaders of the church?
5. The Lord has said that all things are to be “done in cleanliness” before him (Doctrine and Covenants 42:41). Do you strive for moral cleanliness in your thoughts and behavior? Do you obey the law of chastity?
6. Do you follow the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ in your private and public behavior with members of your family and others?
7. Do you support or promote any teachings, practices or doctrine contrary to those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
8. Do you strive to keep the Sabbath day holy, both at home and at church; attend your meetings; prepare for and worthily partake of the sacrament; and live your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?
9. Do you strive to be honest in all that you do?
10. Are you a full-tithe payer?
11. Do you understand and obey the Word of Wisdom?
12. Do you have any financial or other obligations to a former spouse or to children? If yes, are you current in meeting those obligations?
13. Do you keep the covenants that you made in the temple, including wearing the temple garment as instructed in the endowment?
14. Are there serious sins in your life that need to be resolved with priesthood authorities as part of your repentance?
15. Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Lord’s house and participate in temple ordinances?
President Nelson said church members can prepare for April’s general conference by reading Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision in Latter-day Saint scripture. He also said they can engage in the church’s “Come, Follow Me” study of the Book of Mormon, which begins in January.
“Select your own questions. Design your own plan. Immerse yourself in the glorious light of the Restoration,” he said. “As you do, general conference next April will not only be memorable, it will be unforgettable.”
He also suggested watching the Book of Mormon videos the church is releasing.
Finally, President Nelson left a blessing on the conference.
“I leave with you my love and my blessing, that each of you may become happier and holier with each passing day,” he said. “Meanwhile, please be assured that revelation continues in the church and will continue under the Lord’s direction until ‘the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.’”
President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke earlier in the final session and said Heavenly Father, his beloved son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost have offered every person a guaranteed offer of lasting happiness explained by the Book of Mormon prophet Alma.
“He taught his son that increasing in holiness was the only path to happiness. He made it plain that greater holiness is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ cleansing and perfecting us. Only by faith in Jesus Christ, continuing repentance, and keeping covenants are we able to claim the lasting happiness we yearn to experience and retain.”
He asked church members to act on that belief.
“Greater holiness will not come simply by asking for it. It will come by doing what is needed for God to change us.”
He suggested actions seekers could take.
“The scriptures teach us that among other things, we can be sanctified or become more holy when we exercise faith in Christ, demonstrate our obedience, repent, sacrifice for him, receive sacred ordinances, and keep our covenants with him,” he said. “Qualifying for the gift of holiness requires humility, meekness and patience.”
Another key to completing a mortal journey well is learning to give one’s spirit control over one’s body, said President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
He spoke about the death of his wife, Barbara, last year, how deeply he missed her and what she had meant to him and their children.
“She was, in a word, magnificent — as a wife, as a mother, as a friend, as a neighbor and as a daughter of God.”
He remained grateful that in her final months, as Alzheimer’s took its course, he chose to come home and hold her hand as she rewatched her favorite musicals again and again.
“Memories of those special handholding sessions are now very precious to me,” he said. “Brothers and sisters, please do not miss an opportunity to look into the eyes of your family members with love. Children and parents, reach out to each other and express your love and appreciation. Like me, some of you may wake up one day to discover that the time for such important communication has passed. Live each day together with hearts filled with gratitude, good memories, service and much love.
He said Alma also taught about “the great plan of happiness,” which reminded President Ballard of a “grand and glorious possibility of family reunion — of eternally reuniting husbands and wives, parents and children, generation upon generation in the household of God.”
He said his apostle grandfather, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, taught that the greatest obstacle to that reunion is a battle with self.
“It seems clear to me that one of the most important things we can learn in this life is how to emphasize our eternal spiritual nature and control our evil desires,” President Ballard said.
“You are — first, foremost and always — a spiritual being,” he added. “And so when one chooses to put our carnal nature ahead of our spiritual nature, we are choosing something that is contrary to our real, true, authentic, spiritual selves.”
President Ballard said repentance is vital because bodily and earthly influences complicate decision-making.
“I encourage you to slow down a bit and think about where you are now in subjugating your carnal nature and empowering your divine, spiritual nature,” he said, “so when the time comes, you may pass into the spirit world to a joyful reunion with your loved ones.”
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the fruit of the tree in Lehi’s dream in the Book of Mormon represents the gospel and the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
”As we have all learned, even after savoring the precious fruit of the restored gospel, staying true and faithful to the Lord, Jesus Christ, is still not easily done,” he said. “We continue to face distractions and deceptions, confusion and commotion, enticements and temptations that attempt to pull our hearts away from the Savior and the joys and beauties we have experienced in following him.”
In the dream, Lehi also saw a great and spacious building of people mocking the righteous.
”In our world today, the adversary’s construction crews are working overtime, hastily inflating the large and spacious building,” Elder Andersen said. “The expansion has spread across the river, hoping to enter our homes, while the pointers and scoffers sound off day and night on their internet megaphones.”
Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about Christ’s teaching about taking up his cross.
”Jesus purposely and metaphorically used the symbol of the cross to help his disciples better understand what sacrifice and devotion to the Lord’s cause would truly mean,” he said. ”It was only after the Savior’s resurrection that the disciples’ minds were opened to understand all that had been written about him and what would be required of them from that time on.”
Seekers need to understand the relevance of the metaphor today.
”Our determination to cast off all that is contrary to God’s will and to sacrifice all we are asked to give and to strive to follow his teachings, will help us to endure in the path of Jesus Christ’s gospel — even in the face of tribulation, weakness of our souls or the social pressure and worldly philosophies that oppose his teachings.”
He said this principle can apply to people who haven’t been married or who are experiencing same-gender attraction, discouragement or hopelessness. There is hope, he added.
”Please never give up after subsequent failures and consider yourself incapable of abandoning sins and overcoming addiction. You cannot afford to stop trying and thereafter continue in weakness and sin.”
Elder Peter M. Johnson became the church’s first African American to serve as a General Authority Seventy last year. On Sunday, he made history again as the first African American General Authority Seventy to speak in general conference.
He taught that the adversary uses three tools to hurt his foes — deception, distraction and discouragement — all of which can be caused by technology.
“Let us be careful and not casual in our use of technology,” he said. “Continually seek for ways that technology can draw us closer to the Savior and allow us to accomplish his work as we prepare for his Second Coming.”
He said when he became discouraged during his doctorate program, he found peace in reading the Book of Mormon each year, and encouraged listeners also to love God and pray each day.
He also issued another warning with counsel.
“My dear friends, please do not let anyone steal your happiness,” he said. “Do not compare yourself to others.”
Elder Hans T. Boom, a General Authority Seventy from the Netherlands, said the church needs every person, like an orchestra needs a gong.
“Sometimes we might feel that we are, like that gong, only good enough to play a minor part in the performance,” he said, “but let me tell you that your sound is making all the difference. We need all instruments.”
He said some on the journey feel overburdened or off the path.
“If you are wondering about your part, I would like to invite you to find a place where you can be alone and ask Heavenly Father to make known to you which part to play. The answer will probably come gradually and then more clearly when we have set our feet more firmly on the covenant and ministering path.”
President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the session. The Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square performed “Come, Ye Children of the Lord,” “I Stand All Amazed,” “Let Us All Press On” and “More Holiness Give Me.”
The prayers were given by Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy, and Brother Douglas D. Holmes, first counselor in the Young Men general presidency.