Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ unfailingly and unreservedly love all people, who improve the world when they return that divine charity by loving and serving others with compassion, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Saturday morning
The messages kicked off the faith’s 191st Semiannual General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.
President Nelson welcomes millions to virtual conference
“We are delighted to be speaking to you from the Conference Center again,” President Russell M. Nelson said in the opening address. “Most of the seats remain empty, but the presence of some members of the Tabernacle Choir is a wonderful step forward. We welcome you all to this largely virtual conference, wherever you are.”
• This is the fourth virtual general conference since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but the first time since October 2019 that the international broadcast is originating from the main hall in the Conference Center. The 20,000-seat center remained closed to the public because of the spreading delta variant.
• Several hundred family members and guests of the speakers attended the session.
• The session also marked the return of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, which returned to rehearsals 11 days ago after an 18-month, pandemic-induced hiatus. The choir had not performed in conference since October 2019. Following the group’s new pandemic protocols, half of the choir performed “From All that Dwell Below the Skies” to start the morning session. The other half will perform at another session.
The prophet set a conference theme about pure information
The leader Latter-day Saints consider a prophet said conference speakers would focus their messages on Christ, his mercy and his redeeming power. President Nelson invited participants to listen for what he called pure truth, the pure doctrine of Christ and pure revelation.
• “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,” he said. “I can assure you that what you will hear today and tomorrow constitutes pure truth.”
• He said the pure doctrine of Christ changes the lives of those who understand and implement it, qualifying them to receive all that God has: “Nothing could be worth more than all our Father has.”
Nothing can separate a person from God’s perfect, profound love
Speakers repeatedly emphasized God’s love for every person.
• “Our Heavenly Father loves us profoundly and perfectly. … Jesus Christ shares with the Father this same perfect love,” said Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
That love also extends from heavenly parents, Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon said. It also does not wax or wane.
• “The Savior’s love for us is unfailing — even when we fail,” she added. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
• “Not one of us is a stranger to them,” Elder Christofferson said.
That constant heavenly love is personal and transformational, the speakers said. Allowing deity’s love for oneself to dwell in one’s heart is the key to contented, happy living, said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
• He said the first great commandment in the universe is to love God completely, “but the first great truth in the universe is that God loves us exactly that way — wholeheartedly, without reservation or compromise, with all of his heart, might, mind and strength.”
The world distracts and disconnects God’s children from his love
Several speakers said that unfailing divine love is diminished by the world, which Elder Christofferson said is “anti-Christ, or anything but Christ” — or “anything but repentance.”
• “As we abide in God’s love, we depend less and less on the approval of others to guide us,” he 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,” President Cordon said.
Elder Holland said the world is beset by “divisions and subdivisions, sets and subsets ... with more than enough hostility to go around.”
• “Might we ask ourselves if a ‘higher and holier’ life,’ to use President Nelson’s phrase, is something we could seek,” the apostle added.
The goal of God’s love is develop his children
Several leaders described the doctrine of Christ as a plan for improving all people.
• “In this church we believe in the divine potential of all God’s children and in our ability to become something more in Christ,” said Elder Clark G. Gilbert of the Seventy.
• “Jesus Christ sees divine potential no matter where we start. … We must do our part, but it is only through his grace that we can realize our divine potential,” he added.
• Elder Christofferson said, “Some are wont to say, ‘the Savior loves me just as I am,’ and that certainly is true. 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.’”
• “Because they love you,” he added, “they do not want to leave you ‘just as you are.’ Because they love you, they want you to repent because that is the path to happiness.”
Elder Christofferson said God’s commands are not grievous but help his children feel his love more fully and “mark the path of healing, happiness, peace and joy” through the Christ’s sacrifice.
• “Ours is not a religion of rationalization nor a religion of perfectionism, but a religion of redemption through Jesus Christ. By his Atonement, our sins are nailed to his cross and we are forgiven and purified.”
Four ways the Church of Jesus Christ helps
One senior church leader offered at least four ways that weekly Sabbath worship, which he said is one of God’s laws, is personally beneficial.
First, members who don’t attend church meetings and instead rely on individual spirituality separate themselves from the power and blessings of the priesthood, the fulness of restored doctrine, the motivations and opportunities to apply that doctrine, and opportunities to grow spiritually, said President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency.
• “If we cease valuing our churches, for any reason, we threaten our personal spiritual life, and significant numbers separating themselves from God reduces his blessings to our nations,” he said.
Second, Latter-day Saint congregations forge relationships that otherwise might not be chosen, “persons who teach us and test us,” he said:
• “In addition to helping us learn spiritual qualities like love, compassion, forgiveness and patience, this gives us the opportunities to learn how to work with persons of very different backgrounds and preferences.”
Third, church membership allows people to be part of large-scale efforts to help those in need in their congregations through fast offerings and globally through humanitarian aid.
• “Most humanitarian and charitable efforts need to be accomplished by pooling and managing individual resources on a large scale,” President Oaks said.
Fourth, church attendance provides service opportunities.
• “Personal disappointments should never keep us from the doctrine of Christ, who taught us to serve, not to be served. … In service we find heaven-sent opportunities to rise above the individualism of our age.”
Learning from Christ’s example of living the two great commandments
Christ’s ministry was compassionate and personalized, and he rooted his actions in charity and his pure and perfect love, said Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
• “It is meaningful to observe that Jesus’s compassionate acts were not occasional and mandated manifestations…but everyday expressions of the reality of his pure love for God and his children and his abiding desire to help them.”
Following Christ’s example increases a person’s ability to see the virtues in others and decrease judgment of others, making life sweeter, more tender and happier, Elder Soares said.
• “We will be known as peacemakers, whose words are as gentle as the dew of a spring morning,” he added.
Loving others is doing God’s work with him and allows giver and receiver to know and love him more, President Cordon said.
• “The gospel of Jesus Christ is not just nice, it is essential for all,” President Cordon said.
Elder Holland said living the two great commandments fully allows a person or a people to take on one new transcendent identity as “the children of Christ.”
• “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 said, adding:
• “And when those majestic forces from his heart and ours meet without restraint, there is a veritable explosion of spiritual, moral power.”
Then, Elder Holland added, “as Teilhard de Chardin wrote, ‘for (the) second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.’”
Songs and prayers
The Tabernacle Choir also sang “Come, Ye Children of the Lord,” “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,” “Let Us All Press On,” “I Will Follow God’s Plan” and “My Redeemer Lives.”
The opening and closing prayers were offered by Elder Jeremy R. Jaggi of the Seventy and Sister Amy A. Wright, second counselor in the Primary general presidency.