President Russell M. Nelson announced 20 temples Sunday and invited Latter-day Saints to take the long view by putting Jesus Christ first and “thinking celestial.”

“Today, to assist you to qualify for the rich blessings Heavenly Father has for you, I invite you to adopt the practice of ‘thinking celestial,’” he said. “Thinking celestial means being spiritually minded.”

President Nelson announces 20 new temples during recorded general conference address

“When you are confronted with a dilemma, think celestial!” the church president added. “When tested by temptation, think celestial. When life or loved ones let you down, think celestial. When someone dies ‘prematurely,’ think celestial. When someone lingers with a devastating illness, think celestial. When the pressures of life crowd in upon you, think celestial. As you recover from an accident or injury, as I am doing now, think celestial.”

President Nelson recorded his talk to the conference because he fell and hurt his back soon after his 99th birthday on Sept. 9. He watched the conference from home.

The talk and temple announcement concluded the two-day, 193rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which reached millions via broadcasts and streaming to 195 countries.

The church’s now 335 operating or planned temples will help church members to “think celestial,” President Nelson said.

The planned temples will be built in:

  • Savai’i, Samoa.
  • Kahului, Hawaii.
  • Fairbanks, Alaska.
  • Vancouver, Washington.
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado.
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma.
  • Roanoke, Virginia.
  • Cancún, Mexico.
  • Piura, Peru.
  • Huancayo, Peru.
  • Viña del Mar, Chile.
  • Goiânia, Brazil.
  • João Pessoa, Brazil.
  • Cape Coast, Ghana.
  • Calabar, Nigeria.
  • Luanda, Angola.
  • Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Laoag, Philippines.
  • Osaka, Japan.
  • Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

“The ordinances and covenants of the temple are of eternal significance,” President Nelson said. “We continue to build more temples to make these sacred possibilities become a reality in each of your lives.”

President Russell M. Nelson’s recorded message.
President Russell M. Nelson addressed the 193rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints via recorded message. | Screenshot

He has wrestled with “intense pain,” he said, but added, “During my healing, the Lord has manifested his divine power in peaceful and unmistakable ways.”

Now in his 100th year, he said, “I have learned that Heavenly Father’s plan for us is fabulous, that what we do in this life really matters, and that the Savior’s Atonement is what makes our Father’s plan possible.”

He predicted that thinking celestial will draw opposition from a sexualized, politicized world.

“Physical intimacy is only for a man and a woman who are married to each other,” he said. “Much of the world does not believe this, but public opinion is not the arbiter of truth. The Lord has declared that no unchaste person will attain the celestial kingdom. So, when you make decisions regarding morality, please think celestial.”

The opening prayer on Sunday morning included a plea for restored health for President Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who watched the conference from home.

October general conference 2023: Talk summaries and photo galleries
Leaders testify of the purpose of the church and the celestial opportunity offered to all

Sunday’s two sessions included 14 speakers, including several senior church leaders, who testified tenderly about the need for the companionship of the Holy Ghost and deep gratitude for Joseph Smith.

Other speakers encouraged church members to walk the covenant path of Jesus Christ to find the relief, hope and peace available through him during challenges, suffering and tribulation.

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, and President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, stand prior to the Sunday morning session of the 193rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. President Nelson was unable to attend. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

President Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency

President Eyring, who has created more than 1,000 paintings for his posterity to capture his feelings at different moments of his life, described his address as a brief letter to his descendants on how to cultivate the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

“The key for me and for you is to want what the Savior wants,” he said. “Our motives need to be driven by the pure love of Christ. Our prayers need to be ‘All I want is what you want. Thy will be done.’”

  • “If you find yourself having difficulty in feeling the Holy Ghost, you might ponder whether there is anything for which you need to repent and receive forgiveness. You can pray with faith to know what to do to be cleansed and thus more nearly qualify for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.”
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  • “Now, your experiences will be unique, and the Spirit will guide in the way best suited to your faith and capacity to receive revelation for you and for those you love and serve. I pray with all my heart that your confidence will grow.”
President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, walks to the podium during the Sunday morning session of the 193rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

President Ballard, 94, spoke extemporaneously because, despite wearing glasses, he said he can no longer read the teleprompter in the Conference Center. He spoke tenderly about the restoration of the church.

  • “We thank the Lord for Joseph Smith and for his courage to go to that grove of trees in 1820 near his home in Palmyra, New York.”

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ “appeared and spoke to Joseph and prepared him to become the prophet to restore the fullness of the everlasting gospel once again upon the earth,” he said.

  • “We have an understanding of the purpose of life. We know who God is. We know who Jesus is, because we have Joseph, because he went into a grove of trees, really seeking relief and forgiveness for his sins.”
The covenant path to exaltation is an invitation to all, church leaders testify
Tender testimonies of Presidents Eyring, Ballard at Sunday morning session of conference

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

“President Ballard,” Elder Uchtdorf said, “you don’t have 20/20 eyesight anymore, but you have 20/20 spiritual vision.”

In his talk, Elder Uchtdorf said the parable of the prodigal son is one for modern times,

  • “Who among us has not departed from the path of holiness, foolishly thinking we could find more happiness going our own self-centered way? Who among us has not felt humbled, broken-hearted, and desperate for forgiveness and mercy?”

He said each person can know how God reacts if he or she tries to return.

  • “Our Heavenly Father will run to us, his heart overflowing with love and compassion. He will embrace us, place a robe around our shoulders, a ring on our finger, sandals on our feet and proclaim, ‘Today, we celebrate! For my child, who once was dead, has come back to life!’ Brothers and sisters, heaven will rejoice at our return.”
  • “Though choices may have taken you far away from the Savior and his church, the Master Healer stands at the road that leads home, welcoming you. And we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ seek to follow his example and embrace you as our brothers and sisters, as our friends. We rejoice and celebrate with you.”
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, waves to attendees prior to the Sunday morning session of the 193rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Latter-day Saints should strive to be peaceable followers of Christ, in spite of and because of trials, tribulation and adversities, Elder Cook said.

He noted that he and his wife have lost many friends in recent years and suffered the death of a 23-year-old grandson in a car accident. They have watched others step away from faith or suffer health challenges.

  • “Whenever trials occur, we mourn and strive to bear one another’s burdens. We lament things that will not be accomplished and songs that will not be sung. Bad things happen to good people on this mortal journey. The devastating fires on Maui in Hawaii, Southern Chile,and Canada are examples of horrendous events good people sometimes face.”

He said almost all people have experienced “physical and spiritual storms in our lives, some devastating,” and that church leaders often are asked why. He quoted the new edition of “Preach My Gospel”:

  • “As we rely on Jesus Christ and his Atonement, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
  • “Our Father’s plan of happiness for his children,” Elder Cook said, “includes not only a premortal and mortal life, but also a potential for eternal life, including a great and glorious reunion with those we have lost. All wrongs will be righted, and we will see with perfect clarity and faultless perspective and understanding.”

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The discoverers of King Tutankhamun’s treasure-laden tomb couldn’t find it for five years because it was under their feet at their base camp. Those who seek spiritual treasure can make a similar mistake, Elder Renlund said.

“Jesus Christ is our treasure,” he said.

“... We too can be prone to look beyond the mark. We need to guard against this tendency lest we miss Jesus Christ in our lives and fail to recognize the many blessings he offers us. We need him. We are counseled to rely ‘wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.’ He is our mark.”

He noted that the church is building more temples than ever, bringing them closer to more members.

  • “Living close to a temple does bring greater flexibility in scheduling time in the temple, but that very flexibility can make it easier to take the temple for granted. When we do, we ‘miss the mark,’ undervaluing the opportunity to draw closer to the Savior in his holy house. Our commitment to attend should be at least as strong when the temple is nearby as when it is distant.”
Leaders greet each other prior to the Sunday morning session of 193rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Elder Gong said 575 documented primary languages, with many dialects, are spoken in the global church. He spoke about three languages of gospel love — the language of warmth and reverence, the language of service and sacrifice and the language of covenant belonging.

  • “When we let him, Jesus Christ helps us speak his love here.”
  • “The Lord’s restored church can be an incubator for a Zion community. As we worship, serve, enjoy and learn his love together, we anchor each other in his gospel. We may disagree politically or on social issues but find harmony as we sing together in the ward choir. We nurture connection and fight isolation as we regularly minister with our hearts in each other’s homes.”
  • “Our own direct, repeated experiences may be our best spiritual way to learn the gospel languages of warmth and reverence, service and sacrifice, and covenant belonging. So, where and how does Jesus Christ speak to you in love? Where and how do you hear His love spoken here? May we each learn to speak and hear His love here, in our hearts and homes, and in our gospel callings, activities, ministering and service.”

President Emily Belle Freeman, Young Women general president

Jesus Christ has promised to walk with those who tether their lives with his, President Freeman said.

  • “We must remember that the One who was bruised and broken for us will allow mortality to do its work in us, but he doesn’t ask us to face those challenges alone. No matter the heaviness of our story, or the current course of our path, he will invite us to walk with him.”
  • “We call this walking the covenant path. ... A covenant is not only about a contract, although that is important. It’s about a relationship.”
  • “His is a mission of condescension. Jesus Christ will meet us where we are as we are. This is the why of the garden, the cross and the tomb. The Savior was sent to help us overcome. But staying where we are won’t bring the deliverance we seek. ... His is also a mission of ascension. He will work within us to lift us up to where he is and, in the process, enable us to become as he is.”

Other speakers

  • Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric — “The hero, now and always, is Jesus Christ, and anything, or anyone, that distracts us from his teachings, as found in the scriptures and through the words of living prophets, can negatively impact our progress on the covenant path.”
  • Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella of the Seventy and president of the Brazil Area — “My purpose today is to remind us that we can show God that we take the name of his Son upon ourselves by bearing testimony in word and deed, and as often as we can, that Jesus is the Christ.”
  • Elder John C. Pingree Jr. of the Seventy — “Our ability to receive and apply truth is dependent on the strength of our relationship with the Father and the Son, our responsiveness to the influence of the Holy Ghost and our alignment with latter-day prophets.”
  • Elder Valeri V. Cordón of the Seventy — “As we choose to make the gospel culture the predominant culture in our family, then by the powerful influence of the Holy Ghost our current parenting styles, traditions and practices will be sifted, aligned, refined and enhanced.”
  • Elder J. Kimo Esplin of the Seventy — “Through temple blessings, the Savior heals individuals, families and nations — even those that once stood as bitter enemies.”
  • Christophe G. Giraud-Carrier of the Seventy — “We belong to a group of people who all try to place the Savior and their covenants at the center of their lives and to live the gospel joyfully. ... In so doing, we begin to eliminate our own natural prejudices and biases towards others ... .”