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President Nelson calls on Latter-day Saints to ‘lead out’ in abandoning racism, prejudice

‘God does not love one race more than another ... Your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin,’ the church president said

The First Presidency — President Russell M. Nelson, center, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor, left, and President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor, right — stand before the Sunday morning session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 4, 2020.
The First Presidency — President Russell M. Nelson, center, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor, left, and President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor, right — stand before the Sunday morning session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 4, 2020.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

SALT LAKE CITY — Grieving for Black people who suffer enduring prejudice, President Russell M. Nelson issued a call to millions on Sunday to take leadership in ending racism.

“Please listen carefully to what I am about to say. God does not love one race more than another,” he said during the closing talk at the Sunday morning session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “His doctrine on this matter is clear. He invites all to come unto him, ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female.’”

He assured listeners that one’s standing before God is not determined by skin color.

“I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice,” he said. “Today, I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.”

President Nelson made his remarks in the context of the gathering of Israel, which he called “the most important work in the world.” He said the Church of Jesus Christ is latter-day covenant Israel.

He defined the gathering of Israel as drawing all people to Christ through missionary, temple and family history work, as well as helping others build faith and testimony.

He was stirred recently, he said, to learn that one of the meanings of Israel in Hebrew is “let God prevail.”

President Russell M. Nelson speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 4, 2020.
President Russell M. Nelson speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 4, 2020.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“Thus, the very name of Israel refers to a person who is willing to let God prevail in his or her life,” he said, adding, “The Lord is gathering those who are willing to let God prevail in their lives. The Lord is gathering those who will choose to let God be the most important influence in their lives. For centuries, prophets have foretold this gathering, and it is happening right now! As an essential prelude to the Second Coming of the Lord, it is the most important work in the world!”

He said Latter-day Saint doctrine teaches that all people who embrace Christ become God’s covenant children and full heirs to all that God has promised to the faithful.

“Each of us has a divine potential because each is a child of God. Each is equal in his eyes,” President Nelson said. “The implications of this truth are profound.”

Another church leader called Sunday on all people across the world to pray for their country and their national leaders.

“We stand today at a major crossroads in history, and the nations of the earth are in desperate need of divine inspiration and guidance,” said President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 4, 2020.
President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 4, 2020.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“This is not about politics or policy,” he said. “This is about peace and the healing that can come to individual souls as well as to the soul of countries — their cities, towns and villages — through the Prince of Peace and the source of all healing, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Last year, during a visit to Boston, President Ballard pleaded with Americans to pray for the United States and its leaders.

After reciting the Lord’s prayer, he asked church members to redouble their commitment to prayer and invited prayers for “the courageous people who are on the front lines in the current battles against social, environmental, political and biological plagues that impact all people throughout the world, the rich and the poor, the young and the old.”

He also reiterated President Nelson’s message from Saturday’s conference sessions to follow Jesus Christ’s direction to “love your enemies.” He said praying for enemies demonstrates a belief that God can change people’s hearts.

President Ballard said to combine prayers with action, saying people should get up after praying and “do what we can to help.”

“Prayer will lift us and draw us together as individuals, as families, as a church and as a world,” he said. “Prayer will influence scientists and help them toward discoveries of vaccines and medications that will end this pandemic. Prayer will comfort those who have lost a loved one. It will guide us in knowing what to do for our own personal protection.”

Aligning one’s heart and desires with those of Jesus Christ also provides protection, said Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

He counseled listeners that reliance on Christ will help them control their thoughts and avoid temptation, increasing their spiritual maturity and adding to the influence of the Holy Ghost in their lives.

“Then the enemy’s temptations, little by little, will lose their power over us, resulting in a happier and more pure and more consecrated life,” he said.

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 4, 2020.
Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 4, 2020.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Soares said resisting little temptations better equips people to avoid serious transgressions that might “cause family problems and disagreements, negative emotions and inclinations, perpetrating injustices and abuses, enslavement by evil addictions and anything else that would be against the Lord’s commandments.”

He shared an analogy about a magnet.

“Metaphorically speaking, yielding to temptation is like approaching a magnet with a metal object,” he said. “The magnet’s invisible force attracts the metal object and holds it tightly. The magnet loses its power over it only when the metal object is placed far from it. Therefore, just as the magnet is unable to exercise power over a faraway metal object, as we resist temptation, it fades away and loses its power over our mind and heart, and consequently, over our actions.”

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said Latter-day Saints talk of Christ and encouraged church members to do so in their relationships and on social media.

Courage to do so can come from President Nelson’s recommendation to study the 2,200 references to the name of Christ in the church’s topical guide to the scriptures, he said.

“I promise you that as we prepare ourselves as President Nelson did, we also will be different, thinking more about the Savior, speaking of him more frequently and with less hesitation,” he said. “As we come to know and love Him more deeply, our words will flow more comfortably, as they do when we speak of one of our children or of a dear friend. Those listening will feel less of a desire to dismiss or debate and a greater willingness to listen and learn.”

He asked believers to take to their social media accounts.

“Be more open on social media in talking about your trust in Christ,” he said. “Most will respect your faith, but if someone is dismissive when you speak of the Savior, take courage from his promise, ‘Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you ... for my sake. ...for great is your reward in heaven.’

“We care more about being his followers than being ‘liked’ by our own followers.”

Sister Lisa Harkness, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 4, 2020.
Sister Lisa Harkness, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 4, 2020.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor in the Primary General Presidency, also spoke on Sunday morning. She said listeners can find peace in challenging circumstances.

“In times of turmoil our faith can feel stretched to the limits of our endurance and understanding,” she said. “Waves of fear can distract us, causing us to forget God’s goodness, thus leaving our perspective short-sighted and out of focus. Yet it is in these rough stretches of our journey that our faith can be not only tried but fortified.

“Regardless of our circumstances, we can intentionally make efforts to build and increase our faith in Jesus Christ. It is strengthened when we remember that we are children of God and that he loves us. Our faith grows as we experiment on the word of God with hope and diligence, trying our very best to follow Christ’s teachings.”

Elder Carlos A. Godoy of the presidency of the Seventy said he believes in angels on earth, Such people, who are guided by the Spirit to help others, are “powerful reminders of God’s love for us.”

He called on listeners to volunteer to be angels in others’ lives.

“Angels are needed, right now,” he said. “Angels who are willing to leave their comfort zone to embrace” those longing to feel accepted and loved.

“We are all here today,” he added, “a giant army of angels set apart for these latter days, to minister to others as extensions of the hands of a loving Creator. I promise, that if we are willing to serve, the Lord will give us opportunities to be ministering angels. He knows who needs angelic help and he will put them in our path. The Lord puts those who need angelic help on our path daily.”

The First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gathered to broadcast the conference from the stage of the Conference Center Theater, but they wore face coverings and sat several feet apart. The only other people in attendance were the speakers and those who said opening and closing prayers.

President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, announced a change in the presidency of the Seventy. He said Elder L. Whitney Clayton, granted emeritus status on Saturday, has been released from the presidency of the Seventy.

Elder Brent H. Nielson was named to replace him in August. Elder Nielson has been the executive director of the church’s Missionary Department.

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square is not performing live at the the conference due to the pandemic. Instead, recordings of the choir from previous conferences were used during the Sunday morning session.

The meeting began with a recording of “Awake and Arise.” Other selections included “Press Forward, Saints,” from the April 2019 conference; “If the Savior Stood Beside Me,” Oct. 2017; and “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet”, Oct. 2018; “God is Love,” Oct. 2017; and “For I am Called By Thy Name,” April 2019.

The opening prayer was provided by Elder Randall K. Bennett, a General Authority Seventy from Canada who has served as a mission president in Russia. The closing prayer was delivered by Elder Walter F. González, a General Authority Seventy from Uruguay.