Gospel living brings security, comfort in times of heartache, leaders say Saturday afternoon
1 speaker shares personal story of son’s mental illness, calls for education, open discussion, compassion
Speakers shared heartrending, personal stories of mental illness and loss peppered by examples of the positive impact of applied Christlike living on Saturday afternoon during the second session of the 191st Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah.
• Three apostles encouraged church members to appreciate the security that comes with binding themselves to Jesus Christ, to put President Russell M. Nelson’s counsel over the world’s norms and to keep the gospel simple.
Finding ways to respond to a fallen world
The world today attacks spirituality, decency, integrity and respect, but the Church of Jesus Christ is distinguished by the leadership of prophets who calm fears and lift sights, said Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He said President Nelson is a prophet of God.
• “That is staggering when you think about it, but it is critical to realize that his clear direction will shield us all from the deceit, craftiness and secular ways gaining momentum in the world today,” he said.
President Nelson is using his shield more often, Elder Rasband said.
• “For many years we heard from the prophet twice a year in general conference. But with the complex issues of our day, President Nelson is speaking much more often in forums, social media, devotionals and even press briefings. I have observed him preparing and presenting profound revelatory messages that have encouraged more gratitude, promoted greater inclusion of all our brothers and sisters on earth and increased peace, hope, joy, health and healing in our individual lives.”
Elder Rasband repeated the Biblical story of Naaman, who at first balked at a prophet’s direction to wash seven times in the River Jordan to be healed of leprosy.
• “The account of Naaman reminds us of the risks of picking and choosing the parts of prophetic counsel that fit our thinking, expectations or today’s norms. Our prophet continually points us to our own River Jordans to be healed.”
Moroni’s messages to Joseph Smith as emphasized by President Nelson
One apostle described the historical background behind one of President Russell M. Nelson’s most memorable phrases, that the church is “gathering Israel on both sides of the veil.” Moroni’s first visit to Joseph Smith 198 years ago initiated two major areas of emphasis in the church — mortal missionary work on earth and temple work for the dead — said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
• “Moroni’s teachings in September of 1823 about the Book of Mormon and the mission of Elijah established the doctrinal foundation for the work of salvation and exaltation on both sides of the veil.”
Joseph Smith later said both that “the greatest and most important duty is to preach the gospel” and that “the greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead.”
• “Missionary and temple and family history work are complementary and interrelated aspects of one great work that focuses upon the sacred covenants and ordinances that enable us to receive the power of Godliness in our lives and, ultimately, return to the presence of Heavenly Father,” Elder Bednar said. “Thus, the two statements by the Prophet that initially may appear contradictory, in fact, highlight the focal point of this great, latter-day work.”
Finding courage, joy and succor in daily life
The sacred covenants and ordinances, like baptism, the endowment and temple marriage sealing, bind Latter-day Saints to Jesus Christ and give them security and personal power, Elder Bednar said, listing benefits like blessings of increased courage, succor, faithfulness, perspective, persistence and joy.
• “We are bound securely to and with the Savior as we faithfully remember and do our best to live in accordance with the obligations we have accepted. And that bond with him is the source of spiritual strength in every season of our lives,” he said.
The apostle shared several stories of Latter-day Saints applying the gospel, one about a woman whose husband’s violation of their marriage covenants ended in divorce. Her subsequent intense study of the Atonement helped her find peace.
• “This woman learned that binding herself to the Savior through covenants and ordinances can heal the wounds caused by another person’s unrighteous exercise of moral agency and enabled her to find the capacity to forgive and receive peace, mercy and love,” Elder Bednar said.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also shared stories of what he called simple, plain and precious application of simple gospel principles.
• “We are blessed as we exercise care not to allow complexity, so common in the world, to enter into the way we receive and practice the gospel.”
He also said Latter-day Saints have divinely appointed responsibilities that come with the covenants they make with God to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, care for those in need, invite others to receive the gospel and unite families for eternity.
How Latter-day Saints respond to losing loved ones and to mental illness
Two leaders addressed the pain and suffering of losing loved ones and of struggling with mental illness. One said he lost his brother, sister and brother-in-law to COVID-19 and other causes early this year, and talked about lessons he learned.
• “The Savior has perfect compassion for us,” said Elder Moisés Villanueva of Mexico, who joined the Seventy 18 months ago.
He talked about how disciples of Christ should react to afflictions by sharing an example of how Christ reacted to the death of his dear friend, John the Baptist. Christ first sought solitude, but when a multitude found him, he healed their sick and directed his disciples to feed them. He said President Nelson also is an example of serving others during trials.
• In 2019, President Nelson ministered to California wildfire victims two days after his daughter died.
Another General Authority Seventy shared a personal story of his family’s long daily struggle when their son experienced suicide ideation after severe panic attacks, anxiety and depression forced him to return home early from a church mission. He and his family fought for his life against his mental illness, said Elder Erich W. Kopischke, a German who has served 14 years as a General Authority Seventy.
• His son survived, but it took a lot of time, therapy and medical and spiritual care.
Latter-day Saints must educate themselves about mental illness and help their children focus on growth rather than shortcomings, Elder Kopischke said. He pointed listeners to the church’s Gospel Library app, which has a Life Help section with information about mental health.
• “Educating ourselves about mental illness prepares us to help ourselves and others who might be struggling. Open and honest discussions with another will help this important topic to receive the attention it deserves. After all, information precedes revelation.”
• “Learning will lead to more understanding, more acceptance, more compassion, more love. It can lessen tragedy, while helping us develop and manage healthy expectations and healthy interactions.”
Receiving and sharing the transforming power of God’s love
The ministering of others is crucial for those facing mental health crises.
• “We need to constantly watch over each other,” Elder Kopischke said. “We must love one another and be less judgmental — especially when our expectations are not immediately met. We should help our children and youth feel the love of Jesus Christ in their lives, even when they struggle to personally feel love for themselves.”
Simple acts of love, meekness, kindness and respect are needed.
“It means allowing them to develop at their own pace and bearing testimony to help them feel our Savior’s love. It requires us to think more about them and less about ourselves or others. That usually means speaking less and listening much, much more. We must love them, empower them and praise them often in their efforts to succeed and to be faithful to God. And finally, we should do everything in our power to stay close to them — just as we stay close to God.”
How to receive the transforming power of God’s love
Christ’s gospel is about becoming, and part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is viewing one’s self and others with charity, said Elder Ciro Schmeil, a native of Brazil who became a General Authority Seventy 18 months ago.
• “To become a better follower of the Savior Jesus Christ is a lifelong journey and we are all in different stages, moving at a different pace. We must keep in mind that this is not a competition, and we are here to love and help each other. We need to be acting in order to allow the Savior to work with us in our lives,” he said.
Another speaker returned to the main theme of the first session of the conference.
• “When you know and understand how completely you are loved as a child of heavenly parents, it changes everything. It changes the way you feel about yourself when you make mistakes. It changes how you feel when difficult things happen. It changes your view of God’s commandments. It changes your view of others, and of your capacity to make a difference,” said Sister Susan H. Porter, who has been first counselor in the Primary general presidency for six months.
She said Christ’s death and Atonement was an expression of his obedience to the first great commandments — “his infinite love for us and for his father.” She taught how people can learn God loves them completely, how to internalize that knowledge and how to receive that love’s transforming power. She said those who seek it should pray for it, love others and serve as he did. They also can imagine it.
• “May we open our hearts to receive the pure love that God has for us and then shed forth that love in all we do and are,” she said.
A multicultural choir representing
After half the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performed live in conference for the first time in two years on Saturday morning, a 180-member multicultural choir sang in the Saturday afternoon session.
• The choir included refugees and others from 39 countries on six continents.
• They performed “Hark All Ye Nations,” “Consider the Lilies,” “Redeemer of Israel” and “This is the Christ.”
Millions of church members participating virtually in the conference voted to sustain their leaders in a vote at the beginning of the session. The pandemic also affected speakers.
• Several delivered pre-recorded messages from their areas of service elsewhere in the world because of travel regulations related to the pandemic.
The prayers were given by Elder William K. Jackson of the Seventy and Sister Rebecca L. Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency.