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Apply Easter’s healing balm to world’s conflict, unfairness, leaders say during Saturday afternoon session

‘All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and that by his authority families can be joined together forever’

Sister missionaries walk near the Conference Center during the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 3, 2021.
Sister missionaries walk near the Conference Center during the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 3, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The brutal suffering, loneliness and unfairness of the world and the peace, belonging and healing salve of Jesus Christ highlighted the Easter weekend messages during the Saturday afternoon session of the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The session also included an expression of deep concern for the number of abortions in the world, and for the first time, a prerecorded message from a church leader in Africa.

President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of his personal loneliness since the death of his wife, Barbara, two years ago. The man who sits next to him in the quorum, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, said the Book of Mormon authors who devoted much of its space to conflict were warning that violence and conflict would mar the last days. A third apostles, Elder Dale G. Renlund, recalled the Rwandan genocide and addressed those who ask why a loving God wouldn’t stop such catastrophes.

“The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have counseled together in a spirit of prayer and with a yearning to understand how to help all who feel alone or feel they don’t belong,” President Ballard said. “We long to help all who feel this way.”

He said he knows what it’s like to be surrounded by family and friends and feel lonely because of the loss of the love of his life. He also expressed concern for all single adult members of the church, who now make up the majority of church membership. The church announced earlier in the week new positions for single adults to serve in the church.

“Let us call upon our members who are single to serve, lift and teach,” President Ballard said. “Disregard old notions and ideas that have sometimes unintentionally contributed to their feelings of loneliness and that they do not belong or cannot serve.”

He encouraged members to know, believe and build on the truth that they belong to God’s eternal family.

Elder Holland noted increased contention and incivility in society.

“So this Easter,” Elder Holland said, “let’s try to practice peace in a personal way, applying the grace and healing balm of the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ to ourselves, our families and all those we can reach around us.”

He called on members to pledge loyalty to Jesus Christ, who bore the sins, griefs and sorrows of all.

It is time, he said, to marshal the children of God “to care more about each other and to help heal the wounds we find in a conflicted world. … The instruments we need to create a brighter day and grow an economy of genuine goodness are abundantly provided for in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot afford — and this world cannot afford — our failure to put these gospel concepts and fortifying covenants to full use personally and publicly.”

Elder Renlund said “inexplicable unfairness is infuriating” and that because mortal life inherently unfair it can seem incompatible with a loving Heavenly Father, “yet he is real, he is kind and he loves each of his children perfectly.”

He recalled talking with a Rwandan man who directly asked why, “If there was a God, wouldn’t he have done something about it?” Elder Renlund said he did not minimize the death and suffering of the genocide, but shared what Christ had done, including the church’s belief that families can be restored in heaven.

“You mean there is something I can do for my dead parents and uncle?” the man asked.

“We testified that all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and that by his authority families can be joined together forever.”

Elder Renlund said the unfairness of COVID-19 has been apparent.

“My heart aches for those who face such unfairness,” he added, “but I declare with all my aching heart that Jesus Christ both understands unfairness and has the power to provide a remedy. Nothing compares to the unfairness he endured. It was not fair that he experienced all the pains and afflictions of mankind. It was not fair that he suffered for my sins and for yours. But he chose to do so because of his love for us and for Heavenly Father. He perfectly understands what we are experiencing.”

He encouraged Latter-day Saints to focus on developing faith in Christ, striving to become like him and approaching others with compassion, trying to alleviate unfairness where they find it and making things right within their influence.

“Do not let unfairness harden you or corrode your faith in God,” he said. “Instead, ask God for help. Increase your appreciation for and reliance on the Savior. Rather than become bitter, let him help you become better.”

Elder Neil L. Andersen shared what he said are church leaders’ “deep feelings about the sanctity of life,” and encouraged members to share that position with political leaders.

“They may not fully appreciate what we believe, but we pray that they will more fully understand why, for us, these decisions go well beyond just what a person wants for his or her own life.”

He shared the church’s position that it opposes elective abortion, allowing for possible exceptions in cases of rape, incest or serious jeopardy to the mother’s health or the child’s ability to survive beyond birth.

“If an unanticipated child is expected, let us reach out with love, encouragement and when needed, financial help, strengthening a mother in allowing her child to be born and continue his or her journey in mortality,” he said.

Elder Andersen also expressed concern that fewer children are being born worldwide.

“God’s commandment for his children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force,” he said, quoting “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

He also noted the church’s support for children around the world, including its recent $20 million donation to assist UNICEF’s COVAX project to vaccinated 2 billion people against COVID-19.

Elder Thierry K. Mutombo, a General Authority Seventy from the Democratic Republic of Congo, recorded his message from where he is serving in the church’s Africa Central Area presidency. He was called to church leadership in April 2020.

Elder Mutombo spoke about contention between his parents when he was a boy, when his home was a dark place. After they converted to the church and devoted themselves to following Christ, “The size of our home did not change, neither did our social conditions, but I witnessed a change of heart of my parents as we prayed daily, morning and evening,” he said. “We, who previously walked in darkness, chased darkness from among us and saw great light.”

He called Christ the light that shines in darkness and concluded by saying Christ “is the antidote and remedy to the confusion of the world.”

Elder Jorge T. Becerra, a General Authority Seventy since April 2020, shared experiences and scriptural accounts illustrating the need to help the “pobrecitos” or “poor little ones.”

In ministering to them, Elder Becerra encouraged listeners to seek after those in need, both temporally and spiritually; to follow Peter’s example by lifting up those in need, in Christ’s name; and to heed the counsel of President Russell M. Nelson to follow the Lord’s covenant path.

“I invite each of us to seek out the ‘pobrecitos,’ the ‘poor little ones’ among who are in need,” he said, adding, “As we minister, we should be led by revelation to those who are most in need, as opposed to just going down a list or visiting individuals in a methodical way.”

The session used previously recorded music by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, which has not practiced or performed together since March 2020. The hymns were “Guide Us, Oh, Thou Great Jehovah” (2015), “If I Listen With My Heart,” “Come Ye Children of the Lord” (2019), “Rejoice, the Lord is King” (2019).

President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the session. Two General Authority Seventies, Elders Carl B. Cook and Mark L. Pace, gave the prayers.