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Authentic stories of pain and heartbreak peppered this weekend’s conference talks.

One speaker talked about the devastating effects of finding his toddler son drowned in a bucket.

Another shared the emotional and verbal abuse she suffered from her father when she was a girl.

A third talked about his grandson’s unusual disease that required a painful bone marrow transplant.

A mother said she raised a daughter who has faced exhausting emotional health challenges.

A woman struggling with infertility allowed another speaker to share the grief that made her bolt out of a church meeting when those blessed with children complained about them.

The second counselor in the First Presidency, President Henry B. Eyring, became emotional while briefly mentioning his wife, Kathy, who suffers from memory loss.

And a prophet and two apostles listed others who are suffering — the abused, those who suffer racism and prejudice, the unwed, the divorced, the impoverished, the addicted, the lonely, the doubting, the overwhelmed, the exhausted, the children with disabilities and the parents who care for them, and the those struggling to understand themselves in matters of identity, gender and sexuality.

“I weep for them, and I weep with them,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He added, “To be a follower of Jesus Christ one must sometimes carry a burden — your own or someone else’s — and go where sacrifice is required and suffering is inevitable. A true Christian cannot follow the Master only in those matters with which he or she agrees. No. We follow him everywhere, including, if necessary, into arenas filled with tears and trouble, where sometimes we may stand very much alone.”

As I wrote Saturday night, the conference was chock full of real talk. And yet, the weight of those expressed hardships was balanced by the message that Jesus Christ offers equally real rest — defined Saturday by President Nelson as “relief and peace.”

“I weep over your heartaches, disappointments and worries,” he said, offering his own prophetic empathy. “I love you. I assure you that our Heavenly Father and his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, love you. They are intimately aware of your circumstances, your goodness, your needs and your prayers for help.  Again and again, I pray for you to feel their love for you.”

Having traveled to a dozen countries covering his visits, I’ve witnessed that empathy in action.

The little girl emotionally abused by her father is now the second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, Sister Kristin M. Yee. Her talk was captivating and roundly appreciated on social media, in large part because she noted that both she and her father needed Christ’s healing balm.

“To all who are brokenhearted, captive, bruised and perhaps blinded by hurt or sin, he offers healing, recovery and deliverance,” she said. “I testify that the healing and recovery he offers is real.”

“Over the years,” she added, “and in my efforts to find peace and healing on that path of forgiveness, I came to realize in a profound way that the same Son of God who atoned for my sins is the same Redeemer who will also save those who have deeply hurt me.

“I could not truly believe the first truth without believing the second.”

President Nelson, as he is wont to do, issued an invitation to the church and those outside it. He said the remedy for an exhausting world is to overcome the world, and encouraged all to let Heavenly Father know “through your prayers and your actions that you are serious about overcoming the world” in three steps:

  1. Ask him to enlighten your mind and send the help you need.
  2. Each day, record the thoughts that come to you as you pray; then follow through diligently.
  3. Spend more time in the temple and seek to understand how the temple teaches you to rise above this fallen world.

“Trials do not mean that the plan is failing,” said Sister Michelle D. Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency. “They are part of the plan meant to help me seek God.”

Forgiving others, Sister Yee added, “ can be one of the most difficult things we ever do and one of the most divine things we ever experience. On the path of forgiveness, Jesus Christ’s atoning power can flow into our lives and begin to heal the deep crevasses of the heart and soul.”

My recent stories

President Nelson announces 18 new temples, including 4 near Mexico City, as conference closes (Recap of Saturday afternoon session)

Latter-day Saints encouraged to find rest in an ‘often exhausting world’ (Recap of Sunday morning session)

How to share a Book of Mormon from your phone (ChurchBeat Saturday conference special edition)

About the church

President Nelson showed a teaser during the final session of conference of Season 4 of the Book of Mormon Videos. The season debuted Sunday at with a new episode featuring the Savior’s ministry in the Americas nearly 2,000 years ago. A new episode will drop every Friday through November, the Church News reported.

During the conference, church leaders released eight General Authority Seventies and granted them emeritus status.