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Saturday’s general conference sessions provided some new patterns and experiences and history.

Welcome back: The general public attended a conference session for the first time since October 2019.

  • But attendance was limited to about 10,000, or 50% of the Conference Center’s capacity. Vast swaths of seats remained empty.

Aligning patterns: President Dallin H. Oaks announced that new general presidencies and new General Authority Seventies now will begin their service on Aug. 1 instead of immediately.

  • This provides an opportunity for presidencies and general authorities to receive additional training before they begin their new assignments.
  • It also aligns with the start of annual general authority assignments to committees and area presidencies.
  • It additionally lines up with the church’s new pattern of having Area Seventies who are released complete their callings on Aug. 1.

Historic announcements: President Oaks announced a new Relief Society General Presidency and the restructuring of the Primary General Presidency — effective Aug. 1.

Great memories: The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square will perform at three sessions of conference, which is normal.

  • But, for the first time, it is singing all of the hymns from memory, choir general manager Scott Barrick told me.
  • The choir returned to rehearsals and live performances of “Music & the Spoken Word” in early March, after a 10-week hiatus precipitated by the omicron variant. At that time, Barrick told me that choir director Mack Wilberg had selected a special repertoire the choir knew well and is well-loved to ease the choir’s return.

What was the same this time?

Most notably, President Russell M. Nelson issued a call for all worthy, able young men to serve missions.

  • Every Latter-day Saint prophet has repeated the same call since President Spencer W. Kimball’s first issued it 48 years ago this week, during the April 1974 general conference.
  • What President Kimball said: “Every LDS male who is worthy and able should fill a mission.”
  • What President Nelson said: “Today I reaffirm strongly that the Lord has asked every worthy, able young man to prepare for and serve a mission. For Latter-day Saint young men, missionary service is a priesthood responsibility.”

Some of Saturday’s Conference Highlights

  • President Nelson rejected conflict and called for peace.

“Contention violates everything the Savior stood for and taught. I love the Lord Jesus Christ and testify that his gospel is the only enduring solution for peace. His gospel is a gospel of peace.”

  • Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy denounced all forms of abuse, said survivors of abuse are blameless and declared that Christ loves them perfectly and heals them.

“Jesus specializes in the seemingly impossible. He came here to make the impossible possible, the irredeemable redeemable, to heal the unhealable, to right the unrightable, to promise the unpromisable. And he’s really good at it. In fact, he’s perfect at it.”

  • Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said Latter-day Saints should watch over the church’s youth and protect them from suicide ideation.

“We must commit ourselves fully to that gift of life and run to the aid of those who are at risk of giving up this sacred gift. Leaders, advisers, friends, family — watch for signs of depression, despair or anything hinting of self-harm. Offer your help. Listen. Make some kind of intervention as appropriate.”

To teenagers, he said:

“To any of our youth out there struggling, whatever your concerns or difficulties, death by suicide is manifestly not the answer. It will not relieve the pain you are feeling or that you see yourself causing. In a world that so desperately needs all the light it can get, please do not minimize the eternal light God put in your soul before this world was. Talk to someone. Ask for help. Do not destroy a life that Christ gave his life to preserve. You can bear the struggles of this mortal life because we will help you bear them. You are stronger than you think. Help is available, from others and especially from God. You are loved and valued and needed. We need you!”

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Behind the scenes

President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, seventh from left, and other leaders stand at the beginning of the church’s 192nd Annual General Conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 2, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
J. Anette Dennis, first counselor of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Relief Society, center left, Sister Kristin M. Yee, second counselor of the Relief Society general presidency, and Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, take their seats during the church’s 192nd Annual General Conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 2, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, chats with Elder Ronald A. Rasband, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, prior to the church’s 192nd Annual General Conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 2, 2022. During Saturday afternoon’s session, President Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, and her counselors, Sister Eubank and Sister Renya I. Aburto, were released from their callings effective Aug. 1. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Sariah Carranza, left, Noah Bishop and Maria Anduray picnic on Temple Square after the Saturday morning session of the 192nd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 2, 2022. | Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Sister Tracy Y. Browning, who will become second counselor in the Primary General Presidency on Aug. 1, was born in Jamaica. Sister Browning was born in New York and raised in Jamaica.