Leaders end general conference with encouragement, list of new temples, firm statement on marriage and gender
Church’s doctrine is that God’s love offers salvation to all, but exaltation requires marriage between a man and a woman, President Dallin H. Oaks said
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must maintain its doctrine of traditional marriage and continue to oppose the homogenization of the differences between men and women, a senior leader said Sunday afternoon during the faith’s 192nd Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“There are some things we can control, including how we spend our time each day,” he said. “Yes, we should learn from the past, and yes, we should prepare for the future,” he added, “but only now can we do. Now is the time we can learn. Now is the time we can repent. Now is the time we can bless others and ‘lift up the hands which hang down.’”
President Dallin H. Oaks said the church has divine, doctrinal and loving reasons not to retreat from its positions on marriage and gender.
The church’s doctrine is unique in its belief in the glorious salvation of all God’s children, but it is fundamental to this belief that exaltation in God’s highest, celestial kingdom “can only be attained through faithfulness to the covenants of an eternal marriage between a man and a woman,” said President Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is required by God to oppose social and legal pressure to retreat from his doctrine of marriage between a man and a woman, and to oppose changes that confuse or alter gender or homogenize the differences between men and women,” he said.
President Oaks said church leaders understand why those positions frequently provoke opposition. He said he loves all people and that Latter-day Saints accept all who disagree and continue to love them and to coexist peacefully.
“Our Heavenly Father’s plan allows for ‘opposition in all things,’ and Satan’s most strenuous opposition is directed at whatever is most important to that plan. Consequently, he seeks to oppose progress toward exaltation by distorting marriage, discouraging childbearing and confusing gender,” he said.
He said church members know that “the divine purpose and plan of our loving Heavenly Father will not be changed. Personal circumstances may change, and God’s plan assures that, in the long run, the faithful who keep their covenants will have the opportunity to qualify for every promised blessing.”
President Nelson’s third talk closed the conference. President Oaks delivered his second talk. Two members of the Quorum of the Twelve addressed the session — Elders Dieter F. Uchtdorf of Germany and Ulisses Soares of Brazil.
What were the themes?
- God has required the Church of Jesus Christ to maintain its doctrines regarding marriage and gender.
- The church honors individual agency, promotes religious freedom and seeks to share the gospel’s blessings with all. “We do this because the Lord has taught us to esteem all of his children as our brothers and sisters, and we want to share our spiritual and temporal abundance with everyone.”
- More than 1.5 million Latter-day Saint missionaries have sown Christ’s message of peace around the world since 1830, Elder Stevenson said.
- The church will have new Relief Society and Primary general presidencies on Aug. 1.
- There are also six new General Authority Seventies.
- The church announced it grew to 16.8 million members in 2021. See other statistics from the annual report released Saturday here.
- President Nelson announced the locations of 17 new temples.
What was said
President Nelson also prescribed temple worship.
- “Positive spiritual momentum increases as we worship in the temple and grow in our understanding of the magnificent breadth and depth of blessings we receive there,” he said. “I plead with you to counter worldly ways by focusing on the eternal blessings of the temple. Your time there brings blessings for eternity.”
President Oaks titled his talk “Divine love in the Father’s plan” and said his goal was to clarify how Heavenly Father’s plan lovingly provides glory for all of his children.
- “The purpose of the doctrine and policies of this restored church is to prepare God’s children for salvation in the celestial glory and, more particularly, for exaltation in its highest degree.”
- “As followers of Christ who should love our fellowmen, we should live peacefully with those who do not believe as we do. We are all children of a loving Heavenly Father. For all of us, he has destined life after death and, ultimately, a kingdom of glory. God desires all of us to strive for his highest possible blessings by keeping his highest commandments, covenants and ordinances, all of which culminate in his holy temples being built throughout the world. We must seek to share these truths of eternity with others. But with the love we owe to all of our neighbors, we always accept their decisions.”
He reaffirmed declarations of the church’s 1995 proclamation on the family, noting that some of its positions differ with some of society’s laws, practices and advocacy, like cohabitation and same-sex marriage.
- “Those who do not fully understand the Father’s loving plan for his children may consider this Family Proclamation no more than a changeable statement of policy. In contrast, we affirm that the Family Proclamation, founded on irrevocable doctrine, defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur.”
The temple-building program of the church is best explained by the faith’s doctrine of exaltation through families because temples provide ordinances for binding covenants that lead to exaltation in families, President Oaks said.
- “Some are puzzled at this emphasis, not understanding that the covenants and ordinances of the temple guide us toward achieving exaltation. This can only be understood in the context of the revealed truth of three degrees of glory.”
- “In the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a unique understanding of our Heavenly Father’s plan. This gives us a different way of viewing the purpose of mortal life, the divine judgment that follows it and the ultimate glorious destiny of all of God’s children.”
- “Eternal doctrine also provides a distinctive perspective on children. Through this perspective we see the bearing and nurturing of children as part of the divine plan. It is a joyful and sacred duty of those given the power to participate in it. Therefore, we are commanded to teach and contend for principles and practices that provide the best conditions for the development and happiness of children under God’s plan.”
President Oaks also said that the church supports the agency of all people, as evidenced by its promotion of religious freedom for all people, the humanitarian aid it renders to people without regard for church affiliation and its missionary work to provide the opportunity for temple blessings to all.
Elder Uchtdorf asked Latter-day Saints to offer their whole souls to the Lord, but suggested a different view of trying to find balance when doing so.
- “His gospel can’t be casual or occasional. Like the widow at Jerusalem, we must offer him our whole souls. Our offering may be small, but it must come from our heart and soul.”
- “As we seek to purify our lives and look unto Christ in every thought, everything else begins to align. Life no longer feels like a long list of separate efforts held in tenuous balance. Over time, it all becomes one work. One joy. One holy purpose. It is the work of loving and serving God, it is loving and serving God’s children.”
- “When we look at our lives and see a hundred things to do, we feel overwhelmed. When we see one thing — loving and serving God and his children, in a hundred different ways — then we can focus on those things with joy. This is how we offer our whole souls — by sacrificing anything that’s holding us back and consecrating the rest to the Lord and his purposes.”
- “Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not just one of many things we do. The Savior is the motivating power behind all that we do. He is not a rest stop in our journey. He is not a scenic byway or even a major landmark. He is ‘the way, the truth, and the life …”
Elder Soares counseled against spiritual apathy and indifference and asked church members to strengthen their spiritual wonder of the gospel.
- “My beloved brothers and sisters, when we truly are in awe of Jesus Christ and his gospel, we are happier, we have more enthusiasm for God’s work and we recognize the Lord’s hand in all things.”
- “There is always something wonderful and fascinating to learn about Jesus Christ and his gospel.”
- “My beloved brothers and sisters, I pray that we will ever stand in awe of Jesus Christ and his complete, infinite and perfect love. May the remembrance of what our eyes have seen, and our hearts have felt increase our amazement at the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, which can heal us of our spiritual and emotional wounds and help us to draw closer to him.”
Elder Ojediran said Latter-day Saints can realize their divine potential by being faithful and keeping on the covenant path.
- “Covenants mark the path back to God.”
- “We come unto Christ by exercising faith in him, repenting daily, making covenants with God as we receive the ordinances of salvation and exaltation and enduring to the end by keeping those covenants. The path to perfection is the covenant path and Christ is the center of all ordinances and covenants.”
Elder Klebingat said Latter-day Saints can use agency to choose to be valiant in keeping commandments and following the Lord.
- “The adversary and his followers have always sought to destroy the works of Christ and his prophets. The Savior’s commandments, if not ignored altogether, have been rationalized into meaninglessness by many in today’s world.”
- “Today it is almost impossible to courageously live our faith without occasionally attracting a few actual and virtual fingers of scorn from the worldly.”
- “So what about us? Should we be intimidated or afraid? Should we live our religion at periscope depth? Surely not! With faith in Christ we need not fear the reproach of men or be afraid of their revilings. With the Savior at the helm and living prophets to lead and guide us, ‘who can be against us?’ Let us be confident, not apologetic, valiant, not timid, faithful, not fearful as we hold up the Lord’s light in these last days.”
Elder Pace said Latter-day Saints should remember that conversion is the goal of the First Presidency’s October 2018 invitation to learn about Jesus Christ. Effective individual gospel study using the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum can lead to deeper conversion and testimonies.
- “In ancient times, as the children of Israel followed the Lord’s direction, given through the prophet Moses, they were blessed with safety and freedom. Today, as we follow the Lord’s direction, given through our living prophet, President Nelson, we are equally blessed with conversion in our hearts and protection in our homes.”
- “When we study the scriptures, there is no spiritual famine in the land.”
Elder Funk, first counselor in the church’s Middle East/Africa North Area, said blessings await those who seek — and help others — become part of the fold of God.
- “The blessings that flow into the lives of those who follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ, who choose to be counted among his disciples, are numerous, joyful, and eternal.”
- “My dear friends, please continue the journey — and help others — to come fully into the fold of God. The blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ are immeasurable because they are eternal.”
- “To receive the marvelous blessings promised to those who come into the fold of God requires us to do just that — to choose to come.”
- “My prayer is that the Spirit has spoken to you directly about things the Lord would have you do.” — President Nelson
- “Let us be confident, not apologetic, valiant, not timid, faithful, not fearful as we hold up the Lord’s light in these last days.” — Elder Klebingat
- “Like Paul, these men of God (the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) are ‘not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord’ and are ‘his prisoners’ in the sense that the doctrine they teach is not theirs but his that called them. Like Peter, they ‘cannot but speak the things which [they] have seen and heard.’ I testify that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are good and honest men who love God and his children, and who are loved by him.” — Elder Klebingat
- “With this simple observation (of the widow’s mite), the Savior taught us how offerings are measured in his kingdom — and it’s quite different from the way we usually measure things. To the Lord, the value of the donation was measured not by the effect it had on the treasury but by the effect it had on the heart of the donor. In praising this faithful widow, the Savior gave us a standard to measure our discipleship in all of its many expressions. Jesus taught that our offering may be large or it may be small, but either way, it must be our heartfelt all.” — Elder Uchtdorf
Venue and attendance
- The Conference Center is open to the ticketed public for the first time in 30 months.
- The Conference Center’s capacity is 21,000, but the church limited attendance to 10,000 because of construction on and around Temple Square for the renovation of the Salt Lake Temple.
- The general public hadn’t attended a conference session since October 2019.
Prayers and hymns
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square provided music for the closing session of the conference.
- It sang “In Hymns of Praise,” “I Love to See the Temple,” “We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet,” “The Iron Rod” and “Our Prayer to Thee.”