Conference ends with a call to remove a personal conflict in your life by Easter
Leaders testify of Jesus Christ as the peacemaker and author of a divine plan for happiness. Two-day conference includes declarations on marriage and gender, and support for religious liberty.
War is a horrifying violation of Jesus Christ’s teachings, and His followers should bury any inclination to hurt others, President Russell M. Nelson declared Sunday, the final day of the 192nd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The prophet-leader asked millions of listeners worldwide to end all conflicts in their lives and to start now. He also announced 17 new temples during the final moments of the international broadcast from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The announcements capped a two-day conference as church leaders testified of Jesus Christ as the peacemaker and author of a divine plan for happiness. It included declarations on marriage and gender, support for religious liberty in all its forms and expressions of love and support for any who have faced abuse, considered suicide or are struggling in any way.
President Nelson called for all members — particularly young men of missionary age — to engage in the cause of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world as the antidote to the world’s troubles, and committing to ending contention wherever they may find it in their own lives.
Reject armed conflict and personal conflict
He said some trials are deeply private burdens. Others play out on a world stage.
“The armed conflict in eastern Europe is one of these,” he said. “I have been to Ukraine and Russia many times. I love those lands, the people and their languages. I weep and pray for all who are affected by this conflict.”
He said the church is doing all it can to help those suffering and struggling to survive.
“We invite everyone to continue to fast and pray for all the people being hurt by this calamity,” he said.
President Nelson then turned from that statement to issue a direct call to love and forgive others during two talks Sunday.
“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.’”
He specifically invited every listener to seek to end a personal conflict before Easter on April 17.
“Could there be a more fitting act of gratitude to Jesus Christ for his Atonement? If forgiveness presently seems impossible, plead for power through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ to help you,” he said. “As you do so, I promise personal peace and a burst of spiritual momentum.”
Leader reiterates fundamental church doctrines on marriage and gender
President Dallin H. Oaks said the church has divine, doctrinal and loving reasons to maintain its positions on marriage and gender.
He noted that the church’s doctrine on judgment and afterlife is unique among Christian churches. Latter-day Saints believe in salvation for all people in one of three degrees of glory. However, it is a fundamental church doctrine 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.
He reaffirmed the declarations about gender and marriage in the church’s 1995 Proclamation on the Family and said church leaders understand why those positions provoke frequent opposition.
He said church members know that “the divine purpose and plan of our loving Heavenly Father will not be changed” but that they also will love and accept all who disagree.
“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 the church’s doctrine of exaltation through families best explains the church’s robust temple-building program.
“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,” he said.
Latter-day Saints are called to change and develop
President Nelson suggested that listeners build positive “spiritual momentum” amid the fear and uncertainty created by armed hostilities, pandemics, tsunamis and more.
He suggested five specific actions to build and maintain positive spiritual momentum.
“My dear brothers and sisters, with all the pleadings of my heart, I urge you to get on the covenant path and stay there. Experience the joy of repenting daily. Learn about God and how he works. Seek and expect miracles. Strive to end conflict in your life.”
Several speakers reflected and amplified President Nelson’s statement about forgiveness and following Jesus Christ.
One used New Testament examples to show that “another way to say ‘go, and sin no more’ could be ‘go forth and change.’”
“With the depiction of this father in the parable of the prodigal son, the Savior emphasized that forgiveness is one of the noblest gifts we can give one another and most specifically ourselves. Unburdening our hearts through forgiveness isn’t always easy, but through the enabling power of Jesus Christ, it is possible,” said Sister Amy A. Wright, second counselor in the Primary General Presidency.
“There is nothing in your life that is broken that is beyond the curative, redeeming and enabling power of Jesus Christ,” she said.
Those who would follow God can trust him, and they will learn that good works matter as part of personal development, said Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“No matter what our mortal experience may entail, we can trust God and find joy in him,” he said.
“God will indeed honor his covenants and promises to each of us,” he added. “We need not worry about that. ... But not every blessing predicated on obedience to law is shaped, designed and timed according to our expectations. We do our best but must leave to him the management of blessings, both temporal and spiritual.
The path to spiritual growth and refinement is not easy but is worth the effort, Elder Christofferson said.
“Our repentance and obedience, our sacrifices and our good works do matter,” he added. “These things matter because they engage us in God’s work and are the means by which we collaborate with him in our own transformation from natural man to saint. What our Heavenly Father offers us is himself and his Son, a close and enduring relationship with them through the grace and mediation of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.”
Messages from apostles
Four other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were among the 15 speakers Sunday.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf asked Latter-day Saints to offer their whole souls to the Lord, but suggested a different view of how to find balance when doing so.
“As we seek to purify our lives and look unto Christ in every thought, everything else begins to align,” he said. “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.”
Elder Ronald A. Rasband said religious freedom is under attack but God and personal faith need a place in the public square to help heal the world’s problems.
“This growing sentiment seeks to remove religion and faith in God from the public square, schools, community standards and civic discourse. Opponents of religious freedom seek to impose restrictions on expressions of heart-felt convictions. They even criticize and ridicule faith traditions.”
He invited church members to champion the cause of religious freedom.
“It is an expression of the God-given principle of agency. Religious freedom brings balance to competing philosophies. The good of religion, its reach, and the daily acts of love which religion inspires only multiply when we protect the freedom to express and act on core beliefs.”
Elder Gary E. Stevenson said the church has sent out 1.5 million missionaries in its history and asked Latter-day Saints to join the effort by simply and naturally loving others and sharing and inviting them to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
He said sharing positive experiences in the gospel with others is a simple way to do missionary work. Actions also speak volumes.
“Whenever we show Christlike love towards our neighbor, we preach the gospel — even if we do not voice a single word,” he said. “... Through Christlike love for others, we preach with eloquence the glorious, life-transforming properties of Christ’s gospel ...”
Elder Ulisses 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,” he said.
How to thrive in confusing, contentious times
Additional Sunday addresses built on themes developed in Saturday’s sessions about surviving in an age of confusion, conflict and contention.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve had urged Latter-day Saint adults Saturday to watch over the church’s youth and pleaded with the youth to forgo suicide. He told leaders, advisers, friends and family to run to the aid of those suffering from suicide ideation.
Elder Patrick Kearon of the presidency of the Seventy denounced all forms of abuse and applied the imagery of shipwreck survivors to encourage those who have suffered from abuse to author their own survival stories with the help of the healing power of Jesus Christ. He said Christ already has rescued and saved them and suffered their same agony, and that they can trust him to help them overcome and conquer.
Latter-day Saints are studying the Old Testament this year in Sunday School classes wherever they live. On Sunday, Elder Michael T. Ringwood, a General Authority Seventy, said its examples show God’s perfect love for each person.
The Old Testament “teaches the role of prophets in uncertain times and God’s hand in a world that was confused and often contentious,” he said. “It is also about humble believers who faithfully looked forward to the coming of our Savior, just as we look forward to and prepare for his Second Coming — his long-prophesied, glorious return.”
Elder Jörg Klebingat of the Seventy said Latter-day Saints can use agency to choose to be valiant in keeping commandments and following the Lord. But they also must stand firm against rationalizations that try to render the commandments meaningless and attacks from those who mock religious belief.
“Let us be confident, not apologetic, valiant, not timid, faithful, not fearful as we hold up the Lord’s light in these last days.”
He said church members can rely on the church’s senior leaders in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“Like Paul, these men of God 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,” Elder Klebingat said.
“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.”