President Russell M. Nelson made a promise to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints following a detailed explanation of Priesthood keys, the blessings of the temple and culminating with the announcement of 15 temples Sunday, which he called “the gateway to the greatest blessings God has for each of us.”

“This is why we are doing all within our power, under the direction of the Lord, to make temple blessings more accessible to members of the church,” he said in a pre-recorded talk that concluded the two-day, 194th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was broadcast from the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City to millions around the world.

He made a number of promises to church members during his talk.

“My dear brothers and sisters, here is my promise,” he said. “Nothing will help you more to hold fast to the iron rod than worshipping in the temple as regularly as your circumstances permit. Nothing will protect you more as you encounter the world’s mists of darkness. Nothing will bolster your testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and his Atonement or help you understand God’s magnificent plan more. Nothing will soothe your spirit more during times of pain. Nothing will open the heavens more. Nothing!”

President Nelson, who attended the Sunday afternoon session, said the heavenly visitations at the church’s first temple in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836 are critical to the church and motivate its global effort to bring temples closer to church members in two important ways.

First, Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith to accept the temple as His house and promised, “I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.”

“This significant promise applies to every dedicated temple today,” President Nelson said. “I invite you to ponder what the Lord’s promise means for you personally.”

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Second, Moses, Elijah and Elias restored essential priesthood keys, or spiritual authority. They keys authorized church leaders to gather Israel, bless all covenant children, seal priesthood ordinances and covenants and seal families eternally, he said.

“The power of these priesthood keys is infinite and breathtaking,” he said, adding, “The significance of these keys being returned to the earth by three heavenly messengers under the direction of the Lord cannot be overstated.”

“Without priesthood keys,” he continued, “the church could serve only as a significant teaching and humanitarian organization but not much more. Without priesthood keys, none of us would have access to essential ordinances and covenants that bind us to our loved ones eternally and allow us eventually to live with God.

“Priesthood keys distinguish The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from any other organization on earth. Many other organizations can and do make your life better here in mortality. But no other organization can and will influence your life after death.”

President Nelson noted that the church acquired the Kirtland Temple last month from Community of Christ and said, “We greatly appreciate the cordial and mutually beneficial discussions we had with leaders from Community of Christ that led to this agreement.” As noted, the Kirtland Temple has great historical significance, but is not an operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

President Nelson, who is in his seventh year as prophet, has now announced 168 temples. Sunday’s announcement means the church now has 350 temples either completed, under construction or announced for future construction.

The planned temples will be built in:

  • Uturoa, French Polynesia.
  • Chihuahua, Mexico.
  • Florianópolis, Brazil.
  • Rosario, Argentina.
  • Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • Brisbane Australia South Area.
  • Victoria, British Columbia.
  • Yuma, Arizona.
  • Houston Texas South Area.
  • Des Moines, Iowa.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • West Jordan, Utah.
  • Lehi, Utah.
  • Maracaibo, Venezuela.
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Sunday’s 13 other conference speakers said Latter-day Saints are covenant-keeping people because they seek access to the power of Jesus Christ, which swallows up the pain and suffering of a fallen world and leads them back home to God.

“The Church of Jesus Christ is known as a church which emphasizes making covenants with God,” said President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency.

Over the conference’s two days, 32 leaders addressed the international conference. Approximately 80,000 people attended the five sessions at the Conference Center.

President Nelson noted that he and his first counselor, President Dallin H. Oaks, were called as apostles exactly 40 years ago Sunday.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds his hands out and gestures toward the audience as he and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, left, and President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, take their seats prior to the afternoon session of the 194th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency

President Oaks described covenants as commitments to fulfill certain responsibilities, and said they are common in societies. The covenants Latter-day Saints make signal a way the church differs from others.

“Covenants are inherent in each of the ordinances of salvation and exaltation this restored church administers,” President Oaks said. “The ordinance of baptism and its associated covenants are the essential requirements for entrance into the celestial kingdom. The ordinances and associated covenants of the temple are the essential requirements for exaltation in the celestial kingdom, which is eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God. That is the focus of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

President Oaks noted that when he was born in 1932, the church had about 700,000 members and seven temples. Today, the church has 17.25 million members, with 189 dedicated temples and 146 more in planning and construction.

He said the purpose of those temples is to allow Latter-day Saints to make commitments to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He described baptism, the sacrament and the temple endowment as covenants in which church members commit to follow Christ. Joseph Smith introduced the endowment covenants in Nauvoo, Illinois.

“There, persons who were endowed — what the temple ceremony was called — were to be taught God’s plan of salvation and invited to make sacred covenants,” President Oaks said. “Those who lived faithful to those covenants were promised eternal life, wherein ‘all things are theirs’ and they ‘shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.’”

  • “We have many testimonies from those pioneers that the power they received from being bound to Christ in their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple gave them the strength to make their epic journey and establish themselves in the West.”
  • “Persons who have been endowed in a holy temple are responsible to wear a temple garment, an article of clothing not visible because it is worn beneath outer clothing. It reminds endowed members of the sacred covenants they have made and the blessings they have been promised in the holy temple.”
  • “Because covenants do not take a day off, to remove one’s garments can be understood as a disclaimer of the responsibilities and blessings to which they relate. In contrast, persons who wear their garments faithfully and keep their temple covenants affirm their role as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks during the afternoon session of the 194th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Quorum of the Twelve

Elder Christofferson spoke about the 1832 revelation to Joseph Smith that there are three heavenly kingdoms, the celestial — where God lives — and the terrestrial and telestial, which are glorious. God hopes his children will choose the highest kingdom.

  • “The distinguishing characteristic for the inhabitants of each kingdom is how they relate to ‘the testimony of Jesus,’ ranging from one, wholehearted devotion, to two, not being valiant, to three, outright rejection. On each person’s reaction hangs his or her eternal future.”
  • The testimony of Jesus, he said, is the witness of the Holy Ghost that Christ is “the divine Son of God, the Messiah and Redeemer.” That he is the Creator of heaven and earth and “that he died, was buried and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven. It is the knowledge that ‘there is no other name given whereby salvation cometh.’”
  • “The inheritors of the celestial kingdom “receive” the testimony of Jesus in the fullest sense by being baptized, receiving the Holy Ghost, and overcoming by faith. The principles and truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ govern their priorities and their choices.
  • “The testimony of Jesus is manifest in what they are and what they are becoming. Their motive is charity, ‘the pure love of Christ.’ Their focus is on pursuing ‘the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.’”
  • “My invitation is to act now to secure your place as one who is valiant in the testimony of Jesus.”

Elder Neil L. Andersen, Quorum of the Twelve

God through his prophet is dotting the earth with temples, said Elder Andersen, who talked about why God is doing that now.

  • “Why would He, at this specific time, give the needed prosperity to his covenant people that through their sacred tithes, hundreds of houses of the Lord could be built? ... Why is the Lord now bringing hundreds of his temples closer to us? One reason is that amid the turmoil and temptations of the world, he has promised to strengthen and bless his covenant saints. His promises are being fulfilled.”
  • “In his house, we are literally endowed with heavenly power. Our faith in Jesus Christ and our love for him is confirmed and fortified. We are spiritually assured of our true identity and the purposes of life. As we are faithful, we are blessed with protection from temptations and distractions. We feel our Savior’s love as he lifts us from our difficulties and our challenges, our sorrows and our heartaches. We are armed with the power of God.”
  • Elder Andersen quoted President Nelson’s declaration: “Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of his mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and Jesus Christ preside over this Church in majesty and glory.”
  • “Dotting the earth with houses of the Lord is a mighty work and miraculous indication,” Elder Andersen said.
  • “The temple is literally the House of the Lord. I promise you as you come worthily and prayerfully to his Holy House, you will be armed with His power, his name will be upon you, his angels will have charge over you and you will grow up in the blessing of the Holy Ghost.”

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Words matter, Elder Rasband said. They set a tone, and they can hurt or help, bring people together or drive a wedge between them. First and foremost, the Lord’s words matter because Christ himself is the Word, he said.

  • “We ‘hear him’ in the words of scripture, but do we let them just sit on the page or do we recognize he is speaking to us? Do we change?” Elder Rasband said. “We ‘hear him’ in personal revelation and promptings from the Holy Ghost, in answers to prayer and those moments when only Jesus Christ, through the power of his Atonement, can lift our burdens, grant us forgiveness and peace and embrace us ‘in the arms of his love.’”
  • “Second. The words of prophets matter. Prophets testify of the divinity of Jesus Christ. They teach his gospel and show his love for all. I bear my witness that our living prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, hears and speaks the word of the Lord.
  • “President Nelson has a way with words. He has said, ‘Keep on the covenant path,’ ‘Gather Israel,’ ‘Let God Prevail,’ ‘Build bridges of understanding,’ ‘Give thanks,’ ‘Increase faith in Jesus Christ,’ ‘Take charge of your Testimony’ and ‘Become a peacemaker.’ Most recently he has asked us to ‘Think Celestial.’”
  • Elder Rasband said he had completed the dedicatory prayer for the Bangkok Thailand Temple when he awoke to revelation the night before the dedication to revelation.
  • “I sensed certain words were missing, and by divine design, they came to me in revelation and I inserted these words in the prayer near the end. “May we think celestial, letting thy Spirit prevail in our lives, and strive to be peacemakers always,” he said, referencing the words of President Nelson.
  • Third, one’s own words matter. Elder Rasband said three phrases can help: “Thank you,” “I am sorry” and “I love you.”
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the Sunday afternoon session of the 194th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 7, 2024.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the Sunday afternoon session of the 194th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 7, 2024. | CRISTY POWELL

Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Quorum of the Twelve

The construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, with its interdependently connected, symmetrical bookend towers, is a gospel analogy for the two great commandments, Elder Stevenson said. The two powerful towers, with piers anchored in a bedrock foundation, “is an image of strength and beauty,” he said.

  • He said the first great commandment, to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” is a tower of power. The second great commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” is the second tower. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” which are the remaining elements of the bridge.
  • “Loving the Lord is often measured in small daily deeds, footsteps on the covenant path: for young people, using social media to build up rather than tear down, leaving the party, movie or activity where standards might be challenged; showing reverence for things sacred.”
  • “To love your neighbor includes Christlike deeds of kindness and service. Can you let go of grudges, forgive enemies, welcome and minister to your neighbors and assist the elderly? You will each be inspired as you build your tower of love for neighbor.”
  • “There is an important interdependency between loving the Lord and loving one another ... our ability to follow Jesus Christ depends upon our strength and power to live the first and second commandments with balance and equal devotion to both.”
Elder Patrick Kearon of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Elder Kevin W. Pearson, General Authority Seventy, greet each other prior to the afternoon session of the 194th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Elder Patrick Kearon, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The intent of God’s plan is to save, redeem and extend mercy, said Elder Kearon, who said that unlike a policeman he saw stopping cars at a roadblock, “everything about the Father’s plan for his children is designed to bring everyone home.”

  • “Our Father’s beautiful plan ... is designed to bring you home, not to keep you out. No one has built a roadblock and stationed someone there to turn you around and send you away. In fact, it is the exact opposite. God is in relentless pursuit of you. He wants all of his children to choose to return to him, and he employs every possible measure to bring you back.”
  • “Christ’s great atoning gift removes every roadblock of physical and spiritual death that would separate us from our eternal home.”
  • “The intent of the Father’s great plan of happiness is your happiness, right here, right now and in the eternities. It is not to prevent your happiness and cause you instead worry and fear.
  • “The intent of the Father’s plan of redemption is in fact your redemption, your being rescued through the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, freed from the captivity of sin and death. It is not to leave you as you are.
  • “The intent of the Father’s plan of mercy is to extend mercy as you turn back to him and honor your covenant of fidelity to him. It is not to deny mercy and inflict pain and sorrow.
  • “The intent of the Father’s plan of salvation is in fact your salvation in the celestial kingdom of glory as you receive the testimony of Jesus and offer your whole soul to him. It is not to keep you out.”
President Susan H. Porter, Primary general president, speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 194th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 7, 2024.
President Susan H. Porter, Primary general president, speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 194th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 7, 2024. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

President Susan H. Porter, general Primary president

Sister Porter spoke directly to children, telling them that prayer is a special gift from God. She asked them to pray to know that Heavenly Father is real and loves them, to pray to grow to become more like Jesus Christ and pray to show Heavenly Father’s love to others.

  • “Our Heavenly Father loves you! You are his child. He knows you. He wants to bless you. I pray with all my heart that you will feel his love.”
  • “Share with Heavenly Father what is in your heart. As you sincerely ask for his help, you will receive his Spirit to guide you. Praying every day will fill you with love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. This will help you want to follow them your whole life!”
  • “Through his Spirit, Heavenly Father will help you notice someone who is sad so you can comfort them. He can help you show his love by forgiving someone. He can give you courage to serve someone and share with them that they are a child of God. You can help others come to know and love Jesus and Heavenly Father as you do.”

Other speakers

  • Elder Taylor G. Godoy, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy from Peru and the first counselor in the Central America Area Presidency — “As we pray, we can feel the embrace of our Heavenly Father who sent his Only Begotten Son to relieve our burdens, because if we ‘call out to God,’ I testify we will not fall.”
  • Elder Mathias Held, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy from Colombia and currently assigned to church headquarters — “We can rest assured that our difficulties, sorrows, afflictions and pains do not define us; rather, it is how we go about them that will help us grow and draw closer to God.”
  • Elder Paul B. Pieper, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy and the Africa Central Area Presidency — “The relationship God seeks with each spirit child is one so close and personal that he will be able to share all he has and all he is. That kind of deep, enduring relationship can develop only when built upon perfect, total trust.”
  • Elder Brian K. Taylor, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy and a counselor in the Utah Area Presidency, said Christ chose to allow his will to be “swallowed up in the will of the Father.” — “This phrase ‘swallowed up’ deeply moves me,” Elder Taylor said. “My interest was heightened when I learned that in Spanish, ‘swallowed up’ is translated as ‘consumed,’ in German as ‘devoured’ and in Chinese as ‘engulfed.’ Thus, when I feel overwhelmed in life’s challenges, I remember the Lord’s promise, that we ‘should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it (be) swallowed up, (consumed, devoured, and engulfed) in the joy of Christ.’”
  • Brother Mark L. Pace, Sunday School General President — “Reading the Savior’s teachings in the scriptures helps us transform our homes into sanctuaries of faith and centers of gospel learning.”