Latter-day Saints must take unprecedented measures to strengthen their spiritual foundations like the extraordinary effort to reinforce the original, pioneer-era foundation of the iconic Salt Lake Temple, President Russell M. Nelson said Sunday morning.
He delivered the message, accompanied by striking video and other images of his visit to the renovation site in May, during the 191st Semiannual General Conference.
“We are sparing no effort to give this venerable temple, which had become increasingly vulnerable, a foundation that will withstand the forces of nature into the Millennium,” President Nelson said. “In like manner, it is now time that we each implement extraordinary measures — perhaps measures we have never taken before — to strengthen our personal spiritual foundations.
“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.”
He asked listeners to consider how firm their spiritual foundations are and what reinforcement their spiritual lives and understanding need. He invited them to center lives on Jesus Christ and temple ordinances and covenants, encouraging them to attend the temple more often.
He said the temple will be the safest place in the Salt Lake Valley when the work is done.
“Likewise, whenever any kind of upheaval occurs in your life, the safest place to be spiritually is living inside your temple covenants,” which bind Latter-day Saints securely to Christ, he said.
President Nelson delivered his talk to millions participating in a virtual global conference originating from the Conference Center across the street from the Salt Lake Temple. The temple’s spires have been removed and stored, the towers are surrounded by scaffolding and the foundation exposed for the work to strengthen them.
Construction workers began the major seismic strengthening process last month, inserting massive steel pipes below its existing foundations.
Other leaders shared messages about order, straight paths and unity.
Church members need to seek personal peace and restoration in daily life, two leaders said. That is increasingly difficult, said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
- “In my lifetime, I have never seen a greater lack of civility. We are bombarded with angry contentious language and provocative, devastating actions that destroy peace and tranquility.”
That only makes it more vital, he said.
- “Universal peace was not part of the Savior’s initial mortal ministry. Universal peace does not exist today. However, personal peace can be achieved despite the anger, contention, and division that blights and corrupts our world today. It has never been more important to seek personal peace.”
He suggested five “works of righteousness” to help members find peace among disputation and contention:
- First, love God, live his commandments and forgive everyone.
- Second, seek the fruits of the spirit.
- Third, exercise agency to choose righteousness
- Fourth, build Zion in our hearts and homes.
- Fifth, follow the current admonitions of the prophet, President Nelson.
Human beings tend to wander, a fact proved in a study that showed people without landmarks walk in circles, said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“Unlike the wandering test subjects, we have reliable, visible landmarks that we can use to evaluate our course,” he said.
He noted that the Restoration of the gospel and church is an ongoing process, and the same applies to individual lives. He prescribed what he called an ongoing daily infusion of heavenly light — regular prayer, pondering scriptures and self-introspection.
“Think of it as your personal, daily restoration,” he said. “... We all drift from time to time, but we can get back on course. We can navigate our way through the darkness and trials of this life and find our way back to our loving Heavenly Father if we seek and accept the spiritual landmarks he has provided ... and strive for daily restoration.”
Latter-day Saints have not been immune to divisions created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has served as a spiritual stress test for the church and its members, said Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
- “The results are likewise mixed,” he said. “... In some instances, the spiritual stress test has shown tendencies toward contention and divisiveness. This suggests that we have work to do to change our hearts and to become unified as the Savior’s true disciples. This is not a new challenge but it is a critical one.”
Elder Renlund said contention in the church is harmful in two ways. It can be harmful to the Lord’s latter-day work, and it can be harmful to the individual.
- “First, contention weakens our collective witness to the world of Jesus Christ and the redemption that comes through His ‘merits, ... mercy and grace,’ ... and everyone knows that we are not his disciples when we do not show love one to another.”
- “Second, contention is spiritually unhealthy for us as individuals. We are robbed of peace, joy, and rest and our ability to feel the Spirit is compromised.”
Those who are quick to take offense or respond to a difference of opinion by becoming angry or judgmental fail the spiritual stress test, he said.
- “If we are not one, we are not his. My invitation is to be valiant in putting our love of God and discipleship of the Savior above all other considerations. Let us uphold the covenant inherent in our discipleship — the covenant to be one.”
Primary General President Camille N. Johnson invited listeners to allow Jesus Christ to author their stories over writing comfortable narratives for themselves.
- “Why do we want the Savior to be the author and finisher of our stories? Because he knows our potential perfectly, he will take us to places we never imagined ourselves. ... He will stretch us and refine us to be more like him.”
Elder Vaiangina Sikahema noted that hundreds and maybe thousands of young missionaries of the church from his native Tonga have been unable to return home at the end of their missionary service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some young men are in the third year of their typical two-year service.
He encouraged church members to recognize that the gospel requires some things to happen sequentially, including covenants and ordinances, miracles and repentance.
- “If you choose to live your life out of sequence, you will find life more difficult and chaotic,” he said.
Songs and prayers
Half of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performed under the direction of Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy. The organists were Richard Elliott and Andrew Unsworth.
- The choir sang “Come, Rejoice,” “Sing Praise to Him,” “Where Love Is,” “I Am a Child of God,” “How Firm a Foundation” and “Let the Mountains Shout for Joy.”
- The reduced number of singers is designed to create physical distancing, said President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, who conducted the session. Every participating choir member is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and had been recently tested.
- The other half of the choir performed during the Saturday morning session.
The opening prayer was provided by Elder David F. Evans, who was released Saturday as a General Authority Seventy. Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham said the closing prayer.