Help stop suicide, abuse, Latter-day Saint leaders say Saturday afternoon
‘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,’ Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said
Life is a precious gift and Latter-day Saints should commit themselves to run to the aid of those at risk of suicide, a senior leader of the Church of Jesus Christ said during the Saturday afternoon session of faith’s 192nd Annual General Conference.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said some teens, specifically, have become discouraged by the pandemic plague, violence, political aggression, social challenges like racial inequity and other difficult issues.
“At precisely the moment many in the world are asking deep questions of the soul, we ought to be answering with the ‘good news’ of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Elder Holland said.
- President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, announced new Relief Society and Primary general presidencies. The Primary presidency includes Sister Tracy Y. Browning, the first Black woman in church history to serve in a general presidency led by women.
- He also announced six new General Authority Seventies.
It’s confirmed. History made today. Tracy Browning of Jamaica is the first Black woman to serve in one of the general presidencies of the @Ch_JesusChrist led by women. She will become a counselor in Primary General Presidency on 8/1. #generalconference @Deseret pic.twitter.com/Z99F5e7xmJ— Tad Walch (@Tad_Walch) April 2, 2022
Why it matters
The conference will be seen and heard by millions seeking counsel, spiritual rejuvenation, peace and personal revelation.
Elders Jeffrey R. Holland, Quentin L. Cook and Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed the conference, along with four General Authority Seventies — Elders Patrick Kearon of the United Kingdom, Marcos A. Aidukaitis of Brazil, Adrián Ochoa and Kevin S. Hamilton.
What were the themes?
- Those suffering can survive and heal through the help of professionals, church leaders and advisers, family, friends and the gospel of Jesus Christ, who heals the brokenhearted.
- There is no room for any kind of abuse anywhere. Abuse survivors are not responsible for the abuse they suffered and are loved perfectly by God.
- Personal conversion includes the responsibility to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Family roots and stories from the lives of ancestors can change people and society for the better.
What was said
Elder Holland urged Latter-day Saint adults to watch over the church’s youth and pleaded with the youth to forgo suicide:
- “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 the youth, he said:
- “You are his most precious possession, his child, to whom he has given prophets and promises, spiritual gifts and revelation, miracles and messages, and angels on both sides of the veil. He has also given you a church that strengthens families for mortality and binds them together for eternity.”
- “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!”
Elder Holland also said the church, its leaders and Jesus Christ provide help and answers.
- “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which holds aloft the mission and message of the Savior of the world, offers the most eternally significant way to both find good and do good at such a needful time.”
- “Of course, in our present day, tremendously difficult issues face any disciple of Jesus Christ. The leaders of this, his church, are giving their very lives to seeking the Lord’s guidance in the resolution of those challenges. If some are not resolved to the satisfaction of everyone, perhaps they constitute part of the cross that Jesus said we would have to take up in order to follow him.”
Elder Cook spoke about how he made the decision to serve a mission as a young man. He said “personal conversion includes the responsibility to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world.”
- “In a remarkable discussion with my wise and exemplary older brother, we concluded that his decision on whether to serve a mission and delay his education depended on three questions: (1) Is Jesus Christ divine? (2) Is the Book of Mormon the word of God? And (3) Is Joseph Smith the prophet of the restoration? If the answer to these questions was yes, it was clear that Joe could do more good taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world than becoming a doctor at an earlier date.”
- “That night I prayed fervently and with real intent. The Spirit, in an undeniably powerful way, confirmed to me that the answers to all three of these questions were true. This was a seminal event for me. I realized that every decision I would make for the rest of my life would be influenced by these truths. I also knew I would serve a mission if given the opportunity.
- Over a lifetime of service and spiritual experiences, I have come to understand that true conversion is the result of the conscious acceptance of the will of God, and we can be guided in our actions by the Holy Ghost.”
Elder Gong spoke about how discovering family roots and stories of the lives of ancestors can change lives and society for the better.
- “In this age of ‘I choose me,’ societies benefit when generations connect in meaningful ways. We need roots to have wings — real people, real relationships, meaningful service, life beyond fleeting social media veneers.”
- “From their trials and accomplishments, we gain faith and strength. From their love and sacrifices, we learn to forgive and move forward. Our children become resilient. We gain protection and power. Ties with ancestors increase family closeness, gratitude, miracles. Such ties can bring help from the other side of the veil.”
- “The promise at Easter and always is that, in and through Jesus Christ, we can become our best story, and our families can become happy and forever. In all our generations, Jesus Christ heals the brokenhearted; delivers the captives; sets at liberty them that are bruised. Covenant belonging with God and each other includes knowing our spirit and body will be reunited in resurrection and our most precious relationships can continue beyond death with a fulness of joy.”
Elder Kearon told a story of shipwrecked survivors and said some conference listeners may be in the midst of their own survival stories from abuse, neglect, bullying, domestic violence or other kinds of suffering.
- “Will you ever be rescued, will you make it through your own survival story? You can survive. You have in fact already been rescued; you have already been saved — by the one who has suffered the very torment you are suffering and endured the very agony you are enduring. Jesus has overcome the abuses of this world to give you power to not only survive, but one day, through him, to overcome and even conquer — to completely rise above the pain, the misery, the anguish and see them replaced by peace.”
- “You are a survivor, you can heal, and you can trust that with the power and grace of Jesus Christ, you will overcome and conquer.”
- “There is no place for any kind of abuse — physical, sexual emotional, or verbal — in any home, any country or any culture. Nothing a wife, child or husband might do or say makes them ‘deserve’ to be beaten. No one, in any country or culture, is ever ‘asking for’ aggression or violence from someone else in authority or by someone who is bigger and stronger.”
Elder Kearon said abuse survivors are not defined by the abuse but “by your eternally existing identity as a son or daughter of God, by your Creator’s perfect, infinite love and invitation to whole and complete healing.”
- “The abuse was not, is not and never will be your fault, no matter what the abuser or anyone else may have said to the contrary. When you have been a victim of cruelty, incest or other perversion, you are not the one who needs to repent; you are not responsible.”
- “You are not less worthy or less valuable or less loved as a human being, or as a daughter or son of God, because of what someone else has done to you.”
- “Whatever has happened to you, (God) is not ashamed of you or disappointed in you. He loves you in a way you have yet to discover. And you will discover it as you trust in his promises and as you learn to believe him when he says you are ‘precious in his sight.’”
Elder Aidukaitis invited young members to serve either a teaching mission or service mission.
- “My mission completely shaped my life. I learned it is worth the effort to trust in God, to trust in his wisdom and mercy and in his promises. After all, he is our Father, and without any doubt, he wants the best for us.”
Elder Ochoa offered principles for strengthening faith and feeling closer to God.
- “In his church and kingdom, there are many opportunities to serve and minister to others as the Savior did. He wants you to be a part of his great work. Never will the plan of happiness become more real to you than when you are helping others to live it.”
Elder Hamilton said that the idea people can’t or don’t change is one of Satan’s greatest lies. Instead, he said repentance and the Atonement of Jesus Christ make change possible and powerful.
- “While it is indeed good to be authentic, we should be authentic to our real, true selves, as sons and daughters of God with a divine nature and destiny to become like him. If our goal is to be authentic to this divine nature and destiny, then we will all need to change. The scriptural word for change is repentance.”
Venue and attendance
For the first time since the pandemic began, the public attended a conference session.
- Attendance was limited to about 10,000, so vast swaths of seats remained empty inside the Conference Center (capacity 21,000).
- The restriction was not related to COVID-19. Instead, there were concerns about parking, public transportation and access due to construction on and around Temple Square with the renovation of the Salt Lake Temple.
- The general public hadn’t attended a conference session since October 2019.
- In October 2021, the families and guests of the speakers were allowed to attend, which amounted to several hundred people per session.
- “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 Kearon
- “We each have a story. Come discover yours. Come connect, belong, become. Come find your voice, your song, your harmony in him. This is the very purpose for which God created the heavens and the earth and saw that they were good.” — Elder Gong
Elder Kearon had been announced as the next speaker when Elder Holland drew laughter from the conference by sharing the letter of an 8-year-old named Marin Arnold, who complained to her bishop that general conference is boring.
- “Marin, the talk I am about to give will undoubtedly disappoint you again,” Elder Holland said. “But when you write your bishop to complain, it is important that you tell him my name is ‘Kearon. Elder Patrick Kearon.’”
Elder Kearon played along when he stood up to speak.
- “Marin, I’m Elder Holland,” he said, “and things are about to go downhill.”
Prayers and hymns
Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, offered the opening prayer. Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, gave the closing prayer.
A BYU-Idaho choir provided music throughout the afternoon session. They sang “Now Let Us Rejoice,” “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” “I Feel My Savior’s Love” and “Thy Spirit, Lord, Has Stirred Our Souls.”