A Palm Sunday weekend conference for Latter-day Saints kicked off Saturday with messages emphasizing Easter as the source of Jesus Christ’s power to provide the godly gift of resurrection and personal peace.

That kind of peace is unusual in a noisy, contentious world and is unlocked by the Atonement of Jesus Christ and unique covenants available in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, leaders said on the first day of the faith’s 193rd Annual General Conference.

Just weeks after the First Presidency directed the church’s 31,330 congregations around the world to create specialized, Christ-centered Easter worship services next week, an apostle described it as a wake-up call about how church members celebrate “the most important event to ever happen on this earth — the Atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

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Church President Russell M. Nelson did not speak on the Saturday of a general conference for the first time in his administration but is expected to address the membership Sunday.

Celebrate Easter as richly as Christmas

The first of Saturday’s 18 speakers, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve, encouraged what he characterized as a growing movement among Latter-day Saints toward a more Christ-centered Easter.

  • “How do we model the teaching and celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Easter story, with the same balance, fullness and rich religious tradition of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Christmas story?” he said.

Holding a first-edition Book of Mormon from 1830, Elder Stevenson called it a unique witness of Christ and “another testament of the Easter miracle.” He said his family will focus their Easter on the first 17 verses of the 11th chapter of the book of 3 Nephi 11, when the resurrected Christ appeared to the Book of Mormon people.

  • “In reality, the Book of Mormon shares the greatest Easter story ever told. Let it not be the greatest Easter story never told,” he said.

Finding godly peace amid hatred, contention and pain

The Easter story of Christ’s atonement and resurrection is the source of the heaven-like gift of personal peace, whatever the circumstances, said President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency.

Other leaders spoke about guilt, remorse, suffering, anxiety, physical pain, disaster and more. President Eyring said supernal personal peace and joy are needed now as much as ever.

  • “Satan’s efforts to sow hatred and contention all around us seem to be increasing. We see evidence of it happening among nations and cities, in neighborhoods, in electronic media, all across the world,” he said.

President Eyring said the formula for receiving what he said was the miracle of personal peace is to keep the commandments, which includes loving God with all one’s heart, might, mind and soul.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles watched conference at home with his wife because they tested positive for COVID-19.

  • “I express my gratitude for the Savior this Palm Sunday weekend,” he said in a tweet. “I hope you will join me in recognizing and appreciating that all sins and sorrows, all disappointment and depression, all temptation and all tears may be put behind us through the divinity, atoning sacrifice and triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Sister Bonnie H. Condon, Young Women general president, talks with Sister Susan Bednar prior to the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 1, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The covenant path’s role in personal peace

Peace in life’s trials and heartaches and exaltation in heaven come via the church’s unique doctrine of a covenant path, said Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve. He clearly and concisely defined that doctrine.

  • “Before the earth was created, God established covenants as the mechanism by which we, his children, could unite ourselves to him. Based on eternal, unchanging law, He specified the non-negotiable conditions whereby we are transformed, saved and exalted.”
  • “The term covenant path refers to a series of covenants whereby we come to Christ and connect to him. Through this covenant bond, we have access to his eternal power. The path begins with faith in Jesus Christ and repentance, followed by baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost.”
  • “Keeping covenants made in baptismal fonts and in temples also provides us with strength to withstand mortality’s trials and heartaches. The doctrine associated with these covenants eases our way and provides hope, comfort and peace.”

Elder Renlund said covenants such as temple endowment and temple sealing (for marriage and family) provide direction, maturity, eternal perspective, godly motivation, increased capacity, protection from evil and greater power to resist temptation.

  • “As you walk the covenant path, from baptism to the temple and throughout life, I promise you power to go against the natural worldly flow — power to learn, power to repent and be sanctified, and power to find hope, comfort and even joy as you face life’s challenges. I promise you and your family protection against the influence of the adversary, especially when you make the temple a major focus in your life.”
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gestures to attendees during the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 1, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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Latter-day Saints shouldn’t live in camouflage

Leaders said Christ’s peace must be shared.

“Members across the church have felt the Lord’s gift of personal peace,” President Eyring said. “He is encouraging everyone to help others have opportunities to come unto him and qualify for that same peace themselves. Then, in turn, they will choose to seek inspiration to know how they can pass that gift along to others.”

Convert baptisms rose 26% and the Church of Jesus Christ surpassed 17 million members in 2022, according to the church’s annual statistical report, released Saturday. But more need Christ’s aid, leaders said.

“The church continues to grow everywhere, but Latter-day Saints should be shining examples of Christian living so others will desire the gospel in their lives,” said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve.

  • “We cannot be in camouflage. Our Christlike example of kindness, righteousness, happiness and sincere love for all peoples can create not only a guiding beacon light for them, but also an understanding that there is a safe harbor in the ordinances of salvation and exaltation of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Closing a ‘ministering gap’

The efforts to help others find peace must extend within the church as well, said Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

He said church members should reach out during the Easter season to those to whom they are assigned to minister and help the church close a “ministering gap” that is found in some areas.

  • “More say they are ministering than say they are being ministered to. We do not want checklist concern.”
  • “As followers of Jesus Christ, we seek to minister to others as he does because lives are waiting to change.”
  • “It is said that those who understand the true spirit of ministering do more than before, while those who do not understand do less. Let’s do more, as our Savior would. As our hymn says, it is a blessing of duty and love.”

Christ’s help extends to parenting

The church’s manual of standards for children 12 to 17 is called For the Strength of Youth. One leader referenced that title to show how the author of Easter helps parents.

All parents feel somewhat inadequate, but Christ can make weak things strong, said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

  • “Fortunately, there is a divine source of help for parents: It is Jesus Christ.”
  • “The Savior will help you, guide you and encourage you. Seek his help. Inquire of the Lord. Just as Jesus Christ is the strength of youth, Jesus Christ is also the strength of parents.”

He noted that some parents may feel their relationship with a child is less than ideal.

  • “That’s where the Savior’s power comes in. He heals the sick, and he can heal relationships. He multiplies bread and fish, and he can multiply the love and the joy in your home.”
President Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president, and her counsellors Sister Michelle D. Craig and Sister Becky Craven hold hands after being released during the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 1, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Other speakers

President Bonnie H. Cordon, the Young Women general president, will be released on Aug. 1, according to announcements made during the Saturday afternoon session. She also spoke Saturday about peace through Christ.

  • “We live in a fallen world, with distractions coaxing our eyes and hearts downward instead of heavenward. Much like the Nephites in 3 Nephi 11, we need Jesus Christ,” she said.

She encouraged listeners to “create muscle memory of discipleship and testimony to bring into focus their reliance on Christ.

  • “The adversary creates so much noise that it can be difficult to hear the Lord’s voice. Our world, our challenges our circumstances will not get quieter, but we can and must hunger and thirst after the things of Christ to ‘hear him’ with clarity.”

The four speakers for the Saturday evening session were Elders Mark A. Bragg, K. Brett Nattress and Juan A. Uceda of the Seventy and Brother Milton Camargo, first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency.

Music for Saturday’s three sessions was provided by the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square in the morning, a combined choir from Brigham Young University in the afternoon and a combined choir from the Logan Institute of Religion in the evening.

The conference concludes on Sunday with sessions at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. MDT.

Attendance at the conference again is limited to 15,000 seats per session, though the Conference Center’s capacity is 20,000, because of parking and accessibility concerns related to the historic renovation of the Salt Lake Temple and other construction on and around Temple Square.