As disciples of Jesus Christ, Latter-day Saints should make the choice to be peacemakers and promote dignified dialogue in today’s contention-soaked world, President Russell M. Nelson said Sunday morning at the church’s 193rd Annual General Conference.
“Today is Palm Sunday,” President Nelson said. “We are preparing to commemorate the most transcendent event ever recorded on earth, which is the Atonement and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the best ways we can honor the Savior is to become a peacemaker.”
President Nelson is known for repeated calls for civility and building bridges of understanding, and his Sunday morning talk underscored that emphasis of his five-year administration as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Contention is a choice,” he said. “Peacemaking is a choice. You have your agency to choose contention or reconciliation. I urge you to choose to be a peacemaker, now and always.”
President Nelson also said Latter-day Saints and others can change the world one interaction at a time.
“How? By modeling how to manage honest differences of opinion with mutual respect and dignified dialogue,” he said, adding, “Let us as a people become a true light on the hill — a light that ‘cannot be hid.’ Let us show that there is a respectful way to resolve complex issues and an enlightened way to work out disagreements.”
Other speakers urged church members to be one together in Christ and allow Christ to provide relief from all their burdens. Palm Sunday and Easter imagery was omnipresent in the morning session’s seven talks.
President Russell M. Nelson
President Nelson said civic dialogue now is full of vulgarity, insults and venomous contention in a polarized era. He declared, “contention is evil” and drives away the Spirit.
- “I am greatly concerned that so many people seem to believe that it is completely acceptable to condemn, malign and vilify anyone who does not agree with them.”
But, he said, anger, hostility and contention persuade and build no one and never lead to inspired solutions.
- “The pure love of Christ is the answer to the contention that ails us today.”
- “As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be examples of how to interact with others — especially when we have differences of opinion. One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people.”
- “The Savior’s message is clear: His true disciples build, lift, encourage, persuade and inspire — no matter how difficult the situation. True disciples of Jesus Christ are peacemakers.”
He noted that church leaders and members sometimes see contentious behavior among members. He noted that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles do not see all things the same way, but they strive to model dignified dialogue.
- “My dear brothers and sisters, how we treat each other really matters! How we speak to and about others at home, at church, at work and online really matters. Today, I am asking us to interact with others in a higher, holier way.”
- “If a couple in your ward gets divorced, or a young missionary returns home early, or a teenager doubts his testimony, they do not need your judgment. They need to experience the pure love of Jesus Christ reflected in your words and actions.”
- “Now is the time to lay aside bitterness. Now is the time to cease insisting that it is your way or no way. Now is the time to stop doing things that make others walk on eggshells for fear of upsetting you. Now is the time to bury your weapons of war.”
President Nelson said peacemakers are defined by charity.
Church leaders returned again to a major theme of Saturday’s conference sessions, the idea of the gift of God’s peace, and called on Christ’s followers to be united in him, set aside contention and embrace and embody his teachings about love, unity and charity.
Palm Sunday and Easter were repeated themes during the session, beginning with President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, who conducted the meeting.
“We recognize that today is Palm Sunday, which marks the week leading up to Easter Sunday,” he said. “We’re grateful to begin this sacred Easter season with each of you and pray that our hearts will be turned to our Savior Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world.”
Elder Ulisses Soares, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Elder Soares described the imagery of Christ triumphantly entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, when his jubilant disciples spread out their garments and palm leaves along his path and praised God for sending their king.
“May we today, on this Palm Sunday, spread out our robes of love and palm leaves of charity, walking in the footsteps of the Prince of Peace as we prepare to celebrate this coming Sunday the miracle of the empty tomb,” Elder Soares said.
Followers of the Prince of Peace should endorse that peace, he said.
- “As his followers, we are his peculiar people, called to proclaim his virtues, promoters of the peace so generously offered through him and his atoning sacrifice.”
- “This peace is a gift promised to all who turn their hearts to the Savior and live righteously; such peace gives us the strength to enjoy mortal life and enables us to endure the painful trials of our journey.
- “Another important aspect to emphasize, and one that has direct implications on our discipleship and how we promote the peace of the Savior, is the manner in which we treat each other.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Like President Nelson, Elders Christofferson and Soares decried the contentious communications in the world, including on social media.
Elder Soares said:
- “One of the most evident signs that we are drawing closer to the Savior and becoming more like him is the loving, patient and kind way with which we treat our fellow beings, whatever the circumstances.”
- “I invite you to consider ways we can transform ourselves into uplifting and supportive people, people who have an understanding and forgiving heart, people who look for the best in others, always remembering that ‘(i)f there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.’”
Elder Christofferson said the key to unity in “an extremely contentious world” is to bond as one in Christ.
- Unity does not require sameness, but it does require harmony.
- “We are too diverse, and at times too discordant to be able to come together as one on any other basis or under any other name. Only in Jesus Christ can we truly become one.”
- By “putting on Christ,” it becomes possible either to resolve or to lay aside differences, disagreements and disputes.
- “It is only in and through our individual loyalty to Jesus Christ that we can hope to be one — one within, one at home, one in the church, eventually one in Zion, and above all, one with the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.”
President Camille N. Johnson, Relief Society general president
Relief in the risen Christ of Easter is the removal or lightening of things that are painful, troubling or burdensome — or the strength to endure it, President Johnson said.
- “(Relief) refers to a person who takes the place of another. It is the legal correction of a wrong. The Anglo-French word comes from Old French, the word relever, or ‘to raise up,’ and from the Latin relevare, or ‘raise again.’”
- “I testify that Jesus Christ is relief. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we may be relieved of the burden and consequences of sin and be succored in our infirmities.”
She said that people carry three types of burdens — those they cause themselves by sin, those caused by others and those caused by living in a fallen world. Covenant keepers are blessed with the Savior’s relief from all three, she said.
- “Brothers and sisters, I can’t go at it alone, and I don’t need to, and I won’t. Choosing to be bound to my Savior, Jesus Christ, through the covenants I have made with God, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’”
- “Our covenantal blessing is to partner with Jesus Christ in providing relief, both temporal and spiritual, to all of God’s children. We are a conduit through which he provides relief.”
Elder Neil L. Andersen, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Believers should intentionally fill their minds with the power of Jesus Christ, Elder Andersen said.
- “Filling one’s mind with his power means thoughts of him are always present. By focusing attention on him, everything is viewed through love for him and less important distractions fade.”
- “My prayer at this Easter season is that we will more consciously shape, strengthen and secure this preeminent thought of Jesus Christ in the chambers of our soul, allowing it to eagerly flow into our mind, guiding us in what we think and do, and continually bringing the sweet joy of the Savior’s love.”
- “As your mind has caught hold firmly and forever upon this thought, and as you focus your life more fully on the Savior, I promise you that you will feel his hope, his peace and his love.”
Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita, a General Authority Seventy, said preparation for receiving a patriarchal blessing will help church members increase their faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
- “A patriarchal blessing is not going to map out your life or answer all your questions. … A patriarchal blessing is eternal, and if you live worthy, promises that are not fulfilled in this life will be granted in the next.”
Elder Kevin R. Duncan, a General Authority Seventy, said that each temple dedication expands the power of Jesus Christ in the world.
- “What do we hear in the gospel which we have received? Truly a voice of gladness!”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles watched the conference from home for a second straight day. He and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, tested positive for COVID-19.
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performed
The choir performed “Glory to God on High,” “My Redeemer Lives,” “Secret Prayer,” “Guide Us, O Thou Great Redeemer,” “This is the Christ” and “I Believe in Christ.”
The opening prayer was said by Elder James R. Rasband, a General Authority Seventy. The closing prayer was given by Elder Thierry K. Mutombo, a General Authority Seventy from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.