President Russell M. Nelson challenged Latter-day Saints to change a contentious world by modeling peacemaking and dignified dialogue, then announced plans for 15 new temples on Sunday at the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The new temples will be built in eight new countries. The church now has 315 temples announced, under construction and in operation or under renovation.

A major hallmark of President Nelson’s half decade as church president is the consistent calls for civility, bridge building and unity. His Sunday morning talk was a ringing crescendo for his elevation of peacemaking and condemnation of contention, which he labeled “evil.”

“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.”

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He asked Latter-day Saints and others to act to 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.
  • “Let us as a people become a true light on the hill — a light that ‘cannot be hid,’” he said. “Let us show that there is a respectful way to resolve complex issues and an enlightened way to work out disagreements.”

The five sessions of conference included 32 speakers giving 33 talks across two gray, cloudy days at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Attendance was capped at 15,000 for each session due to parking and accessibility issues during the renovation of the Salt Lake Temple and Temple Square.

President Nelson’s invitations

In addition to asking Latter-day Saints to lead out as peacemakers, President Nelson closed the conference on Sunday afternoon with additional invitations to:

  • Study the church “Come, Follow Me” curriculum this week about the final week of Christ’s life and his Resurrection.
  • Study the resurrected Christ’s appearance to the people of the Book of Mormon.
  • Come unto Christ for relief.

“I plead with you to come unto him so that he can heal you! He will heal you from sin as you repent. He will heal you from sadness and fear. He will heal you from the wounds of this world.

“Learn more about his Atonement, his love, his mercy, his doctrine, and his restored gospel of healing and progression. Turn to him. Follow him,” he said.

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Reflecting the pure love of Christ

President Nelson said many communications today are full of vulgarity, insults and venomous contention in a polarized era. “Contention is evil,” he said.

He expressed concern about people who malign those who do not agree with them. He denounced anger, hostility and contention as useless, saying “they persuade and build no one and never lead to inspired solutions.”

Instead, “The pure love of Christ is the answer to the contention that ails us today,” he said.

True disciples of Christ are identified by how compassionately they treat others, he said.

  • “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.”

President Nelson said church members should root out contention in their homes and congregations.

  • “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.”

Palm Sunday and Easter

The day’s sessions began with recognition that it was Palm Sunday, marking the beginning of the week leading up to Easter Sunday. The day’s 14 speakers maintained the theme throughout the day.

  • “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.”
  • “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,” said President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency.

President Nelson called Easter “the most important religious observance for followers of Jesus Christ.

The week beginning with original Palm Sunday “was the most important week in human history,” said Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

  • “Are we continually grateful for the incomparable Atonement of Jesus Christ? Do we feel its purifying power, right now? That is why Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of Salvation, went to Jerusalem, to save us all.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson issued an invitation regarding the week that included Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his suffering in Gethsemane, death on the cross and Resurrection.

  • “Let us resolve never to forget what Christ endured to redeem us,” he said. “And let us never lose the overwhelming joy we will feel once again on Easter as we contemplate his victory over the grave and the gift of universal resurrection.”
Conferencegoers sing during the Sunday afternoon session of 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 2, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Latter-day Saints believe in Christ

Two the church’s most senior leaders declared their own and the church’s position on the centrality of Jesus Christ to Latter-day Saint doctrine and faith.

  • “We believe in Christ,” President Oaks said.

He gave a unique talk, spending almost all of it quoting Christ. In all, Christ’s words — more than 1,300 of them — covered six pages. President Oaks quoted 34 teachings shared by Christ in the Bible and Book of Mormon.

  • “Faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of our testimonies,” said President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

“I love him. I believe him. I testify that he is the resurrection and the life,” he said.

President Ballard said his testimony has comforted and strengthened him since his wife, Barbara, passed away four-and-a-half years ago.

  • “I have learned what matters most is our relationships with Heavenly Father and his Beloved Son, our families and our neighbors, and allowing the Spirit of the Lord to guide us in those relationships so we can testify of the things that matter most and last longest.”

He issued an invitation to people to bear testimony of Christ more often, about what they know, believe and feel about him.

Leaders watch as President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints walks into the Conference Center for the Sunday morning session of the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 2, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

From Palm Sunday to peace and rest today

Imagery from that original Palm Sunday illustrated one apostle’s call for Latter-day Saints to promote peace.

Jubilant disciples spread out their garments and palm leaves along Christ’s path that day and praised God for sending their king, said Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

  • “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,” he said.

He issued an invitation to Latter-day Saints and other Christians to promote the peace available through Christ’s Atonement and Resurrection.

Followers of the Prince of Peace should endorse that peace, Elder Soares 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.”
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 2, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Bond together as one in Christ, and abide in him

Like President Nelson, Elder Christofferson spoke about overcoming an “an extremely contentious world.”

The key to unity, he said, is to bond as one in Christ.

He said:

  • “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.”
  • “Unity does not require sameness, but it does require harmony.”
  • “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.”

Latter-day Saints should strive to abide in Christ, because he promised he would abide in those who do, said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

  • “We abide in Christ as we are firm and steadfast in our devotion to the Redeemer and his holy purposes, in times both good and bad.”
  • “The covenant connection we have with our Heavenly Father and his resurrected and living Son is the supernal source of perspective, hope, power, peace and enduring joy; it also is the rock-solid foundation upon which we should build our lives.

Elder Bednar said Christ’s followers should seek to build that bond through prayer, doctrinal study, the sacrament and serving and ministering to others. He also asked them to “ask, seek, knock, and learn for (your)selves by the power of the Holy Ghost other meaningful ways we can make Christ the center of our lives in all that we do.”

Filling the mind with Christ’s power

Latter-day Saints also should intentionally fill their minds with the power of Jesus Christ, said Elder Neil L. Andersen, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

  • “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.”
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks during the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 2, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Additional speakers

Other speakers on Sunday included President Camille N. Johnson, the Relief Society general president; and Elders Kevin R. Duncan, Kazuhiko Yamashita, Vern P. Stanfill, W. Mark Bassett and Ahmad S. Corbitt of the Seventy.

See talk summaries for every conference speaker here.

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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’ in the morning session.

In the afternoon session, the choir sang, “Rejoice, the Lord is King,” “I Stand All Amazed,” “Called to Serve” and “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.”

The new temple locations

President Nelson said new temples will be built in the following places:

  • Retalhuleu, Guatemala
  • Iquitos, Peru
  • Teresina, Brazil
  • Natal, Brazil
  • Tuguegarao City, Philippines
  • Iloilo, Philippines
  • Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Hamburg, Germany
  • Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
  • San Jose, California
  • Bakersfield, California
  • Springfield, Missouri
  • Winchester, Virginia
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
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