Although we live in increasingly perilous times, the Lord loves us and is mindful of us. —President Thomas S. Monson
SALT LAKE CITY — The 182nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to a close Sunday afternoon under clear skies and with a clear charge from church President Thomas S. Monson to "be of good cheer" despite the demands and difficulties of life.
"Although we live in increasingly perilous times, the Lord loves us and is mindful of us," the 85-year-old church leader said. "He is always on our side as we do what is right. He will help us in times of need."
President Monson was the concluding speaker of the two-day conference, during which more than 30 different church leaders addressed a wide variety of gospel subjects. More than 100,000 conference-goers filled the church's 21,000-seat Conference Center and millions more participated in the weekend's five general conference sessions via television, radio, satellite and Internet broadcasts.
In closing the conference, President Monson reminded his listeners that "none of us is immune" from the challenges and frustrations of life.
"Difficulties come into our lives, problems we do not anticipate and which we would never choose," he said. "The purpose of mortality is to learn and to grow to be more like our Father, and it is often during the difficult times that we learn the most, as painful as the lessons may be."
As in all things, President Monson urged Latter-day Saints to follow the example of Jesus Christ in dealing with challenges.
"The Lord admonished, 'Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,'" he said. "What great happiness this knowledge should bring to us. He lived for us and he died for us. He paid the price for our sins. May we emulate his example. May we show our great gratitude for him by accepting his sacrifice and living lives that will qualify us to return and one day live with him."
President Monson also urged church members to "ever watch over one another, assisting in times of need."
"Let us not be critical and judgmental, but let us be tolerant, ever emulating the Savior's example of loving kindness," he said. "May we willingly serve one another. May we pray for the inspiration to know of the needs of those around us, and then may we go forward and provide assistance."
Sunday's final conference session also featured a charge from Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to "claim the blessings" that come from genealogical and temple work.
"I have tasted enough of the fruits of this sublime work to know that the keys of Elijah restored to Joseph Smith permit our hearts to be bound and each of us linked to those of our ancestors who are waiting for our help," Elder Scott said. "Through our efforts in holy temples here on earth using the authority delegated by the Savior, our progenitors receive the saving ordinances that allow them to enjoy eternal happiness."
Elder Scott recommended that church members pray about the genealogical and temple work they need to be doing for their ancestors.
"Set aside those things in your life that don't really matter," he said. "Decide to do something that will have eternal consequences."
Elder Robert D. Hales, also a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, noted that for every Christian there is a simple question: "What kind of Christians are we? In other words, how are we doing in our quest to follow Christ?"
"This is the call of Christ to every Christian today: 'Feed my lambs,' 'Feed my sheep' — share my gospel with young and old alike, lifting, blessing, comforting, encouraging and building them, especially those who think and believe differently than we do," Elder Hales said. "We feed his lambs in our homes by how we live the gospel — keeping the commandments, praying, studying the scriptures and emulating his love. We feed his sheep in the church as we serve in priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations. And we feed his sheep throughout the world by being Christian neighbors, practicing the pure religion of visiting and serving the widows, the fatherless, the poor and all who are in need."
A third member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder David A. Bednar, spoke about testimony and conversion.
"A testimony is personal knowledge of spiritual truth obtained by revelation," Elder Bednar said. "A testimony is a gift from God and is available to all of his children ... Testimony brings increased personal accountability and is a source of purpose, assurance and joy."
Conversion, on the other hand, "is an enlarging, a deepening and a broadening of the under-girding base of testimony," Elder Bednar explained. "It is the result of revelation from God, accompanied by individual repentance, obedience and diligence. ... Conversion is an offering of self we give to God in gratitude for the gift of testimony."
Comparing the two concepts, Elder Bednar said "Testimony is the beginning of and a prerequisite to continuing conversion. Testimony is a point of departure; it is not an ultimate destination. Strong testimony is the foundation upon which conversion is established.
"Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony," he continued. "Consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion. We should know the gospel is true and be true to the gospel."
Other speakers during the Sunday afternoon session were Brother Russell T. Osguthorpe, general president of the Sunday School, who spoke about the recently announced curriculum for teenagers in the church; Elder Marcus B. Nash of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who spoke about how steadfast faith in Christ can anchor believers to "the rock of our Redeemer"; Elder Daniel L. Johnson of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who explained that obedience and service can help us become better disciples of Jesus Christ; and Elder Don R. Clarke of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who said, "It will always be a great sacrament meeting if the sacrament is the center of our worship."
Music for the session was once again provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.