Instructed and inspired: Conference speakers share poignant personal reflections, timeless truths

Published: Saturday, Oct. 5 2013 11:10 p.m. MDT

The congregation sings during the opening session of the 183rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Salt Lake City.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — "We have come here to be instructed and inspired," said President Thomas S. Monson, as he opened the 183rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Those men and women who will speak to you,” he said “have sought heaven's help concerning the messages they will give."

That sense of “heaven’s help” permeated Saturday’s sessions as speakers shared poignant personal reflections that matched timeless truths to present-day challenges. Social media lit up as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency spoke directly to “some of our dear members who struggle” with doubts and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke “to those who suffer from some form of mental illness or emotional disorder.”

Unprecedented growth

During brief opening remarks, President Monson announced that total membership of the LDS Church has surpassed 15 million. Among the reasons for that growth, he said, is the "missionary force" that has increased from 58,500 in October 2012, when he announced new, lower minimum age requirements for full-time missionary service in the church, to more than 80,000 today.

"Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord's vineyard to bring souls unto him," President Monson said.

He urged Latter-day Saints to contribute, as they are able, to the General Missionary Fund of the church to help support "thousands of missionaries whose circumstances do not allow them to support themselves."

“Sleepless nights”

Elder Robert D. Hales set the stage for much of what was to come throughout the conference by emphasizing the deep individual responsibility felt by conference speakers to be in touch with inspired guidance.

"These conferences are always under the direction of the Lord, guided by his spirit," said Elder Hales. "As speakers, we are not assigned specific topics. Over weeks and months, often through sleepless nights, we wait upon the Lord. Through fasting, prayer, study and pondering, we learn the message that he wants us to give."

"This is (the Lord's) general conference," Elder Hales testified. "If you pray with sincere desire to hear your Heavenly Father's voice in the messages of his conference, you will discover that he has spoken to you to help you, to strengthen you and to lead you home to his presence."

“We all need each other”

Also speaking during the session were Elders Ulisses Soares and Edward Dube, of the Seventy, and Sister Carole M. Stephens of the Relief Society General Presidency. Sister Stephens emphasized "there exists today a great need for men and women to cultivate respect for each other as sons and daughters of God and reverence for our Father in Heaven and his priesthood — his power and authority."

"We all need each other," Sister Stephens said. "Sons of God need daughters of God, and daughters of God need sons of God. We have different gifts and strengths. First Corinthians chapter 12 emphasizes the need for sons and daughters of God, each one of us, to fulfill our individual roles and responsibilities according to the Lord's plan 'that all may benefit.'"

Significant but subtle blessings

The other apostle who spoke during the Saturday morning session was Elder David A. Bednar, who shared lessons he has learned about the church’s law of tithing.

He said, "as we live the law of tithing, we often receive significant but subtle blessings that are not always what we expect and easily can be overlooked."

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