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Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy speaks April 2 during the Saturday morning session of the 186th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Our most fundamental doctrine includes the knowledge that we are children of a living God," said Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy during the Saturday morning session of the 186th Annual General Conference. "That is why one of His most sacred names is Father — Heavenly Father."

This doctrine has been taught in the scriptures by prophets of all ages, Elder Hallstrom said, "A correct understanding of our heavenly heritage is essential to exaltation."

Elder Hallstrom said that most everyone participating in the meeting could probably sing the song "I Am a Child of God." He then declared, "But, the critical question is, 'Do we really know it?' Do we know it in our mind and in our heart and in our soul? Is our heavenly parentage our first and most profound identity?" he asked. This identity should supersede other worldly identities, including those given by nationality, occupation or language.

In life, everyone faces hardships, pain, injustice and disappointment, Elder Hallstrom said. "When difficult things occur in our lives, what is our immediate response? Is it confusion or doubt or spiritual withdrawal?" he asked. "Or is our first response to remember who we are — that we are children of a loving God?"

Five months ago, Elder Hallstrom traveled to Africa with his wife, Diane, and Elder and Sister David A. Bednar. The last country they visited was Liberia, "a great country with a noble people and a rich history," Elder Hallstrom said, "but things have not been easy there." The people have suffered from political instability, poverty and a deadly outbreak of Ebola.

The members in Liberia, however, were eager and prepared to be taught by an apostle, Elder Hallstrom said. They recited scriptures and sang 'How Firm a Foundation' with great volume and spiritual power. Elder Hallstrom said, "The Saints in Liberia have little materially, and yet they seem to have everything spiritually. What we witnessed that day in Monrovia was a group of sons and daughters of God — who knew it!"

Elder Hallstrom said in closing, "In today's world, no matter where we live and no matter what our circumstances are, it is essential that our preeminent identity is as a child of God."

vjohnson@deseretnews.com

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