Elder Nelson: God's children should learn to listen, then listen to learn. Parents should not rule by force.
Listening to and heeding the teachings of Jesus Christ was the dominant theme church leaders addressed during the Saturday afternoon session of the 161st Annual General Conference.
With the Ricks College combined choirs as a backdrop, speakers urged LDS faithful to magnify their faith by living the gospel more fully. President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the session, which included a summary report from the Church Audit Committee and a sustaining vote for new general authorities named during the opening session of the conference.The importance of the art of listening - to children, parents, partners, neighbors and church leaders - was emphasized by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve.
"Above all, God's children should learn to listen, then listen to learn from the Lord," Elder Nelson told members gathered both in the Tabernacle on Temple Square and viewing the conference in LDS chapels in the United States and abroad via satellite. "Scriptures recorded in all dispensations teach that we show our love of God as we hearken to his commandments and obey them."
Using personal anecdotes, Elder Nelson counseled of the wisdom of not only learning to listen but "listening to learn."
"A wise father once said, `I do a greater amount of good when I listen to my children than when I talk to them.' To rule children by force is the technique of Satan, not of the Savior. No, we don't own our children. Our parental privilege is to love them, to lead them and to let them go."
Elder Nelson empathized with parents of teenagers. You "may find that time for listening is often less convenient but more important when young people feel lonely or troubled," he said. "And when they seem to deserve favor least, they may need it most."
Likewise, he encouraged children of all ages to learn to listen and listen to learn from parents. Husbands and wives, too, must listen and learn from one another.
"If marriage is a prime relationship in life, it deserves prime time," he stressed. "Yet less-important appointments are often given priority, leaving only leftover moments for listening to precious partners."
He also encouraged members to be mindful of their neighbors. "Opportunities to listen to those of diverse religious or political persuasion can promote tolerance and learning. And a good listener will listen to a person's sentiments as well. . . . The wise listen to learn from their neighbors.
"Gratefully we thank God for a prophet to guide us in these latter days. But many turn a deaf ear to his teachings, oblivious to his prophetic position," Elder Nelson said. "They do so at great risk. . . . Words of the Lord are taught by his disciples. Wise members listen to learn from church leaders."
Above all, Elder Nelson said, God's children must learn to listen to the Lord. "Scriptures recorded in all dispensations teach that we show our love of God as we hearken to his commandments and obey them. These actions are closely connected. In fact, the Hebrew language of the Old Testament in most instances uses the same term for both hearkening to the Lord and obeying his word. . . .
"Your soul will be blessed as you learn to listen, then listen to learn from children, parents, partners, neighbors and church leaders, all of which will heighten capacity to hear counsel from on high. Carefully listen to learn from the Lord through the still small voice - the Holy Spirit - which leads to truth. Listen to learn by studying the scriptures that record his holy mind and will. Listen to learn in prayer, for he will answer the humble who truly seek him."
Elder Wirthlin: Peace within can be a reality despite dismal conditions in the world and personal challenges.
Few, if any, blessings from God are more valuable to a person's spiritual health than the reward of peace within, said Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, who admonished church members to seek for inner serenity.
"Despite dismal conditions in the world and the personal challenges that come into every life, peace within can be a reality. We can be calm and serene regardless of the swirling turmoil all about us," the church leader promised. "Attaining harmony within ourselves depends upon our relationship with our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and our willingness to emulate him by living the principles he has given us."
Elder Wirthlin of the Council of the Twelve said although people abhor war, peace nearly always has been more a dream than a reality.
"During most of the world's history, strife, dissension and conflict have flourished and displaced peace," he said. "The times when peace has reigned, it began in the hearts of righteous, obedient individuals and grew until it engulfed a society."
Elder Wirthlin used these examples to illustrate his point:
The first period of peace was among the people of Enoch, who "dwelt in righteousness" before the great flood. "They built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion" that, in the "process of time, was taken up into heaven."
The second period of peace, he said, followed the ministry of the resurrected Jesus among the Nephites. They abolished all works of evil and obtained the fruit of the spirit. "They were as one, the children of Christ and heirs of the Kingdom of God. . . ."
Elder Wirthlin said a third period of perfect peace will come during the Millenium.
"As they live the gospel of Jesus Christ, the righteousness of the people will banish Satan from their midst," he said. "We look forward to the day of universal peace and justice when Christ will reign upon the earth."
These three examples, Elder Wirthlin said, show that peace, whether in a city, a nation or other society, "develops from peace that begins within the hearts of individuals as they live by the precepts of the gospel."
Elder Scott: Teens should place Savior at center of their lives, find happiness from within and live morally clean.
Elder Richard G. Scott addressed his remarks to the young men and women of the church whose challenges are varied but whose decisions "will affect the entire course of your life."
To assist them in making crucial decision, Elder Scott of the Council of the Twelve encouraged teens to follow three principles:
- Place the Savior, his teachings and his church at the center of your life. Make sure that all decisions comply with this standard.
"As you walk the path of righteousness, you will grow in strength, understanding and self-esteem," he said. "You will discover hidden talents and unknown capacities. The whole course of your life may be altered for your happiness and the Lord's purposes."
- Recognize that enduring happiness comes from what you are, not from what you have.
"When the things that you acquire are used as tools to help others they won't rule your life," Elder Scott said. "Your right-eous decisions determine who you are and what is important to you. They make doing the right things easier."
- Stay morally clean.
"Sexual intimacy outside of the bonds of marriage - and I emphasize that means any involvement of the private, sacred parts of the body - is forbidden by the Lord," Elder Scott said. "While the world has other standards, you must stay morally clean."
The church leader warned that "Satan will use rationalization to destroy you. That is, he will twist something you know to be wrong so that it appears to be acceptable and thus progressively lead you to destruction."
But Elder Scott said Satan promotes "counterfeit love - which is lust. It is driven by a hunger to appease personal appetite. One who practices this deception cares little for the pain and destruction caused another."
By comparison, he said that "love as defined by the Lord elevates, protects, respects and enriches another. It motivates one to make sacrifices for another."
How can young people keep their resolve to live worthily?
He encouraged them to choose good friends, consistently live the truth, don't be found in compromising circumstances, seek counsel from those who are worthy and pray in faith for help.
"Go to your Father in Heaven. He wants to help you, but because of your agency, you need to take the first step."
Elder Craven: Members can have unwavering faith in counsel of First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can have unwavering faith in the united counsel of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Rulon G. Craven said.
Elder Craven of the Quorums of the Seventy served 131/2 years as secretary to the Quorum of the Twelve. On Saturday, he shared personal stories of his association with them, testifying of their spiritual lives.
"The members of the Twelve strive to live according to the promptings of the spirit. They speak their mind," he said. "However, they are also good listeners and speak when moved upon by the Holy Spirit. Their posture in quorum meetings is to listen and sense the directing power of the spirit, which always leads to a unity of decision."
Elder Craven paid special tribute to President Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve, whose "gentle, persuasive leadership invites the spirit of the Lord in all of their meetings."
When President Hunter was informed by physicians a number of years ago that he would not walk again, he refused to accept the prognosis that he would be confined to a wheelchair.
"Daily, without fanfare and the knowledge of others, he went through some very strenuous and difficult physical therapy exercises with determination and the vision that he would walk again," Elder Craven said. "During those difficult months, his brethren of the Twelve were praying for him daily in their quorum meetings and private prayers."
Months later, President Hunter - with the aid of a walker - walked from his office to the temple. With emotion in his voice, Elder Craven related that there he was met "with magnificent love, honor and tenderness" by other apostles.
"President Hunter is an example of maintaining faith and determination in the face of adversity," Elder Craven said. "The Twelve are examples of maintaining faith and prayer in behalf of those experiencing adversity."
Elder Gibbons: Mortal lives of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith had many things in common.
The Savior's spiritual status was beyond compare.
But the mortal lives of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith, the first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were similar, according to Elder Francis M. Gibbons of the Quorums of the Seventy.
Elder Gibbons drew several similarities:
- Both came out of a working-class environment. Jesus was the stepson of a carpenter. Joseph's father was a farmer. Neither had wealthy, powerful or influential relatives or friends. Both experienced the trauma arising from economic stress.
- Both came from solid homes of high spirituality.
- Neither Jesus nor Joseph Smith had significant formal schooling.
- Both of them were highly precocious. Jesus, at age 12, was found teaching the learned rabbis in the temple. And Joseph, at age 15, had an experience that enabled him to instruct his family and others who would listen about God and Jesus Christ.
- Both were provincials. "Jesus never ventured beyond the environs of the Holy Land during his earthly ministry, while Joseph spent his entire life within a relatively small area in the northern United States."
- Both were highly controversial figures, "boldly attacking the existing order of things." Both attracted strong disciples and powerful enemies.
- Both completed their missions at an early age. Jesus was crucified at age 33, while Joseph died as a martyr at age 38 1/2.
- Both were killed as the result of betrayals by erstwhile disciples.
Elder Lawrence: Sacrament meeting is the most important meeting of the week, should be joyful.
Sacrament meeting is the most important meeting of the week - the one the Lord has commanded church members to attend, Elder W. Mack Lawrence said.
"It's a time to worship the Savior. What does that mean, to worship? It means to reverently show love and allegiance to him, to think about him, to honor him, to remember his sacrifice for each of us, to thank him," Elder Lawrence of the Quorums of the Seventy said.
This worship should be a happy experience for every church member, he emphasized.
"Our experience in sacrament meeting should be filled with joy. How do we find joy in our sacrament meetings?"
Elder Lawrence listed a few ways:
- Come with an attitude of worshiping the Lord. "Some people who don't understand look at this worship service as just another Sunday meeting, part of the three-hour routine," he said. "It is not. It should be a time of true worship for the Savior."
- Teach children the significance of the worship service. "We want our children there. We also want them to learn reverence, which is a form of love for the Savior. If babies are noisy, take them out of the chapel until they calm down."
- Sing enthusiastic praises to God.
- When speaking to the congregation, members should include the Savior, scriptural references and their testimonies in their talks.
- Remember the Savior while partaking of the sacrament. "As you partake of the sacrament, you witness that you are willing to take the name of Jesus Christ, the Son, upon you," Elder Lawrence said.
Elder Tingey: Church offers many tools for identifying ancestors and doing their genealogy work.
Identify ancestors whose identity may be lost to human memory, counseled Elder Earl C. Tingey, who saluted the thousands of volunteers who have helped church members in genealogy work.
"The church has assisted by gathering information on nearly 2 billion individuals who have at one time lived on this Earth," said Elder Tingey of the Quorums of the Seventy. "The church has further provided beautiful temples, where the saints may enter and have sacred ordinances performed on behalf of their kindred dead."
The work, Elder Tingey said, is accelerating, thanks to new tools and skills now in the church's hands.
He listed as the most prominent of the new tools the computer-aided resource FamilySearch, which is now in 1,500 family history centers. It has these features:
- Ancestral File, which provides more than 7 million names linked into family relationships. "The identity of the submitting party is also provided, thus facilitating cooperative research."
- Family History Library Catalog, which provides easy access to the church's Family History Library and its resources.
- International Genealogical Index, which provides data on more than 147 million deceased individuals.
- New Personal Ancestral File computer program, which will permit members, in their homes, to easily organize their family history records.
Additionally, Elder Tingey said, more than 800 stakes are now participating in the new Family Records Extraction Program. "This vital effort, involving over 75,000 volunteers who serve primarily in their homes, will soon allow members to clear names for temple work in their own meetinghouses rather than waiting for headquarters' approval."