SALT LAKE CITY — On a bright, breezy spring morning, the 182nd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened Saturday with assurances from church President Thomas S. Monson that "this great cause will go forward."
"From a small beginning 182 years ago, our presence is now felt throughout the world," President Monson said. "This great cause in which we are engaged will continue to go forth, changing and blessing lives as it does so. No cause, no force in the entire world can stop the work of God. Despite what comes, this great cause will go forward."
President Monson also expressed his gratitude to the capacity crowd at the 21,000-seat Conference Center and to members of the church around the world for their faith and devotion, for the love and care they show to one another and for the service they give wherever they are. "It is such service that enables the Lord to accomplish many of his purposes here upon the earth," he said.
He also expressed thanks for the personal kindnesses and the prayers offered on his behalf, and he urged his listeners to take full advantage of the opportunity to be "instructed and inspired" during the next two days of general conference sessions.
God's love for little children, and the responsibility of parents and families to care for and teach their children was the first theme that emerged during the morning conference session. Speaking from his chair on the Conference Center podium, President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke movingly of a number of experiences he has had in life that have reminded him of "the feelings expressed by the Savior toward children. There is much to be learned from following his example in seeking to pray for, bless and teach 'those little ones.'"
"Fathers and mothers," President Packer concluded, "next time you cradle a newborn child in your arms you can have an inner vision of the mysteries and purposes of life. You will better understand why the church is as it is and why the family is the basic organization in time and all eternity."
Cheryl A. Esplin of the Primary general presidency also spoke about children, noting that "teaching our children to understand is more than just imparting information. It is helping our children get the doctrine into their hearts in a way that it becomes part of their very being and is reflected in their attitudes and behavior throughout their lives."
A second theme of the morning conference center was introduced by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy, who spoke about the importance of living the gospel. "It is possible to be active in the church and less active in the gospel," he said. "Activity in the church is a highly desirable goal, but it is insufficient ... The Lord wants the members of his church to be fully converted to his gospel."
Similarly, Elder Paul E. Koelliker of the Seventy spoke about the gospel of love and said that "when we actually live the gospel our ability to help others increases."
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about sacrifice, noting that "the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the central message of all the prophets."
But "just as the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is at the center of the plan of salvation," Elder Oaks said, "we followers of Christ must make our own sacrifices to achieve the destiny that plan provides for us."
President Henry B. Eyring concluded the morning session with a stirring address about the role of adversity in our lives, concluding that "if we have faith in Jesus Christ, the hardest as well as the easiest times in life can be a blessing."
"We never need to feel that we are alone or unloved in the Lord's service, because we never are," President Eyring said. "We can feel the love of God. The Savior has promised angels on our left and our right, to bear us up. He always keeps his word."
At the conclusion of the session, the congregation stood as President Monson and his counselors filed out of the Conference Center. President Monson paused to accept a warm greeting from his wife, Frances, who was present at the morning session after missing October conference due to illness.