SALT LAKE CITY — Although the temperature outside the LDS Church's downtown Conference Center was chilly Sunday morning, it was warm and comfortable inside as President Thomas S. Monson invited a capacity crowd to "take an inventory of your life and look specifically for the blessings, large and small, you have received."
The 85-year-old leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened his sermon during the morning session of the 182nd Semiannual General Conference by reflecting on his 49 years as a general authority.
"Forty-nine years is a long time," he said, as the congregation chuckled. "In many ways, however, the time seems very short since I stood at the pulpit in the Tabernacle and gave my very first general conference address."
Looking back over those years, President Monson said he has constantly had reinforced "my knowledge that our prayers are heard and answered."
"We can communicate with our Heavenly Father through prayer, and those prayers will be heard and answered — perhaps not how and when we expected they would be answered," he said. "But they will be answered, and by a Heavenly Father who knows and loves us perfectly and who desires our happiness."
President Monson shared a number of experiences from his life where he saw prayers answered and "which, in retrospect, brought blessings into my life as well as the lives of others." Through those experiences, he pointed out the lessons he learned about prayer:
"The Lord's purposes are often accomplished as we pay heed to the guidance of the spirit."
"The more we act upon the inspiration and impressions which come to us, the more the Lord will entrust to us his errands."
"Never postpone a prompting."
"The opportunity to be a blessing in the life of another often comes unexpectedly."
"Our Heavenly Father is aware of our needs and will help us as we call upon him for assistance."
"I believe that no concern of ours is too small or insignificant. The Lord is in the details."
"I never cease to be amazed by how the Lord can motivate and direct the length and breadth of his kingdom and yet have time to provide inspiration concerning one individual," President Monson said. "The fact that he can, that he does, is a testimony to me."
The church president concluded his sermon by testifying that "the Lord is in all of our lives."
"He loves us," he said. "He wants to bless us. He wants us to seek his help. As he guides us and directs us, and as he hears and answers our prayers, we will find the happiness here and now that he desires for us."
President Monson's first counselor in the First Presidency, President Henry B. Eyring, also testified that "God is close to us and aware of us, and never hides from his children."
"But sometimes we are covered by a pavilion of motivations that draw us away from God and make him seem distant and inaccessible," President Eyring said. "God is not unable to see us or communicate with us, but we may be unwilling to listen or submit to his will and time."
President Eyring pointed out that "we can create a barrier to knowing God's will or feeling his love for us by insisting on our timetable when the Lord has his own."
"The Lord's delays often seem long; some last a lifetime," he said. "But they are always calculated to bless. Although his time is not always our time, we can be sure that the Lord keeps his promises."
President Boyd K. Packer, senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, focused his Sunday morning conference address on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, drawing from a personal experience he had in Western Samoa in 1971 that illustrated the message of the hymn, "Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy."
"If you have made no mistakes then you do not need the Atonement," President Packer said. "If you have made mistakes, and all of us have, whether minor or serious, then you have an enormous need to find out how they can be erased so that you are no longer in darkness.
"Jesus Christ is the light and the life of the world," he continued. "As we fix our gaze firmly on him and his teachings, we will be guided to the harbor of spiritual safety."
Another member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, also spoke about the need for Latter-day Saints to stay focused on Jesus Christ. Drawing from the New Testament story of the actions of Jesus' apostles immediately after his death and resurrection, he reminded conferencegoers that "we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord."
"We can't quit and we can't go back," Elder Holland said. "After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before. The crucifixion, Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus mark the beginning of a Christian life, not the end of it."
Also speaking during the session was Sister Linda K. Burton, general president of the church Relief Society organization for women, who gave listeners four words to remember: "First observe, then serve," and Elder Walter F. Gonzalez of the Presidency of the Seventy, who reminded conferencegoers that they have access to the "celestial source when we do things such as reading the scriptures, hearkening to the living prophet and praying."
Music for the session was provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, with a solo by Shane Warby on "Does the Journey Seem Long?"