SALT LAKE CITY — During the Saturday afternoon session of the 183rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, church members heard stirring sermons from four members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and sustained a number of new church leaders, including a new general Young Women presidency.
They also found out that there are now 14,782,014 of them living in 29,014 wards and branches.
That last bit of information came during the business portion of the session, during which changes among the general church officers are announced and auditing and statistical reports are presented. Those changes included the calling of Elder Ulisses Soares to replace Elder Walter F. Gonzalez in the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy in addition to the calling of a new general Young Women presidency, with Bonnie Lee Oscarson as president and Carol Louise Foley McConkie and Evelyn Neill Foote Marriott as counselors.
Eight new members of the Seventy were also called, including three new members of the First Quorum of the Seventy and five new members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy (please see separate story).
With the business done, conference-goers shifted their focus to the words and teachings of four apostles and two members of the Seventy.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve noted the “unprecedented wave of enthusiasm for missionary work that is sweeping the entire earth” following last October’s announcement of a reduced minimum age requirement for full-time missionary service in the church.
“Many of you young men and women will catch this wave as you strive to be worthy of mission calls,” he said. “You see this as a wave of truth and righteousness. You see your opportunity to be on the crest of that wave.”
But others in the church also need to catch the wave, Elder Nelson said, including parents, teachers, adult members, stake presidents, bishops and ward mission leaders.
“This wave of truth and righteousness is wondrous!” Elder Nelson said. “It is not man-made! It comes form the Lord, who said, ‘I will hasten my work in its time.’
“This wave is empowered by a divine announcement made 193 years ago,” he continued. “It consisted of only seven words: ‘This is my Beloved Son. Hear him!’ Uttered by Almighty God, that announcement introduced a young Joseph Smith to the Lord, Jesus Christ. Those seven words launched the Restoration of his gospel. Why? Because our living God is a loving God. He wants his children to know him and Jesus Christ whom he has sent! And he wants his children to gain immortality and eternal life.”
A second apostle, Elder Richard G. Scott, spoke of the need for a “place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail, a place where we can reset, regroup and re-energize to prepare for future pressures.”
The ideal place for that kind of refuge is “within the walls of our own homes, where we have done all we can to make the Lord, Jesus Christ, the centerpiece,” he said.
That can be difficult in a world in which “there is real danger in the environment surrounding you,” Elder Scott observed.
“Satan’s fate is decided,” he said. “He knows he has lost. But he wants to take as many with him as he can. He will try to ruin your goodness and abilities by exploiting your weaknesses.”
As an example, Elder Scott referred to modern technology.
“Many of us have a personal electronic device that fits in our pocket,” he said. “We are seldom without its company; we may refer to it many times a day. Unfortunately, these devices can be a source of filth and wasted time. But, used with discipline, this technology can be a tool of protection from the worst of society.
“Who could have imagined not very many years ago that the full standard works and years of general conference messages would fit in your pocket?” he continued, adding that if “you young people would review a verse of scripture as often as some of you send text messages, you could soon have hundreds of passages of scripture memorized.”
Elder David A. Bednar, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, addressed the question: “Why is the law of chastity so important?” The answer to that question, he said, “can only be understood within the overarching context of our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness for his children.”
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality,” he said. “Intimate relations are proper only between a man and a woman in the marriage relationship prescribed in God’s plan. Such relations are not merely a curiosity to be explored, an appetite to be satisfied or a type of recreation or entertainment to be pursued selfishly. They are not a conquest to be achieved or simply an act to be performed.
“Rather, they are in mortality one of the ultimate expressions of our divine nature and potential and a way of strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife. We are agents blessed with moral agency and are defined by our divine heritage as children of God — and not by sexual behaviors, contemporary attitudes or secular philosophies.”
This doctrine, Elder Bednar said, “will seem to be archaic and outdated to many people in a world that increasingly mocks the sanctity of procreation and minimizes the worth of human life. But the Lord’s truth is not altered by fads, popularity or public opinion polls.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook, the fourth apostle to speak during the Saturday afternoon session, drew from tragic events to teach about the lasting personal peace that can be found in and through Jesus Christ.
“In contemplating these events,” he said, “I have been impressed with the doctrinal difference between universal or world peace and personal peace.
“We earnestly hope and pray for universal peace, but it is as individuals and families that we achieve the kind of peace that is the promised reward of righteousness,” Elder Cook continued. “This peace is a promised gift of the Savior’s mission and atoning sacrifice. (It) is not just a temporary tranquility. It is an abiding deep happiness and spiritual contentment.”
Although we all long for peace, Elder Cook said we need to remember that “peace is not just safety or lack of war.” Rather, he said, “peace comes from knowing that the Savior knows who we are, knows that we have faith in him, love and keep his commandments even and especially amid life’s devastating trials and tragedies.”
Other speakers during the afternoon session were Elder Stanley G. Ellis of the Seventy, who reminded his listeners that “we are not spiritual orphans — we are not alone,” and Elder John B. Dickson, also of the Seventy and president of the Africa West Area, who testified that “the Lord is lifting (the people of Africa) in meaningful ways.”
Music for the session was provided by a choir of students from Brigham Young University.