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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
President Thomas S. Monson shakes hands with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland as he leaves the morning session of the 183rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 7, 2013.

SALT LAKE CITY — President Thomas S. Monson told his listeners during the Sunday morning session of the 183rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that the answers to life’s most profound questions can be found through obedience to the Lord’s commandments.

“There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fullness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth,” President Monson said. “A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide — even obedience. A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of the Lord.”

To illustrate his point he told a story from his youth, when he and a friend named Danny Larsen were together at Vivian Park in Utah’s Provo Canyon. In order to clear a plot of ground for an evening campfire, they decided that it would be a good idea to burn a circle in the weeds. Even though the boys had both been repeatedly warned about the dangers of fire and had been forbidden from playing with matches, President Monson said he snuck a few matchsticks our of his family’s cabin.

“I struck a match on a rock and set the parched june grass ablaze — it ignited as though it had been drenched in gasoline,” he said, eliciting laughter from the vast Conference Center congregation. “At first Danny and I were thrilled as we watched the weeds disappear, but it soon became apparent that the fire was not about to go out on its own.”

The two boys ran for help and eventually the fire was repelled before it spread to the nearby trees and homes.

“Danny and I learned several difficult but important lessons that day — not the least of which was the importance of obedience,” President Monson said. “There are rules and laws to help ensure our physical safety. Likewise, the Lord has provided guidelines and commandments to help ensure our spiritual safety so that we might successfully navigate this often treacherous mortal existence and return eventually to our Heavenly Father.”

He shared other examples, including the story of Abraham and Isaac from the Old Testament and the story of the Savior’s ultimate act of obedience through the Atonement, pointing out that “the great test of this life is obedience.”

“The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments,” President Monson concluded. “I quote once again the words of the Lord: ‘He that keepeth (God’s) commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things’.”

President Monson’s second counselor in the church’s First Presidency, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, opened the Sunday morning session with a sermon directed at those who struggle with spiritual and emotional darkness in their lives.

“We might have lost a loved one; a child might have strayed; we might have received a troubling medical diagnosis; we might have employment challenges and be burdened by doubts or fears; or we might feel alone or unloved,” President Uchtdorf said. “But even though we may feel lost in the midst of our current circumstances, God promises the hope of his light — he promises to illuminate the way before us and show us the way out of darkness.”

He suggested three things people can do to open their eyes to the hope of God’s light. First, he said, start where you are — wherever that is. Second, turn your heart toward the Lord through prayer. And third, walk in the light.

“Your Heavenly Father knows that you will make mistakes,” President Uchtdorf said. “He knows that you will stumble — perhaps many times. This saddens him, but he loves you. He does not wish to break your spirit. On the contrary, he desires that you rise up and become the person you were designed to be.”

President Uchtdorf concluded with his testimony “that our living hope is in Christ Jesus. He is the true, pure and powerful entrance to divine enlightenment.”

“I testify that with Christ, darkness cannot succeed,” he continued. “Darkness will not gain victory over the light of Christ. I bear witness that darkness cannot stand before the brilliant light of the Son of the Living God! Even after the darkest night, the Savior of the world will lead you to a gradual, sweet and bright dawn that will assuredly rise within you.”

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles drew from a “little brown book” that was given to LDS servicemen and women during World War II. He said he found many of the same instructions given in that book equally applicable to the challenges facing church members today.

Like President Monson, Elder Perry focused on the importance of obedience to God’s commandments in what he called “the war against sin.”

“In many respects, this world has always been at war,” he said. “I believe when the First Presidency sent me my little brown book they were more concerned about a much greater war than World War II. I also believe they hoped the book would be a shield of faith against Satan and his armies in this greater war — the war against sin — and serve as a reminder to me to live the commandments of God.”

He referred specifically to the Ten Commandments, which he called “the most accepted and enduring delineation between good and evil” in the Judeo-Christian world.

“In my judgment, four of the Ten Commandments are taken as seriously today as ever,” he said. “As a culture we distain and condemn murder, stealing and lying, and we still believe in the responsibility of children to their parents. But as a larger society, we routinely dismiss the other six commandments.”

“In a world where the moral compass of society is faltering, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ never wavers, nor should its stakes and wards, its families, nor its individual members,” Elder Perry concluded. “We must not pick and choose which commandments we think are important to keep but acknowledge all of God’s commandments. We must stand firm and steadfast, having perfect confidence in the Lord’s consistence and perfect trust in his promises.”

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles focused his time at the Conference Center pulpit Sunday morning on the miracles of missionary work.

“This is a remarkable time of miracles,” he said. “Six months ago as President Monson announced the age change for young men and young women desiring to serve missions, there was an undeniable spiritual outpouring. Faith overcame doubt and young men and women moved forward.

“The Thursday following conference I was assigned to recommend missionary calls to the First Presidency,” he continued. “I was amazed to see the applications of 18-year-old men and 19-year-old women who had already adjusted their plans, visited doctors, been interviewed by their bishops and stakes presidents and submitted their missionary applications — all in just five days. Thousands more have now joined them. It’s a miracle.”

He urged his listeners to participate in the miracle.

“Every righteous member of the church has thought about how to share the gospel,” he said. “Some share the gospel naturally, and we can learn a lot from them. Some struggle and wonder how to do better, wishing that guilty feeling we sometimes feel would find somewhere else to go.

“Our desire to share the gospel takes all of us to our knees, and it should, because we need the Lord’s help … We are all in this together. With fellow ward members and missionaries, we plan and pray and help one another. Keep the full-time missionaries in your thoughts and prayers. Trust them with your family and friends. The Lord trusts them and has called them to teach and bless those who seek him.”

Also speaking during the Sunday morning session were Elder L. Whitney Clayton, who spoke about five important things he has learned about marriage by “watching and learning from wonderful marriages,” and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, general Primary president, who said, “One of the greatest influences a person can have in this world it to influence a child.”

Music for the session was provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.