SALT LAKE CITY — The afternoon session of the 183rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints featured remarks from four members of the Quorum of the Twelve on topics ranging from the power of the scriptures, to the need for member involvement in missionary work, to the need for compassion for those who suffer from depression, to the moral force of women.
The session, which was conducted by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and featured a family choir from LDS stakes in Roy, Kanesville, Hooper and West Haven, Utah, also saw the transition of three members of the First Quorum of the Seventy — Elders John B. Dickson, Paul E. Koelliker and F. Michael Watson — to emeritus status and the release of Elder Kent D. Watson of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
The second of the four apostles to speak during the session, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, told the women of the church that "we rely on the moral force you bring to the world, to marriage, to family, to the church. We rely on blessings you bring down from heaven by your prayers and faith."
“From age immemorial, societies have relied on the moral force of women,” Elder Christofferson said in introducing his remarks. “While certainly not the only positive influence at work in society, the moral foundation provided by women has proved uniquely beneficial to the common good.
“Perhaps,” he added, “because it is pervasive, this contribution of women is often under-appreciated.”
He spoke of some of the women who have powerfully shaped his life and observed that “a woman’s moral influence is nowhere more powerfully felt or more beneficially employed than in the home.”
“There is no better setting for rearing the rising generation than the traditional family where a father and a mother work in harmony to provide for, teach and nurture their children,” Elder Christofferson said. “Where this ideal does not exist, people strive to duplicate its benefits as best they can in their particular circumstances. In all events, a mother can exert an influence unequalled by any other person or in any other relationship.”
Elder Christofferson denounced those who devalue marriage and motherhood and who ridicule those who choose what they call “the mommy track” as a career.
“We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career, but still recognize that there is not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood in marriage,” he said. “There is no superior career, and no amount of money, authority or public acclaim that can exceed the ultimate rewards of family. Whatever else a woman may accomplish, her moral influence is no more optimally employed than here.”
Elder Christofferson concluded his remarks by urging women and girls to “protect and cultivate the moral force that is within you.”
“Preserve that innate virtue and unique gifts you bring with you into the world,” he said. “Your intuition is to do good and to be good, and as you follow the Holy Spirit, your moral authority and influence will grow.”
And to the men of the church he said, “Men, let us stand with women, share their burdens and cultivate our own companion moral authority.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland focused his remarks in the Saturday afternoon session on “those who suffer from some form of mental illness or emotional disorder, whether those afflictions be slight or severe, or brief duration or persistent over a lifetime.”
“We sense the complexity of such matters when we hear professionals speak of neuroses and psychoses, of genetic predispositions and compulsions, of bipolarity, paranoia and schizophrenia,” Elder Holland said. “However bewildering they may be, these afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life, and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.”
Like physical illness, mental illness is part of living in a fallen world “where for divine purposes our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again.” He spoke of a time earlier in his life when he experienced what he called a “psychic blow” that gave him a firsthand look at the abyss of depression, and mentioned others — Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and former LDS Church President George Albert Smith — who have struggled with it.
He reminded those who struggle with depression that “hope is never lost,” and he urged all of his listeners to “watch for the stress indicators in yourself and in others you may be able to help.”
“As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed or a tank low on fuel,” Elder Holland said, adding that “if things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills and good values.”
“If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available,” he said. “So, too, with emotional disorders. Our Father in heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts he has provided in this glorious dispensation.”
Elder Holland also spoke to caregivers, and suggested that “in all your devoted effort to assist with another’s health, do not destroy your own.” And he reminded all of his listeners that “the rest of us can help by being merciful, non-judgmental and kind.”
“I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind,” Elder Holland said. “What a thrilling moment that will be!”
Elder M. Russell Ballard noted church President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement during the Saturday morning conference session that there are now more than 80,000 full-time missionaries for the church all around the world.
“My message this afternoon is that the Lord is hastening his work,” Elder Ballard said. “In our day, this can only be one when every member of the church reaches out with love to share the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Elder Ballard acknowledged that many church members are reluctant to pray for opportunities to share the gospel because they are afraid they will be prompted to do something they are not capable of doing. But he assured his listeners that “fear will be replaced with faith and confidence when members and full-time missionaries kneel in prayer and ask the Lord to bless them with missionary opportunities.”
“Those opportunities will never require a forced or contrived response,” he said. “They will flow as a natural result of our love for our brothers and sisters. Just be positive, and those you speak with will feel your love. They will never forget that feeling even though the timing may not be right for them to embrace the gospel. That, too, may change in the future when the circumstances change.
“It is impossible to fail when you do your best and when you are on the Lord’s errand,” Elder Ballard added. “While the outcome is a result of the exercise of agency, sharing is our responsibility.”
Elder Ballard challenged every member of the church to reach out to just one person between now and Christmas. If they will do that, he said, “millions will feel the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a wonderful gift to the Savior.”
The fourth apostle was actually the first speaker in the session, President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve. He noted some of the prophesied challenges and temptations in the world today, acknowledging that “for many it may be quite disturbing, even discouraging.”
“We live in perilous times,” President Packer said. “Nevertheless, we can find hope and peace for ourselves and for our families. Those living in sorrow, despairing at the possibility of a child being rescued from where the world has taken them, must never give up. ‘Be not afraid, only believe.’ Righteousness is more powerful than wickedness.”
The 89-year-old apostle promised listeners that “children taught an understanding of the scriptures early in life will come to know the path they should walk and will be more inclined to remain on that path.”
For those who wander from the path, President Packer said, “There is a way back.”
“Just as chalk can be removed from a blackboard with an eraser, with sincere repentance the effects of our transgressions can be erased through the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” he said. “That promise applies in every case.
“Peace can be settled in the heart of each who turns to the scriptures and unlocks the promises of protection and redemption that are taught therein,” President Packer concluded. “We invite all to turn to the Savior Jesus Christ, to his teachings as found in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.”
Other speakers during the session included three members of the Quorums of the Seventy. Elder S. Gifford Nielsen drew from his past experience as a football player to urge his listeners to create a winning game plan for their lives. Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela promised that there are many in the world who “need our help and are there waiting for us (to) reach out to them and rescue them through small and simple means.” And Elder Timothy J. Dyches reminded listeners that “the Savior still seeks to heal and mend you. He waits at the door and knocks. Let us answer him. Let us pray, repent, forgive and forget. Let us love God and serve our neighbor, and stand in holy places with a life made clean.”
Prayers for the session were offered by Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy and Sister Carol Louise McConkie of the General Young Women Presidency.