It was on a somber note that President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency began the concluding session of the 187th Semiannual General Conference on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 1.
"Brothers and sisters, as you may know, our dear friend and associate, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles passed away peacefully this afternoon at 12:15 in the hospital, surrounded by his wife, other family members and President Russell M. Nelson. We will mis him. His wisdom and goodness have blessed our lives for many years. We express our love to his sweet wife and caregiver, Mary, and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family."
The subdued and reverent tone continued with messages from a collection of apostles, General Authority Seventies and a general auxiliary leader.
President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency conducted the session and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir provided music. Speakers included Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Neil L. Andersen, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Joni L. Koch, Elder Stanley G. Ellis, Elder Adilson de Paula Parrella, Elder Ian S. Ardern and Elder Jose L. Alonso, all General Authority Seventies; and Brother Tad R. Callister, the Sunday School general president.
Elder Joseph W. Sitati and Elder Evan A. Schmutz, General Authority Seventies, offered the prayers.
Elder Ballard delivered the session’s opening remarks with a tribute to the Mormon Pioneers and their lasting legacy and examples. But remember, he added, “the trek through life continues.”
“New converts no longer gather to pioneer settlements in the Western United States,” he said. “Instead, converts gather to their local congregations where the Saints worship our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ. With more than 30,000 congregations established around the world, all are gathered to their own Zion.”
Stay on the gospel path by “pressing forward” and reaching out to all of God’s children in love and compassion, he concluded.
In the Sunday afternoon session’s final talk, Elder Andersen reminded all participating in the global gathering that general conference “is one of the very important times [the Lord] gives direction to His Church and to us personally.”
Departing from his prepared remarks, Elder Andersen gave tribute to his friend, Elder Hales, whose passing was a scant three hours earlier, by sharing three lines from what would have been Elder Hales' talk during the conference: “When we choose to have faith we are prepared to stand in the presence of God. After the Savior’s crucifixion, He appeared only to those who had been faithful in the testimony of Him while they lived in mortality. Those who rejected the testimonies of the prophets could not behold the Savior’s presence nor look upon His face. Our faith prepares us to be in the presence of God.”
The messages shared during the 187th Semiannual General Conference are now available for people to prayerfully study and ponder in the coming days, weeks and months.
“We should not be alarmed when the words of the Lord’s servants run counter to the thinking of the world and, at time, our own thinking,” said Elder Andersen. “It has always been this way. I am on my knees with my brethren, and I attest to the goodness of their souls.
“Their greatest desire is to please the Lord and help God’s children return to His presence”