The 192nd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wraps up Sunday with two more sessions.
President Russell M. Nelson, leader of the 16.8 million-member global faith, delivered a major address Sunday morning. Dallin H. Oaks, his first counselor in the governing First Presidency, was also expected to give a sermon Sunday.
At the conference’s close, Nelson also traditionally gives brief remarks and announces new temples to be built.
Saturday’s speakers — appearing before 10,000 in-person attendees at a Conference Center allowed back at half-capacity in Salt Lake City and millions more watching and listening remotely around the world — focused on the importance of young members, especially men, serving missions, while discussing topics ranging from suicide prevention to abuse survivors and the church’s doctrine of Heavenly Mother.
Leaders named new general presidencies for the women’s Relief Society and children’s Primary organizations. The church also released growth figures for 2021, showing membership increased by about 0.8% during the year.
Here are the latest updates from Sunday’s sessions, during which The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square performed as well:
President Russell M. Nelson’s temple tally hits 100
In his closing remarks at General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson announced 17 new temples, bringing the number he’s announced under his leadership to 100.
The new temples will be built in:
• Wellington, New Zealand.
• Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.
• Barcelona, Spain.
• Birmingham, United Kingdom.
• Cusco, Peru.
• Maceio, Brazil.
• Santos, Brazil.
• San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
• Mexico City Benemérito, Mexico.
• Tampa, Fla.
• Knoxville, Tenn.
• Cleveland, Ohio.
• Wichita, Kan.
• Austin, Texas.
• Missoula, Mont.
• Montpelier, Idaho.
• Modesto, Calif.
Utah has 28 existing or planned temples. No new temples for the Beehive State were announced.
Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf: Offer your ‘whole souls’
Riding a bike means learning to balance and flying an airplane requires upward lift, said apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf. “Just as forward momentum keeps a bicycle balanced and upright, moving forward helps an aircraft overcome the pull of gravity and drag.”
What does this mean for disciples of Jesus Christ? Uchtdorf asked. “It means that if we want to find balance in life, and if we want the Savior to lift us heavenward, then our commitment to him and his gospel can’t be casual or occasional.”
He then described the difference between sacrifice and consecration. These two “are similar,” he said, “but not identical.”
To sacrifice means “to give something up in favor of something more valuable,” Uchtdorf said. “…When we consecrate something, we don’t leave it to be consumed on the altar. Rather, we put it to use in the Lord’s service. We dedicate it to him and his holy purposes. We receive the talents that the Lord has given us and strive to increase them, manifold, to become even more helpful in building the Lord’s kingdom. Very few of us will ever be asked to sacrifice our lives for the Savior. But we are all invited to consecrate our lives to him.”
As members look at their lives and see a hundred things to do, they may “feel overwhelmed,” he said. “When we see one thing — loving and serving God and his children, in a hundred different ways — then we can focus on those things with joy.”
This is how Latter-day Saints “offer our whole souls,” he said, “by sacrificing anything that’s holding us back and consecrating the rest to the Lord and his purposes.”
Seventy Randy D. Funk: ‘Come fully into the fold’
General authority Seventy Randy D. Funk drew on the metaphor of Christ as “the Good Shepherd” and the value of being part of the “fold.”
A fold or sheepfold “is a large enclosure, often constructed with stone walls, where the sheep are protected at night. It has only one opening,” Funk said. “At the end of the day, the shepherd calls the sheep. They know his voice and through the gate they enter the safety of the fold.”
Among church members “there may be some who feel they are at the edge of the flock, perhaps thinking they are less needed or valued or that they don’t belong in the fold,” he said. “And, as in the sheepfold, in the fold of God we sometimes step on one another’s toes and need to repent or forgive.”
But the “Good Shepherd — our true shepherd — is always good,” Funk said. “Within the fold of God, we experience his watchful, nurturing care and are blessed to feel his redeeming love.”
Everyone has a different experience with the flock, he said. “My dear friends, please continue the journey — and help others — to come fully into the fold of God. The blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ are immeasurable because they are eternal.”
Apostle Ulisses Soares: Be ‘truly in awe’ of Jesus
Apostle Ulisses Soares said being “truly in awe” of Jesus Christ and his gospel “makes people happier and more enthusiastic about God’s work.”
“Our study of God’s words is more meaningful. Our prayers, more intentional. Our worship, more reverent. Our service in God’s kingdom, more diligent.” And all that, he said, contributes “to the Holy Spirit’s influence being more frequent in our lives.”
A lack of enthusiasm “causes us to take the gospel gifts for granted. … Consequently, we gradually distance ourselves from the Lord … making us vulnerable to the enemy’s temptations.” Soares added. “There is always something wonderful and fascinating to learn about Jesus Christ and his gospel. … As we genuinely and continually strive to learn of the Savior and follow his example, I promise you, in his name, that … we will become more like him, and that we will walk with him.”
Sunday school leader Mark Pace touts ‘miracle’ of conversion
Conversion through the scriptures and the Holy Ghost is “the miracle we seek,” said Mark L. Pace, Sunday school general president. “Long-lasting conversion is a lifelong process. Conversion is our goal.”
To be most effective, Pace told members, their experiences “with the scriptures must be your own. Reading or hearing about another person’s experiences and insights can be helpful, but that won’t bring the same converting power.”
He added: “There is no substitute for the time you spend in the scriptures, hearing the Holy Ghost speak directly to you.”
Seventy Jörg Klebingat: LDS leaders teach ‘inconvenient truths’
“God won’t force us to do good,” said general authority Seventy Jörg Klebingat, “and the devil can’t force us to do evil.”
The native German said that the commandments, “if not ignored altogether, have been rationalized into meaninglessness by many in today’s world,” and that “messengers of God who teach inconvenient truths are often dismissed” — making it “almost impossible to courageously live our faith without occasionally attracting a few actual and virtual fingers of scorn from the worldly.”
But, Klebingat added, faithful followers should not be intimidated or afraid. “There is no need to sacrifice truth on the altar of agreeableness and social desirability,” he said. And he defended members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who “frequently become the lightning rods for those unhappy with the word of God as the prophets proclaim it. … Their words we should receive as if from the Lord’s own mouth.”
He concluded: “It’s a good day to be good!”
Seventy Adeyinka A. Ojediran: Do what God commands
All people are “expected to prepare to return to God’s presence,” said general authority Seventy Adeyinka A. Ojediran, “by proving” they will “‘do all things whatsoever the Lord our God will command us.’”
Latter-day Saints can “come unto Christ by exercising faith in him, repenting daily, making covenants with God as we receive the ordinances of salvation and exaltation, and enduring to the end by keeping those covenants,” the native Nigerian said, emphasizing keeping the Holy Ghost as “our constant companion” and partaking of the sacrament to help “steadfastly press forward along the covenant path.”
President Dallin H. Oaks: God’s plans for marriage will win out
To reach the highest degree of “celestial glory” in the afterlife, mortals must follow the church’s “revealed doctrine” and “established commandments,” including “faithfulness to the covenants of an eternal marriage between a man and a woman,” Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency, said Sunday afternoon.
That is why the Utah-based faith teaches, Oaks said, that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose.”
It is also why God has required the church “to oppose social and legal pressures to retreat from his doctrine of marriage between a man and a woman,” he said, “and to oppose changes that confuse or alter gender or homogenize the differences between men and women.”
The church’s positions on these fundamentals “frequently provoke opposition. We understand that,” Oaks said. God’s plan “allows for ‘opposition in all things,’ and Satan’s most strenuous opposition is directed at whatever is most important to that plan.”
The devil seeks to oppose “progress toward exaltation by confusing gender, distorting marriage, and discouraging childbearing,” he said. “However, we know that in the long run the divine purpose and plan of our loving Heavenly Father will not be changed.”
Indeed, these principles are spelled out in the church’s 1995 family proclamation, he said, which is “founded on irrevocable doctrine.”
Its declarations “are, of course, different from some current laws, practices and advocacy, such as cohabitation and same-sex marriage,” Oaks said, but they define the “kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur.”
God desires all of humanity “to strive for his highest possible blessings by keeping his highest commandments, covenants and ordinances, all of which culminate in his holy temples being built throughout the world,” Oaks said. “We must seek to share these truths of eternity with others.”
President Russell M. Nelson: Defeat the enemies within yourself
As the concluding speaker Sunday morning, 97-year-old President Russell M. Nelson — who, after more than four years at the helm, is poised in a matter of days to become the longest-living prophet-president in the faith’s 192-year history — opened by bemoaning the armed conflict in Eastern Europe.
“I have been to Ukraine and Russia many times. I love those lands, the people, and their languages. I weep and pray for all who are affected by this conflict,” Nelson said. “The church is doing all we can to help those who are suffering and struggling to survive. We invite everyone to continue to fast and pray for all the people being hurt by this calamity. Any war is a horrifying violation of everything the Lord Jesus Christ taught and stands for.”
No one, however, can “control nations, or the actions of others, or even members of our own families, he said. “But we can each control ourselves.”
The Latter-day Saint leader, considered a “prophet, seer and revelator” by the faithful, urged members “to end the conflicts that are raging in your heart, your home and your life. Bury any and all inclinations to hurt others — whether those inclinations be a temper, a sharp tongue, or a resentment for someone who has hurt you.”
After watching a basketball game, Nelson noticed how the momentum had changed from the first half to the second, leading the team with it to win the game. He pivoted from that example to describe “spiritual momentum,” which can help believers move forward in their faith.
“We have seen examples of both positive and negative momentum,” he said. “We know followers of Jesus Christ who became converted and grew in their faith. But we also know of once-committed believers who fell away. Momentum can swing either way. We have never needed positive spiritual momentum more than we do now, to counteract the speed with which evil and the darker signs of the times are intensifying.”
It will help calm troubled hearts, he said, “amid the fear and uncertainty created by pandemics, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and armed hostilities. …[It] can help [members] withstand the relentless, wicked attacks of the adversary and thwart his efforts to erode our personal spiritual foundation.”
Easter is just two weeks away, Nelson said, and he invited members between now and then “to seek an end to a personal conflict that has weighed you down.”
Could there be “a more fitting act of gratitude to Jesus Christ?” he asked. “If forgiveness presently seems impossible, plead for power through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ to help you. As you do so, I promise personal peace and a burst of spiritual momentum.”
Seventy Hugo E. Martinez: Self-reliance is a lifelong process
Adults can “best be on the path towards self-reliance,” said general authority Seventy Hugo E. Martinez, “when they have been taught the gospel of Jesus Christ and have practiced its doctrine and principles since childhood.”
Self-reliance is a doctrine of the gospel, said the native of Puerto Rico, “a process that lasts a lifetime, not an event.” It requires “growing in spiritual strength, physical and emotional health, pursuing our education and employment, and being temporally prepared.”
Martinez advised parents to “regularly apply the principles of the Children and Youth development program” — and to “participate in service and activities.”
“Is this task ever finished during our lives?” Martinez asked. “No, it is a lifelong process of learning, growth and work.”
Apostle Ronald A. Rasband touts religious freedom
Apostle Ronald A. Rasband spoke passionately about what he said was “another scourge sweeping the globe — attacks on your and my religious freedom.”
These attacks work “to remove religion and faith in God from the public square, schools, community standards and civic discourse,” Rasband said. “Opponents of religious freedom seek to impose restrictions on expressions of heartfelt convictions. They even criticize and ridicule faith traditions. Such an attitude marginalizes people, devaluing personal principles, fairness, respect, spirituality and peace of conscience.”
In the LDS Church’s beginnings, “opposition, persecution and violence plagued our first latter-day prophet, Joseph Smith, and his followers.”
In response, Smith published 13 fundamental tenets of the growing church including this one: “We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege; let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
His statement “is inclusive, liberating and respectful,” Rasband said. “That is the essence of religious freedom.”
The apostles spelled out four ways societies benefit from religious freedom:
• It helps believers place “God at the center of our lives.”
• It fosters “expressions of belief, hope and peace.”
• It “inspires people to help others.”
• It acts as “a unifying and rallying force for shaping values and morality.”
The good of religion, “its reach, and the daily acts of love,” Rasband said, “which religion inspires, only multiply when we protect the freedom to express and act on core beliefs.”
Seventy Michael T. Ringwood: Help other return to God
God sent Jesus Christ to lay down his life “for every one of us.”
“This he did because he loves us and designed a plan for each of us to return home to him,” said general authority Seventy Michael T. Ringwood. “….But this is not a blanket, catch-all, hit-and-miss sort of plan. It is personal, set forth by a loving Heavenly Father, who knows our hearts, our names, and what he needs us to do.”
And then everyone has others who help them, Ringwood said.
“No matter who you are or your current circumstances, someone…wants to return to Heavenly Father with you,” he said. “I am grateful for those who never give up on us, who continue to pour out their souls in prayer for us, and who continue to teach and help us qualify to return home to our Father in Heaven.”
And why does this “personalized plan for us include helping others return to him?” Ringwood asked. Because “that is how we become like Jesus Christ.”
Apostle Gary E. Stevenson: Love, share and invite
Apostle Gary E. Stevenson urged all Latter-day Saints to act as missionaries “through simple, easily understandable principles taught to each of us from childhood — love, share and invite.”
He went on to counsel:
• “Whenever we show Christlike love towards our neighbor, we preach the gospel — even if we do not voice a single word.”
• He urged members to “simply add to the list of things we already share” the things “we love about the gospel of Jesus Christ. … When it comes to missionary work, God doesn’t need you to be his sheriff. He does, however, ask that you be his sharer.”
• “There are hundreds of invitations we can extend to others,” he said. “As we invite others to learn more about the gospel of Jesus Christ, we take part in the Savior’s call to engage in the work of his commission.”
Primary leader Amy A. Wright: Christ is the healer
Jesus Christ will help believers “successfully navigate the things in our lives that are broken, no matter our age,” said Amy A. Wright, second counselor and soon-to-be first counselor in the Primary general presidency. “He can heal broken relationships with God, broken relationships with others, and broken parts of ourselves.”
Christ knows everyone’s “complete story and exactly what we suffer, as well as our capabilities and vulnerabilities,” Wright said. “…He is the source of healing all that is broken in our lives. As the great mediator and advocate with the Father, Christ sanctifies and restores broken relationships — most importantly our relationship with God. “
Wright, one of five women to give sermons at the weekend’s conference, has spent many hours at a cancer treatment facility “united in my suffering with many who were yearning to be healed. Some lived; others did not,” she said in her sermon. “I learned in a profound way that deliverance from our trials is different for each of us, and therefore our focus should be less about the way in which we are delivered and more about the deliverer himself. Our emphasis should always be on Jesus Christ. Exercising faith in Christ means trusting not only in God’s will but also in his timing. For he knows exactly what we need and precisely when we need it.”
Everyone has something in their life “that is broken that needs to be mended, fixed or healed,” Wright said. “…I testify that there is nothing in your life that is broken that is beyond the curative, redeeming and enabling power of Jesus Christ.”
Apostle D. Todd Christofferson: Trust God no matter the circumstance
Apostle D. Todd Christofferson warned church members not to “presume to judge God. To think, for example, ‘I’m not happy, so God must be doing something wrong.’”
Serving a mission is not a guarantee of a “happy marriage and children.” Avoiding doing schoolwork on the Sabbath is not a guarantee of good grades. Paying tithing is not a guarantee that “God will bless me with that job I’ve been wanting,” Christofferson said. While it is “essential that we honor and obey” God’s laws, “not every blessing predicated on obedience to law is shaped, designed, and timed according to our expectations.”
The apostle emphasized that the Almighty doesn’t always intervene and relieve suffering or pain, even for the faithful.
“In the end, it is the blessing of a close and abiding relationship with the Father and the Son that we seek,” he said. “It makes all the difference and is everlastingly worth the cost.”
The process of purification, Christofferson continued, “will, of necessity, be wrenching and painful at times. … In the midst of this refiner’s fire, rather than get angry with God, get close to God.”