SALT LAKE CITY — Under an overcast sky dark with unfulfilled promises of rain all weekend, the 183rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints closed Sunday afternoon with a plea from their prophet that church members follow the example of Jesus Christ to be “tolerant of, as well as kind and loving to those who do not share our beliefs and our standards.”
“I pray that we may be aware of the needs around us,” LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson continued as the concluding speaker of the two-day conference. “There are some, particularly among the young, who are tragically involved in drugs, immorality, pornography and so on. There are those who are lonely, including widows and widowers, who long for the company and concern of others. May we ever be ready to extend to them a helping hand and a loving heart.”
President Monson also observed that today’s Latter-day Saints are living at a time when there are both significant challenges and meaningful opportunities in the world.
“There are, of course, those times when we experience disappointments, heartaches and even tragedies in our lives,” he said. “However, if we will put our trust in the Lord, he will help us through our difficulties, whatever they may be. The Psalmist provided this assurance: ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning’.”
The Sunday afternoon general conference session began with messages from two members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Dallin H. Oaks. Elder Holland spoke about the power of belief, and suggested that “in moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won.”
“In the growth we all have to experience in mortality issues (may) surface the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming,” he said. “Hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes.
“The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue — it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know. Nourish your little seedling however small it may be and one day you will reap mature fruit from a mature tree.”
Similarly, he said, “when problems come and questions arise do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have. That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak!
“Now let me be clear on this point,” he continued. “I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!
“Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.”
Elder Holland also urged his listeners to “be patient with human frailty — your own as well as that of those who serve with you in this church led by volunteer men and women.”
“Except in the case of his only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with since time began,” Elder Holland said. “That must be terribly frustrating to him, but he deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of this work.”
Elder Oaks used the four New Testament gospels to examine how the LDS Church and its members qualify as followers of Jesus Christ. Using the scriptures he explored such concepts as baptism, repentance, obedience to the Lord’s commandments, sacramental communion and prayer.
“Jesus’s teachings were not meant to be theoretical,” Elder Oaks said. “Always they were to be acted upon Following Christ is not a casual or occasional practice, but a continuous commitment and way of life that applies at all times and in all places.”
Elder Oaks presented the church’s commitment to marriage between men and women, care of the poor and needy, humanitarian service and missionary outreach “to all the world” as additional examples of how Latter-day Saints follow Jesus’ New Testament teachings.
“From modern revelation, unique to the restored gospel, we know that these teachings are part of God the Father’s plan for the salvation of his children,” Elder Oaks said. “Under that plan we are all heirs of our heavenly parents.
“This means, as we are told in the New Testament, that we are ‘heirs of eternal life,’ and that if we come to the Father, we are to ‘inherit all things’ — all that he has — a concept our mortal minds can hardly grasp. But at least we can understand that achieving this ultimate destiny in eternity is only possible if we follow our Savior, Jesus Christ, who taught that ‘no man cometh unto the Father but by me.’ We seek to follow him and become more like him, here and hereafter.”
A third apostle, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, was the Sunday afternoon conference session’s final speaker (not counting President Monson’s brief concluding remarks). He focused his remarks on the role of Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of mankind.
“Without (the Savior’s) redemption from death and from sin, we have only a gospel of social justice,” Elder Christofferson said. “That may provide some help and reconciliation in the present, but it has no power to draw down from heaven perfect justice and infinite mercy. Ultimate redemption is in Jesus Christ and in him alone.”
Because Latter-day Saints follow and love Jesus Christ, he said, “we seek to participate in and further his redemptive work.”
“The greatest service we can provide to others in this life, beginning with those of our own family, is to bring them to Christ through faith and repentance so that they may experience his redemption – peace and joy now, and immortality and eternal life in the world to come,” Elder Christofferson said. “The work of our missionaries is a magnificent expression of the Lord’s redeeming love. As his authorized messengers, they offer the incomparable blessings of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, opening the way to spiritual rebirth and redemption.”
Genealogy and temple work also allows church members to “assist in the Lord’s redemption of those beyond the grave,” he added.
Elder Christofferson pointed out that there is also an element of redemption that is temporal.
“Jesus is said to have gone about healing the sick and infirm, supplying food to hungry multitudes and teaching a more excellent way,” he said. “This kind of redemptive work means helping people with their problems. It means befriending the poor and the weak, alleviating suffering, righting wrongs, defending truth, strengthening the rising generation and achieving security and happiness at home. Much of our redemptive work on earth is to help others grow and achieve their just hopes and aspirations.”
Four members of the Seventy also spoke during the closing session. Elder Christoffel Golden Jr. explained how “the doctrine of the Father and the Son is the doctrine of the eternal family.” Elder Enrique R. Falabella shared six things he has learned during the course of his life, noting that “these and many lessons are learned in a home, the place that can become a piece of heaven here on earth.” Elder Erich W. Kopischke testified that “having the Holy Ghost as our constant companion is the ultimate indicator of being accepted by God.” And Elder Bruce D. Porter expressed his feeling that “even in a darkening world, we as Latter-day Saints may sing with joy knowing that the powers of heaven are with God’s church and his people.”
Music for the session was provided once again by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
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