Welcome to Conference
Opening Session – 182nd Semiannual General Conference
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Message by President Thomas S. Monson
How good it is, my brothers and sisters, to welcome you to the one hundred and eighty-second semiannual general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Since we met six months ago, three new temples have been dedicated, and one temple has been rededicated. In May it was my privilege to dedicate the beautiful Kansas City Missouri Temple and to attend the cultural celebration associated with it. I will mention that celebration in greater detail in my remarks tomorrow morning.
In June President Uchtdorf dedicated the long-awaited temple in Manaus, Brazil, and in early September President Henry B. Eyring rededicated the newly refurbished temple in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a temple which I had the privilege to dedicate nearly 27 years ago. Just two weeks ago President Boyd K. Packer dedicated the lovely Brigham City Temple in the hometown where he was born and raised.
As I have indicated previously, no Church-built facility is more important than a temple, and we are pleased to have 139 temples in operation throughout the world, with 27 more announced or under construction. We are grateful for these sacred edifices and the blessings they bring into our lives.
We continue to need many more senior couples. As your circumstances allow, as you are eligible for retirement, and as your health permits, I encourage you to make yourselves available for full-time missionary service. Both husband and wife will have great joy as together they serve our Father’s children.
Now my brothers and sisters, may we listen attentively to the messages which will be presented during the next two days, that we may feel the spirit of the Lord and gain the knowledge He would desire for us. That this may be our experience, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Read about the missionary age change at “Astonishing: Church Lowers Age Requirements for Missionaries.”
“Can Ye Feel So Now?”
Elder Quentin L. Cook
Of the Quorum of the Twelve
In one of the most profound verses in all of scripture, Alma proclaims, “…if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?”
Local leaders across the world report that when viewed as a whole, Church members, especially our youth, have never been stronger. But they almost always raise two concerns: first, the challenge of increased unrighteousness in the world and second, the apathy and lack of commitment of some members. They seek counsel about how to help members to follow the Savior and achieve a deep and lasting conversion.
Today moral deterioration has escalated. Many who are in a spiritual drought and lack commitment have not necessarily been involved in major sins or transgressions, but they have made unwise choices. Some are casual in their observance of sacred covenants. Others spend most of their time giving first class devotion to lesser causes. Some allow intense cultural or political views to weaken their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. They then draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed.
Immersion in the scriptures is essential for spiritual nourishment. The word of God inspires commitment and acts as a healing balm for hurt feelings, anger, or disillusionment. When our commitment is diminished for any reason, part of the solution is repentance. Commitment and repentance are closely intertwined.
How we treat those closest to us is of fundamental importance. Violence, abuse, lack of civility, and disrespect in the home are not acceptable – not acceptable for adults, and – not acceptable for the rising generation. My father was not active in the Church but was a remarkably good example, especially in his treatment of my mother. He used to say, “God will hold men responsible for every tear they cause their wives to shed.” This same concept is emphasized in The Family, A Proclamation to the World. It reads: “…Those who abuse spouse or off-spring will one day stand accountable before God.” Regardless of the culture in which we are raised, and whether our parents did or did not abuse us, we must not physically, emotionally, or verbally abuse anyone else.
The need for civility in society has never been more important. The foundation of kindness and civility begins in our homes. It is not surprising that our public discourse has declined in equal measure with the breakdown of the family. The family is the foundation for love and for maintaining spirituality. The family promotes an atmosphere where religious observance can flourish. There is indeed beauty all around when there’s love at home.
Sexual immorality and impure thoughts violate the standard established by the Savior. We were warned at the beginning of this dispensation that sexual immorality would be perhaps the greatest challenge. Such conduct will, without repentance, cause a spiritual drought and loss of commitment. Movies, TV, and the Internet often convey degrading messages and images. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and I were recently in an Amazon jungle village and observed satellite dishes even on some of the small simply built huts. We rejoiced at the wonderful information available in this remote area. We also recognized there is virtually no place on earth that cannot be impacted by salacious, immoral and titillating images. This is one reason why pornography has become such a plague in our day.
Parents, the days are long past when regular active participation in Church meetings and programs, though essential, can fulfill your sacred responsibility to teach your children to live moral, righteous lives and walk uprightly before the Lord. It is essential that this be faithfully accomplished in homes which are places of refuge where kindness, forgiveness, truth and righteousness prevail. Parents must have the courage to filter or monitor internet access, television, movies, and music. Parents must have the courage to say, “No,” defend truth, and bear powerful testimony. Your children need to know that you have faith in the Savior, love your Heavenly Father and sustain the leaders of the Church. Spiritual maturity must flourish in our homes. My hope is that no one will leave this conference without understanding that the moral issues of our day must be addressed in the family.
Bishops, priesthood and auxiliary leaders need to support families and make sure that spiritual principles are taught. Home and visiting teachers can assist, especially with children of single parents.
Youth who have been exposed to immoral images at a very early age are terrified that they may have already disqualified themselves for missionary service and sacred covenants. As a result, their faith can be severely impaired. I want to assure you young people, as Alma taught, that through repentance you can qualify for all the blessings of heaven. That is what the Savior’s atonement is all about. Please talk with your parents or a trusted advisor and counsel with your bishop.
A few years ago, I was in line to make a purchase at my local grocery store. Ahead of me stood a young woman, about sixteen years old. She appeared confident and happy. I noticed her T-shirt and couldn’t resist talking to her. I began, “You’re from out-of-state, aren’t you?” She was surprised by my question and replied, “Yes, I am. I’m from Colorado. How did you know?” I explained, “Because of your T-shirt.” I made my accurate supposition after reading the words on her shirt: “I’m a Mormon. Are you?”
I continued, “I must tell you that I’m impressed by your confidence to stand out and wear such a bold declaration. I see a difference in you, and I wish every young woman, and every member of the Church, could have your same conviction and confidence.” Our purchases completed, we said goodbye, and parted.
Yet, for days and weeks after this random, everyday moment, I found myself seriously reflecting upon this encounter. I wondered how this young girl from Colorado came to possess such confidence in her identity as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I couldn’t help but wonder what meaningful phrase I would, figuratively, choose to have printed on my T-shirt reflecting my belief and testimony. In my mind, I considered many possible sayings. Eventually, I came upon an ideal statement I would proudly wear: “I’m a Mormon. I know it. I live it. I love it.”
The first part of the statement is a self-assured, unapologetic declaration: “I’m a Mormon.” I hope we will never be afraid or reluctant to acknowledge, “I’m a Mormon.” We should be confident, as was the apostle Paul when he proclaimed, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” As members, we are followers of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Such conversion and confidence is the result of diligent and deliberate effort. It is individual. It is the process of a lifetime.
The next part of the statement affirms, “I know it.” In today’s world, there are a multitude of activities, subjects, and interests vying for every minute of our attention. With so many distractions, do we have the strength, discipline, and commitment to remain focused on what matters most? Are we as well versed in gospel truths as we are in our studies, careers, hobbies, or our texts and tweets? Do we actively seek to find answers to our questions by feasting on the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets? Do we seek the confirmation of the Spirit?
All truth and knowledge is important, but amidst the constant distractions of our daily lives, we must especially pay attention to increasing our gospel knowledge so we can understand how to apply gospel principles to our lives. As our gospel knowledge increases, we will begin to feel confident in our testimonies and be able to state, “I know it.”
Next is the statement, “I live it.” The scriptures teach that we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” We live the gospel and become “doers of the word” by exercising faith, being obedient, lovingly serving others, and following the Savior’s example. We act with integrity and do what we know is right “at all times and in all things, and in all places,” no matter who may, or may not, be watching.
The final phrase in my declarative statement is, “I love it.” Gaining a knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ and diligently living gospel principles in our everyday lives leads many members of the Church to exclaim enthusiastically, “I love the gospel!”
This feeling comes as we feel the Holy Ghost witnessing to us that we are children of our Heavenly Father, He is mindful of us and we are on the right path. Our love for the gospel grows as we experience the love of our Father in Heaven and the peace promised by the Savior as we show Him we are willing to obey and follow Him.
An Unspeakable Gift from God
Elder Craig C. Christensen
Who is the Holy Ghost?
The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead, and, as such, like God the Father and Jesus Christ, He knows our thoughts and the intents of our hearts.The Holy Ghost loves us and wants us to be happy. Since He knows the challenges we will face, He can guide us and teach us all things we must do to return and live with our Heavenly Father once again.
Unlike Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, who have glorified bodies of flesh and bones, the Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit who communicates to our spirits through feelings and impressions. As a spirit being, He has the unique responsibility of being an agent through which personal revelation is received. In scripture, the Holy Ghost is often referred to as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit of Promise, or simply the Spirit.
What is the mission of the Holy Ghost?
The Holy Ghost works in perfect unity with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, fulfilling many important roles and distinct responsibilities. The primary purpose of the Holy Ghost is to bear witness of God the Father and of His Son Jesus Christ, and to teach us the truth of all things
The Holy Ghost is also known as the Comforter.
During times of trouble or despair, or simply when we need to know that God is near, the Holy Ghost can lift our spirits, give us hope, and teach us the peaceable things of the kingdom” helping us feel “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.”
The Holy Ghost is a Teacher and a Revelator. As we study, ponder, and pray about gospel truths, the Holy Ghost enlightens our minds and quickens our understanding. He causes the truth to be indelibly written in our souls, and can cause a mighty change to occur in our hearts.
The Holy Ghost inspires us to reach out to others in service.
How does the Holy Ghost speak to us?
President Boyd K. Packer has taught: “The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear… While we speak of listening’ to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, I had a feeling…'” It is through these sacred feelings from the Holy Ghost that we come to know what God would have us do, for this, as stated in scripture, is “the spirit of revelation.”
What does it mean to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost?
Before baptism, all honest and sincere seekers of truth can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost from time to time. However, the opportunity to receive the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and the fullness of all the associated blessings are available only to worthy, baptized members who receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands through those holding the priesthood authority of God.
Through the gift of the Holy Ghost we receive added capacity and spiritual gifts, increased revelation and protection, steady guidance and direction, and the promised blessings of sanctification and exaltation in the celestial kingdom. All of these blessings are given as a result of our personal desire to receive them, and come as we align our lives with the will of God and seek His constant direction.
I would like to speak to those who have lost a child, and have asked the question, “Why me?” or maybe even questioned your own faith in a loving Father in Heaven. It is my prayer that by the power of the Holy Ghost, I may bring some measure of hope, of peace and of understanding.
When [our son] Tyson was eight months old he aspirated a piece of chalk that he had found on the carpet. The chalk lodged in Tyson’s throat and he quit breathing. The paramedics arrived and rushed Tyson to the hospital. In the waiting room, we continued in fervent prayer as we plead to God for a miracle. After what seemed a lifetime, the doctor came into the room and said, “I am so sorry. There is nothing more that we can do. Take all the time you need.” She then left.
At that moment it felt as if our world had come to an end. It is impossible to describe the mixture of feelings that I had at that point in my life. Most of the time I felt as if I were in a bad dream and that I would soon wake up and this terrible nightmare would be over.
Feelings of guilt racked my soul. I was his father; I should have done more to protect him. If only I would have done this or that… This isn’t fair! How could God do this to me? Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I even felt myself get angry with people who were just trying to comfort us.
Through very personal sacred experiences, the Lord gave me a new heart, and even though it was still lonely and painful, my whole outlook changed. I was given to know that I had not been robbed, but rather that there was a great blessing awaiting me if I would prove faithful.
My life started to change and I was able to look forward with hope, rather than look backward with despair. I testify that this life is not the end. The Spirit world is real. The teachings of the prophets regarding life after death are true. This life is but a transitory step forward on our journey back to our Heavenly Father.
Sometimes people will ask, “How long did it take you to get over it?” The truth is, you will never completely get over it until you are together once again with your departed loved ones. I have learned that the bitter, almost unbearable pain can become sweet as you turn to your Father in Heaven and plead for His comfort that comes through His plan, His son Jesus Christ and His Comforter who is the Holy Ghost.
What a glorious blessing this is in our lives. Wouldn’t it be tragic if we didn’t feel great sorrow when we lose a child? How grateful I am to my Father in Heaven that he allows us to love deeply and love eternally. How grateful I am for eternal families. How grateful I am that he has revealed once again through His living prophets the glorious plan of redemption.
I testify that because of Him even our Savior Jesus Christ, those feelings of sorrow, loneliness and despair will one day be swallowed up in a fullness of joy.
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
“Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.”
I testify that on that bright glorious morning of the first resurrection, your loved ones and mine will come forth from the grave as promised by the Lord himself and we will have a fullness of joy. Because he lives, they and we shall live also. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
In this vast world-wide audience, many of you are not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and know very little about us and our missionaries.
You are tuned in because you want to know more about the Mormons, and what our missionaries teach. As you learn more about us, you will find that we share many of the same values.We encourage you to keep all that is good and true, and then see if we can add more.
Our young missionaries set aside their education, occupation, dating, and whatever else young adults would typically be doing at this stage of life. For 18 to 24 months, they put it all on hold, because of their deep desire to serve the Lord. And some of our missionaries serve in their more mature years of life. I know their families are blessed…
[Missionaries] are blessed with gifts-such as the power of the Holy Spirit, the love of God, and testimonies of the truth-that make them powerful ambassadors of the Lord.
Some of you are members, but not presently participating. You love the Lord and often think of returning to His fold. But you don’t know how to start. I suggest that you ask the missionaries! They can help you! They can also help by teaching your loved ones. We and the missionaries love you and desire to bring joy and the light of the gospel back into your lives.
Some of you may want to know how to conquer an addiction, or live longer, and enjoy better health. Ask the missionaries! They can help you!
Some of you may feel that life is busy and frenetic, yet down deep in your heart you feel a gnawing emptiness, without direction or purpose. Ask the missionaries! They can help you! They can help you to learn more about the true purpose of life-why you are here on earth, and where you are going after death. You can learn how the restored gospel of Jesus Christ will bless your life beyond anything you can presently even imagine.
If you have concerns about your family, ask the missionaries! They can help you! Strengthening marriages and families is of utmost importance to Latter-day Saints. Families can be together forever. Ask the missionaries to teach you how this is possible for your family.
Missionaries can also help you with your desire for greater knowledge. The human spirit yearns for enlightenment. Whether truth comes from a scientific laboratory or by revelation from God, we seek it! The glory of God indeed is intelligence.
Increase in learning includes spiritual as well as temporal knowledge. We stress the importance of understanding sacred scriptures.
Many of you have a deep desire to help people in need. Anyone may join with us to help the needy and provide relief to victims of disaster anywhere in the world. If you want to participate, ask the missionaries! They can help you!
And if you want to know more about life after death, about heaven, about God’s plan for you; if you want to know more about the Lord Jesus Christ, His atonement, and the restoration of His church as it was originally established, ask the missionaries! They can help you!
I Wish I Had Spent More Time with the People I Love
Perhaps the most universal regret dying patients expressed was that they wished they had spent more time with the people they love.
Isn’t it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life.
In our day, it is easy to merely pretend to spend time with others. With the click of a mouse we can “connect” with thousands of “friends” without ever having to face a single one of them. Technology can be a wonderful thing, and it is particularly useful when we cannot be near our loved ones… I believe that we are not headed in the right direction, individually and as a society, when the most frequent way we connect with family or friends is by re-posting humorous pictures, forwarding trivial things, or linking them to sites on the Internet… If we fail to give our best personal self and undivided time to those who are truly important to us, one day we will regret it.
Let us resolve to cherish those we love by being by their sides, spending meaningful time with them, and cultivating treasured memories.
I Wish I Had Lived Up to My Potential
Another regret people expressed was that they failed to become the person they felt they could and should have been. When they looked back on their lives, they realized that they never lived up to their potential, that too many songs remained unsung.
I am not speaking here of climbing the ladder of success in our various professions. That ladder, no matter how lofty it may appear on this earth, barely amounts to a single step in the great eternal journey awaiting us.
Rather, I am speaking of becoming the person God intended us to be.
When it comes to living the gospel, we should not be like the boy who dipped his toe in the water and then claimed he went swimming. As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we are capable of so much more. For that, good intentions are not enough. We must do. Even more important, we must become what Heavenly Father wants us to be.
Declaring our testimony of the gospel is good, but being a living example of the restored gospel is better. Wishing to be more faithful to our covenants is good; actually keeping the Word of Wisdom, paying our tithes and offerings, and serving those in need is much better. Announcing that we will dedicate more time for family prayer, scripture study, and wholesome family activities is good; but actually doing all these things will bring heavenly blessings to our lives.
Let us resolve, therefore, to follow the Savior and work with diligence to become the person we were designed to become. Let us listen to and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As we do so, Heavenly Father will reveal to us things we never knew about ourselves. He will illuminate the path ahead and open our eyes to see our unknown and perhaps unimagined talents.
I Wish I Had Let Myself Be Happier
Another regret of those who knew they were dying may be somewhat surprising.
They wished they had let themselves be happier.
So often we get caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness-a better family situation, a better financial situation, or the end of a challenging trial. The older we get, the more we look back and realize that external circumstances don’t really matter or determine our happiness.
We do matter. We determine our happiness. You and I are ultimately in charge of our own happiness.
Sometimes in life, we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey. I don’t go cycling with my wife because I’m excited about finishing. I go because the experience of being with her is sweet and enjoyable.
Doesn’t it seem foolish to miss out on sweet and joyful experiences because we are constantly anticipating the moment when they will end?
We shouldn’t wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover-that happiness was available-all the time! No matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it.
One day we will look back at our lives and wonder if we could have been better, made better decisions, or used our time more wisely.
To avoid some of the deepest regrets of life, we would be wise to make some resolutions today. Therefore, let us,
Resolve to spend more time with those we love.
Resolve to strive more earnestly to become the person God wants us to be.
Resolve to find happiness, regardless of our circumstances.
It is my testimony that many of the deepest regrets of tomorrow can be prevented by following the Savior today. If we have sinned or made mistakes-if we have made choices that we now regret-there is the precious gift of Christ’s Atonement, through which we can be forgiven. We cannot go back in time and change the past, but we can repent.
Yes, this life is passing swiftly; our days seem to fade quickly; and death appears frightening at times. Nevertheless, our spirit will continue to live and will one day be united with our resurrected body to receive immortal glory. I bear solemn witness that because of the merciful Christ, we will all live again and forever…
I pray that we will not wait until we are ready to die before we truly learn to live, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.