Welcome to Conference
President Thomas S. Monson
Of the First Presidency
How good it is, my beloved brothers and sisters, to meet together once again. It has been just over 183 years since the Church was organized by the Prophet Joseph Smith, under the direction of the Lord. At that meeting on April 6, 1830, there were 30 members of the Church present.
I am happy to announce that two weeks ago the membership of the Church reached fifteen million. The Church continues to grow steadily and to change the lives of more and more people every year. It is spreading across the earth as our missionary force seeks out those who are searching for the truth.
It has scarcely been one year since I announced the lowering of the age of missionary service. Since that time, the number of full-time missionaries serving has increased from 58,500 in October 2012 to 80,333 today. What a tremendous and inspiring response we have witnessed!
The holy scriptures contain no proclamation more relevant, no responsibility more binding, no instruction more direct than the injunction given by the resurrected Lord as He appeared in Galilee to the eleven disciples. Said He: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The Prophet Joseph Smith declared: “After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.” Some of you here today will yet remember the words of President David O. McKay, who phrased the familiar “Every member a missionary!”
General Conference: Strengthening Faith and Testimony
Elder Robert D. Hales
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
In recent decades, the Church has largely been spared the terrible misunderstandings and persecutions experienced by the early Saints. It will not always be so. The world is moving away from the Lord faster and farther than ever before. The adversary has been loosed upon the earth. We watch, hear, read, study, and share the words of prophets to be forewarned and protected. For example, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was given long before we experienced the challenges now facing the family. “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles” was prepared in advance of when we will need it most.
We may not know all the reasons why the prophets and conference speakers address certain topics in conference, but the Lord does. President Harold B. Lee taught: “The only safety we have as members of this church is to . . . give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet. . . . There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your personal views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you and cause the heavens to shake for your good and His name’s glory.'”
How did President Lee know what we would be facing in our day? He knew because he is a prophet, seer, and revelator. And if we listen and obey the prophets now, including those who will speak in this very conference, we will be strengthened and protected.
Be Meek and Lowly of Heart
Elder Ulisses Soares
Of the Presidency of the Seventy
One of the most beautiful modern-day examples of meekness that I am aware of is that of Brother Moses Mahlangu. His conversion began in 1964 when he received a copy of the Book of Mormon. He was fascinated as he read this book, but it was not until the early 70’s that he saw an LDS Church sign on a building in Johannesburg, South Africa as he was walking down a street. Brother Mahlangu was intrigued and entered the building to learn more about the Church. He was kindly told that he could not attend the services or be baptized because the country’s laws did not allow it at that time.
Brother Mahlangu accepted that decision with meekness, humility, and without resentment, but he continued to have a strong desire to learn more about the Church. He asked the Church leaders if they could leave one of the meetinghouse windows open during the Sunday meetings so he could sit outside and listen to the services. For several years, Brother Mahlangu’s family and friends attended church regularly ‘through the window’.
One day in 1980 they were told that they could attend church and also be baptized. What a glorious day for Brother Mahlangu. Later, the Church organized a branch in his neighborhood in Soweto. This was only possible because of the determination, courage, and faithfulness of people like Brother Mahlangu who remained faithful for so many years under difficult circumstances.
One of Brother Mahlangu’s friends, who had joined the Church at the same time, recounted this story to me when I visited the Soweto Stake. At the end of our conversation he gave me a hug. At that moment I felt as if I was encircled in the Savior’s loving arms. Meekness emanated from this good brother’s eyes. With a heart full of goodness and deep gratitude, he asked if I could tell President Monson how grateful and blessed he and many others were for having the true gospel in their lives. Brother Mahlangu and his friend’s example of meekness truly influenced many lives for good-especially mine.
Do We Know What We Have?
Sister Carole M. Stephens
Of the Relief Society General Presidency
Elder Ballard…taught: “Our Father in Heaven is generous with His power. All men and women have access to this power for help in our own lives. All who have made sacred covenants with the Lord, and who honor those covenants, are eligible to receive personal revelation, to be blessed by the ministering of angels, and to commune with God.”
We all need each other. Sons of God need daughters of God, and daughters of God need sons of God.
We have different gifts and different strengths. 1 Corinthians chapter 12 emphasizes the need for sons and daughters of God, each one of us, to fulfill our individual roles and responsibilities according to the Lord’s plan “that all may benefit.”
Sons of God, do you know who you are? Do you know what you have? Are you worthy to exercise the priesthood and receive the power and blessings of the priesthood? Do you embrace your roles and responsibilities to strengthen homes as fathers, grandfathers, sons, brothers, and uncles? Do you show respect for women, womanhood, and motherhood?
Daughters of God, do you know who you are? Do you know what you have? Are you worthy to receive the power and blessings of the priesthood? Do you receive the gifts given to you with gratitude, grace, and dignity? Do you embrace your roles and responsibilities to strengthen homes as mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts? Do you show respect for men, manhood, and fatherhood?
As covenant sons and daughters, do we have faith in our Heavenly Father and His eternal plan for us? Do we have faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement? Do we believe that we have a divine nature and destiny? And in our efforts to achieve this destiny and receive all that the Father has, do we understand the importance of receiving priesthood ordinances and making, keeping, and renewing covenants with the Lord?
Look Ahead and Believe
Elder Edward Dube
Of the Quorum of the Seventy
As a boy, while working in the fields with my mother, she taught me one of the most important lessons in life. It was late in the morning, the sun was up and we had been hoeing for what I thought to be a very long time. I stopped to look back at what we had accomplished, and said to my mother, “Look at all we have done!” Mother did not respond. Thinking that she had not heard me, I repeated what I had said a little louder. She still did not reply. Raising my voice a little higher I repeated again. Finally, she turned to me and said, “Edward, never look back, look ahead at what we still have to do.”
My dear brothers and sisters, the covenant we made with the Lord when we were baptized, “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] ye may be in” (Mosiah 18:9), is a lifelong commitment. President Uchtdorf counseled; “Those who have entered the waters of baptism and received the gift of the Holy Ghost have set their feet on the path of discipleship and are charged to follow steadily and faithfully in the footsteps of our Savior”. The Lord through His servants calls us to serve in various callings, which we accept with total commitment. When a release has been extended and a call in a different assignment has been issued, we joyfully accept it knowing as our fore-bearers knew that “in the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how”.
The Windows of Heaven
Elder David A. Bednar
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Often as we teach about the law of tithing, we emphasize the immediate, dramatic, and readily recognizable temporal blessings that we receive. And surely such blessings do occur. Yet some of the diverse blessings we obtain as we are obedient to this commandment are significant but subtle. Such blessings can only be discerned if we are both spiritually attentive and observant (see 1 Corinthians 2:14).
The imagery of the “windows” of heaven used by Malachi is most instructive. Windows allow natural light to enter into a building. In like manner, spiritual illumination and perspective are poured out through the windows of heaven and into our lives as we honor the law of tithing. For example, a subtle but significant blessing we receive is the spiritual gift of gratitude that enables our appreciation for what we have to constrain desires for what we want. A grateful person is rich in contentment. An ungrateful person suffers in the poverty of endless discontentment (see Luke 12:15).
We may need and pray for help to find suitable employment. Eyes and ears of faith (see Ether 12:19) are needed, however, to recognize the spiritual gift of enhanced discernment that can empower us to identify job opportunities that many other people might overlook-or the blessing of greater personal determination to search harder and longer for a position than other people may be able or willing to do. We might want and expect a job offer, but the blessing that comes to us through heavenly windows may be greater capacity to act and change our own circumstances rather than expecting our circumstances to be changed by someone or something else.
We may appropriately desire and work to receive a pay raise in our employment to better provide the necessities of life. Eyes and ears of faith are required, however, to notice in us an increased spiritual and temporal capacity (see Luke 2:52) to do more with less, a keener ability to prioritize and simplify, and an enhanced ability to take proper care of the material possessions we already have acquired. We might want and expect a larger paycheck, but the blessing that comes to us through heavenly windows may be greater capacity to change our own circumstances rather than expecting our circumstances to be changed by someone or something else.
Come, Join With Us
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Of the First Presidency
The search for truth has led millions of people to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, there are some who leave the Church they once loved.
One might ask, “If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?”
Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.
Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.
In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves.
Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past.
We openly acknowledge that in nearly two hundred years of Church history-along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events-there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.
Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.
Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others.
And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.
I suppose the Church would only be perfect if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us-His imperfect children-and imperfect people make mistakes.
In the Book of Mormon we read, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”
This is the way it has always been and will be until the perfect day when Christ Himself reigns personally upon the earth.
It is unfortunate that some have stumbled because of mistakes made by men. But in spite of this, the eternal truth of the restored gospel found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not tarnished, diminished, or destroyed.
As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and as one who has seen firsthand the councils and workings of this Church, I bear solemn witness, that no decision of significance affecting this Church or its members is ever made without earnestly seeking the inspiration, guidance, and approbation of our Eternal Father. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. God will not allow His Church to drift from its appointed course nor fail to fulfill its divine destiny.
To those who have separated themselves from the Church I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here.