Welcome to Conference
President Thomas S. Monson
President: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The past six months have gone by quickly as the work of the Church has moved forward unhindered. It was my privilege just over a month ago to dedicate the Gilbert Arizona Temple, a magnificent structure. The evening before the dedication a cultural event was held at the nearby Discovery Park. Twelve thousand young people performed a ninety-minute program. The dancing, the singing, and the musical performances were outstanding.
This area had been experiencing an especially dry season, and I believe many prayers had been sent heavenward over the preceding several weeks for much-needed rain. Unfortunately, it came just before the performance and stayed for the entire production! Despite the fact that the youth were soaked through with the rain and chilled from the cool temperature, we all felt the Spirit of the Lord. The theme of the program, “Live True to the Faith”, was portrayed magnificently by smiling and enthusiastic young men and young women. Despite the cold and the rain, this was a faith-filled and inspiring experience these young people will ever treasure and will be relating to their children and grandchildren in years to come.
…In May the Ft. Lauderdale Florida Temple will be dedicated. Other temples are scheduled to be completed and dedicated later this year. In 2015 we anticipate completing and dedicating new temples in many parts of the world. This process will continue. When all the previously announced temples are completed, we will have one hundred and seventy operating temples throughout the world.
The Cost-and Blessings of Discipleship
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
I say to all and especially the youth of the Church that if you haven’t already, you will one day find yourself called upon to defend your faith or even endure some personal abuse simply because you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Such moments will require both courage and courtesy on your part. For example, a sister missionary wrote recently, “My companion and I saw a man sitting on a bench in the town square eating his lunch. As we drew near, he looked up and saw our missionary name tags. With a terrible look in his eye he jumped up and raised his hand to hit me. I ducked just in time only to have him spit his food all over me and start swearing the most horrible things at us. We walked away saying nothing. I tried to wipe the food of of my face, only to feel a clump of mashed potato hit me in the back of the head. Sometimes it is hard being a missionary because right then I wanted to go back, grab that little man and say “EXCUSE ME!” But I didn’t.
To this devoted missionary I say, dear child, you have in your own humble way stepped in to a circle of very distinguished women and men who have, as the Book of Mormon Prophet Jacob said, “View[ed Christ’s] death and suffer[ed] his cross and [borne] the shame of the world.” Indeed of Jesus himself, Jacob’s brother Nephi wrote:
“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.”
In keeping with the Savior’s own experience, there has been a long history of rejection and a painfully high price paid by prophets and apostles, missionaries and members in every generation who have tried to honor God’s call to lift the human family to “a more excellent way.”
…And therein lies a message for every young man and young woman in this Church. You may wonder if it is worth it to take a courageous moral stand in high school, or to go on a mission only to have your most cherished beliefs reviled, or to strive against much in society that sometimes ridicules a life of religious devotion. Yes, it is worth it, because the alternative is to have our “houses” left unto us “desolate”-desolate individuals, desolate families, desolate neighborhoods and desolate nations.
So here we have the burden of those called to bear the messianic message. In addition to teaching, encouraging, and cheering people on (that is the peasant part of discipleship), from time to time these same messengers are called upon to worry, to warn, and sometimes just to weep (that is the painful part). They know full well that the road leading to the Promised Land “flowing with milk and honey” of necessity runs by way of Mount Sinai flowing with “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.”
Unfortunately messengers of divinely mandated commandments are often no more popular today than they were anciently, as at least two spit-upon potato-spattered sister missionaries can attest. Hate is an ugly word, yet there are those today who would say with the corrupt Ahab, “I hate [the prophet Micaiah]; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always [prophesied] evil. That kind of hate for a prophet’s honesty cost Abinadi his life. As he said to King Noah, “Because I have told you the truth ye are angry with me…Because I have spoken the word of God ye have judged me that I am mad” or we might add, provincial, patriarchal, bigoted, unkind, narrow, outmoded and elderly.”
…Sadly enough, my young friends, it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds. Talk about man creating God in his own image! Sometimes-and this seems the greatest irony of all-these folks invoke the name of Jesus as one who was this kind of “comfortable” God. Really? He who said not only should we not break commandments, but we should not even think about breaking them. And if we do think about breaking them we have already broken them in our heart. Does that sound like “comfortable” doctrine, easy on the ear and popular down at the village love-in?”
The Joyful Burden of Discipleship
Elder Ronald A. Rasband
Presidency of the Seventy
While in Oklahoma I had the opportunity to meet with a few of the families devastated by the mighty twisters.
As I visited with the Sorrel’s family, I was particularly touched by the experience of their daughter, Tori, then a fifth grader at Plaza Towers Elementary school. She and her mother are here with us today.
Tori and a handful of friends huddled in a restroom for shelter as the tornado roared through the school. Listen as I read in Tori’s own words, the account of that day.
“I heard something hit the roof. I though it was just hailing. The sound got louder and louder. I said a prayer that Heavenly Father would protect us all and keep us safe. All of a sudden we heard a loud vacuum sound and the roof disappeared right above our heads. There was lots of wind and debris flying around and hitting every part of my body. It was darker outside and it looked like the sky was black, but it wasn’t; it was the inside of the tornado. I just closed my eyes hoping and praying that it would be over soon…All of a sudden it got quiet…When I opened my eyes, I saw a stop sign right in front of my eyes! It was almost touching my nose.”
Tori, her mother, three of her siblings, and numerous friends who were also in the school with her, miraculously survived that tornado; seven of their school mates did not.
That weekend the priesthood brethren gave many blessings to members who had suffered in the storm. I was humbled to give Tori a blessing. As I laid my hands on her head, a favorite scripture came to mind:
“…I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my spirit shall be in your hearts, and mind angels round about you, to bear you up.”
…Reaching out to rescue one another, under any condition, is an eternal measure of love. This is the service that counts.
Often we are given the opportunity to help others in their time of need. As m embers of the Church, we each have the sacred responsibility “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light,” “to mourn with those that mourn,” to “lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees.”
Brothers and sisters, how grateful the Lord is for each and every one of you, for the countless hours and acts of service, whether large or small, you so generously and graciously give each day.
King Benjamin taught in the Book of Mormon “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
Focusing on serving our brothers and sisters can guide us to make divine decisions in our daily lives and prepare us to value and love what the Lord loves. In so doing, we witness by our very lives that we are His disciples. When we are engaged in His work, we feel His spirit with us. We grow in testimony, faith, trust and love.
Christ the Redeemer
Elder Carlos H. Amado
Of the Seventy
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born and died in unique circumstances. He lived and grew up in humble conditions, without material things. He said of Himself, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head”.
He never received honors, favors, recognition, nor preferred treatment from the political leaders of the earth nor from the religious leaders of His day. Neither did He sit in the highest seats of the synagogues.
His preaching was simple, and even though multitudes followed after Him, His ministry always consisted of blessing people one by one. He performed innumerable miracles among those who accepted Him as the one sent from God.
He gave His Apostles authority and power to do miracles “and greater works” than those He performed, but He never delegated to them the privilege of forgiving sins. His enemies became indignant when they heard Him say, “Go, and sin no more” or “Thy sins are forgiven [thee]. That right belonged only to Him because He is the Son of God and because He would pay for those sins with His Atonement.
Protection from Pornography-A Christ-focused Home
Sister Linda S. Reeves
Of the Relief Society General Presidency
We, as leaders, are increasingly concerned about the destruction that pornography is causing in the lives of Church members and their families. Our Savior will soon return to the earth and Satan, the enemy of all righteousness, is attacking with unprecedented fury.
…How do we protect our children and youth? Filters are useful tools, but, the greatest filter in the world, the only one that will ultimately work, is the personal internal filter that comes from a deep and abiding testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love and our Savior’s atoning sacrifice for each one of us.
How do we lead our children to deep conversion and to access our Savior’s Atonement? I love the prophet Nephi’s declaration of what his people did to fortify the youth of his day. “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ [and] we prophesy of Christ…that our children may know to what source they may look for the remission of their sins.” How can we do this in our homes? Some of you have heard me tell how overwhelmed my husband, Mel, and I felt as the parents of four young children. As we faced the challenges of parenting and keeping up with all of the demands of life, we were desperate for help. We prayed and pled to k now what to do. The answer that came was clear: “It is okay if the house is a mess and the children are still in pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer, and weekly family home evening.”
We were trying to do these things, but they were not always the priority, and amidst the chaos, were sometimes neglected. We changed our focus and tried not to worry about the less-important things. Our focus became to talk, rejoice, preach and testify of Christ, by striving to daily pray and study the scriptures in the home and have family home evening.
A friend recently cautioned, “When you ask the sisters to read the scriptures and pray more, it stresses them out. They already feel that they have too much to do.
” Brothers and sisters, because I know from my own experiences, I must testify of the blessings of daily scripture study, prayer and family home evening. These are the very practices that help take away stress, give direction to our lives, and add protection to our homes. Then, if pornography or other challenges do strike our families, we can petition the Lord for help, with confidence, and expect great guidance from the Spirit, knowing that we have done what our Father has asked us to do.
Elder Neil L. Andersen
Of the Quorum of the Twelve
President Thomas S. Monson has said: “Where once the standards of the Church and the standards of society were mostly compatible, now there is a wide chasm between us, and it’s growing ever wider.” This chasm, for some, stirs strong spiritual whirlwinds. Let me share an example.
This past month the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve published a letter to leaders of the Church across the world. In part it read: “Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We urge you to review…the doctrine contained in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
As the world slips away from the Lord’s law of chastity, we do not. President Monson said, “The Savior of mankind described Himself as being in the world but not of the world. We also can be in the world but not of the world as we reject false concepts and false teachings and remain true to that which God has commanded.”
While many governments and well-meaning individuals have redefined marriage, the Lord has not. In the very beginning, God initiated marriage between a man and a woman-Adam and Eve. He designated the purposes of marriage to go far beyond the personal satisfaction and fulfillment of adults, to more importantly, advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared, and nurtured. Families are the treasure of heaven.
Why do we continue to talk about this? As Paul said, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” As Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, our responsibility is to teach our Creator’s plan for His children and to warn of the consequences of disregarding His commandments.
Recently I spoke with a Laurel form the United States. I quote from her email:
“This past year some of my friends on Facebook began posting their position on marriage. Many favored same-sex marriage, and several LDS youth indicated they liked’ the postings. I made no comment.
“I decided to declare my belief in traditional marriage in a thoughtful way.
“With my profile picture I added the caption, “I believe in marriage between a man and a woman.’ Almost instantly I started receiving messages. You are selfish.’ You are judgmental.’ One compared me to a slave owner. And I received this post from a great friend who is a strong member of the Church, You need to catch up with the times. Things are changing and so should you.’
“I did not fight back,” she said, “but I did not take my statement down.”
She concludes: “Sometimes, as President Monson said, You have to stand alone,’. Hopefully as youth, we will stand together in being true to God and to the teachings of His living prophets.”
A Priceless Heritage of Hope
President Henry B. Eyring
Of the First Presidency
Keeping our second estate depends on our making covenants with God and faithfully performing the duties they require of us. It takes faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior to keep sacred covenants for a lifetime.
Because Adam and Eve did fall we have temptation, trials, and death as our universal inheritance. However, our loving Heavenly Father gave us the gift of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior. That great gift and blessing of the Atonement of Jesus Christ brings a universal inheritance: the promise of the resurrection and the possibility of eternal life to all who are born.
The greatest of all the blessings of God, eternal life, will come to us only as we make covenants offered in the true Church of Jesus Christ by His authorized servants. Because of the Fall, we all need the cleansing effects of baptism and the laying on of hands to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. These ordinances must be performed by those who possess the proper priesthood authority. Then, with the help of the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Ghost, we can keep all the covenants we make with God, especially those offered in His temples. Only in that way, and with that help, can anyone claim his or her rightful inheritance as a child of God in a family forever.
To some listening to me that may seem a nearly hopeless dream.
You have seen faithful parents sorrow over children who have rejected or who have chosen to break their covenants with God. But those parents can take heart and hope from other parental experiences.
Alma and King Mosiah’s sons returned from fierce rebellion against the covenants and commandments of God. Alma the younger saw his son, Corianton, turn from gross sin to faithful service. The Book of Mormon also records the miracle of the Lamanites putting aside the tradition of hating righteousness to covenanting to die to maintain peace.
An angel was sent to the young Alma and the sons of Mosiah. The angel came because of the faith and prayers of their fathers and of God’s people. From those examples of the power of the Atonement working in human hearts, you can receive courage and comfort.
The Lord has given us all the source of hope as we struggle to help those we love accept their eternal inheritance He has made promises to us as we keep trying to gather people to Him even when they resist his invitation to do so. Their resistance saddens Him but He does not quit, nor should we. He sets the perfect example for us with His persistent love.