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Church members feel love, power during solemn assembly

Conferencegoers raise their hands to sustain church leadership during the Saturday afternoon session of the 188th Annual General Conference of the LDS Church at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on March 31, 2018. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News, Deseret News
Members of the LDS Church rise to sustain President Russell M. Nelson as leader of the LDS Church during a solemn assembly, part of the Saturday morning session of the 188th Annual General Conference of the LDS Church at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on March 31, 2018. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News, Deseret News

Under any circumstances, attending general conference live would be a pleasant occasion for Keith and Lisa Minor, who made the trip from their home in Medford, Oregon, to attend the opening session of the 188th Annual General Conference on March 31. But this time, it was extra special for the Minors, who rendezvoused with their daughter, Olivia, a BYU student.

“We knew the solemn assembly was happening,” said Minor, a member of the Medford 6th Ward in the Medford Oregon Stake. “We wanted to make sure we would be able to participate live on this momentous occasion.”

As part of a capacity congregation gathered in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City — along with others at numerous locations around the world — the Minors raised their hands to sustain for the first time President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring.

“My impression, as I stood and sustained the new, 17th prophet of the Church, is that I felt loved,” Minor commented immediately following the session. “In supporting him, I in turn felt supported and loved.”

His wife remarked, “It was amazing to see everyone united. We ended up sitting toward the back, and you just could see the whole congregation. It was really inspiring. I felt the Spirit strongly, and just thoroughly enjoyed all of the talks that were given.”

Daughter Olivia shared that impression. “It was overwhelming to see everybody join together and welcome this prophet in his new position and pledge to follow him. Everybody was so willing to support him, and it just showed that everybody was willing to follow the Lord.”

Conducting the session and the business of the solemn assembly, President Eyring pronounced it an occasion of great significance for members of the Church throughout the world.

“Dating from Oct. 10, 1880, when John Taylor was sustained to succeed Brigham Young as prophet, seer and revelator, and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, each of these occasions has been designated as a formal solemn assembly of the body of the Church to express the voice of the Church,” President Eyring said.

He explained that the members would vote by groups wherever they were located, standing as requested, beginning with the First Presidency.

After every group, the entire membership of the Church was invited to stand and vote as a group.

When the members Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were presented for sustaining vote, the Church at large learned the identities of the two men who had been called to fill vacancies in that quorum: Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Elder Ulisses Soares. Both were invited to take their places among the quorum members on the rostrum and join with the rest of the Twelve in manifesting their sustaining votes.

“It was so powerful, because you were there with so many other people, and you could just be there at that moment of reverence and say to yourself, ‘I sustain the prophet, I sustain this Church,'” said Charlotte Secrist of the North Ogden 10th Ward, North Ogden Utah Ben Lomond Stake.

She attended the session with her mother, Cara, who added, “We’ve been members for a long time, but this is the first time we’ve been in the Conference Center during a solemn assembly. It was a huge difference to be there in person, to see the prophet sitting right there, sustaining himself and the other leaders. It was an incredible moment, getting that chance to witness that we do believe in his calling and to follow him.”

For Jack Richins of the Bountiful 43rd Ward, Bountiful Utah Stone Creek Stake, it was a powerful experience to watch the high leadership of the Church sustaining one another on such a momentous occasion. “And more than once, we got to do it,” he observed.

His father, also named Jack, said he felt a confirmation that “the Lord guides the Church, He sets His path and we have the opportunity to feel that it’s the right choice.”

Karley Richins, their wife and mother, said it was the first general conference she has attended live. She said she loved how, over and over again, the leaders of the Church were sustained, specifically as the First Presidency and then as the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “I felt it was extra powerful and extra important to do it that way.”

Jennifer Richins, wife of the younger Jack Richins, said, “I like that President Nelson sat on the edge of his seat during the sustaining. He turned around and made sure he could see the Seventies when they sustained him. He wanted to be actively engaged in the sustaining. I really liked that.”

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