"How was conference?"
This question, in one form or another, has been asked frequently the past few days by those, who for one reason or another, were unable to attend.And the answers?
"Inspirational," "spiritually uplifting," "motivational," and "wonderful" are some of the responses. Truly, the just-concluded 159th Semiannual General Conference was all of these, and more!
Each conference is made special by the outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord upon His servants who address the saints. Each conference is also unique, depending upon the specific business transacted and the needs of the Church at the time.
This conference was a memorable one because the first group of General Authorities in the Second Quorum of the Seventy was honorably released. They had reached the five-year period of service to which they had been called.
Releases are not always easy in the Church. When calls are made it is easy to accept, and after a period of intense service it is sometimes difficult to let go. But the lesson of being happy when called, and then just as happy when released, could not have been portrayed more clearly than in this conference.
The lives of the eight noble Brethren who were released had been changed by assignments in all parts of the kingdom. They served well, and more quickly than they might have anticipated at the beginning, five years passed, and now it was time for release. The dignity and grace with which they accepted this transition is a lesson for all in the Church who are called and released.
Change also came to eight other Brethren in the First Quorum of the Seventy. For reasons of age or health they were given emeritus status, joining some other faithful Brethren already in that category. Words cannot fully explain the amount of their service, the lives they have touched, or the strength they have provided during the combined 165 years of their valiant service as General Authorities.
The prayers of all the Church go out to those thus involved in these changes - prayers of gratitude for faithful service, prayers for their health and well-being, prayers for them to enjoy a bit of relief from the pressures and problems that have pressed down upon them during the intensity of their ministry.
Through this, one cannot help but recall the counsel of the late President J. Reuben Clark Jr., who affirmed that it doesn't matter where one serves, but how he serves.
The conference was blessed by the presence of the Lord's prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, now in his 91st year. His advanced age makes it difficult for him to deliver his sermons, and so President Thomas S. Monson in the opening session represented the prophet well in conveying his counsel to the saints. But President Benson's awareness of the proceedings of the conference was most fittingly portrayed at the end of the general priesthood session.
President Gordon B. Hinckley had just delivered a powerful sermon that included a stirring indictment against the evils of illicit drugs. As he concluded, a loud "Amen" came over his shoulder. He turned to see that President Benson had arisen from his seat and was standing beside him at the pulpit and had borne his witness to the message by his fervent "Amen."
Surely his "Amen" could also have been given to the wonderful messages contained in the 30 sermons delivered during the conference. These messages need to be studied and pondered in depth, for just hearing them all in a two-day period can hardly do them justice.
Appropriately, President Hinckley quoted a scripture at the conclusion of the conference sessions that represents the desires of the Lord for His saints, and undoubtedly the hope of all the Brethren for Church members:
"Therefore, cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings.
"See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.
"Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; . . .
"And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.
"Pray always, that ye may not faint, until I come. Behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself." (D&C 88:121, 123-126.)
There could be no finer outcome from this general conference!