New First Presidency addresses Church growth, LGBTQ issues, role of women at press conference

Minutes after being introduced Tuesday, Jan. 16, as the Church’s new First Presidency, President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring, met with local, national and international media.

The press conference, held in the foyer of the Church Office Building in front of a large mural of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, covered a range of topics signaling the challenges and opportunities facing the global Church.

President Nelson, who was ordained and set apart on Jan. 14 as the Church’s 17th President, offered a brief opening statement, expressing thanks for the “prayers and good wishes” that have come from “near and far.”

The Church’s 16-plus million members are living in the most vibrant era in the history of the world.

“I wake up every morning eager for the adventures of the day,” said the 93-year-old veteran Apostle. “And I hope you feel the same exuberance for the gift of life.”

The world is filled with challenges — but President Nelson said he’s optimistic about the future and feels confident about the fundamental goodness of humankind. He noted the good-hearted actions of people worldwide to reduce human suffering “wherever it is found.”

Latter-day Saints care deeply about the human family, he added. “The Church will continue to contribute resources and manpower to provide aid in areas of need and in times of turmoil.”

President Nelson said it’s his hope that people everywhere have the opportunity to hear “the positive message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“I give you my assurance that regardless of the world’s condition and your personal circumstances, you can face the future with optimism and joy — if you have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel.”

And for those not yet affiliated with Christ’s Church: “I invite you to come and see if we can add knowledge, perspective and hope to your life in a way that will make it more abundant, meaningful and joyful.”

The ordinances and covenants of the temple, he concluded, are the key to happiness and weathering trouble.

President Oaks called it a “privilege” to serve alongside his friend and apostolic associate, President Nelson.

“I know his love of the Lord Jesus Christ and his commitment to our Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation.”

President Eyring called it a special joy “to be at the side of these great men, whom I so love and admire.”

LGBTQ issues

When asked how the First Presidency plans to approach LGBTQ issues, President Nelson replied that God loves His children and wants them to have joy.

“We know that there are challenges with the commandments of God; challenges to be worthy [and] to enter His holy presence when we’re through with this mortal experience.

“We’re trying to help people find happiness and joy in this life and prepare for great possibilities in the world ahead.”

Because of God’s love, He has given His children commandments, added President Oaks. There is the love of the Lord — and the law of the Lord.

“He has given us a plan to achieve the highest blessings He has for His children. As leaders of the Church, we have the responsibility to teach love and also teach the commandments of God and the highest destination that He has prescribed for His children, all of which is embodied in the plan of salvation.”

Challenges and opportunities facing Mexico, Brazil and other regions of the Church

President Nelson said the leadership of the Church is deeply concerned for Mexico and other nations that have endured natural disasters and other trials in recent months.

But the dangers of the world can be met with faith in God and in His plan.

“One day, at the end of our mortal sojourn, we can have the glorious privilege of being reunited with God and His Beloved Son and with our families.”

President Eyring, whose father was a citizen of Mexico, spoke of his love for those nations facing difficulties such as natural disasters.

“We have Latter-day Saints who love their neighbors. … We can’t solve all the problems, but we are trying with all our hearts to build faith in people.”

The Church in Brazil is a “seed bed” for the leadership of the Church worldwide, said President Nelson. Remarkable growth and development is also happening in the nations of Africa, Asia and across Latin America. “It just takes time.”

The role of women and people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in the Church

“We are white, and we are American,” said President Nelson, referencing the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf is from Germany.)

“But look at our Quorums of the Seventy and look at our leaders locally. Wherever we go, the leadership of the Church is from the local communities and those are the real leaders.”

The presiding quorums are not “representative” assemblies, he added.

“We’ll live to see the day when there will be other flavors in the mix, but we respond because we’ve been called by the Lord.”

President Oaks said he often teaches young people that it’s dangerous to adopt labels based on nationality or ethnic background.

“We are all children of God,” he said. “If we keep that in mind, we are better suited to relate to one another and avoid a kind of quota system.”

A father of nine daughters, President Nelson spoke of his love and respect for the women of the Church. They play an essential, partnering role with their male counterparts.

“We have women on our councils; we have women administering ordinances in the temple, and we have women presidents of the auxiliaries and their counselors. We depend on their voices.”

President Eyring spoke of the guiding, divinely appointed influence that women have on others as they serve in various capacities.

“No greater influence exists in the Kingdom than with the women of the Church.”

Helping millennials develop faith in God and the Church

The Primary song “I Am a Child of God” offers key lessons on the relationship shared between young people and the Creator, said President Nelson.

The Church president said he hopes millennials understand that their lives are precious and important.

President Eyring said his travels across the world have revealed the spiritual strength and gospel devotion of countless Latter-day Saint young people.

“It’s the best of times for millennials,” he said.

President Oaks said that marriage helps strengthen both young men and young women and removes many of the challenges facing so-called millennials.

The new First Presidency possesses about nine decades of apostolic service, noted President Nelson. Such experience, coupled with the influence of the Lord, allows them to offer time-tested guidance to young people.

President Eyring said young people can find strength in President Nelson’s example of optimism and enthusiasm.

A message for Latter-day Saints struggling with faith or have left the Church because of concerns about Church history and leadership

No one, save Jesus Christ, has lived a perfect life, said President Nelson. All are imperfect.

“So give your leaders a little leeway to make mistakes as you hope your leaders will give you a little leeway,” he said. Be slow to take offense and remember that commandments are given to liberate one from the bondage of sin and error.

“The way to joy is to keep the commandments of God,” he said. “Stay on the covenant path. And if you’ve stepped off, find your way back.”

President Oaks noted the transparency the Church has demonstrated with the ongoing publication of the “Joseph Smith Papers.”

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