The metaphorical train that is the work of the restored gospel lurched to a higher rate of speed as a result of the 188th Annual General Conference held last weekend. The Lord is hastening His work.
Historic in every sense, the proceedings changed the way the Church is organized and administered on ward and branch levels; changed the face of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; offered powerful witnesses of the Savior, His mission and His Resurrection; involved members worldwide in a memorable and divinely sanctioned solemn assembly; and ended with the announcement of seven new temples worldwide.
Each session was a revelatory experience. Each was a dramatic reminder that the heavens are open. God does not sleep. The Savior guides His Church through a living and energetic prophet, with intimate knowledge of the needs and challenges facing each individual.
“I exhort you to study the messages of this conference frequently — even repeatedly — during the next six months,” President Russell M. Nelson said in his closing remarks.
Never has that admonition seemed more urgent or necessary. Without frequent study, pondering and prayer concerning the proceedings of this conference, Church members will fall behind. With it, they will be blessed not only with a greater understanding of the changes in Church programs, but also with a strong witness of the Savior and the divinity of the Restoration. Families will grow closer, wards and branches will function with greater unity and the Church will roll forward with greater purpose and a sense of divine will.
Church members, first by groups, then as a united body, stood and sustained President Nelson as the new prophet, and President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring as members of the new First Presidency on Saturday morning. It was as M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, said, “a practice that can be traced back to the Bible when ancient Israel gathered to feel the Lord’s presence and celebrate His blessings.”
The Spirit was palpable as faithful Latter-day Saints felt a unity of purpose and, again quoting President Ballard, “stood as witnesses before God and acknowledged that [President Nelson] is President Monson’s rightful successor.”
Unity — Church members aligning with each other in the ministry and with Church leadership and the Godhead — was a major theme of this conference; one Church members would do well to ponder.
Church members become used to the way things are organized and conducted, often failing to realize how these things have changed over time. The Lord adds line upon line to the knowledge and administration of His Church, revealing new methods and operations as His people are ready.
As announced in this conference, elders quorums and high priests groups will be combined into one encompassing elders quorum in each ward and branch, with high priests quorums functioning on the stake level and including only stake presidencies, bishoprics, high councilors and active patriarchs.
Also, home teaching and visiting teaching programs will be replaced by a ministering program that also involves young women and that more closely aligns members with the Savior’s admonition to “love one another as I have loved you.”
Explaining the changes, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “We have a heaven-sent opportunity as an entire Church to demonstrate pure religion undefiled before God; to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, and to comfort those that stand in need of comfort, to minister to the widows and the fatherless, the married and the single, the strong and the distraught, the downtrodden and the robust, the happy and the sad.”
The session on Sunday morning, Easter morning, provided strong and unwavering testimonies of the mission and Atonement of Jesus Christ, and His literal Resurrection.
“Without our Redeemer’s infinite Atonement, not one of us would have hope of ever returning to our Heavenly Father,” President Nelson said. “Without His Resurrection, death would be the end. Our Savior’s Atonement made eternal life a possibility and immortality a reality for all.”
President Nelson focused on a theme of personal revelation, echoing the revelatory announcements of the conference while emphasizing that each individual has a right to personal communication with the Lord. More than that, however, it is a necessity for spiritual survival in a confusing and often wicked world.
“If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation,” President Nelson said.
President Oaks taught that small and simple things have an accumulative effect over time that can add to “firmness and steadfastness, deepening devotion, and more complete conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel.”
President Eyring spoke of the need to hear the voice of the Spirit. “If you ask with real intent and with faith in Jesus Christ for inspiration, you will receive it in the Lord’s way and in His time.”
Few conferences have left the Church and its members as changed and energized as this one did. Newly sustained members of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elders Gerrit W. Gong, an Asian American, and Ulisses Soares of Brazil provide the diversity and perspective in Church leadership symbolic of the worldwide scope of the restored gospel. New temples in places such as India and Russia demonstrate the Lord’s desire to bring the full blessings of the Restoration to members wherever they are. Changes in programs and the sustaining of a new prophet bring members together in a renewed spirit of unity and purpose.
Together, they testify that the work of the Restoration is moving forward at an unprecedented pace.