While many elements of the Saturday afternoon session of the 191st Semiannual General Conference on Oct. 2 still differed from pre-COVID-19 conferences, a few familiar scenes emerged from the proceedings.
Even though Church leaders still sat with faces partially obscured by face masks, they did so from the spacious auditorium of the Conference Center once again. And despite speaking to mostly empty seats, speakers were again framed by the colorful outfits of choir members, this time a multicultural choir from stakes throughout Utah who provided live music throughout the session.
Read: A multicultural choir will sing live during October 2021 general conference. Here’s one choir member’s experience preparing
And regardless of the continued disruption to “normal” conference practices, viewers were able to listen to counsel and encouragement from leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help them increase their faith in the Savior Jesus Christ and His gospel.
In addition to remarks from three Apostles, a member of the Primary general presidency and four General Authority Seventies, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency presented leadership changes during the Saturday afternoon session.
Six General Authority Seventies were released and given emeritus status: Elder J. Devn Cornish, Elder Timothy J. Dyches, Elder David F. Evans, Elder Robert C. Gay, Elder James B. Martino and Elder Terence M. Vinson.
President Eyring noted the death of Elder Dean M. Davies in August. Elder Davies had served as a General Authority Seventy for one year and a counselor in the Church’s Presiding Bishopric for eight years. He would have been released as a General Authority Seventy at this general conference.
President Eyring also acknowledged the call of two new Area Seventies and the release of two others during the leadership meeting on Thursday, Sept. 30.
The choir — led by music director Jamie Kalama Wood and accompanied by organist Linda Margetts and representing 39 countries and 35 languages over six continents — performed “Hark, All Ye Nations!” “Consider the Lilies” and “This Is the Christ.” Following the session, President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, thanked the choir members.
The four General Authority Seventies who spoke during the Saturday afternoon session — Elder Ciro Schmeil, Elder Erich W. Kopischke, Elder Christoffel Golden and Elder Moisés Villanueva — recorded their messages from their areas of assignment around the world. The four are serving in area presidencies in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean.
In his remarks, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles invited listeners to ponder the blessings promised to covenant-keeping disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Lord’s covenant people are armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory, as seen by Nephi (1 Nephi 14:14), he said. “I have witnessed faith, courage, perspective, persistence and joy that extend far beyond mortal capacity — and that only God could provide.”
Elder Ronald A. Rasband shared seven “things of my soul” or things he believes give purpose to his life and work in the gospel.
His things of the soul: Love God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Savior. Love neighbors. Love one’s self. Keep the commandments. Always be temple worthy. Be joyful and cheerful. Follow God’s living prophet.
He then invited individuals to identify their own eight, nine and 10 “things of the soul.”
“Consider ways you might share your heartfelt ‘things’ with others and encourage them to pray, ponder and seek the Lord’s guidance,” Elder Rasband said.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson spoke of how the gospel of Jesus Christ is simply beautiful and beautifully simple but the world is not. “Jesus Christ Himself describes that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). We should all strive to keep the gospel simple, in our lives, in our families, in our classes and quorums and in our wards and stakes.”
In her first address in general conference since being called to the Primary general presidency in April, Sister Susan H. Porter testified that knowing and feeling the love of Heavenly Father has the power to change many aspects of life — including how someone perceives adversity, commandments, others and their own capacity.
“When you know and understand how completely you are loved as a child of heavenly parents, it changes everything,” she said.
In his prerecorded message from the Africa South Area, Elder Schmeil testified that discipleship is a journey, not a competition. “We are here to love and help each other.”
Elder Kopischke, who is serving in Europe, shared of his family’s struggles with mental illness and offered encouragement and hope to others who struggle. “For all who are personally affected by mental illness, hold fast to your covenants, even if you might not feel God’s love at this time. Do whatever lies in your power and then ‘stand still … to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed’” (Doctrine and Covenants 123:17).
From his assignment in Africa, Elder Golden spoke to listeners of the need to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. “For those who have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to feel, more than ever before, we are required to confront the reality that we are getting ever closer to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”
And Elder Villanueva, who was called in April and is serving in the Caribbean, spoke of the pain of losing several loved ones during the pandemic and testified of the Savior’s perfect compassion. “[The Savior] doesn’t fault us for our short-sightedness, nor for being limited in visualizing our eternal journey. Rather, He has compassion for our sadness and suffering.”
President Dallin H. Oaks conducted the session, and Elder William K. Jackson, a General Authority Seventy, and Sister Rebecca L. Craven, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, offered prayers.