In the first two years leading The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson traveled to 35 countries — learning from the faith of Latter-day Saints around the globe.
During the last 12 months, the Church leader said he and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, “learned that we do not have to get on airplanes for our testimonies to encircle the globe.”
In fact, he said, the words of Church leaders “reached an unprecedented number of people in the year 2020. Our general conferences last year had a greater global reach than ever before.”
Addressing the leadership session of the Church’s 191st Annual General Conference, President Nelson and other leaders provided instruction and direction to those gathered at Church headquarters and via technology in locations across the globe on Thursday, April 1. Some 300 General Authorities, General Officers and Area Seventies heard messages from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the first time leaders have gathered for a general conference leadership session since April 2019. The session originated from the Church Office Building auditorium on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
During his remarks, President Nelson said he has learned that the Church’s emphasis on a home-centered, Church-supported curriculum is bearing fruit. He honored those parents who in the past year “have stepped up and have taken steps to shape their homes as their primary sanctuaries of faith.”
“The strength of the Church lies in the solid and ever-growing testimonies of its members. And the home is where those kinds of testimonies are best cultivated,” he said.
President Nelson expressed gratitude for what is happening with temples at a time when their operation is limited. “Names of ancestors are being prepared for the day when temples will again be open for vicarious work to be done,” he said. “And we have not stopped building temples. In the year 2020, we broke ground for 21 new temples, and 41 temple-building projects are currently underway.”
The Church president also noted the growth in the faith’s humanitarian efforts in 2020. “The global pandemic has prompted us to make the largest outpouring of assistance that we have ever given. Contributions of time, money and personal service have been offered in a spirit of generosity and love for those in need in 152 countries,” he said.
President Nelson said he now understands better “what [God] meant when He said, ‘Behold, I will hasten my work in its time’ (Doctrine and Covenants 88:73). That is happening right now, right before our eyes.” Divine intervention, he said, is helping the Church take root everywhere. “As members of the First Presidency, we bear witness to the truth that the living Lord is at the helm of His living Church. The Restoration truly is ongoing.”
In his remarks, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, addressed the topic of leadership, quoting the Church handbook and asking leaders to teach, through their words and actions, the doctrine of Jesus Christ and the principles of His gospel.
“Your success as a leader is measured primarily by your commitment to helping God’s children become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ,” he said, quoting the Church’s handbook.
Quoting President Spencer W. Kimball, President Oaks said: “Because [Jesus] loved others with a perfect love, he listened [to them] without being condescending.…Because Jesus loved his followers, he was able to level with them, to be candid and forthright with them.…This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual.”
Jesus “trusts his followers enough to share his work with them so that they can grow,” President Oaks continued, still quoting President Kimball. “That is one of the greatest lessons of his leadership. If we brush other people aside in order to see a task done more quickly and effectively, the task may get done all right, but without the growth and development in followers that is so important.”
President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke to Church leaders about their ability to receive personal revelation for his or her particular assignment.
“As servants of the Lord in His Church, we have a great trust,” President Eyring said. “It is that we will live worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and have faith to follow the prophet. Then we can know by inspiration how to encourage those we lead to apply His counsel.”
This is and always will be difficult, he said. “Whatever the directions from the Lord through His prophet will be this week [during general conference], I pray that each of us will listen to the words of the Lord and act as His servants to lift others through our inspiration to choose to follow the prophet. Then we will feel joy in someday hearing from our Savior the tribute we long to hear: ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord’ (Matthew 25:21).”
As was announced in a recent update to the General Handbook , President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, addressed the additional ways single adults now have to serve in their congregations around the globe.
“Some wonder about their opportunities and place in the eternal plan and in the Savior’s Church,” he said. “We remind all that eternal life is not simply a question of current marital status but of discipleship, that is, being ‘valiant in the testimony of Jesus’ (Doctrine and Covenants 76:79).”
President Ballard said that more than half of adult Latter-day Saints are widowed, divorced or have never married.
“We can do better at providing opportunities for our single members to serve,” President Ballard said. “I am not talking about creating service projects, although those are important. I am talking about giving them significant callings, including leadership callings. Single members are just as capable as married members. There are only a few callings, such as stake president and bishop, that are specified only for married members. The restriction of having only married men serve as counselors in bishoprics and stake presidencies in young single adult wards and stakes has been removed.”
“Don’t worry about their age either,” he added. “I am 92. I am glad I was not released from my calling as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles because of my age or at the death of my wife. I love my Savior Jesus Christ, and I love helping to build up His Church. Most members feel the same way. This gives us hope in Christ and a feeling of belonging.”
The Apostle also shared five doctrinal assurances that Church leaders can use to help single adults in their midst.
- The scriptures and declarations of latter-day prophets confirm that every person who is faithful in the gospel covenant will have the opportunity for exaltation.
- The precise times and manner in which the blessings of exaltation are bestowed upon every faithful person have not all been revealed, but they are nonetheless assured.
- Waiting upon the Lord implies continued obedience and spiritual progress.
- God offers eternal life to all of His children.
- Confidence in these assurances is rooted in faith in Jesus Christ by Whose grace all things pertaining to mortality are set right.