From his office in the Church Administration Building, President Russell M. Nelson has a front-row seat to the work taking place as part of the Salt Lake Temple renovation.
In opening the 191st Annual General Conference on Saturday, April 3, President Nelson said as he has watched workers pull out old tree roots, plumbing, wiring and a leaky fountain, “I have thought about the need for each of us to remove, with the Savior’s help, the old debris in our lives.”
As general Church leaders addressed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Saturday sessions of general conference, many of them offered counsel on how the gospel of Jesus Christ can help “remove the debris” and help individuals and the Church continue to move forward.
The Savior’s gospel “is a gospel of hope, of healing and of progress,” President Nelson said. “Thus, the gospel is a message of joy! Our spirits rejoice with every small step forward we take.”
Inclusion and belonging
One important way that members of Christ’s Church can “remove the debris” from their lives is to become worthy and ready for temple experiences, as taught by President Henry B. Eyring during the Saturday afternoon session.
“If you or I should go to the temple insufficiently pure, we would not be able to see, by the power of the Holy Ghost, the spiritual teaching about the Savior that we can receive in the temple,” said President Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency.
Those who are worthy can grow through their temple experience hope, joy and optimism throughout their lives, President Eyring said. “That hope, joy and optimism are available only through accepting the ordinances performed in holy temples. It is in the temple we can receive the assurance of loving family connections that will continue after death and last for eternity.”
Several senior Church leaders shared messages of how to remove the debris of contention, divisiveness and incivility.
In the Saturday afternoon session, President M. Russell Ballard spoke of the loneliness he has felt since the passing of his wife and the pain he feels for those who lack a sense of belonging.
“I think that, for many, it is because they may not know that they are loved by Heavenly Father and that we all belong to His eternal family. Believing that God loves us and that we are His children is comforting and assuring,” he said.
Single Latter-day Saints — who make up more than half of the adults in the Church — may wonder about their opportunities and places in God’s plan and in the Church, the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said.
“We should understand that eternal life is not simply a question of current marital status but of discipleship and being ‘valiant in the testimony of Jesus’ (Doctrine and Covenants 76:79).”
Heavenly Father loves single members of the Church, President Ballard assured, and the Church needs their voices, talents, skills, goodness and righteousness. Stake and ward leaders should call on single members “to serve, lift and teach. Disregard old notions and ideas that have sometimes unintentionally contributed to their feelings of loneliness and that they do not belong or cannot serve.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles noted that there is “too much conflict, contention and general incivility” in the world today.
“We are facing a kind of third world war that is not a fight to crush our enemies, but a conscription marshaling the children of God to care more about each other and to help heal the wounds we find in a conflicted world,” Elder Holland said.
“The Great Depression we now face has less to do with the external loss of our savings and more to do with the internal loss of our self-confidence, with real deficits of faith, hope and charity all around us.”
The instruments needed to create a brighter day and grow an economy of genuine goodness in society are provided for in the gospel of Jesus Christ, Elder Holland declared. “We cannot afford — this world cannot afford — our failure to put these gospel concepts and fortifying covenants to full use personally and publicly.”
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified that God cares about individuals, even in hours of turmoil, confusion or chaos.
“It is astonishing what we can learn when we look a little closer at our Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation and exaltation, the plan of happiness, for His children,” Elder Uchtdorf said.
Those who feel insignificant, cast off and forgotten, can learn to be assured that God has not forgotten them. “In fact, that He offers to all His children, something unimaginable: to become ‘heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ’” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:38).
Continuing the message of the need for inclusiveness and unity, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke Saturday morning of how kindness is a fundamental, healing gospel principle. Having “hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21) has universal application to all Latter-day Saints: adults, youth and children, he said.
Adults in the Church have the responsibility to be role models of kindness, inclusion and civility, Elder Stevenson taught, and “to teach Christ-like behavior to the rising generation in what we say and how we act. It is especially important as we observe a marked societal shift towards division in politics, social class and nearly every other man-made distinction.”
Jesus Christ invites all to become like Him — and to make His inn — or His Church — a refuge for all from life’s storms, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also taught in the Saturday morning session.
The Lord’s disciples come to His inn, or His Church, with imperfections, he said.
“Yet, we all have something needed to contribute. Our journey to God is often found together. We belong as a united community — whether confronting pandemics, storms, wildfires, droughts or quietly meeting daily needs. We receive inspiration as we counsel together, listening to each person, including each sister, and the Spirit,” Elder Gong said.
The Savior’s disciples are all equal; there is no “second class.” As members of the Church fall short and are rushed, unaware, judgmental or prejudiced, they seek each other’s forgiveness and do better, Elder Gong taught.
In testifying of the Savior’s ability to resolve the “infuriating unfairness” found in mortality, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that as individuals develop faith in Jesus Christ, they strive to become like Him.
“We then approach others with compassion and try to alleviate unfairness where we find it,” Elder Renlund continued. “We can try to make things right within our sphere of influence. Indeed, the Savior directed that we ‘should be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness’” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-29).
How individuals deal with advantages and disadvantages is part of life’s test, Elder Renlund said. “We will be judged not so much by what we say but by how we treat the vulnerable and disadvantaged. As Latter-day Saints, we seek to follow the Savior’s example, to go about doing good. We demonstrate our love for our neighbor by working to ensure the dignity of all Heavenly Father’s children.”