SEATTLE, Washington — Marking the first time a member of the First Presidency has addressed a public audience outside of Utah in nearly 17 months, President Dallin H. Oaks spoke at a conference for single adults on Sunday afternoon.
No individual can overcome life’s challenges without the spiritual strength that comes from the Savior, he told some 40,000 participants from the Church’s North America West Area.
“Jesus Christ is the source of our strength to bear the burdens of mortality,” he said.
President Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke during the closing devotional of “The Abundant Life” Conference — a three-day event for single adults held in person and virtually in locations in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.
Speaking from a meetinghouse near the Seattle Washington Temple, President Oaks was accompanied by his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, who also addressed the single adults.
The devotional was the capstone of the conference, which included workshops, service, entertainment and opportunities for single adults to connect in person and online. On Saturday afternoon, President and Sister Oaks visited with conference participants taking part in a service project — one of many such activities held along the West Coast of the United States this weekend.
Read more: Single adult conference attended by President and Sister Oaks includes serving those on both sides of the veil
The trip marked President Oaks’ first assignment outside of Utah since March 2020, when COVID-19 began to spread quickly.
President Oaks began his devotional address on Sunday by testifying of the Savior, His Atonement and the opportunity to return to Heavenly Father because of the Savior’s Atonement.
“That is the central message of the prophets of all ages,” he said.
President Oaks empathized with his audience as he recognized the “difficult time” in which they live.
However, he said, no one is alone in facing temptation or other challenges.
“If you love the Lord and keep His commandments and your covenants, you can call upon your Savior for help, and He will help you because that is part of the plan.”
Being blessed with strength to overcome temptation and other challenges does not mean that these will cease.
“As you grow stronger, the adversary will be permitted to give you greater temptations and opposition, but the Lord will give you added direction and added strength to resist them,” he said.
Sister Oaks said she sees that added strength in single members of the Church, specifically.
“I hope this COVID respite has made you realize more than ever that singles are a great force for goodness in our Church,” she said.
Looking back at her life prior to marrying President Oaks, Sister Oaks said, “Being single taught me that the genuine security and the abundant life I sought rested in my relationship with the Lord.”
President Oaks said that growing testimony of the Lord is imperative.
“The fundamental principles of our religion are embodied in our testimony of Jesus Christ,” President Oaks said. “We are followers of Christ. We are servants of Christ. We work in His name, and we testify in His name.”
President Oaks said there is one “vital and powerful” way to grow closer to the Savior.
“We draw closer to the Savior by partaking of the sacrament appropriately each Sabbath day.”
The ability to both have an eternal perspective and an understanding of present purpose are related, President Oaks taught.
“For our happiness and eternal progress, we need a perspective on mortal life and balance in our mortal journey. We have an eternal perspective by remembering who we are and why we are here,” he said.
Sister Oaks said this progress comes a little bit at a time.
“Remember our course is set by the little day-to-day decisions which chart the road ahead,” she said. “And beautiful things lie ahead.”
President Oaks also encouraged maintaining balance through proper prioritization of spiritual growth.
“Allocate your time so that you will not starve yourself spiritually,” he said.
Referencing a message he shared recently about Latter-day Saint pioneers, President Oaks talked about the importance of inclusion both in the Church’s past and today.
“There is worldly praise and pressure for divisions that draw us apart, for diversity that impairs our unity, for reliance on family descent instead of individual qualifications and we are influenced by a culture of opposition. I concluded that ‘as a Church and as a culture, we need to lead out in demonstrating inclusion.’”
That “inclusion” is not the same as surrendering commitments to truth and morality.
“Teachers in schools, colleges and universities are teaching and practicing relative morality,” he said. “Such relative morality is shaping the attitudes of many young Americans who are taking their places as the teachers of our children and shapers of public attitudes through the media and popular entertainment. We must stand against such teachings. We must speak for the truths we have been given.”
“We affirm absolute truth, including the existence of God and the right and wrong established by His commandments,” he said. “The existence of God and the necessity of absolute truth are fundamental to life on this earth, whether a majority believe them or not.”
Following their devotional messages, President and Sister Oaks joined Elder Mark A. Bragg, President of the North America West area, and his wife Yvonne to answer questions from the event’s audience.
Both couples provided examples of how to counsel in home and Church settings. They also testified of the importance of seeking heaven’s guidance in making decisions.
“Rely on the Lord,” President Oaks said. “He is always there.”
President Oaks’ definitions
Divisions: We have powerful forces that seek to draw us apart, dividing us from the unity that is our strength. These forces are relentless.
Diversity: At a time when diversity is earnestly sought and greatly praised, the Restored Church opposes the popular definition of diversity in its organization and composition. We are all children of God and that is our most important characteristic. We need to unite in love.
Descent: You don’t need to be descended from pioneers or notable leaders to be included in the choicest blessings of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Opposition: We know that there must be opposition in all things, but we must resist being critical or pessimistic in these trying times.
“An attitude of reverence and trust in the Lord will keep us on the covenant path,” President Oaks said. “I promise that as you support the Restored Gospel, its policies, programs, and directions from our leaders you will have great happiness and abundant blessings from the Lord.”