An abundance of “good news” defined the 191st Semiannual General Conference.
But for many Latter-day Saints, an oft-visited topic perhaps resonated strongest: Christ remains the antidote to the prevalent ailments of fear, adversity and anxiety.
“Please believe me when I say that when your spiritual foundation is built solidly upon Jesus Christ, you have no need to fear,” promised President Russell M. Nelson in his Sunday morning address. ”As you are true to your covenants made in the temple, you will be strengthened by His power.
“Then, when spiritual earthquakes occur, you will be able to stand strong because your spiritual foundation is solid and immovable.”
Many leaders used their general conference talks to offer direction and counsel on overcoming adversity. Others shared gentle, sometimes painful experiences from their own lives.
One’s capacity to hear the Lord’s peace-giving voice depends on one’s faith, taught President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency.
“With sufficient faith, we will ask for direction with the intent to go and do whatever He asks. We will have developed the faith to know that whatever He asks will bless others, and we can be purified in the process because of His love for us.”
Many who tuned in to general conference are enduring pain precipitated by COVID-19. The disease has claimed loved ones and upended lives worldwide.
The Savior’s Atonement, testified President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is evidence for all who are managing any form of adversity that they are not alone.
“We cannot lose our love for and hope in Jesus, even if we face seemingly overwhelming challenges,” he said. “Heavenly Father and Jesus will never forget us. They love us.”
Tenderly, Elder Erich W. Kopischke, a General Authority Seventy, spoke of his son’s challenges with mental illness. The Kopischkes’ trials are surely recognized by many Latter-day Saints.
After returning home from his mission earlier than planned because of severe panic attacks, anxiety and depression, Elder Kopischke’s son felt hopeless. He battled deep guilt. He was spiritually numb.
“While in this irrational state, our son believed that the only action left was to take his own life,” said Elder Kopischke. “It took the Holy Ghost and a legion of angels on both sides of the veil to save him.
“While he was fighting for his life and during this immensely difficult time, our family, ward leaders, members and friends went out of their way to support and minister to us.”
During a moment of profound adversity, Elder Kopischke and his family were lifted by the love of others.
“I have never sensed more powerfully and in such a personal way what it means to comfort those in need of comfort. Our family will be ever grateful for that outpouring.”
Despite rough days, Elder Kopischke and his wife, Sister Christiane Kopischke, remained close to the Lord.
“In hindsight, we now see how the Lord patiently tutored us through times of great uncertainty. His light guided us step by step through the darkest hours. The Lord helped us to see that the worth of an individual soul is far more important in the eternal scheme than any earthly task or achievement.”
Look out for one another, he added. Ministering is a proven remedy for managing adversity.
“We must love one another and be less judgmental — especially when our expectations are not immediately met,” said Elder Kopischke. “We should help our children and youth feel the love of Jesus Christ in their lives, even when they struggle to personally feel love for themselves.”
Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy knows well of Christ’s healing power.
Elder Nielson was a young college student when his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The family was prayerful and faithful. But a few months after that dire discovery, this beloved family patriarch died.
Grief-stricken, Elder Nielson found peace and increased faith in the scriptures.
“The Savior’s Atonement, which makes available both His redeeming and His enabling power, is the ultimate blessing that Jesus Christ offers to all,” he said. “As we repent with full purpose of heart, the Savior cleanses us from sin. As we cheerfully submit our will to the Father, even in the most difficult of circumstances, the Savior will lift our burdens and make them light.”
Christ’s redeeming and healing power, he added, can cover any sin, wound or trial.
“We can move forward with faith knowing that when difficult times come, and they surely will, or when sin encompasses our lives, the Savior stands with ‘healing in His wings’ inviting us to come unto Him.”
Elder Anthony D. Perkins, a General Authority Seventy, referenced his own cancer battle to testify that hope can be found amid adversity.
While in the midst of trial, he said, one can mistakenly think that God is aloof and far away. “I vividly recall my own experience at one point in my cancer battle when the doctors had not yet diagnosed the cause of some severe pain.
“I sat with my wife, intending to offer a routine blessing on our lunch. Instead, all I could do was simply weep: ‘Heavenly Father, please help me. I am so sick.’ For the next 20 to 30 seconds, I was encircled in His love.
“I was given no reason for my illness, no indication of the ultimate outcome and no relief from the pain. I just felt of His pure love and that was and is enough.”
It is OK to weep, he added. “Yet, if you find yourself in dark nights of suffering, by choosing faith you can awake to bright mornings of rejoicing.”
Spiritual landmarks such as daily prayer, scripture study and approaching God in humility and honesty can keep a person on a hopeful path, even when darkness creeps in, said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“We can navigate our way through the darkness and trials of this life and find our way back to our loving Heavenly Father if we seek and accept the spiritual landmarks He has provided, embrace personal revelation and strive for daily restoration,” he said.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reassured that all of Jesus Christ’s teachings point to personal respite from fear and adversity. Realize peace by loving God, seeking the fruits of the Spirit, exercising agency to choose righteousness, building Zion in hearts and homes and by following the prophet.
“Letting go of pride and control and choosing the Savior would allow us to have His light and His peace.”
Elder Cook’s counsel was echoed by Elder Sean Douglas, a General Authority Seventy, who taught that “the joy or misery we feel as we brave the storms of life is tied to the laws that God has set.”
Face spiritual hurricanes, he added, “by believing in Christ and keeping His commandments.”
Elder Moisés Villanueva, a General Authority Seventy, knows pain and fear all too well. Over a five-week period, the General Authority Seventy witnessed his brother, his sister and his brother-in-law succumb.
But alongside his heavy grief, Elder Villanueva discovered peace through the Lord’s compassion. He learned to be more empathetic. He was also reminded that looking out for others makes personal challenges more manageable.
“Our Savior Jesus Christ gave us the example during His earthly ministry. In moments of difficulty and trial, there are few things that bring us greater peace and satisfaction than serving our fellow man.”
Learn to rely upon the things of the soul, added Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Love God, Jesus Christ and one another. Keep the commandments. Remain temple worthy. Be joyful. Follow God’s living prophet.
“When we are heavy laden with mistakes, heartaches, feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, anger or sin, the power of the Savior’s Atonement is, by divine design, one of the things that lifts the soul.”
Sister Susan H. Porter, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, taught that understanding one’s divine identity is a powerful tool when life’s inevitable difficulties arrive. “When you know and understand how completely you are loved as a child of God, it changes everything.”
Being prayerful, she added, helps trace God’s hand on one’s life.
Overcoming adversity is typically an exercise in persistence, patience and tenacity. Elder Ciro Schmeil, a General Authority Seventy, testified of the power found in gospel basics: prayer and scripture study.
“The Lord has always given me the strength to act and endure one more day, one more week, and try again,” said Elder Schmeil. “Many times, the answers did not come right away. I have questions that have not been answered yet, but I keep asking and studying, and I am happy that the Lord continues to give me the strength to act as I wait for answers.”
Navigate through adversity by focusing on where you want to be, not where you began, counseled Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy. And always, he added, involve the Lord in the process.
Elder Gilbert’s fellow Seventy, Elder Alvin F. Meredith III, reminded listeners that Jesus Christ is the Rescuer. “When we find ourselves sinking, when we face affliction, or when we falter, we too can be rescued by Him.”