Inviting others to make and keep covenants helps gather Israel, Church leaders teach during April 2023 general conference

Ministering, missionary work and family history are all key parts of gathering Israel

President Russell M. Nelson has repeatedly emphasized the gathering of Israel, which has been greatly expanded by the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon.

Key and critical to this gathering are temple and family history work, missionary efforts and ministering, taught leaders during April 2023 general conference.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said Heavenly Father desires His children to be safely gathered home. God’s plan is based on righteousness, keeping His commandments, receiving ordinances and honoring covenants. 

“Those who accept the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of lineage become part of gathered Israel. With that gathering and the numerous temples built and announced, we are in a unique position to gather Israel on both sides of the veil as never before under the Father’s plan,” Elder Cook said during the Saturday morning session on April 1.

Members and missionaries across the world are expanding efforts to gather scattered Israel, and growth continues everywhere. “Nevertheless, our commitment to love, share and invite can be greatly expanded,” he said.

“My specific prayer today is for every child, young man, young woman, family, and quorum, Relief Society and class to review how we individually and collectively accept dramatic counsel to help gather Israel that have been issued by the Lord and our beloved Prophet.”

President Russell M. Nelson looks over the Conference Center during the Saturday afternoon session of general conference on April 1, 2023. | Leslie Nilsson, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Testifying of Christ can invite others to learn more about Him. In her Saturday morning talk, Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon shared her father’s counsel to her:  “Bonnie, never give up an opportunity to testify of Christ.”

She said like others, she has borne witness of Christ during a fast and testimony meeting, testified of gospel truths as part of a lesson, and taught about Christ as a missionary. 

“Yet this plea felt more personal,” she said about her father. “It seemed as though he was saying: ‘Bonnie, don’t let the world overtake you! Stay true to your covenants with the Savior. Seek to experience His blessings every day, and be able to testify through the Holy Ghost of His power and presence in your life!’”

Gathering Israel includes temple and family history work, which Elder Benjamin De Hoyos, General Authority Seventy, spoke about in the Saturday afternoon session.

“But let us remember that family history is more than just looking for names, dates and places. It is uniting families and feeling the joy that comes from extending to them the ordinances of the gospel,” he said. “Certainly, the work of the temple and family history are one and the same work in the Church.”

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Making and keeping covenants

As people are gathered in to the gospel, they progress on the covenant path by making and keeping covenants.

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained in the Saturday afternoon session that God established covenants as a way His children can unite themselves to Him.  “A covenant is a pledge that we should prepare for, clearly understand and absolutely honor,” he said.

Making a covenant with God is different than casually making a promise, Elder Renlund said, and priesthood authority is required. 

“We make a covenant only when we intend to commit ourselves quite exceptionally to fulfilling it. We become covenant children of God and inheritors of His kingdom, especially when we identify ourselves completely with the covenant,” Elder Renlund said. 

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Brigham Young University students Natalie Jones, Andrea Morris and Emma Spiers, left to right, take a photo at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City after the Saturday afternoon session of the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 1, 2023. | Ryan Sun, Deseret News

Keeping covenants gives people strength to withstand mortality’s trials and heartaches. And the doctrine associated with covenants provides hope, comfort and peace.

In the Sunday morning session, Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson spoke about the connection between covenants and relief. “Covenant keepers are blessed with the Savior’s relief,” she said.

Receiving his patriarchal blessing helped Elder Randall K. Bennett, General Authority Seventy, to study the covenants he had made and the promised blessings in God’s covenant with Abraham. “It gave me an eternal perspective that inspired me to more fully keep my covenants,” Elder Bennett said during the Saturday afternoon session.

Brother Milton Camargo, first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, said Saturday evening that covenants help focus attention, thoughts and actions on Christ.

And, he said, cleaving unto covenants invites change. “Covenant keeping leads us to seek after whatever invites the influence of the Spirit and reject whatever drives it away.”

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Ministering to others

Ministering brothers and sisters can invite others to make and keep sacred covenants. 

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said inspired ministering can bless individuals and families for generations. It can also strengthen wards and branches.

“In many places, we can reach out, understand others where they are and build relationships when we regularly visit members in their homes. Inspired invitations change lives. When invitations help us make and keep sacred covenants, we draw closer to the Lord and each other,” Elder Gong said in the Saturday morning session.

But in some places in the Church, there is a ministering gap. More say they are ministering than say they are being ministered to. Elder Gong said to look to the Savior Jesus Christ as the perfect example of ministering.

“As we minister as He would, we witness His miracles and His blessings,” he said.

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Attendees sing during the congregational hymn at the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 1, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Elder Juan A. Uceda, General Authority Seventy, spoke Saturday evening of becoming undershepherds to the Lord Jesus Christ by ministering to the one.

He shared the stories in Luke 15: The parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the prodigal son. 

“Can we feel the urgency in the heart of the man who lost only one sheep? Or the urgency in the heart of the woman who lost just one coin? Or the ineffable love and compassion in the heart of the prodigal’s father?” Elder Uceda asked.

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Quoting President Nelson’s talk on ministering from April 2018 general conference, Elder Uceda pointed out that a hallmark of the Lord’s true and living Church will always be an organized, directed effort to minister to individuals and families. 

“Because it is His Church, we as His servants will minister to the one, just as He did. We will minister in His name, with His power and authority, and with His loving-kindness,” Elder Uceda quoted from President Nelson.

After he gave examples of how ministering blesses lives, Elder Uceda concluded, “I testify that with our Savior’s help, we can love His precious sheep and minister to them as He would.”

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