Episode 25: General conference highlights include counsel, direction from Church leaders

Millions of Latter-day Saints worldwide gathered in their homes to watch or listen to the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 3-4. Although COVID-19 continued to prevent large in-person gatherings, more people than ever before tuned into general conference thanks to technology.

The many international participants, the messages coming from afar and the increased availability of television and radio broadcasting worldwide made this conference a global event.

This episode of the Church News podcast summarizes the historic conference with quotes from the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and women leaders and looks back at conference themes, invitations and promised blessings. Church leaders assured members that even during turbulent times, they can look forward with faith.

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Transcription:

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with leaders, members and others on the Church News team. We end each Church News podcast by giving our guests the last word and the opportunity to answer the very important question: “What do you know now?” We hope each of you will also be able to answer the same question and say, “I have just been listening to the Church News podcast, and this is what I know now.”

In the opening moments of the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 3 and 4, President Russell M. Nelson welcomed members of one global family, connected by their desire to worship the Lord and the Savior Jesus Christ. Although COVID-19 continues to prevent large in-person gatherings, more people than ever tuned into general conference this spring, thanks to technology. The Sunday morning session was broadcast on television and radio stations in more than 70 nations. This episode of the Church News podcast looks back at conference themes, invitations and promised blessings. Church leaders promise members that even during turbulent times, they can look forward with faith, expecting the promised blessings of righteousness. President Nelson opened the historic conference held on Easter weekend with an invitation for each of us.

Read more: April 2021 general conference: See a list of talk summaries, photo galleries and session highlights

1:45  

President Russell M. Nelson: The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of repentance. Because of the Savior’s Atonement, His gospel provides an invitation to keep changing, growing, and becoming more pure.  It is a gospel of hope, of healing, and of progress. Thus, the gospel is a message of joy!  Our spirits rejoice with every small step forward we take.

Part of the gathering of Israel, and a very important part, is the charge for us as a people to be worthy and willing to help prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord.

As we listen to the messages that have been carefully prepared by our leaders under the direction of the Holy Ghost, I invite you to pray to identify the debris you should remove from your life so you can become more worthy.

I love you, my dear brothers and sisters, and testify that our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son know and love you individually.  They stand ready to assist you in every step forward you take. 

3:03  

Sarah Jane Weaver: As spring approached after this long isolating year, President Nelson was not the only leader that invited us to change and become better. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said God is among us and is personally involved in our lives.

3:17  

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf: Open your hearts to our Savior and Redeemer, no matter your circumstances, trials, sufferings or mistakes. You can know that He lives and that He loves you and because of Him, you will never be alone.

3:34  

Sarah Jane Weaver: Sister Joy D. Jones, who was released as Primary general president, said children deserve to understand the principles of agency.

3:42  

President Joy D. Jones: As we nurture and prepare our children, we allow for their agency. We love them with all our heart. We teach them God’s commandments and His gift of repentance, and we never, ever give up on them. After all, isn’t this the Lord’s way with each of us? 

3:59  

Sarah Jane Weaver: Elder Gary E. Stevenson promised comfort from life’s storms. He asked members to be united and to be kind, and he spoke out about racial prejudice.

4:09  

Elder Gary E. Stevenson: On this Holy Easter weekend, I find abiding peace in knowing that the Lord is my shepherd and that each of us is known by Him and under His watch care. When we confront life’s wind and rainstorms, sickness and injuries, the Lord — our Shepherd, our caregiver — will nourish us with love and kindness. He will heal our hearts and restore our souls.

4:33  

Sarah Jane Weaver: Elder Gerrit W. Gong said the Church can be a refuge.

4:36  

Elder Gerrit W. Gong, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks during the Saturday morning session of the 191st Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City on April 3, 2021.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks during the Saturday morning session of the 191st Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City on April 3, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Gerrit W. Gong: In this Easter season, Jesus Christ invites us to become, like Him, a Good Samaritan, to make His Inn (His Church) a refuge for all from life’s bruises and storms.  We prepare for His promised Second Coming as each day we do unto the “least of these” as we would unto Him.  “The least of these” is each of us.   

5:03  

Sarah Jane Weaver: President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, said temple service can change us and lift us. His talk in the first session of general conference got all of us thinking about temples in the historic conference when President Nelson would later announce 20 new temples.

5:21  

President Henry B. Eyring: That is why my hope for you and for all your beloved family is that you will grow in desire and determination to be worthy to go into the house of the Lord as often as your circumstances allow. He wants to welcome you there. I pray that you will try to build desire in the hearts of Heavenly Father’s children to go there, where they can feel close to Him, and that you will also invite your ancestors to qualify to be with Him and with you forever. 

5:57  

Sarah Jane Weaver: Saturday afternoon, Elder Holland said Easter is a time to pledge total loyalty to the Lamb of God and for the principles of the gospel to pass over, conflict and contention.

6:08  

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Brothers and sisters, we do see too much conflict, anger, and general incivility around us. Fortunately, the current generation has not had a Third World War to fight, nor have we experienced a global economic crash like the one in 1929 leading to a Great Depression. But we are, however, facing a kind of Third World War that is not a fight to crush our enemies, but a conscription marshalling the children of God to care more about each other and to help heal the wounds we find in a conflicted world. 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. But the instruments we need to create a brighter day and grow an economy of genuine goodness are abundantly provided for in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot afford— and the world cannot afford—our failure to put these gospel concepts and fortifying covenants to full use personally and publicly.

7:41  

Sarah Jane Weaver: Elder Dale G. Renlund said unfair situations can either push us away from God or we can draw near to Him.

7:49  

Elder Dale G. Renlund: Different types of unfairness can merge, creating a tsunami of overwhelming unfairness. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affects those who already are subject to multifactorial, underlying disadvantages. My heart aches for those who face such unfairness, but I declare with all my aching heart that Jesus Christ both understands unfairness and has the power to provide a remedy. Nothing compares to the unfairness He endured. It was not fair that He experienced all the pains and afflictions of mankind. It was not fair that He suffered for my sins and mistakes and for yours. But He chose to do so because of His love for us and for Heavenly Father. He understands perfectly what we are experiencing.

A family in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, participates in a session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 191st Annual General Conference, broadcast on Saturday, April 3, and Sunday, April 4, 2021.
A family in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, participates in a session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 191st Annual General Conference, broadcast on Saturday, April 3, and Sunday, April 4, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

8:45  

Sarah Jane Weaver: Speaking out against abortion, Elder Neil L. Andersen said as covenant children of God, we love, honor, nurture, safeguard and welcome spirits who are coming from the premortal world.

8:56  

Elder Neil L. Andersen: I testify that your own personal journey as a child of God did not begin for you as the first flow of earth’s air came rushing into your lungs and it will not end when you take your last breath of mortality. May we always remember that each spirit child of God is coming to earth on his or her own personal journey. May we welcome them, safeguard them, and always love them. As you receive these precious children in the Savior’s name and help them in their eternal journey, I promise you that the Lord will bless you and shower His love and approval upon you.

9:42  

Sarah Jane Weaver: President M. Russell Ballard sent a special message to members of the Church who are single. The Church needs your voice, talents, skills, goodness and righteousness, he said.

9:54  

President M. Russell Ballard: Like these ancient disciples nearly 2,000 years ago, many of you may also feel lonely from time to time. I have experienced this loneliness since the death of my precious wife, Barbara, over two years ago. I know what it is to be surrounded by family members, friends and associates but still feel lonely — because the love of my life is no longer here beside me. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this sense of isolation and loneliness for many.  Nevertheless, despite the challenges we face in life, like that first Easter morning, we can awake to a new life in Christ with new and marvelous possibilities and new realities as we turn to the Lord for hope and belonging. 

10:55  

Sarah Jane Weaver: Saturday evening, speaking to Latter-day Saint men, Elder Quentin L. Cook emphasized the bishopric’s seminal role in shepherding the rising generation. 

11:05  

Elder Quentin L. Cook: The young men who are priests and the young women of the same age are at a very important stage in their lives and development. During a short period of time, they make decisions that have significant lifelong implications. Bishops, please know that a relatively short time spent with a young priest, young woman or young adult can help them understand the power available to them through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It can provide a vision that will have a profound influence upon their entire life. 

11:41  

Sarah Jane Weaver: Also speaking to the men, President Henry B. Eyring said understanding why individuals are given the priesthood can help them grow in priesthood service.

11:52  

President Henry B. Eyring: It is my witness that the keys of the priesthood were restored to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Servants of the Lord appeared from heaven to restore the priesthood for the great events that have unfolded and that lie before us. Israel will be gathered. The Lord’s people will be prepared for His glorious Second Coming. The Restoration will continue. The Lord will reveal more of His will to His prophets and to His servants. You may feel small compared to the great sweep of what the Lord will do. If you do, I invite you to ask prayerfully how the Lord sees you. He knows you personally, He conferred the priesthood upon you, and your rising up and magnifying the priesthood matter to Him because He loves you and He trusts you to bless people He loves in His name.

12:57  

Sarah Jane Weaver: President Eyring’s remarks were followed by President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency. He said the Savior’s atoning love and sacrifice provides all with everything needed to experience the joy promising God’s plan of happiness.

Men in Livingston, Montana, watch the priesthood session of the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday, April 3, 2021.
Men in Livingston, Montana, watch the priesthood session of the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday, April 3, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

13:14  

President Dallin H. Oaks: As part of the Father’s plan, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ overcame death to assure each of us immortality. Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice gives each of us the opportunity to repent of our sins and return clean to our Heavenly Home. His commandments and covenants show us the way, and His priesthood gives the authority to perform the ordinances that are essential to reach that destiny. And our Savior willingly experienced all mortal pains and infirmities that He would know how to succor or strengthen us in our afflictions. Jesus Christ did all of this because He loves all of the children of God. Love is the motivation for it all, and it was so from the very beginning.

14:12  

Sarah Jane Weaver: And concluding the priesthood session, President Russell M. Nelson offered four lessons learned in the two years since the men had gathered together for general conference.

14:23  

President Russell M. Nelson: What have you learned in the past two years that you always want to remember? Your answers will be unique to you, but may I suggest four lessons I hope we have all learned and will never forget.

Lesson 1: The home is the center of faith and worship. 

Lesson 2: We need each other. 

Lesson 3:  Your priesthood quorum is meant for more than just a meeting. 

Lesson 4: We hear Jesus Christ better when we are still.

I have listed only four.  I invite you to make your own list, consider it carefully, and share it with those you love.

The future is bright for God’s covenant-keeping people. The Lord will increasingly call upon His servants who worthily hold the priesthood to bless, comfort, and strengthen mankind and to help prepare the world and its people for His Second Coming. It behooves each of us to measure up to the sacred ordination we have received. We can do this, I so testify.

15:46  

Sarah Jane Weaver: The Sunday morning session of general conference was historic on so many levels. Many of the talks originated outside of the United States by members of Area Presidencies. Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and a native of Brazil kicked off the international session. He spoke to all of us about how to overcome the chains of sin and death by allowing the Atonement of Jesus Christ into our life.

16:13  

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 191st Annual General Conference on April 4, 2021.
Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the Sunday morning session of the 191st Annual General Conference on April 4, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Ulisses Soares: My dear brothers and sisters, on this Easter Sunday, I bear my solemn witness that Jesus rose from the dead and that He lives. I testify to you that through Him and His infinite atoning sacrifice, the Savior provided us the way to overcome death, both physically and spiritually. In addition to these great blessings, He offers us comfort and assurance in difficult times, such as those that many of us have recently experienced. I assure you that as we put our trust in Jesus Christ and His supernal atoning sacrifice, enduring in our faith to the end, we will enjoy the promises of our Beloved Heavenly Father, who does everything within His power to help us return to His presence one day. This is His work and His glory! I testify to you that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world, the promised Messiah, the resurrection and the life.

17:23  

Sarah Jane Weaver: Elder Soares was followed by Sister Reyna Isabel Aburto of the Relief Society general presidency. A native of Nicaragua, Sister Aberto spoke about losing her brother to a devastating earthquake when she was 9 years old. She said broken hearts can be healed through the Savior.

17:42  

Sister Reyna Isabel Aburto: I had received a witness that my brother’s spirit is not dead; he is alive. He is still progressing in his eternal existence. I now know that my brother shall rise again at that magnificent moment when, because of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, we will all be resurrected. In addition, He has made it possible for all of us to be reunited as families and have eternal joy in the presence of God if we will choose to make and keep sacred covenants with Him. President Nelson has taught: “Death is a necessary component of our eternal existence. No one knows when it will come.”

18:33  

Sarah Jane Weaver: President Nelson anchored the Sunday morning session. He said the gospel of Jesus Christ is exactly what is needed right now in this confused, contentious and weary world.

18:45  

President Russell M. Nelson: This morning, we have heard from Church leaders who come from every populated continent on earth. Truly, the blessings of the gospel are for every race, language, and people. The Church of Jesus Christ is a global Church. Jesus Christ is our Leader.

Thankfully, even a pandemic has not been able to slow the onward march of His truth. The gospel of Jesus Christ is exactly what is needed in this confused, contentious, and weary world. Each of God’s children deserves the opportunity to hear and accept the healing, redeeming message of Jesus Christ. No other message is more vital to our happiness — now and forever. No other message is more filled with hope. No other message can eliminate contention in our society. Faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of all belief and the conduit of divine power. 

Clockwise from left, McKenzie Bywater, Cody Bywater, Bryan Bywater, Madison Bywater and Erika Bywater of the Elwood 3rd Ward, Tremonton Utah South Stake, watch the Sunday morning session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 191st Annual General Conference on April 4, 2021.
Clockwise from left, McKenzie Bywater, Cody Bywater, Bryan Bywater, Madison Bywater and Erika Bywater of the Elwood 3rd Ward, Tremonton Utah South Stake, watch the Sunday morning session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 191st Annual General Conference on April 4, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

20:01  

Sarah Jane Weaver: The Sunday morning session broadcast on Easter morning in every way emphasized the Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement and resurrection. Sunday afternoon followed a similar pattern with speakers again testifying of Christ and His Church. President Dallin H. Oaks spoke first in the session. He testified of the divinely inspired Constitution of the United States, and encouraged members to uphold and defend its principles.

20:33  

President Dallin H. Oaks: Our belief in divine inspiration gives Latter-day Saints a unique responsibility to uphold and defend the United States Constitution and principles of constitutionalism wherever we live. We should trust in the Lord and be positive about this nation’s future.

What else are faithful Latter-day Saints to do? We must pray for the Lord to guide and bless all nations and their leaders. This is part of our Article of Faith. Being subject to presidents or rulers of course poses no obstacle to our opposing individual laws or policies.  It does require that we exercise our influence civilly and peacefully within the framework of our constitutions and applicable laws.  On contested issues, we should seek to moderate and unify.

There are other duties that are part of upholding the inspired Constitution. We should learn and advocate the inspired principles of the Constitution. We should seek out and support wise and good persons who will support those principles in their public actions. We should be knowledgeable citizens who are active in making our influence felt in civic affairs.

21:59  

Sarah Jane Weaver: Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on miracles that abound among followers of Jesus Christ today.

22:07  

Elder Ronald A. Rasband: Miracles can come as answers to prayer. They are not always what we ask for or what we expect, but when we trust in the Lord, He will be there, and He will be right. He will suit the miracle to the moment we need it. The Lord performs miracles to remind us of His power, His love for us, His reach from the heavens to our mortal experience, and His desire to teach of that which is of most worth.

Latter-day Saints in Accra, Ghana, sing "We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet" in a recording that was broadcast during the Sunday afternoon session of the 190th Annual General Conference on April 5, 2020.
Latter-day Saints in Accra, Ghana, sing “We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet” in a recording that was broadcast during the Sunday afternoon session of the 190th Annual General Conference on April 5, 2020. Credit: Screenshot, ChurchofJesusChrist.org

22:40  

Sarah Jane Weaver: Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke of the covenant path. He said it leads us to heaven, happy living, and the comforting companionship of the Holy Ghost and fellow Latter-day Saints.

22:52  

Elder D. Todd Christofferson: With covenants, we are intent on more than just avoiding mistakes or being prudent in our decisions. We feel accountable to God for our choices and our lives. We take upon us the name of Christ. We are focused on Christ — on being valiant in the testimony of Jesus and on developing the character of Christ. We offer the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. With covenants, obedience to gospel principles becomes rooted in our very soul.

23:17  

Sarah Jane Weaver: Also speaking of the covenant path was Elder David A. Bednar. He said Latter-day Saints are to learn, live and love principles of righteousness in pressing forward along the covenant path.

23:29  

Elder David A. Bednar: Learning, understanding, and living gospel principles strengthen our faith in the Savior, deepen our devotion to Him, and invite a multitude of blessings and spiritual gifts into our lives. Principles of righteousness also help us to look beyond our personal preferences and self-centered desires by providing the precious perspective of eternal truth as we navigate the different circumstances, challenges, decisions, and experiences of mortality. 

24:03  

Sarah Jane Weaver: President Russell M. Nelson concluded the historic conference with a beautiful and powerful announcement that the Church planned to build 20 new temples. That brings the total of temples he has announced during the last three years he has served as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to 69. President Nelson’s announcement came even as temples around the world are closed but continue to reopen in phases as circumstances allow. He said the Church has felt inspired to reopen temples gradually, with this very cautious approach. He asked all of us to press forward in the glorious work of the Lord with courage.

Read more: President Nelson announces 20 new temples during April 2021 general conference

24:45  

President Russell M. Nelson: As I announce our plans to construct 20 more temples, I ponder and praise pioneers — past and present — whose consecrated lives have helped to make this history today.  A new temple will be built in each of the following locations:

  • Oslo, Norway
  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Kumasi, Ghana
  • Beira, Mozambique
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Singapore, Republic of Singapore
  • Belo Horizonte, Brazil
  • Cali, Colombia
  • Querétaro, México
  • Torreón, México
  • Helena, Montana
  • Casper, Wyoming
  • Grand Junction, Colorado
  • Farmington, New Mexico
  • Burley, Idaho
  • Eugene, Oregon
  • Elko, Nevada
  • Yorba Linda, California
  • Smithfield, Utah

Temples are a vital part of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness.  Ordinances of the temple fill our lives with power and strength—available in no other way.  We thank God for those blessings.

26:25  

Sarah Jane Weaver: As we conclude this Church News podcast, after looking back on the historic 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we conclude with the most important question: “What do you know now?” President Nelson spoke about this often during this conference. He talked about what he had learned since the last time the men had gathered, and what he had learned as the COVID-19 pandemic marched across the earth. So hopefully, each of you will take an opportunity to share what you learned as a result of this general conference. And so we’ll conclude with his words, and his testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

President Russell M. Nelson speaks during the Sunday afternoon session of the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on April 4, 2021.
President Russell M. Nelson speaks during the Sunday afternoon session of the 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on April 4, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

27:10  

President Russell M. Nelson: The mountains in our lives do not always move how or when we would like.  But our faith will always propel us forward. Faith always increases our access to godly power. 

Please know this: if everything and everyone else in the world in whom you trust should fail, Jesus Christ and His Church will never fail you. The Lord never slumbers, nor does He sleep. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.He will not forsake His covenants, His promises, or His love for His people.  He works miracles today and He will work miracles tomorrow.

Faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest power available to us in this life. All things are possible to them that believe. Your growing faith in Him will move mountains — not the mountains of rock that beautify the earth — but the mountains of misery in your lives. Your flourishing faith will help you turn challenges into unparalleled growth and opportunity.

On this Easter Sunday, with my deep feelings of love and gratitude, I declare my witness that Jesus Christ is indeed risen. He is risen to lead His Church. He is risen to bless the lives of all of God’s children, wherever they live. With faith in Him, we can move the mountains in our lives. 

29:12

Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News editor, Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you’ve learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast, and if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer KellieAnn Halvorsen and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.