President Thomas S. Monson: As We Gather Once Again
Following is the text of President Thomas S. Monson’s remarks during the opening session of the 182nd Annual General Conference, which convened Saturday morning, March 31.
My beloved brothers and sisters, as we gather once again in a general conference of the Church, I welcome you and express my love to you. We meet each six months to strengthen one another, to extend encouragement, to provide comfort, to build faith. We are here to learn. Some of you may be seeking answers to questions and challenges you are experiencing in your life. Some are struggling with disappointments or losses. Each can be enlightened and uplifted and comforted as the Spirit of the Lord is felt.
Should there be changes which need to be made in your life, may you find the incentive and the courage to do so as you listen to the inspired words which will be spoken. May each of us resolve anew to live so that we are worthy sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. May we continue to oppose evil wherever it is found.
How blessed we are to have come to earth at such a time as this—a marvelous time in the long history of the world. We can’t all be together under one roof, but we now have the ability to partake of the proceedings of this conference through the wonders of television, radio, cable, satellite transmission, and the Internet—even on mobile devices. We come together as one, speaking many languages, living in many lands, but all of one faith and one doctrine and one purpose.
From a small beginning 182 years ago, our presence is now felt throughout the world. This great cause in which we are engaged will continue to go forth, changing and blessing lives as it does so. No cause, no force in the entire world can stop the work of God. Despite what comes, this great cause will go forward. You recall the prophetic words of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”
There is much that is difficult and challenging in the world today, my brothers and sisters, but there is also much that is good and uplifting. As we declare in our thirteenth Article of Faith, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” May we ever continue to do so.
I thank you for your faith and devotion to the gospel. I thank you for the love and care you show one to another. I thank you for the service you provide in your wards and branches and in your stakes and districts. It is such service that enables the Lord to accomplish many of His purposes here upon the earth.
I express my thanks to you for your kindnesses to me wherever I go. I thank you for your prayers in my behalf. I have felt those prayers and am most grateful for them.
Now, my brothers and sisters, we have come to be instructed and inspired. Many messages will be shared during the next two days. I can assure you that those men and women who will address you have sought heaven’s help and direction as they have prepared their messages. They have been inspired concerning that which they will share with us.
Our Heavenly Father is mindful of each of us and our needs. May we be filled with His Spirit as we partake of the proceedings of this conference. This is my sincere prayer, in the sacred name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
President Boyd K. Packer: And a Little Child Shall Lead Them
The creation of life is a great responsibility for a married couple, said President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, in his Saturday morning conference address.
“It is the challenge of mortality to be a worthy and responsible parent,” he said. “Neither man nor woman can bear children alone. It was meant that children have two parents—both a father and a mother. No other pattern or process can replace this one.”
President Packer began his talk by sharing several touching, chance encounters he has had with impoverished, desperate children in different parts of the world—from Osaka, Japan, to Cuzco, Peru, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Each child represents all of Heavenly Father’s children.
He quoted Psalm 127:3, 5: “‘Children are an heritage of the Lord: and ... happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.’”
President Packer spoke of an unmarried couple who decided to abort their child. In due time, the couple married and had several other children. The mother was left tormented by the one child who was missing from their family on earth.
“If this couple understands and applies the Atonement, they will know that those experiences and the pain connected with them can be erased. No pain will last forever. It is not easy, but life was never meant to be either easy or fair. Repentance and the lasting hope that forgiveness brings will always be worth the effort,” he said.
He noted that some people remain unmarried and childless. Others, due to circumstances beyond their control, are raising children as single mothers or single fathers. These are temporary states, said President Packer. In the eternities, righteous yearning and longing will be fulfilled, he promised.
“The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is to see a husband and his wife and their children happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood. Husbands and wives should understand that their first calling—from which they will never be released—is to one another and then to their children.”
President Packer noted that one of the great discoveries of parenthood “is that we learn far more about what really matters from our children than we ever did from our parents. We come to recognize the truth in Isaiah’s prophesy that ‘a little child shall lead them.’ ”
It was the Savior Who taught His followers to pray for, bless and teach the little ones, President Packer said.
President Packer spoke of being the 10th in a family of 11 children. Neither his father nor mother served in a prominent Church calling.
“Our parents served faithfully in their most important calling as parents,” he said. “Our father led our home in righteousness, never with anger or fear. And the powerful example of our father was magnified by the tender counsel of our mother. The gospel is a powerful influence in the life of every one of us in the Packer family and to the next generation and the next and the next, as far as we have seen.”
President Packer said he hoped to be judged as good a man as his father: “Before I hear those words ‘well done’ from my Heavenly Father, I hope to first hear them from my mortal father.”
He concluded by declaring that “family time” is a sacred time that should be protected and respected. Priesthood leaders must be careful to make the Church family friendly, he said.
“Fathers and mothers, next time you cradle a newborn child in your arms you can have an inner vision of the mysteries and purposes of life. You will better understand why the Church is as it is and why the family is the basic organization in time and all eternity.”
Cheryl A. Esplin: Teaching Our Children to Understand
Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3), quoted Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, second counselor in the Primary general presidency in her remarks Saturday morning. “What a sacred responsibility Heavenly Father places upon us as parents to partner with Him in helping His choice spirits become what He knows they can become.”
Referencing a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Sister Esplin pointed out that the Lord doesn’t just say to “teach the doctrine,” but to teach children to “understand the doctrine” (see Doctrine and Covenants 68:25, 28).
“Teaching our children to understand is more than just imparting information. It’s helping our children get the doctrine into their hearts in a way that it becomes part of their very being and is reflected in their attitudes and behavior throughout their lives.”
Noting that the role of the Holy Ghost is to carry the truth unto the hearts of the children of men (see 2 Nephi 33:1), Sister Esplin said the role of a parent is to create an atmosphere where children can feel and recognize the influence of the Spirit.
“Sometimes the most powerful way to teach our children to understand a doctrine is to teach in the context of what they are experiencing right at that moment,” she said. Because these moments are spontaneous and can come and go quickly, parents need to be alert and recognize a teaching moment when it presents itself.
“If we are ready and will let the Spirit guide in these situations, our children will be taught with greater effect and understanding,” she said.
Teaching moments can also come during regular occasions such as family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and other family activities.
Sister Esplin said she first learned to pray by listening to her parents pray and as they helped her say her first prayers. As a family, they prayed every morning, at every meal, and in the evening before bed.
“Although there was much I didn’t understand about prayer as a child, it became such a part of my life that it stayed with me. I still continue to learn, and my understanding of the power of prayer still continues to grow.”
As children begin to understand gospel doctrines, “they become more self-reliant and more responsible. They become part of the solution to our family challenges and make a positive contribution to the environment of our home and the success of our family,” she said.
Elder Donald L. Hallstrom: Converted to His Gospel through His Church
A full conversion to the gospel is the only sure way to have spiritual safety now and happiness forever, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy said during the Saturday morning session of general conference.
“I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Elder Hallstrom said. “Sometimes we use the terms ‘gospel’ and ‘Church’ interchangeably, but they are not the same. They are, however, exquisitely interconnected and we need both.”
Elder Hallstrom taught that the Church was established by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, He then spoke of the Church today with its more than 18,000 meetinghouses, 136 temples (with 30 more under construction or announced), more than 56,000 full-time missionaries serving in 150 countries, along with humanitarian work and a welfare system that span the globe to many communities throughout the world.
“This is a magnificent Church,” he said. “Its organization, effectiveness and sheer goodness are respected by all who sincerely seek to understand it. ... There is nothing like this Church in all the world.”
But the gospel is even more than the organization of the Church, said Elder Hallstrom.
“Some have come to think of activity in the Church as the ultimate goal,” he observed. “Therein lies a danger. It is possible to be active in the Church and less-active in the gospel. Let me stress—activity in the Church is a highly-desirable goal; however, it is insufficient. Activity in the Church is an outward indication of our spiritual desire. If we attend our meetings, hold and fulfill Church responsibilities, and serve others, it is publicly observed.
“By contrast, the things of the gospel are usually less visible and more difficult to measure, but, they are of greater eternal importance. ...
“I repeat—we need the gospel and the Church. In fact the purpose of the Church is to help us live the gospel.”
Elder Hallstrom shared three fundamental ways to have the gospel be “the foundation of our life.”
1. Deepen our understanding of Deity.
“A sustained knowledge of and love for the three members of the Godhead are indispensable,” he said. “Mindfully pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, and seek direction from the Holy Ghost. Coupled with constant study and humble pondering, continually build unshakable faith in Jesus Christ.”
2. Focus on the ordinances and covenants.
“If there are any of the essential ordinances yet to be performed in your life, intently prepare to receive each of them,” he said. “Then, we need to establish the discipline to live faithful to our covenants, fully using the weekly gift of the sacrament. Many of us are not being regularly changed by its cleansing power because of our lack of reverence for this holy ordinance.”
3. Unite the gospel with the Church.
“Concentrating on the gospel, the Church will become more, not less, of a blessing in our lives. As we come to each meeting prepared to ‘seek learning, even by study and also by faith,’ the Holy Spirit will be our teacher. If we come to be entertained, we often will be disappointed. ...”
“The Lord wants the members of His Church to be fully converted to His gospel,” Elder Hallstrom said. “This is the only sure way to have spiritual safety now and happiness forever.”
Elder Paul E. Koelliker: He Truly Loves Us
Establishing righteous patterns is essential in developing the ability to love and nurture others, and in becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, Elder Paul E. Koelliker of the Seventy said during the Saturday morning session of general conference.
Just as missionaries ponder how they can help individuals they teach develop a desire to know more about Heavenly Father and feeling His Spirit, so do parents and leaders on behalf of those they are commissioned to nurture. It is through awakening the desire to know that enables an individual’s spiritual capacities to hear the voice of heaven, he said.
“Finding a way to awaken and nurture that desire is the quest and responsibility of each of us—missionaries, parents, teachers, leaders, and members,” he said.
Elder Koelliker spoke of establishing patterns that will help one learn to heed the Spirit.
“Patterns are templates, guides, repeating steps, or a path one follows to stay aligned with God’s purpose,” he said. “If followed, we will be kept humble, awake, and able to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit from those voices that distract us and lead us away.”
He spoke of the pattern of prayer and it’s influence.
“The blessing of humble prayer, offered with real intent, allows the Holy Spirit to touch our hearts and helps us to remember what we knew before we were born into this mortal experience,” he said. “As we more clearly understand our Heavenly Father’s plan for us, we begin to acknowledge our responsibility to help others learn and understand His plan. Closely tied to helping others remember is the way we personally live and apply the gospel in our own lives. When we actually live the gospel in the pattern taught by the Lord Jesus Christ, our ability to help others increases. ...
“It is when we yield to His will and live His pattern that His Spirit is felt.”
It is through developing the ability to be Christ-centered in how one thinks, speaks, and acts that is fundamental in becoming a disciple of Christ, he said.
“What is the ultimate means by which we can enjoy the gift and power of the Holy Ghost? It is the power that comes by being faithful disciples of Jesus Christ,” he declared. “It is our love for Him and our fellow man. Through His love, the blessing of the resurrection is given to all. It is the Savior who defined the pattern of love when He taught us ... ‘love one another; as I have loved you.’”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks: Sacrifice
Sacrifice remains a key component in the gospel plan, said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve as he addressed the Saturday morning session of conference.
“The incomprehensible suffering of Jesus Christ ended sacrifice by the shedding of blood, but it did not end the importance of sacrifice in the gospel plan,” he said. Our Savior, continues to require us to offer sacrifices, but the sacrifies He now commands are that we offer ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit’ (3 Nephi 9:20). He also commands each of us to love and serve one another—in effect to offer a small imitation of His own sacrifice by making sacrifices of our own time and selfish priorities.”
Elder Oaks then went on to speak of the mortal sacrifices the Savior asks His followers to make.
The Christian faith has a history of those who offered the ultimate sacrifice—their own lives—in defense of their faith, he noted. “For most followers of Christ, our sacrifices involve what we can do on a day-to-day basis in our ordinary personal lives. In this experience, I know of no group whose members make more sacrifices than Latter-day Saints. Their sacrifices—your sacrifices, my brothers and sisters—stand in contrast to the familiar worldly quest for personal fulfillment.”
The experience of the Mormon pioneers represents an epic sacrifice of lives, family relationships, homes and comforts that are at the foundation of the restored gospel, Elder Oaks said. Further, he said that the most visible strength of the Church today is the unselfish service and sacrifice of its members and that their lives of service and sacrifice are the most appropriate expressions of their commitment to serve the Master and their fellowmen.
Elder Oaks noted that lay members have been called to lead and serve in thousands of congregations across the world. The Church is not alone in having lay members serve as teachers and lay leaders, he said. “But the amount of time donated by our members to train and minister to one another is uniquely large. Our efforts to have each family in our congregation visited by home teachers each month and to have each adult woman visited by Relief Society visiting teachers each month are examples of this,” he pointed out.
Missionaries are the best known example of service and sacrifice in the Church, he said. “Their work always involves sacrifice, including the years they give to the work of the Lord and also the sacrifices made in providing funds for their support.”
Other sacrifices resulting from missionary service, he added, are the sacrifices of those who act on the teachings of the missionaries and become members. For many, he said, such sacrifices include the loss of friends and family associations.
He said sacrifices are also being made through faithful temple service.
“Perhaps the most familiar and most important examples of unselfish service and sacrifice are performed in our families,” said Elder Oaks. Many also demonstrate unselfishness by adopting children—including those with special needs—and by providing for foster children, he said.
Sacrifices of time and means, he concluded, are part of one’s schooling and qualifying for eternity. “Just as the Atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is at the center of the plan of salvation, we followers of Christ must make our own sacrifices to prepare for the destiny that plan provides for us,” he declared.
President Henry B. Eyring: Mountains to Climb
An unshakable foundation of faith is built by loving as the Savior loved and serving for Him. Such faith in Christ leads one to acts of charity that yield hope.
That was the message shared by President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, during his Saturday morning address.
He noted that many in the Church were passing through physical, mental, and emotional trials. The Lord Himself suffered unimaginable trials more terrible than one can imagine as He atoned for the sins of the world, President Eyring reminded the congregation.
“You and I have faith that the way to rise through and above trials is to believe that there is a ‘balm in Gilead,’ and that the Lord has promised: ‘I will not ... forsake thee.’ That is what President Thomas S. Monson has taught us to help us, and those we serve, in what seem lonely and overwhelming trials,” he said.
President Eyring said that as a young man he worked with a contractor building footings and foundations for new houses. It was hard work that demanded patience while the footing cement cured. Metal bars were added to strengthen the finished foundation.
“In a similar way, the ground must be carefully prepared for our foundation of faith to withstand the storms that will come into every life,” he said. “That solid basis for a foundation of faith is personal integrity.”
Choosing the right consistently, he added, creates the solid ground under one’s faith. “Those choices, hundreds in most days, prepare the solid ground on which our edifice of faith is built. The metal framework around which the substance of our faith is poured is the gospel of Jesus Christ, with all its covenants, ordinances, and principles.”
As with the curing of cement, it is vital that faith be adequately cured.
“The curing does not come automatically through the passage of time, but it does take time. Getting older does not do it alone. It is serving God and others persistently with full heart and soul that turns testimony of truth into unbreakable spiritual strength.”
President Eyring then spoke to those who are in the midst of hard trials and might feel their faith is fading under the onslaught of trouble. Trouble itself, he said, can be a way to strengthen and finally gain unshakable faith.
The Church leader remembered once visiting with a woman who had forgiven a person who had wronged her for years. He asked her why she had chosen to forgive and forget after enduring years of spiteful abuse. The woman replied that it was the hardest thing she had ever done—but she knew it had to be done. “Her faith that the Savior would forgive her if she forgave others prepared her with a feeling of peace and hope as she faced death just months after she had forgiven her unrepentant adversary.”
The faith to endure future hard trials will also be built—without noticing at the time—by acting on the pure love of Christ, serving and forgiving as the Savior would have done, he said.
“It is never too late to strengthen the foundation of faith,” he added. “There is always time. With faith in the Savior you can repent and plead for forgiveness. There is someone you can forgive. There is someone you can thank. There is someone you can serve and lift. You can do it wherever you are and however alone and deserted you may feel.”
Continuing, President Eyring said he could not promise an end to one’s adversity—or that one’s trial will seem to be only for a moment. By definition, the trials of life seem “to make clocks slow down and then appear almost to stop.”
“There are reasons for that,” he added. “Knowing those reasons don’t give much comfort but they can give you a feeling of patience. They come from this one fact. In their perfect love for you, Heavenly Father and the Savior want you fitted to be with them to live in families forever. Only those washed perfectly clean and changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ can be there.”
If one has faith in Christ, "the hardest (as well as the easiest times in life) can be a blessing,” President Eyring declared.
“In all conditions, we can choose the right with the guidance of the Spirt. We have the gospel of Jesus Christ to shape and guide our lives if we choose it. And with prophets revealing to us our place in the plan of salvation, we can live with perfect hope and a feeling of peace. We never need to feel that we are alone or unloved in the Lord’s service, because we never are.
“We can feel the love of God. The Savior has promised angels on our left and our right, to bear us up. He always keeps His word.”