Images via Church Newsroom.

After months that have beaten us up with bad news, pandemic distancing, riots in the streets, and angry divisions, we looked forward to General Conference like a refreshment to our souls and it was. Many speakers directly addressed our times with prophetic insight, encouraging us to be better disciples of Christ amidst these times that try our souls.

The General Authorities and general officers of the church addressed topics like racism, COVID-19, preparation and storage and the trend that more and more people are turning from Christ in the world. No topic was too hot to handle given the gospel perspective that the Lord loves all of His children.

Our associate editor, Mariah Proctor Scoresby, noted that in this time in the world where people are purging their friend lists to exclude those who disagree with them and closing their circles to include fewer and fewer people, the leaders of the church seem to be opening their arms wider than ever and encouraging us to do the same. Many of their talks seem to be addressing those inside and outside the Church in a way that seems consciously inclusive.

Every human being on this earth is a cherished child of our Father in Heaven.

Elder Bednar and Bishop Waddell spoke of temporal preparation and reminded us that though we have not heard it as much lately as before, the principle to be prepared with supplies for trying times has not been rescinded.

We Will Prove Them Herewith”
By Elder David A. Bednar
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The year 2020 has been marked, in part, by a global pandemic that has proved, examined, and tried us in many ways….

Two basic principles can guide and strengthen us as we face proving and trying circumstances in our lives, whatever they may be: (1) the principle of preparation, and (2) the principle of pressing forward with a steadfastness in Christ.

As disciples of the Savior, we are commanded to “prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.”

We also are promised that, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.
“And that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless.”

…Some Church members opine that emergency plans and supplies, food storage, and 72- hour kits must not be important anymore because the Brethren have not spoken recently and extensively about these and related topics in general conference. But repeated admonitions to prepare have been proclaimed by leaders of the Church for decades. The consistency of prophetic counsel over time creates a powerful concert of clarity and a warning volume far louder than solo performances can ever produce.

“There was Bread”
Bishop W. Christopher Waddell
Of the Presiding Bishopric

When considering the principle of preparedness, we can look back to Joseph in Egypt for inspiration. Knowing what would happen would not have been sufficient to carry them through the “lean” years without a degree of sacrifice during the years of abundance. Rather than consume all that Pharaoh’s subjects could produce, limits were established, and followed, providing sufficient for their immediate, as well as their future, needs. It was not enough to know that challenging times would come. They had to act and, because of their effort, “there was bread”.

This leads to an important question… “therefore, what?” A good place to begin is to understand that all things are spiritual to the Lord, “and not at any time” has He given us “a law which was temporal”. Everything then, points to Jesus Christ, as the foundation upon which we must build…even our temporal preparedness.

Elder Rasband reminded us to have a current temple recommend, even when we can’t go to the temple.

Recommended to the Lord
By Elder Ronald A. Rasband
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

We have been experiencing a time when temples have been closed or limited in use. For President Nelson and those of us who serve at his side, the inspired decision to close the temples was “painful” and “wracked with worry.” President Nelson found himself asking, “What would I say to the Prophet Joseph Smith? What would I say to Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and the other presidents, on up to President Thomas S. Monson?”
Now, we gradually and gratefully are reopening temples for sealings and endowments on a limited scale.Being worthy to attend the temple, however, has not been suspended. Let me emphasize, whether you have access to a temple or not, you need a current temple recommend to stay firmly on the covenant path.

Late last year Sister Rasband and I were on assignment in New Zealand speaking with a large group of Young Single Adults. They had no easy access to a temple; the one in Hamilton, was being renovated and they were still awaiting the groundbreaking for the temple in Auckland. However, I felt prompted to encourage them to renew or receive temple recommends. Even though they could not present them at the temple, they would be presenting themselves before the Lord pure and prepared to serve Him. Being worthy to hold a current temple recommend is both a protection from the adversary, because you have made a firm commitment to the Lord about your life, and, a promise that the Spirit will be with you.

We do temple work when we search for our ancestors and submit their names for ordinances. While our temples have been closed, we have still been able to research our families. With the Spirit of God in our hearts, we are, by proxy, standing in for them to be “recommended to the Lord.”

Talks by President Oaks, Elder Christofferson, Elder Cook, and Sister Eubank acknowledged the division and anger in our society by addressing the need for unity. A society divided by sharp contention is not sustainable.

Love Your Enemies”
By President Dallin H. Oaks
Of the First Presidency

We live in a time of anger and hatred in political relationships and policies. We felt it this summer where some went beyond peaceful protests and engaged in destructive behavior. We feel it in some current campaigns for public offices. Some of this has even spilled over into political statements and unkind references in our Church meetings. In a democratic government we will always have differences over proposed candidates and policies. However, as followers of Christ we must forego the anger and hatred with which political choices are debated or denounced in many settings.

Here is one of our Savior’s teachings, probably well-known but rarely practiced. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, andhate thine enemy.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Loving our enemies and our adversaries is not easy. “Most of us have notreached that stage of…love and forgiveness,” President Hinckley observed, adding, “It requires a self-discipline almost greater than we are capable of.” But it must be essential, for it is part of the Savior’s two great commandments to “love the Lord thy God” and to “love thy neighbour as be possible, for He also taught, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7).

How do we keep these Divine commandments in a world where we are also subject to the laws of man?…The Savior’s teaching not to “contend with anger” is a good first step. The devil is the father of contention, and it is he who tempts men to contend with anger. He promotes enmity and hateful relationships among individuals and within groups. President Thomas S. Monson taught that anger is “Satan’s tool,” for “to be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice.”

Sustainable Societies
By D. Todd Christofferson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

What are the fundamentals that sustain a flourishing society, one that promotes happiness, progress, peace, and wellbeing among its members? We have scriptural record of at least two such thriving societies. What can we learn from them?

Anciently, the great patriarch and prophet, Enoch, preached righteousness and “built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even ZION.” It is reported that “the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” “And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish.”

The first and second century peoples in the Western Hemisphere known as Nephites and Lamanites provide another outstanding example of a flourishing society. Following the resurrected Savior’s remarkable ministry among them, “they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord. … And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”

The societies in these two examples were sustained by the blessings of heaven growing out of their exemplary devotion to the two great commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” They were obedient to God in their personal lives and they looked after one another’s physical and spiritual welfare. In the words of the Doctrine and Covenants, these were societies with “Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.”

Unfortunately, the ideal society described in 4 Nephi of the Book of Mormon did not endure beyond its second century. Sustainability is not guaranteed, and a thriving society can fail in time if it abandons the cardinal virtues that uphold its peace and prosperity. In this case, yielding to the temptations of the devil, the people “began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ.”8 “And it came to pass that when three hundred years had passed away, both the people of Nephi and the Lamanites had become exceedingly wicked one like unto another.”9 By the end of another century, millions had died in internecine warfare and their once harmonious nation had been reduced to warring tribes.

Reflecting on this and other examples of once flourishing societies that later foundered, I think it safe to say that when people turn from a sense of accountability to God and begin to trust instead in the “arm of flesh,” disaster lurks. Trusting in the arm of flesh is to give highest priority to riches, power, and the praise of the world (while often mocking and persecuting those who follow a different standard). The divine Author of human rights and dignity is forgotten or ignored. Meanwhile, a majority of those in sustainable societies seek, as King Benjamin said, to “grow in
the knowledge of the glory of him that created [them], or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.”

Hearts Knit in Righteousness and Unity
By Elder Quentin L. Cook
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

Unity is also a broad comprehensive term, but most certainly exemplifies the first and second great commandments to love God and love our fellowmen.11 It denotes a Zion people whose hearts and minds are knit together in unity…

The historical record we read in Fourth Nephi describes a people where there were no envyings, strifes, tumults, lyings, murders, or any manner of lasciviousness. Because of this righteousness the record states, “…surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”

With respect to unity, 4th Nephi reads, “…there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.”Unfortunately, 4th Nephi then describes a dramatic change that began in the “…two hundredth and first year…”when iniquity and division destroyed righteousness and unity. The depths of depravity that then occurred were subsequently so evil that ultimately the great Prophet Mormon laments to his son, Moroni, “But O my son, how can a people like this, whose delight is in so much abomination—How can we expect that God will stay his hand in judgment against us?”

In this dispensation, although we live in a special time, the world has not been blessed with the righteousness and unity described in 4th Nephi. Indeed, we live in a moment of particularly strong divisions. However, the millions who have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ have committed themselves to achieving both righteousness and unity. We are all aware that we can do better, and that is our challenge in this day. We can be a force to lift and bless society as a whole. At this 200-year hinge point in our Church history let us commit ourselves as members of the Lord’s Church to live righteously and be united as never before.

By Union of Feeling, We Obtain Power with God
Sharon Eubank
First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency

On June 9, the Prophet “said he was going to preach mercy[.] Supposing that Jesus Christ and [the] angels should object to us on frivolous things, what would become of us? We must be merciful and overlook small things.” President Smith continued, “It grieves me that there is no fuller fellowship—if one member suffer all feel it—by union of feeling we obtain pow’r with God.”

That small sentence struck me like lightning. By union of feeling we obtain power with God. This world isn’t what I want it to be. There are many things I want to influence and make better. And frankly, there is a lot of opposition to what I hope for, and sometimes I feel powerless. Lately, I have been asking myself searching questions: How can I understand people around me better? How will I create that “union of feeling” when all are so different? What power from God might I access if I am just a little bit more unified with others?

[Sister Eubank then makes three suggestions to help us become more unified with others, the first being “Have mercy.]

My own Relief Society president recently said: “The thing I … promise … you is that I will keep your name safe. … I will see you for who you are at your best. … I will never say anything about you that is unkind, that is not going to lift you. I ask you to do the same for me because I am terrified, frankly, of letting you down. … So please … recognize each other for doing the best we can in … hard circumstances.”

Joseph Smith told the sisters on that June day in 1842: Joseph Smith told the sisters on that June day in 1842:“When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what pow’r it has over my mind. …

“… The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more are we dispos’d to look with compassion on perishing souls—[we feel that we want] to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our back.

Elder Uchtdorf reminded us that God was not surprised by the pandemic and prepared His children for this time.

God Will Do Something Unimaginable
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I doubt there is a person who hears my voice or reads my words who has not been affected by the worldwide pandemic.

To those who mourn the loss of family and friends, we mourn with you. We plead with Heavenly Father to comfort and console you.

The long-term consequences of this virus go beyond physical health. Many families have lost incomes and are threatened with hunger, uncertainty, and apprehension. We admire the selfless efforts of so many to prevent the spread of this disease. We are humbled by the quiet sacrifice and noble efforts of those who have risked their own safety to assist, heal, and support people in need. Our hearts are full of gratitude for your goodness and compassion.

We pray mightily that God will open the windows of heaven and fill your lives with God’s eternal blessings.

There are still a lot of unknowns about this virus. But if there is one thing I do know, this virus did not catch Heavenly Father by surprise. He did not have to muster additional battalions of angels, call emergency meetings, or divert resources from the world-creation division to handle an unexpected need.

My message today is that even though this pandemic is not what we wanted or expected— God has prepared His children and His Church for this time.We will endure this, yes. But we will do more than simply grit our teeth, hold on, and wait for things to return to the old normal. We will move forward, and we will be better as a result.

In a way, we are seeds. And for seeds to reach their potential, they must be buried before they can sprout. It is my witness that though at times we may feel buried by the trials of life, or surrounded by emotional darkness, the love of God and the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ will bring something unimaginable to spring forth.

Elder Ballard reminds us to pray for our nations.

Watch Ye Therefore, and Pray Always”
President M. Russell Ballard
Acting President Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

On Sunday, October 20, I spoke to a large gathering near Boston, Massachusetts. As I was speaking, I was prompted to say: “I plead with you . . . to pray for this country, for our leaders, for our people, and for the families that live in this great nation founded by God.”4I also said that America and many of the nations of the earth, as in times past, are at another critical crossroads and need our prayers.

My plea was not in my prepared remarks. Those words came to me as I felt the Spirit prompt me to invite those present to pray for their country and their leaders.Today, I expand my call for prayer to all people from every country around the world. No matter how you pray or to whom you pray, please exercise your faith—whatever your faith may be—and pray for your country and for your national leaders. As I said last October in Massachusetts, we stand today at a major crossroads in history, and the nations of the earth are in desperate need of divine inspiration and guidance. This is not about politics or policy. This is about peace and the healing that can come to individual souls as well as to the soul of countries—their cities, towns, and villages—through the Prince of Peace and the source of all healing, the Lord Jesus Christ.

During the past few months I have had the impression come to me that the best way to help the current world situation is for all people to rely more fully upon God and to turn their hearts to Him through sincere prayer. Humbling ourselves and seeking heaven’s inspiration to endure or conquer what is before us will be our safest and surest way to move confidently forward through these troubling times.

I invite you to pray always.7 Pray for your family. Pray for the leaders of nations. Pray for the courageous people who are on the front lines in the current battles against social, environmental, political, and biological plagues that impact all people throughout the world, the rich and the poor, the young and the old.

Elder Andersen reminds us that as the world talks less of Christ, it is time for us to talk more of Him.

We Talk of Christ
By Elder Neil L. Andersen
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Some of our fellow Christians are, at times, uncertain about our beliefs and motives. Let us genuinely rejoice with them in our shared faith in Jesus Christ and in the New Testament scriptures we all love. In the days ahead, those who believe in Jesus Christ will need the friendship and support of one another.

As the world speaks less of Jesus Christ, let us speak more of Him. As our true colors as His disciples are revealed, many around us will be prepared to listen. As we share the light we have received from Him, His light and His transcendent saving power will shine on those willing to open their hearts. Jesus said, “I … come [as] a light into the world.”

Nothing lifts my desire to speak of Christ more than visualizing His return. While we do not know when He will come, the events of His return will be breathtaking! He will come in the clouds of heaven in majesty and glory with all His holy angels. Not just a few angels, but all His holy angels. These are not the cherry-cheeked cherubim painted by Raphael found on our Valentine cards. These are the angels of the centuries, the angels sent to shut the mouths of lions, to open prison doors,to announce His long-awaited birth,to comfort Him in Gethsemane,to assure the disciples at His ascension,and to open the glorious restoration of the gospel.

Can you imagine being caught up to meet Him whether on this side or the other side of the veil? That is His promise to the righteous. The experience will mark our souls forever.

Here is an expanded meaning of Israel from our prophet.

Let God Prevail
By President Russell M. Nelson

With the help of two Hebrew scholars, I learned that one of the Hebraic meanings of the word Israel is “let God prevail.” Thus, the very name of Israel refers to a person who is willing to let God prevail in his or her life. That concept stirs my soul!

The word willing is crucial to this interpretation of Israel. We all have our agency. We can choose to be of Israel, or not. We can choose to let God prevail in our lives, or not. We can choose to let God be the most powerful influence in our lives, or not….

The gospel net to gather scattered Israel is expansive. There is room for each person who will fully embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each convert becomes one of God’s covenant children,1whether by birth or by adoption. Each becomes a full heir to all that God has promised the faithful children of Israel!

Each of us has a divine potential because each is a child of God. Each is equal in His eyes. The implications of this truth are profound. Brothers and sisters, please listen carefully to what I am about to say. God does not love one race more than another. His doctrine on this matter is clear. He invites all to come unto Him, “black and white, bond and free, male and female.”
I assure you that your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin. Favor or disfavor with God is dependent upon your devotion to God and His commandments, and not the color of your skin.

I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice. Today, I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.The question for each of us, regardless of race, is the same. Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day? Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition? Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?

You can see many afflictions in your time and still be among the highly favored.

Highly Favored of the Lord
By Elder Gary E. Stevenson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Earlier this year, as the pandemic accelerated, the First Presidency pledged that “the Church and its members will faithfully exhibit our commitment to being good citizens and good neighbors” and will “use an abundance of caution.”

Thus, we experienced the suspension of Church gatherings worldwide, the return of more than half the Church’s missionary force to their home nations, and the closure of all temples throughout the Church. Thousands of you were preparing to enter the temple for living ordinances—including temple sealings. Others of you have completed your service as missionaries early or have been temporarily released and reassigned.During this time, government and educational leaders closed schools—which consequently [3:00] altered graduations and forced the cancelation of sporting, social, cultural, and educational events and activities. Many of you prepared for events that were not attended, performances that were not heard, and athletic seasons that were not played.

Even more poignant are thoughts of families who have lost loved ones during this time; most could not hold funerals or other tender gatherings as they hoped.In short, many, many of you have dealt with heartbreaking disappointment, sorrow, and discouragement. So how do we heal, endure, and move forward when things seem so broken?

The prophet Nephi began engraving the small plates when he was a grown man. As he looked back on his life and ministry, he offered an important reflection in the very first verse of the Book of Mormon. This verse frames an important principle for us to consider in our time. [4:00] Following his familiar words, “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents,” he writes, “and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days”

As students of the Book of Mormon, we are familiar with the many afflictions to which Nephi refers. Yet following acknowledgment of his afflictions in the course of his days, Nephi gives his gospel perspective of being highly favored of the Lord in all of his days. Times of affliction and disappointment do not change the watchful eye of the Lord as He favorably looks upon us, blessing us.

Elder Holland asks how long do we wait for relief from our hardships?

Waiting on the Lord
By Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

How long do we wait for relief from hardships that come upon us? What about enduring personal trials while we wait and wait and help seems so slow in coming? Why the delay when burdens seem more than we can bear?We are not the first nor will we be the last to ask such questions when sorrows bear down on us or an ache in our heart goes on and on. I am not now speaking of pandemics or prisons but of you, your family, and your neighbors who face any number of challenges. I speak of the yearning of many who would like to be married and aren’t or who are married and wish the relationship were a little more celestial. I speak of those who have to deal with the unwanted appearance of a serious medical condition—perhaps an incurable one—or who face a lifelong battle with a genetic defect that has no remedy. I speak of the continuing struggle with emotional and mental health challenges that weigh heavily on the souls of so many who suffer with them, and on the hearts of those who love and suffer with them. I speak of the poor, whom the Savior told us never to forget and I speak of you, waiting for the return of a child, no matter the age, who has chosen a path different from the one you prayed he or she would take.

Furthermore, I acknowledge that even this long list of things for which we might wait personally does not attempt to address the large economic, political, and social concerns that confront us collectively. Our Father in Heaven clearly expects us to address these wrenching public issues as well as the personal ones, but there will be times in our lives when even our best spiritual effort and earnest, pleading prayers do not yield the victories for which we have yearned, whether that be regarding the large global matters or the small personal ones.

So while we work and wait together for the answers to some of our prayers, I offer you my apostolic promise that they are heard and they are answered, though perhaps not at the time or in the way we wanted. But they are always answered at the time and in the way an omniscient and eternally compassionate parent should answer them. My beloved brothers and sisters, please understand that He who never sleeps nor slumbers2 cares for the happiness and ultimate exaltation of His children above all else that a divine being has to do. He is pure love, gloriously personified, and Merciful Father is His name.

A New Normal
By President Russell M. Nelson

Today we often hear about “a new normal.” If you really want to embrace “a new normal,” I invite you to turn your heart, mind, and soul increasingly to our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Let that be your “new normal.”Embrace “your new normal” by repenting daily. Seek to be increasingly pure in thought, word, and deed. Minister to others. Keep an eternal perspective. Magnify your callings. And, whatever your challenges, my dear brothers and sisters, live each day so that you are more prepared to meet your Maker.