Cover image via the Church Newsroom.
Keep on reading to remember what President Nelson said every good thing in life comes from.
The April 2021 General Conference, broadcast virtually to millions of viewers, shows yet again that pandemics or hardships do not stop the work of the Lord from rolling forward in its appointed course. Though, President Russell M. Nelson said, “This last year has been one for the record books,” he affirmed that “I know for sure that the Lord directs the affairs of His Church. He said, “I will show [you] …that I am able to do mine own work.
“Often, my counselors and I have watched through tear-brimmed eyes as He has interceded in extremely challenging circumstances after we had done our best and could do no more. We do indeed stand all amazed.”
This couldn’t be more clear as President Nelson ended the conference with an announcement of 20 new temples in some far-flung locations like Oslo, Norway; Kumasi, Ghana; Beira, Mozambique and Singapore. This is the second highest number of temples announced at one time in the history of the Church.
It comes from a foundation of assurance and enthusiasm for the gospel of Jesus Christ that transcends whatever hardship and burden is currently upon us. While the Church did not grow as much in numbers this year, the growth is in the faith of the members who had to reach to their faith for new resilience.
President Nelson told the priesthood session, “Think back on the past two years. How have you grown? What have you learned? You might initially wish you could go back to 2019 and stay there! But if you look at your life prayerfully, I believe you will see many ways in which the Lord has been guiding you through this time of hardship, helping you to become a more devoted, more converted man—a true man of God.”
He said, “As you continue to let God prevail in your life, I know that He is just as optimistic about your future as He has ever been.”
He acknowledged, “Difficult trials often provide opportunities to grow that would not have come in any other way.” Of the pandemic he said, “I marvel at your resilience and spiritual strength in the face of illness, loss, and isolation. I pray constantly that, through it all, you will feel the Lord’s unfailing love for you. If you have responded to your trials with a stronger discipleship, this past year will not have been in vain.”
Highlights of the conference included the Sunday morning session featuring talks from Church leaders who come from ever populated continent on the earth, a reminder, as President Nelson said, “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.”
These international talks were Christ-centered and powerful, demonstrating that the way to courage and light is through the atonement of the Savior. Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, who was born in Fiji, and serves in the Philippines said, “I will no longer refer to my challenges as trials and tribulations, but as my “Learning Experiences;” and…I will no longer refer to my shortcomings and lack of abilities as weaknesses, but rather, as my “Development Opportunities.”
A Conference for Our Times
The leaders of the Church addressed the topics that members face every day where the rubber meets the road and the current challenges that wrack our lives. Elder Dale G. Renlund spoke of “Infuriating Unfairness”.
He said, “Some unfairness cannot be explained; inexplicable unfairness is infuriating. Unfairness comes from living with bodies that are imperfect, injured, or diseased. Mortal life is inherently unfair. Some people are born in affluence, others are not. Some have loving parents, others do not. Some live many years, others few. And on and on and on. Some individuals make injurious mistakes even when they are trying to do good. Some choose not to alleviate unfairness when they could. Distressingly, some individuals use their God-given agency to hurt others when they never should.
“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.”
He noted, “In the eternities, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will resolve all unfairness” and noted “Jesus Christ…has both the power to make everything right and yearns to do so.”
He said, “When faced with unfairness, we can push ourselves away from God or we can be drawn toward Him for help and support…Rather than becoming bitter, let Him help you become better.”
President M. Russell Ballard, the acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, spoke of loneliness and gave a surprising new statistic about the Church.
He said, “I personally feel the pain of those who lack a sense of belonging. As I watch news from around the world, I see many who seem to be experiencing this loneliness. I think that, for many, it is because they may not know that they are loved by Heavenly Father and that we all belong to His eternal family. Believing that God loves us and that we are His children is comforting and assuring.
Because we are the spirit children of God, everyone has a divine origin, nature, and potential. Each of us is “a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.” This is our identity! This is who we really are!
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have counseled together, in a spirit of prayer and with a yearning to understand, how to help all who feel alone or feel they don’t belong. We long to help all who feel this way. Let me mention, in particular, those who are currently single.
Brothers and sisters, more than half of adults in the Church today are widowed, divorced, or not yet married. Some wonder about their opportunities and place in God’s plan and in the Church. We should understand that eternal life is not simply a question of current marital status but of discipleship and being “valiant in the testimony of Jesus.” The hope of all who are single is the same as for all members of the Lord’s restored Church—access to the grace of Christ through “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.”
Abortion and Bringing Children into the World
As abortion runs rampant in our world, Elder Neil L. Andersen addressed the topic head on, and then gave a gentle nudge toward adding children to our families.
He said, “Each person who comes to earth is a unique son or daughter of God. Our personal journey did not begin at birth. Before we were born, we were together in a world of preparation where we ‘received [our] first lessons in the world of spirits.’ Jehovah told Jeremiah, ‘Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee.’
“Some may question if life begins, –with the formation of an embryo or, –when the heart begins to beat, or –when the baby can live outside of the womb, but for us, there is no question that spirit daughters and sons of God are on their own personal journeys coming to earth to receive a body and experience mortality.
“President Gordon B. Hinckley addressed the women of the Church with words that are relevant for us today. He said: ‘You who are wives and mothers are the anchors of the family. You bear the children. What an enormous and sacred responsibility that is. … What is happening to our appreciation of the sanctity of human life? Abortion is an evil, stark and real and repugnant, which is sweeping over the earth. I plead with the women of this Church to shun it, to stand above it, to stay away from those compromising situations which make it appear desirable.’
“You are the mothers of the sons and daughters of God, whose lives are sacred. Safeguarding them is a divinely given responsibility which cannot be lightly brushed aside.”
It was telling and intriguing that President Dallin H. Oaks, an expert on the U.S. Constitution, chose to focus his entire remarks upon it, tying it into the scripture that God “established” it.
He said, “In this troubled time, “I have felt to speak about the inspired Constitution of the United States. This Constitution is of special importance to our members in the United States, but it is also a common heritage of constitutions around the world.”
“The United States Constitution is unique because God revealed that He ‘established’ it ‘for the rights and protection of all flesh’ (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77, 80). That is why this constitution is of special concern for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world…
“What was God’s purpose in establishing the United States Constitution? We see it in the doctrine of moral agency…God has given His children moral agency—the power to decide and to act. The most desirable condition for the exercise of that agency is maximum freedom for men and women to act according to their individual choices. Then, the revelation explains, ‘every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment’ (Doctrine and Covenants 101:78). ‘Therefore,’ the Lord revealed, ‘it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another’ (Doctrine and Covenants 101:79). This obviously means that human slavery is wrong. And according to the same principle, it is wrong for citizens to have no voice in the selection of their rulers or the making of their laws.”
Grappling with Personal Challenge
For obvious reasons, in a time that has been isolating, economically devastating and stress inducing, many of the leaders addressed how to deal with personal challenge with courage and hope.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “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.” He added, “In spite of frightful prophecies and unsettling scriptures declaring that peace will be taken from the earth generally, the prophets…have taught that does not have to taken from us individually!”
He said, “So, in a world “tossed with tempest, and not comforted,” as Jehovah said it would be, how do we find what He called ‘the covenant of peace?’ We find it by turning to Him, who said He would have mercy on us ‘with everlasting kindness’ and would grant peace to our children. So, in spite of frightful prophecies and unsettling scriptures declaring that peace will be taken from the earth generally, the prophets, including our own beloved Russell M. Nelson, have taught that does not have to be taken from us individually!
“Such help and hope is dearly needed because in this worldwide congregation today are many who struggle with any number of challenges—physical or emotional, social or financial, or a dozen other kinds of trouble. But many of these we are not strong enough to address in and of ourselves, for the help and peace we need is not the kind ‘the world giveth.’ No, for the difficult problems we need what the scriptures call ‘the powers of heaven,’ and to access these powers we must live by what those same scriptures call ‘principles of righteousness.’ Understanding that connection between principle and power is the one lesson the human family never seems able to learn, so says the God of heaven and earth! “
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “It is astonishing what we can learn when we look a little closer at our Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation and exaltation, the plan of happiness, for His children. When we feel insignificant, cast off, and forgotten, we learn that we may be assured that God has not forgotten us; in fact, that He offers to all His children, something unimaginable: to become ‘heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ..’
“If we repent, mistakes do not disqualify us. They are part of our progress.
“We are all infants compared to the beings of glory and grandeur we are designed to become. No mortal being advances from crawling to walking to running without frequent stumbles, bumps, and bruises. That is how we learn..”
When you are about to feel discouraged about the world, Elder S. Gifford Nielsen advised, “The more we recognize our divine worth, the better we understand this divine truth; that God has sent us right here, right now, at this momentous time in history, so that we can do the greatest possible good with the talents and gifts we have.”
Faith to Remove Mountains
President Nelson gave us the way to make our lives better:
“Everything good in life—every potential blessing of eternal significance—begins with faith…
“And yet, exercising faith can seem overwhelming. At times we may wonder if we can possibly muster enough faith to receive the blessings that we so desperately need. ..
“The Lord understands our mortal weakness. We all falter at times. But He also knows our great potential. The mustard seed starts small but grows into a tree large enough for birds to nest in its branches. The mustard seed represents a small, but growing faith…
“Your mountains may be loneliness, doubt, illness, or other personal problems. Your mountains will vary, and yet the answer to each of your challenges is to increase your faith. That takes work. Lazy learners and lax disciples will always struggle to muster even a particle of faith.
“To do anything well requires effort. Becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ is no exception. Increasing your faith and trust in Him takes effort. May I offer five suggestions to help you develop that faith and trust…
“Moving your mountains may require a miracle. Learn about miracles. Miracles come according to your faith in the Lord. Central to that faith is trusting His will and timetable—how and when—He will bless you with the miraculous help you desire.
“Only your unbelief will keep God from blessing you with miracles to move the mountains in your life.