RELIGION

Church Leaders Speak Of Hope In Jesus Christ, Call For Unity

Apr 3, 2021, 7:39 PM | Updated: 11:38 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Messages during the 191st annual General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints centered on Easter, hope in Jesus Christ, and the lessons learned during a worldwide pandemic. Church leaders also called for unity among all of God’s children.

It was the third time in a row that General Conference was held without an in-person audience because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was also a historic conference that brought a larger international reach than ever before.

The main auditorium of the Conference Center sat empty Saturday, and instead, the broadcast originated from a theater within the building, with masks worn and social distancing. Only members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles attended in-person, along with the selected speakers for each session and their respective spouses.

At the start of the Saturday morning session, President Russell M. Nelson spoke of watching construction work on Temple Square and seeing workers dig out old tree roots, plumbing and wiring. He challenged those listening to examine their own lives.

“I invite you to pray to identify the debris you should remove from your life so you can become more worthy,” he said.

President Nelson said the gospel is a message of joy.

He was followed with addresses that focused on unity and inclusion.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called on Church members to make the world kinder and safer, and said followers of Jesus Christ are dismayed if anyone is mistreated based on race.

“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,” said Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

“This Easter, let’s try to practice peace in a personal way, applying the grace and healing balm of the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong said all are equal, with no second-class groups. He spoke of the international membership of the church, noting that by 2025, the church expects as many members living in Latin America as in the United States and Canada.

Outgoing Primary General President Sister Joy D. Jones spoke of teaching and protecting children.

“That means we never harm them physically, verbally, or emotionally in any way, even when tensions and pressures run high,” she said. “Instead, we value children and do all we can to combat the evils of abuse.” 

“We have been heartbroken to hear of recent attacks on people who are Black, Asian, Latino, or of any other group,” said Stevenson. “Prejudice, racial tension, or violence should never have any place in our neighborhoods, communities, or within the Church.”

Elder Stevenson specifically told teens that there is no place for bullying and cyber-bullying.

The afternoon session included a first: a prerecorded message from Africa from Elder Thierry K. Mutombo, who spoke of how his childhood home became more peaceful after his parents converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The pandemic and the return home of tens of thousands of missionaries in 2020 appeared to have played a role in the number of new convert baptisms in the Church.

The statistical report released by the Church Saturday afternoon showed 125,930 people joined the church in 2020. In 2019, that number was more than 248,000, and in 2018, it was more than 234,000.

During the afternoon session, the church also reorganized the Primary General Presidency and called eight new General Authority Seventies.

Tens of thousands of people would normally be walking around downtown Salt Lake City on conference weekend, especially on a warm day, but the area was calm and quiet because of the pandemic.

The first day of General Conference meetings concluded with the Priesthood Session for boys and men age 11 and older.

President Russell M. Nelson noted the last in-person gathering for the men of the Church was in April 2019 – two full years ago. He acknowledged that much has happened over the past two years.

“Some of you have lost loved ones, others have lost jobs, livelihood, or health,” he said. “Still, others have lost a sense of peace or hope for the future. My heart goes out to each one of you who has suffered these or other losses.”

President Nelson said much has also been gained, adding that relationships between family members have been strengthened and that difficult trials often provide opportunities to grow.

 

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Church Leaders Speak Of Hope In Jesus Christ, Call For Unity