As general conference approaches, we asked what people do to prepare and why.Many years ago, my parents converted to the Church. In 1973, they moved to Utah, where miraculously, you could watch general conference on television. To celebrate, my mother began a sweet and simple tradition that later helped us look forward to and prepare for conference.Years later, my husband and I moved our large family to an old house on the Oregon coast. Far away from family, and missing home, on general conference Sunday I rose at 5 in the morning and called my mother. She gave me the magic recipe. We couldn’t afford bacon. Juice was a luxury. But I had everything in the cupboard for large, buttery cinnamon rolls. We lit a fire in the fireplace and gathered to say a prayer of thanks and enjoy our first general conference Sunday together. I had no idea how precious this tradition would become.Something I learned from a very loving bishop to prepare for general conference has had a substantial impact on my life and my testimony. What I have titled it is a “General Conference Learning Grid.” It is a pretty simple spreadsheet that I have created that includes the following items: title (of the talk), speaker, key impressions, key scriptures, key questions, and promises.
Shannon Symonds makes general conference cinnamon rolls, a recipe she received from her mother, for her family as they gather for general conference. Photo by Shannon Symonds.As a child, general conference weekend meant I could stay in my pajamas and play in the living room all day. During my teen years, I napped through most sessions. Today, as a mother of four, general conference has become a lifeline of inspiration I need to raise my family. However, I have learned that if I want to hear the whisperings of the Spirit, I need to do my part.Today, three of my six children are active in the Church. Three are not. And yet, every general conference Sunday, all of my children will come home to eat beloved general conference cinnamon rolls. The special combination of cinnamon rolls, tradition, conference, and love brings them home. A prayer of gratitude is always said. The Spirit envelops us as speakers share their messages.Little did my mother know when she baked her first batch of oversized cinnamon rolls for the Sunday of general conference, she was creating a tradition that would bring family members together to worship and connect, even when they were struggling spiritually.Creating this prior to conference allows me to start to focus on what is to come. It also ensures I am not scrambling to find a place to take notes. As I listen/watch the conference talks, I fill out these different areas. Then I go back and review the talks once they are available to fill in anything I may have missed. Doing this has allowed me to get so much more out of general conference, for which I am so grateful as this preparation has truly brought me blessings.—Shannon Symonds, Seaside, OregonCreating family traditions—Seth Saunders, Orem, UtahOn conference Sunday, Mother would use her mother’s recipe to bake a large batch of frosted cinnamon rolls. We woke to a clean home and the smell of rolls. She also allowed us to break a family rule and eat in the living room around the television. It felt like Christmas morning.The responses below include centering scripture study, prayers, and thoughts on questions you have; having a system ready to record questions, impressions, and learnings from conference; and creating traditions that bring family members together to worship and connect.Preparing to record impressionsFar away in Utah, 40 or 50 members of my family gather. No matter where our youth are in their spiritual journey, they enjoy general conference cinnamon rolls. Mom’s sticky rolls have created a connection that is almost, but not quite, as sweet as the spirit that accompanies general conference Sunday. Seth Saunders prepares for conference by creating a document to record his impressions and learnings from conference. Photo by Seth Saunders.Overall, I’ve learned that diligent preparation leads to the inspiration I need for my life at that time.One way I prepare is to start writing down specific questions I have or issues with which I or someone in my family is struggling. Time has taught me answers are more likely to come as I increase effort on my part. The more I center my scripture study, prayers, and thoughts on the answers I’m seeking, the better prepared I am to receive inspiration. Before general conference begins, I go back and review my questions and any notes so they are fresh in my mind.Preparing for inspirationHowever, that’s not the only method I’ve used to prepare. Some years I haven’t been in the middle of an overwhelming trial or had burning questions. Rather, I’ve felt the need to make a change without knowing exactly what it is that needs changing. In those years, preparation takes a little more work. In addition to my normal scripture study and prayers, I review talks from previous conferences, read articles from the latest issue of the Ensign, and pray that I will hear something that Heavenly Father wants me to know.The following responses have been edited for length and clarity.—Stacey L. Nash, Buckley, Washington
Stacey L. Nash has learned that diligent preparation leads to the inspiration she needs for her life at that time. Prior to conference, she centers her scripture study, prayers, and thoughts on the answers she is seeking.
These new security procedures, spurred by current world events, are modeled after successful safety policies at stadiums and arenas, Miles said.
“I immediately acted and was baptized,” he said. “Over the subsequent 44 years, the prophecy contained in that revelation has been fulfilled. All of my questions have been answered, including those I had not even considered 44 years ago.”“Well, very clearly: Yes!There are two ways of knowing things—scientifically through the use of reasoning and physical senses, and spiritually through revelation and the spiritual senses.“You can have great knowledge but fail at life,” Elder Vinson said. “You can have a great career but fail at life. Conversely, you can have little academic knowledge or a forgettable career, but still have a very successful life—because life is about relationships with God and with others.”And revelation is essential to knowing the things of God.“When they could not answer my questions, they would go away and then return the following week with the answers; but then I had more questions,” he said. “This continued for several weeks as I tried to receive an intellectual conversion.”“To comprehend the things of the world, one must be intellectually enlightened; to know and understand the things of God, one must be spiritually enlightened.”Drawing from the African proverb from Guinea, Elder Vinson said, “Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand.” Vocal Union, a singing group at BYU-Idaho, performs during the campus devotional on September 25. Photo courtesy of Cami Su, BYU-Idaho.“We are easily indoctrinated in modern society to believe that we can only really know something through our intellects and our physical senses,” he said. “There is no tolerance in the modern world for things that can’t be proven scientifically.”“He came up with a plan,” Sister Vinson said. “We would attend mass and we would attend sacrament meeting, and after a while we would determine which church is true.”Eventually he decided “they” needed to figure out what church was the right church to attend.“In modern revelation God promises us that we will receive ‘knowledge’ by His telling us in our mind and in our heart ‘by the Holy Ghost,’” he said. “This is revelation.”Despite the “apparent conflict between reason and revelation,” the rational and the religious views of the world are not the opposites of one another, he taught.The two would often discuss their views with each other.“When we know spiritual truths by spiritual means, we can be just as sure of that knowledge as scholars and scientists are of the different kinds of knowledge they have acquired by scientific means,” he said.“Hence, very clearly, we have a responsibility to know by both ‘reason’ and by ‘revelation,’ with the second of those skills, revelation, being an essential component for spiritual knowledge and wisdom,” he said.During this time, several sets of missionaries taught him, and he always had questions for them.“The view of religion, at least the religion that is undiluted by apostasy, includes reason, as well as revelation, and embraces the truths determined by both,” he said. “In contrast, the rational view excludes what is spiritually revealed.” Elder Terence M. Vinson of the Presidency of the Seventy speaks on spiritual knowledge at the weekly devotional at BYU-Idaho on September 25. Photo courtesy of Cami Su, BYU-Idaho.“The things of God cannot be learned solely by study and reason,” he said. “Please also note that study and reason precede revelation, and the intellect will confirm the revelation. But it's not the intellectual confirmation that's most important, it's the revealed truth and our acting on it. We learn through study and faith.”“The Lord’s admonition to us with respect to learning is very clear,” he said. “He tells us, ‘And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).Recognizing knowledge is an important part of life, the leader taught that nonetheless it is only part of a successful life.Although spiritual and intellectual knowledge are different, both are important.Both knowledge and wisdom are necessary, the leader taught.The leader asked, “So then, if this is the determinant of success in life, do we really need to learn knowledge?Sister Vinson said of her husband, “When we were married he realized he was way behind all the other men in the Church because they had grown up in the Church and been on missions, and he was just starting out. So he began to study the gospel very, very seriously and would rise in the morning very early at 4:30 a.m., and he would start to study the scriptures.”As young students at a university, Terence M. Vinson and Kay Carden met while working at a local McDonald's.His study and pondering led to revelation from the Holy Ghost.As he was sitting in a church meeting one day, Elder Vinson said he felt a clear message from the Holy Ghost: “Terry, all of your questions have answers. It is not important for you to know them all now. As the questions come to you, they will be answered. But I need you to act and to be baptized now.”“I had never before heard of this Church of which she was a member,” said Elder Vinson, who is a General Authority Seventy and serves in the Presidency of the Seventy. “Having grown up as a Catholic, and having embraced that religion, I felt that in order to accept the teachings of The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints I needed to be totally convinced intellectually that my previous . . . beliefs were mistaken and that these new teachings were truly teachings of the restored gospel that Jesus Christ had previously established.”“We met and started to talk about our lives and about religion,” Sister Kay Vinson recalled during a BYU-Idaho devotional on September 25. “And I said I was a [member of the Church].”One of the greatest things about the plan of Heavenly Father for His children is that each person can know the truth individually. Revealed knowledge doesn’t come from books, scientific proof, or intellectual pondering, he said. Rather, it comes directly from Heavenly Father through the witness of the Holy Ghost.Revelation comes by study and by faith.
A new stake has been created from the Winneba Ghana Stake. The Swedru Ghana Stake, which consists of the Aboso, Asikuma, Breman, Odoben 2nd, Swedru 4th, and Swedru 5th branches and the Odoben 1st, Swedru 1st, Swedru 2nd, and Swedru 3rd wards, was created by Elder Marcus B. Nash, General Authority Seventy, and Elder Anthony Quaisie, an Area Seventy.A new stake has been created from the A Coruña Spain District. The A Coruña Spain Stake, which consists of the El Ferrol, Gijón, La Coruña, León, Lugo, Orense, Oviedo, Ponferrada, Pontevedra, Santiago de Compstela, and Vigo branches, was created by Elder Paul V. Johnson, General Authority Seventy, and Elder Saulo G. Franco, an Area Seventy.NORTH OGDEN UTAH COLDWATER STAKE (August 12, 2018): President—Cameron McKay Ryan, 50, commercial sales manager, Stoker Parson; succeeding Paul A. Mackley; wife, Carolann Schiffman Ryan. Counselors—Mark Bullock Malan, 57, logistics specialist, Rocky Mountain Power; wife, Allyn Kayleen Newell Malan. Stephen Lawrence Hall, 55, CES teacher; wife, Heidi Gift Hall.SANDY UTAH WEST STAKE (August 12, 2018): President—Steven Lee McCleary, 49, assistant facilities coordinator, Canyons School District; succeeding Tracy S. Cowdell; wife, Jamie Leigh Young McCleary. Counselors—David Tyson Welling, 42, regional manager, Stryker; wife, Kristen Marie Manning Welling. Christopher Joel Ashby, 44, president and CEO, Rockwell Properties; wife, Katli Ogden Ashby.SWEDRU GHANA STAKE (August 12, 2018): President—Amos Wallace, 39, teacher; wife, Grace Otema Wallace. Counselors—Maxwell Acheampong, 40, lecturer; wife, Abigail Agyeiwaa Acheampong. Samuel A. Taylor, 33, religion and history teacher; wife, Afriyie Boakye Beatrice Taylor.MESA ARIZONA EAST STAKE (August 12, 2018): President—Cory Paul Ellsworth, 58, biographer; succeeding Michael J. Toone; wife, Amy Lynn Bowden. Counselors—Michael Dwayne Petramalo, 58, institute director; wife, Ruth Ann Ray Petramalo. Paul Hendrik Pothier, 51, co-owner, Smith Steel Works; wife, Angela Diane Smith Pothier.SALT LAKE HUNTER EAST STAKE (August 12, 2018): President—Adriel Burkholder, 46, owner and partner, MyDBSolutions; succeeding Daniel J. Isaac; wife, Deborah Brown Burkholder. Counselors—Douglas G. Harris, 59, systems engineer, Northrop Gurmman; wife, Colleen Louise Lane Harris. Darrell Quintin Best, 65, owner and general contractor, Best Brothers Construction; wife, Kim Marlene Williams Best.LIMA PERU TORRE BLANCA STAKE (July 1, 2018): President—José Alfredo Jiménez Flores, 46, sales employee, Rasmin SAC; wife, Patricia Fernanda Apaestique García. Counselors—Juan Ysaú Cubas Villafuerte, 53, police officer; wife, Carmen Ballasco Molina. José Absalon Quevedo Flores, 32, international business executive, ADEX; wife, Leanne Keele Machado Campos.A new stake has been created from the Tolosa Philippines District. The Tolosa Philippines Stake, which consists of the Anibong Julita, Luneta La Paz, Mayorga, and San Roque branches and the Abuyong, Burauen, Canmogsay, Dagami, Dulag, and Tolosa wards, was created by Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, General Authority Seventy, and Elder Ryan V. Pagaduan, an AreaA CORUÑA SPAIN STAKE (August 5, 2018): President—Juan Carlos Aguado Garcia, 51, mathematics professor; wife, Maria Rosa Sanchez Lorenzo. Counselors—David Amado Pazos, 41, senior consultant, VSM Systems; wife, Adriana Mariela Cantillo Vaccarino. Daniel Horasco Pan Suarez, 50, technician, Rilo Maquinaria; wife, Maria Paula Scoresello Cisne Ros.A new stake has been created from the Lima Peru Puente Piedra and Lima Peru Santa Isabel stakes. The Lima Peru Torre Blanca Stake, which consists of the El Progreso, Industrial, Los Angeles, Nueva América, San Pedro de Carabayllo and Torre Blanca wards, was created by Elder Carlos A. Godoy, General Authority Seventy, and Elder Juan C. Pozo, an Area Seventy.A new stake has been created from the Port Harcourt Nigeria North and Port Harcourt Nigeria West stakes. The Port Harcourt Nigeria Choba Stake, which consists of the Rumuji Branch and the Choba 1st, Choba 2nd, Emohua, Isiodu, Ogbogoro and Omoku wards, was created by Elder Terrence M. Vinson, General Authority Seventy, and Elder Okechukwu I. Imo, an Area Seventy.PORT HARCOURT NIGERIA CHOBA STAKE (July 8, 2018): President—Sancho Nwobuisi Chukwu, 53, wages officer, PGH LTD; wife, Victoria Chizia Chukwu. Counselors—Amanze Smart Umesi, 51, school supervisor, Rivers State Universal Education; wife, Esther Johnson Umesi. Diabo Ugochukwu Chori Obasi, 33, civil engineer, Dunic Engineering; wife, Mercy Chika Samuel Digbo Chori.SAN ANTONIO PHILIPPINES STAKE (August 5, 2018): President—Salvador Sales Soquila, 44, College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine dean, President Ramon Magsaysay State University; wife, Gerrily Penña Navarro Soquila. Counselors—Dionisio Ygerubay Evangelista, 54, teacher and librarian; wife, Aralyn Garcia Amistoso Evangelista. Jesus T. Dela Cruz Jr., 52, self-employed; wife, Dana Vanessa M. Dela Cruz.PRINCE GEORGE BRITISH COLUMBIA STAKE (August 12, 2018): President—David Reed Coleman, 63, director of education, Roofing Contractors Association of British Columbia; succeeding Eugene K. Marks; wife, Laurel Patrice Robinson Coleman. Counselors—Gerold Lee Arnold, 62, self-employed; wife, Maureen Elana Arnold. Hugh Brock Campbell, 56, forest technologist, Boreal Enterprises; wife, Sandra Leah Campbell.
CÁRDENAS MEXICO STAKE (July 13, 2018): President—Leonardo Eneas Olan Arias, 42, doctor; succeeding Martin E. Zapata; wife, Celeste Hoyas Peral. Counselors—Hector Olivares Tapia, 51, department head, Colegio Sperior de Agricultura Tropical C.P.; wife, Verónica Margarita Guerrero León. Abraham Rodriguez Flores, 34, insurance salesman; wife, Sarahi Rosales Flores Luz.
FORT HERRIMAN UTAH STAKE (August 5, 2018): Presient—Paul Robert Schwitzer, 43, district manager of sales, Berlin Packaging; succeeding Matthew L. Robinson; wife, Kara Lynn Berrett Schwitzer. Counselors—Sean Michael Tanner, 45, compliance officer, First Electronic Bank; wife, Ashley Marble Tanner. Michael Paul Mangelson, 40, Church product manager; wife, Cristy Marie Peterson Mangelson.
IKOT AKPATEK NIGERIA STAKE (July 1, 2018): President—Rex Akpan Uko, 50, general manager, Seamate Protective Services LTD; succeeding Daniel Samuel I. Ikpeti; wife, Christiana John Akpan. counselors—Joseph Akpan Davies, 55, helper, Silverball; wife, Jannet Davies. Abraham Alphonsus Ikpe, 40, heavy duty mechanic; wife, Esther Abraham Ikpe.
MANCHESTER ENGLAND STAKE (August 5, 2018): President—Matthew James Evans, 44, financial global processor, Rolls-Royce; succeeding Daniel A. Liptrott; wife, Emma Christine Weatherall Evans. Counselors—Simon Keith Viner, 47, acountant; wife, Marie Ellen Holland Viner. Aydin John Arabacioglu, 38, commercial director, Fingertip Solutions; wife, Rachael Kathryn Pilkington Arabacioglu.Reorganized stakesA new stake has been created from the San Antonio Philippines District. The San Antonio Philippines Stake, which consists of the San Antonio and San Narciso branches and the Cabangan, Castillejos, San Felipe, and San Marcelino wards, was created by Elder Evan A. Schmutz, General Authority Seventy, and Elder Aretemio C. Maligon, an Area Seventy.TOLOSA PHILPPINES STAKE (August 12, 2018): President—Bryan Michael T. Villegas, 43, project manager; wife, Diana Lopee Capanera Villegas. Counselors—Jess D. Bulanon, 31, teacher; wife, Joy Ann Ocard Villarmino. Mario P. Ellazar, 33, foreman; wife, Mary Chille Devaras Cobacha.
“We are easily indoctrinated in modern society to believe that we can only really know something through our intellects and our physical senses,” he said. “There is no tolerance in the modern world for things that can’t be proven scientifically.”Revelation comes by study and by faith.“When they could not answer my questions, they would go away and then return the following week with the answers; but then I had more questions,” he said. “This continued for several weeks as I tried to receive an intellectual conversion.”“When we know spiritual truths by spiritual means, we can be just as sure of that knowledge as scholars and scientists are of the different kinds of knowledge they have acquired by scientific means,” he said.One of the greatest things about the plan of Heavenly Father for His children is that each person can know the truth individually. Revealed knowledge doesn’t come from books, scientific proof, or intellectual pondering, he said. Rather, it comes directly from Heavenly Father through the witness of the Holy Ghost.“The Lord’s admonition to us with respect to learning is very clear,” he said. “He tells us, ‘And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).The two would often discuss their views with each other.“The view of religion, at least the religion that is undiluted by apostasy, includes reason, as well as revelation, and embraces the truths determined by both,” he said. “In contrast, the rational view excludes what is spiritually revealed.”Drawing from the African proverb from Guinea, Elder Vinson said, “Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand.”Both knowledge and wisdom are necessary, the leader taught.Despite the “apparent conflict between reason and revelation,” the rational and the religious views of the world are not the opposites of one another, he taught.“To comprehend the things of the world, one must be intellectually enlightened; to know and understand the things of God, one must be spiritually enlightened.”“Hence, very clearly, we have a responsibility to know by both ‘reason’ and by ‘revelation,’ with the second of those skills, revelation, being an essential component for spiritual knowledge and wisdom,” he said.The leader asked, “So then, if this is the determinant of success in life, do we really need to learn knowledge?His study and pondering led to revelation from the Holy Ghost.As he was sitting in a church meeting one day, Elder Vinson said he felt a clear message from the Holy Ghost: “Terry, all of your questions have answers. It is not important for you to know them all now. As the questions come to you, they will be answered. But I need you to act and to be baptized now.”During this time, several sets of missionaries taught him, and he always had questions for them.Eventually he decided “they” needed to figure out what church was the right church to attend.Recognizing knowledge is an important part of life, the leader taught that nonetheless it is only part of a successful life.“He came up with a plan,” Sister Vinson said. “We would attend mass and we would attend sacrament meeting, and after a while we would determine which church is true.”“I immediately acted and was baptized,” he said. “Over the subsequent 44 years, the prophecy contained in that revelation has been fulfilled. All of my questions have been answered, including those I had not even considered 44 years ago.”There are two ways of knowing things—scientifically through the use of reasoning and physical senses, and spiritually through revelation and the spiritual senses.“I had never before heard of this Church of which she was a member,” said Elder Vinson, who is a General Authority Seventy and serves in the Presidency of the Seventy. “Having grown up as a Catholic, and having embraced that religion, I felt that in order to accept the teachings of The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints I needed to be totally convinced intellectually that my previous . . . beliefs were mistaken and that these new teachings were truly teachings of the restored gospel that Jesus Christ had previously established.”Sister Vinson said of her husband, “When we were married he realized he was way behind all the other men in the Church because they had grown up in the Church and been on missions, and he was just starting out. So he began to study the gospel very, very seriously and would rise in the morning very early at 4:30 a.m., and he would start to study the scriptures.”“In modern revelation God promises us that we will receive ‘knowledge’ by His telling us in our mind and in our heart ‘by the Holy Ghost,’” he said. “This is revelation.”As young students at a university, Terence M. Vinson and Kay Carden met while working at a local McDonald's. Elder Terence M. Vinson of the Presidency of the Seventy speaks on spiritual knowledge at the weekly devotional at BYU-Idaho on September 25. Photo courtesy of Cami Su, BYU-Idaho.“Well, very clearly: Yes!“We met and started to talk about our lives and about religion,” Sister Kay Vinson recalled during a BYU-Idaho devotional on September 25. “And I said I was a [member of the Church].”“The things of God cannot be learned solely by study and reason,” he said. “Please also note that study and reason precede revelation, and the intellect will confirm the revelation. But it's not the intellectual confirmation that's most important, it's the revealed truth and our acting on it. We learn through study and faith.”Although spiritual and intellectual knowledge are different, both are important.“You can have great knowledge but fail at life,” Elder Vinson said. “You can have a great career but fail at life. Conversely, you can have little academic knowledge or a forgettable career, but still have a very successful life—because life is about relationships with God and with others.”And revelation is essential to knowing the things of God. Vocal Union, a singing group at BYU-Idaho, performs during the campus devotional on September 25. Photo courtesy of Cami Su, BYU-Idaho.
“The Lord has given you these remarkable blessings so that you can learn and then return and build up His Church in that place where He gave you birth, culture, language, and nationality,” Elder Evans explained.During the October 2014 general conference, Elder David F. Evans, General Authority Seventy, had the opportunity to pray at the beginning of the Sunday afternoon session. Before thousands of individuals both in the Conference Center and watching and listening worldwide, Elder Evans said that they were “so grateful for this opportunity to have our strength faithened.” Elder David F. Evans, General Authority Seventy, left, walks to the George Q. Cannon Activities Center with BYU–Hawaii President John S. Tanner, center, and his wife, Sister Susan W. Tanner, second from left, on September 25, 2018. Photo courtesy of Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii.Many students at BYU–Hawaii are from countries around the world. Attending a Church-owned school has offered them educational opportunities likely not available in their home countries.For each of these people, their strengths had to be “faithened” to make the commitment to return to their home countries. The same can be said for the current students of BYU–Hawaii, Elder Evans said.And just that fast, as he discovered when one of his former missionaries sent him a Facebook message later that day, he became a meme.Far too often, an individual who has accomplished great things becomes convinced they are fully self-sufficient and did so without the blessings, assistance, or guidance of God.1. Minister“If we are not careful to acknowledge God, have humility, and provide service, the strengths of diligence, focus, education, and accomplishment will come with the unintended consequence and cost of reduced empathy for and caring about others, excessive focus on personal development, and even selfishness,” Elder Evans cautioned. “This life is about so much more than that.”He focused on three ways to “faithen” their strengths.To resist the temptation to become selfish, Elder Evans said that one must follow the two great commandments: to love God and to love one’s neighbor. This can be accomplished through ministering. The most important acts of ministry are to help others build and preserve faith.“I have thought a lot about what I might say after listening to these wonderful graduates from BYU–Hawaii who have returned home,” Elder Evans said. “The only common motivation for each of them was the impression of the Spirit that God wanted them to return home and help build His Church there.”“In order to accept the call to serve, you will need to add faith to your remarkable academic strengths and goals. You will need the faith to know that it is not just community service that you choose that is valued by the Lord,” Elder Evans said. “Rather, at this time of your life, you will need to be sufficiently humble to accept His call to serve somewhere in the world in the manner He chooses.” Elder David F. Evans, left, shakes hands with a BYU–Hawaii student following a devotional held in the George Q. Cannon Activities Center on September 25, 2018. Photo courtesy of Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii.The devotional address Elder Evans gave at BYU–Hawaii on Tuesday, September 25, is that very talk.Soon after that, Elder Evans had a meeting at Church headquarters, which included Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Bednar told him that he should write a talk about what he prayed for. “The grammar is not correct,” the Apostle told him, “but the thought is right. Often it is our strength that needs to be ‘faithened’ in order for us to become what God has always intended.”With faith added to strengths, and as one chooses to follow God in all things, “I promise that He will lead you where you cannot see now, but He can,” Elder Evans testified. “As you look back on your life, you will be grateful to have been led by Him to do those things He has always known that you were meant to do. This will take faith—more faith—and more humility, but it will be wonderful.”Academic excellence and the achievement of financial and other goals can be accompanied by one of two responses, Elder Evans said. “[Either] an ever-increasing sense of gratitude for the blessings of God in our lives, or, in many cases, a sense of pride that ‘I have accomplished this,’ coupled with gradual separation from God and the Spirit.”3. Return homeTo accept the call to serve, prospective missionaries will have to be willing to sacrifice some opportunities, he said. But, he added, “What I can promise you is that if you are faithful now and after your mission, God will reward your obedience, faith, preparation, and work with a mission that will influence everything you do in life for good.”Elder Evans explained that this current generation is more focused on service to community and helping those in need than any other generation of which he is aware. As students, this is a time for them to learn to love God and their fellowman and to keep God’s commandments.2. Serve a missionThere is a concern that some students have shared that if they return home, there will be no opportunities for them. Elder Evans met with several graduates of BYU–Hawaii who had completed their education and since returned home. In a series of four video clips he presented to the audience, Tserennyam Kukhbaatar from Mongolia, Jackie Chan from Hong Kong, Samnang Sea from Cambodia, and Sesi Liningsih Suryono from Indonesia explained the difficulties of returning to their home countries to build their lives and families and the reasons they did so.“My testimony is that God, our Heavenly Father, who loves you, desires that you add faith to the gifts and strengths that He has given you and that you return home and there be gathered with others as you contribute to the building up of His Church and the spreading of the gospel in your country.”While looking to the audience of students gathered in the George Q. Cannon Activities Center, he said they possessed many strengths—intelligence, diligence, personal discipline in study, faith, and others. “With each of these strengths comes the temptations to misuse the very gifts, or strengths, that God has provided,” Elder Evans said.“You can help a friend stay centered in the gospel and maintain or deepen their faith in the Savior and His restored gospel. You can be the friend who helps someone work through their personal questions about the Church or the gospel, all the while staying active, keeping their covenants, reading daily from the Book of Mormon, and continuing to pray.”“One of the Lord’s commandments is for able, worthy young men to qualify for the Melchizedek Priesthood, receive their endowment, and then go out and serve God as one of the Lord’s missionaries,” Elder Evans said. Young women, while they do not have the same priesthood responsibility as the young men do to serve missions, have also been encouraged to contribute as missionaries.
The Relief Society has 33,000 presidencies around the world made up of three women each who provide leadership and participate in the governing council of each congregation. This lay assignment may be the first time a woman has had a voice in her community and an expectation to lead out. Or she may be very experienced and influential. Relief Society members do lead out with surprising and interesting results. Let me describe what some women are doing to protect and empower others. Sister Sharon Eubank and Elder D. Todd Christofferson converse on September 27, 2018, at the G20 Interfaith Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Both addressed faith leaders gathered for the global event.The SDG goals on gender equality, peace, and justice are tackling how to change culture and behavior. Faith has a power greater than almost anything else to motivate people to act, to change minds, to alter behavior.On Friday, September 28, she participated in a panel discussion on advancing the work of religiously affiliated humanitarian organizations.Someone once asked me: “What is it like to serve in a humanitarian arena when religion is a factor?” Truthfully, religion is always a factor. Atheism and secularism are just as much a system of belief as any religion.I want to highlight this very fine program called Model House administered by Catholic Relief Services that works to change harmful power dynamics in couples related to decision-making and access to money. Male and female facilitators train couples directly in communication skills, how to solve conflict without violence, and how to jointly handle money. The approach has been remarkably effective at reducing rates of intimate partner violence.The way forward is to do just what this forum has as its goal. Invite and respect as many faith actors as possible, build understanding among them, and integrate them into every aspect of the 2030 SDG agenda. It will lead to the greatest success possible for equity, justice, and peace.Working abroad and sending back remittances is driven by economics and lack of opportunity, but the reality is workers are often exploited, and, even in ideal situations, it can shred marriage and family relationships over time. Women globally bear threats of trafficking and widespread abusive conditions and face supporting their extended family for decades at one end or abandonment by the spouse who went abroad but does not return at the other end. Instead, religious leaders in the Philippines said no. They began searching for ways families could stay together without going abroad. Instead they began funding sources for formal education called the Perpetual Education Fund that Elder Christofferson mentioned yesterday. Mrs. Villanueva is an example. They had a 1-year-old baby when her husband, Raul, lost his job. Raul decided he had no choice but to go abroad “just for a little while.” “You are not going abroad,” she told him. He was taken aback at her surety, but she had been schooled in Relief Society about the dangers and alternatives. She took work as an aide; he swallowed his pride and stayed home with the 1-year-old child; they located assistance to fund additional schooling. They struggled for a time, but a decade later they have both received higher education, raised a happy family, strengthened their marriage, and stayed together. “That one decision not to go abroad changed the whole course of our life together.” Say no to going abroad to work.QUESTION 1: Based on your extensive experience, how can religious communities make a positive contribution to protecting and empowering vulnerable women, in particular with regards to girls’ education and ending harmful traditional practices?Sister Eubank: The challenge I choose to highlight is the assumption in policy circles that religion has nothing helpful to say about women because it is traditional, patriarchal, and the source of conflict. That is not only untrue, but it ignores the importance of religious faith to women themselves, 80 percent of whom identify with a religion and look to it for guidance. At the same time, religions can be actually held up in patriarchal constructs and practices.QUESTION 3: Can you identify three main challenges to women’s full engagement in furthering the Agenda 2030 focusing on SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), and SDG 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions)? What are the possible ways forward to overcome these challenges?
Sister Sharon Eubank, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency.Sister Sharon Eubank, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency and director of LDS Charities, participated in the recent G20 Interfaith Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina.Here are her remarks, in question-and-answer form, from her September 27 presentation:In the Relief Society, each woman in every congregation has a peer mentor to connect with monthly or whenever she needs help.We tend to think of education as a formal university degree, but getting nontraditional students successfully into vocational and business practices—specifically women—can be transformative for their families. Nora lives with her granddaughter outside Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. With no funding or capital she enrolled in a 12-week, no-cost course called “Start and Grow My Business” sponsored by her local congregation. One of the activities was “upselling” in the market, and Nora earned $5 USD by participating. “From there it all began.” She bought candles to sell from a small table in front of her house; with advice from the course, she moved her display to the street with more traffic; she invested some profit into a wooden display counter for $3; she started selling enough candles to feed herself and her grandchild and her two children who were incarcerated in the local jail. Her peer mentors from Relief Society encouraged and helped her. Her next project was to buy a glass display case and pharmaceuticals to treat the most common illnesses in her neighborhood. She continued to support her inmate children and ensured her granddaughter was attending school instead of selling with her on the street. She knew education was important but never saw the economic reality to get her granddaughter in school. Now, Nora knows her granddaughter will not have to sell on the street because she is getting her education now. Addressing the situation of mothers and grandmothers greatly improves the education of children.Part of the look forward is in recognizing the importance of mobilizing women of faith to work on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) issues and to acknowledge their faith not as a barrier but the key to progress and success. The 2030 agenda won’t happen without religion, and religion won’t happen without women. They are the movers.Sister Villanueva, Quezon City, PhilippinesISIS, Boko Haram, gangs in Central America, and South Sudanese militias know that targeting women destroys the next generation, and that is their true quest. Women are brutalized in the name of faith, in the name of tribe, in the name of geography, but none of that is true. They are being brutalized for power and control. Elder D. Todd Christofferson, right center in blue tie, and Sister Sharon Eubank, top right, pose for a group photo with other world religious leaders at the G20 Interfaith Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Wednesday, September 26, 2018. Photo courtesy of Gustavo Garello for the Deseret News.On September 27, Sister Eubank addressed the topic of how religious communities make positive contributions to protecting and empowering women and discussed the leadership opportunities women are given in local Church congregations.Nora, Santo Domingo, Dominican RepublicQUESTION 2: In the context of existing global development frameworks and international legal mechanisms promoting women’s rights, how can religious communities cooperating with governments increase and improve women’s participation in economic, social, and political systems?When governments and religious communities fail to combat the violence and fall short in bringing all their power and might to address it, it destroys the hope and confidence of all women to participate. Which is the very point of these enemies.The work would not be nearly where it is today without three women, and I want to pay tribute to them: Dr. Katherine Marshall, executive director of World Faiths’ Development Dialogue (and I recommend her book Women, Religion, and Peacebuilding); Dr. Azza Karam, who chairs the UN Interagency taskforce on Religion and Development; and Jean Duff, a founder of the Partnership for Faith and Development. These fearless women have worked tirelessly for decades to ensure the faith voices of women are included at every level of development and that faiths open themselves to healthy and transformative practices that benefit women and their families.So these are three examples of things women in religious communities are doing to promote education and end harmful cultural practices.One example is the success in Uganda with HIV/AIDS prevention. Uganda was part of the early epicenter of HIV/AIDS. Many governments in the region tackled it, but Ugandan religious leaders united with government to mitigate the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS. The group found a slogan all could support: ABC: Abstain, Be Faithful, use Condoms. Nearly all major religious institutions—Christian and Islamic—actively engaged. HIV/AIDS moved from curse/sin to a problem without borders.She was joined at the forum by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who presented talks on religious freedom and the Church’s efforts to help those in need.I think this is why Malala Yousafzai has become so iconic. You recall she is the Pakistani Muslim girl who fought for women’s rights against the Taliban and survived an attempted assassination. In 2014 she became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Prize because she could not be silenced and stopped from participating. When a courageous woman emerges to participate at any level, from the barrio to the boardroom, we must do all we can both personally and institutionally to defend her basic rights and help her cause.Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has said: “Violence has nothing to do with religion as such. It has to do with identity and life in groups. Religion sustains groups more effectively than any other force. It suppresses violence within. It rises to the threat of violence from without. Most conflicts and wars have nothing to do with religion whatsoever. They are about power, territory, and glory, things that are secular, even profane. But if religion can be enlisted, it will be” (Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence , 39).
Joining Elder and Sister Uchtdorf were Elder Patrick Kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy; Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric; and Sister Carol Waddell.With his visit, Elder Uchtdorf became the first Apostle to visit Königsberg/Kaliningrad in some eight decades since just prior to WWII, and it was the first time a member of the Twelve had been to Gdańsk.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, right, joins President David W. Checketts of the England London Mission in greeting some of the mission’s missionaries after a group photo outside London’s Royal Albert Hall on September 8, 2018. Photo courtesy of President David W. Checketts.The meeting was conducted all in German—“a blessing for us to hear Elder and Sister Uchtdorf express the feelings of their hearts in their mother tongue,” President Boyer said.“When you serve people you are interested in, they are interested in you,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “This opens the door there, and they can teach people in our chapels.”It carried into Moscow, Kaliningrad, and Gdańsk. “He taught practical ideas of how to be more caring to one another, and he continued to emphasize that the temple will come to Russia when the Saints are more committed in their hearts to reaching out and bringing others to Christ,” said Elder James B. Martino, President of the Europe East Area.No matter the past or present circumstances and challenges, though, the underlying principle for Church members and missionaries is to focus on the core message of the gospel, says the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. President and Sister Uchtdorf stand with the missionaries of the England London Mission outside Royal Albert Hall on September 8, 2018. Photo courtesy of President David W. Checketts.Elder Uchtdorf had looked forward to his first visits to Kaliningrad and Gdańsk—previously known by their German names of Königsberg, from the former’s Prussian era, and Danzig, from the latter’s “Free City of Danzig” period between the First and Second World Wars. Both cities were home to thriving Church units of several hundred members each in the first two decades of the 1900s, among the largest branches of the Church outside the United States at the time.“Whatever has happened, with the wonderful sacrifice of the Savior and our willingness to accept it and move forward, we can change our life and the lives of generations to come in our own families and those around us,” he said, reflecting on his mid-September European assignment.“Especially important for the members were Elder Uchtdorf’s teachings about unity, charity, and forgiveness,” said President Mateusz Z. Turek, whose Poland Warsaw Mission missionaries all attended the Gdańsk meeting. “Whatever differences there might be between us, they don’t matter. The gospel is what matters and what unites us.” Following a September 11, 2018, conference with the Germany Frankfurt Mission, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gestures his love for the missionaries.Meeting with elders and sistersIn Moscow, Elder Uchtdorf complimented the volunteers in Russia on how they are adapting to legal limitations, including the prohibition of name tags and the use of the term “missionary” in public outside of meetinghouse settings. Volunteers have returned to the basics—the gospel’s core message coupled with service.The Apostle encouraged members to look to where they can be of service, Elder Martino added. “Ministering is not something that comes by commandment. It comes by ‘anxiously engaging’ in wanting to help our brothers and sisters.”And both suffered extensive demolition, decimation, and devastation during World War II bombings, with the Soviet Union moving in residents to turn Königsberg into Kaliningrad in the Russian enclave wedged in between Poland and Lithuania.Revisiting memories, reviewing areasWith the mission conference held in their old stake center, the group photo was taken in the same cultural hall where they attended events and dances, with Elder Uchtdorf speaking from the same pulpit he did as a stake president.As the missionaries moved from the Royal Albert Hall backdrop to a conference held in the Church’s chapel in historic Hyde Park just a couple of blocks away, Elder Uchtdorf saluted that difficult mission merger. He also underscored how missionary work and conversions in England in the late 1830s helped to breathe new life into Church communities in Kirtland, Ohio; Nauvoo, Illinois; and Missouri, continuing as the Saints relocated to the Salt Lake Valley.The missionaries’ grins of the moment carried over to the mission photo—the ice was broken, just as it had from the first two months of merging the England London and London South Missions, the latter one of 19 missions worldwide consolidated this summer.Members and ministering In Gdańsk, Poland, for a meeting with branch members and missionaries of the Poland Warsaw Mission, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf stops to visit with a woman in a hallway on September 17, 2018.Leaders in London mirrored the ethnic and social diversity of the multinational missionary force there. “When I look at the membership there in England, it is a cross-section of the world’s population,” Elder Uchtdorf said.As he walked up, Elder Uchtdorf—who chairs the Missionary Executive Council—loudly exclaimed, “Hey, I just saw the new Ferrari out in front; President Checketts, is that your new mission vehicle?”Said Elder Martino: “He acknowledged we have certain challenges in Europe East, but every challenge provides opportunities. We must constantly look for the positive and see what we can do to grow, both spiritually and numerically.”Ministering served as a common thread of the member meetings. “Elder Uchtdorf expanded everyone’s understanding of the breadth of the concept,” said Elder Paul V. Johnson, President of the Europe Area, of the London conference. “The brothers and sisters who attended the meeting came away with a better picture of what it means and a determination to personally minister more effectively and to help others do the same.”“We are to listen and to learn,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “That is really the purpose—to listen.”Sister Uchtdorf told the story of the missionaries who found and taught her and her mother and sister, while Elder Uchtdorf told of watching the conversion of his wife’s family and the difference that has made in his life. Said Elder Johnson, “The missionaries were inspired to see how sweet the fruits of their labors can be as they share the gospel with others and help them come to the Savior.”“Missionaries learned so much from Elder and Sister Uchtdorf, but they were especially touched by the personal ministry of shaking the hand and hugging every missionary,” said President Jacob L. Boyer of the September 11 conference with his Germany Frankfurt Mission. “Taking this personal, one-on-one time will never be forgotten and has lifted our mission spiritually in a remarkable way.”One of the key elements of the trip was to conduct annual reviews of the Europe Area, headquartered in Frankfurt, and the Europe East Area, in Moscow. Reviews include meeting with the Area Presidency and staff to review progress and procedures and set direction and goals. Doing that in person and in conjunction with leadership conferences helps provide the in-person perspective.The Uchtdorfs’ return to Frankfurt resulted in a wave of emotions while revisiting memorable locations—most pleasant and uplifting. They passed by Sister Uchtdorf’s home where he would stop by on his bike, hoping to catch a glimpse of her and invite her to attend Church meetings (“she never did, but her mother did occasionally,” he quipped), the site of the old branch building where he saw her for the first time, and the spot where her grandmother and her aunt rushed into a cellar during an air raid, only to have a bomb make a direct hit.“Elder Uchtdorf told us that as a people ‘we are still in the middle of the restoration of all things—the Restoration is still moving forward,’” President Checketts said. “I have never heard that said, but as I contemplated what President Russell M. Nelson is doing and the changes and progress in the true and living Church, it made sense. The Restoration is still taking place.”President David W. Checketts of the England London Mission watched as his 244 missionaries hailing from more than 50 countries waited in front of the iconic Royal Albert Hall, their quiet anticipation of a mission photo with the visiting Church leaders meshing with the hush of London’s early Saturday morning hours.Member interactions ranged from large, multistake leadership conferences in London and Moscow with local auxiliary sister leaders joining their priesthood counterparts to smaller branch meetings with members and volunteers in Kaliningrad and Gdańsk.With his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, they revisited locations dear to their hearts and their souls in Frankfurt, Germany. They also passed by painful reminders of tragic losses. And to the Church volunteers and members in Moscow and throughout Russia who face legal limitations, he invited them to return to the basics of the gospel while serving others.There and elsewhere, he taught how the Reformation five centuries ago helped bring the world out of the dark Middle Ages and put the Bible and gospel topics in the hands, conversations, and understandings of the masses, in turn setting the stage to make the Restoration possible.The ironies were not lost on Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf during his two weeks in the Europe and Europe East Areas. He walked on streets steeped in Church history in London, England. The next day he made historic stops in Gdańsk, Poland, and Kaliningrad, Russia.“It was wonderful for Sister Uchtdorf to share her testimony there, only walking distance from where missionaries found her and her family in 1954,” he said, adding, “These memories in Frankfurt were very sweet and tender—but it’s really not the location so much; it’s more the people.”
“General conference weekends are a treat to the members of the Church here in India. Because of the time difference, there are only a few in the membership that watch the whole conference live. For the others, they gather together the weekend following the conference and that becomes our general conference weekend.—Robert K. William, Area Seventy in the Asia Area“Now we watch the Sunday morning session at my parents’ home then enjoy brunch. In between sessions we visit with other relatives on the island then get back together for the afternoon session.— Emily Hancock Nelson, Harkers Island Ward, North Carolina (a community hard-hit by Hurricane Florence)Viewing general conference is a different experience in every country, culture, and time zone. Read how members watch conference in three separate parts of the world.“We usually begin viewing the conference on Saturday from 10 a.m. in the morning and have an hour lunch break. Members bring their food and have a potluck lunch. They talk about the messages they have just heard and share their feelings. They then watch the remaining sessions with a break in between and conclude. The Sunday morning sessions are special, and we have more in attendance compared to the Saturday sessions. We follow the same pattern as Saturday. This weekend is an opportunity to listen to the prophet’s voice and rejoice in the messages. We are uplifted and strengthened.”“We are looking forward to general conference this year to rest from our cares and troubles and to listen to the prophet.”“When I was little we always watched general conference on the island on what’s called the Old Road. My uncle had a satellite dish. Most of my [extended] family would be there, and my Aunt Ella Dee always made chicken salad.“For priesthood session, the priesthood holders gather at the [Harkers Island Ward meetinghouse]. Before conference they have a clam chowder dinner. It’s a ward tradition and the chowder is, of course, made with local clams. The Relief Society sisters would make the chowder at home in Crock-Pots then bring it to the church before conference.“As we approach … general conference, we usually don’t watch it live [because of the time difference—Auckland is 18 hours ahead of Salt Lake City]. In the United States, you watch it live during conference weekend; we in New Zealand watch it the next week.—Mele Sapeta Kaufana, Auckland, New Zealand“I always loved to hear President Monson’s talks because he told the best stories.“Members here can watch sessions online, but the most popular session to watch is the Sunday morning session the next Sunday morning at the stake center. Only a few members go to the stake center to watch the other sessions there, saying that they can view them online at home. Our thought is the members here should watch them together in the chapel so that we have the Spirit there. Our family can’t wait to hear the counsel of our leaders.”
Prior to his calling as prophet, President Nelson served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for 34 years and was the quorum president from 2015 to 2018.Elder Quentin L. Cook:“There are many logical reasons to follow President Russell M. Nelson. Even those not of our faith would call him brilliant. He was a medical doctor at age 22, an esteemed cardiac surgeon, and a renowned pioneer in the development of open-heart surgery.“Although we admire all of these noble qualities, why do we follow President Nelson? Why do we follow the prophet? Because the Lord Jesus Christ has called him and designated him as His watchman on the tower.”“We are deeply grateful the Lord has called a new prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, to preside over His Church,“ said President Ballard in the April 2018 general conference. “In an orderly way we have now begun a new chapter in our Church history. This is a precious gift from God.Elder Ulisses Soares:“Most would acknowledge his wisdom and judgment: nine decades of learning about life and death, living unselfishly, loving and teaching God’s children in every corner of the globe, and maturing with the experiences of having 10 children, 57 grandchildren, and 118 great-grandchildren (this last number changes frequently; a great-grandson was born only this past Wednesday).Elder Neil L. Andersen:“[President Nelson] has been profoundly prepared and specifically tutored by the Lord to lead us at this time. It is a great blessing to now have dear President Russell M. Nelson as our loving and devoted prophet—the 17th President of the Church in this final dispensation. …”I testify of latter-day prophets, from the Prophet Joseph Smith to our dear President Russell M. Nelson, whom we joyfully sustain,” said Elder Gong in his April 2018 general conference address. “As our Primary children sing, ‘Follow the prophet; he knows the way.’ I witness that, as prophesied in the holy scriptures, including in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, ‘the Lord’s kingdom [is] once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah’” (“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”).Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf:President Nelson has traveled the globe testifying and teaching members of the Church—as well as those who are not members of the Church—as he has served as a special witness of Jesus Christ.Elder Gary E. Stevenson:“I have seen the Lord magnify him and bless him and shape him for this hour,” said Elder Holland in a Church News article from January 2018. “He gave the Lord a wonderful package of raw material to work with, but I have seen the Lord bless him and mold him into becoming the prophet of the Lord that we sustain him to be.”Elder Ronald A. Rasband:First and foremost, he said, President Nelson is kind.Elder David A. Bednar:
President Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.“My beloved brethren of the priesthood, it is with great humility that I stand before you on this historic occasion, under assignment by our dear prophet and President, Russell M. Nelson,” said Elder Rasband during the priesthood session of April 2018 general conference. “How I love and sustain this wonderful man of God and our new First Presidency” (“Behold a Royal Army”).In sharing his testimony about the teachings of living prophets with members at a stake conference in the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Jacarepagua Stake, Elder Soares said in a Church News article, “We can sustain our living prophets today by incorporating their teachings in our lives. They speak the word of the Savior for our day. Please teach your families that protection in these difficult times comes from following their teachings and from obeying the commandments of God. Every commandment has a promise associated with it. I can assure you that we can’t live without these promises in this life, especially in these challenging latter days we are living in.”Elder D. Todd Christofferson:“It was a joy to participate in this morning’s announcement of the new First Presidency,” said Elder Uchtdorf in a January 2018 social media post. “I love and sustain President Russell M. Nelson, President Dallin H. Oaks, and President Henry B. Eyring. I can assure you, the Lord Himself is at the head of His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.On January 14, 2018, President Russell M. Nelson was ordained and set apart as the 17th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Within just a few months of his calling, President Nelson has continued—like all of his predecessors—to lead and guide the worldwide Church through revelation.During his talk “The Heart of a Prophet,” Elder Stevenson spoke on how President Nelson is meant to lead the Church.“The heavens are not closed. God speaks—to us individually and to the leaders of His latter-day kingdom on earth. I look forward with great anticipation to the leadership President Nelson will provide. I know that as we follow his counsel, we will better come to know the Savior and will feel true joy in our lives.”“I knew President Nelson was God’s prophet on earth,” he said. “I know it with all my heart and mind. … Every time I look at President Nelson my heart leaps for joy.”In a Church News interview, Elder Christofferson said he enjoys meeting with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, under the direction of President Nelson, each week in the temple. “His outreach is to all, young and old. He seems to know everyone and is particularly gifted at remembering names. All who know him feel that they are his favorite. And so it is with each of us—because of his genuine love and concern for everyone.”“I had the privilege of serving in the Quorum of the Twelve with him as my quorum president for just over two years. I have traveled with him and marvel at his energy, as one must move quickly to keep up with his pace! …“As we each sustained President Nelson by our uplifted hands, we stood as witnesses before God and acknowledged that he is President Monson’s rightful successor. With our raised hands, we promised to hearken unto his voice as he receives direction from the Lord. …“We have all had the privilege of sustaining President Russell M. Nelson as our prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in this conference,“ Elder Cook stated during the April 2018 general conference. “The Twelve, as a group and individually, had a significant spiritual experience when we laid our hands on President Nelson’s head and President Dallin H. Oaks, acting as voice, ordained him and set him apart as President of the Church. I testify that he was foreordained and has been prepared his entire life to be the Lord’s prophet for our day” (“Prepare to Meet God”).“Those who know him well would speak of President Nelson facing the difficulties of life with faith and courage. When cancer took the life of his 37-year-old daughter, Emily, leaving a loving husband and five small children, I heard him say, ‘I was her father, a medical doctor, and an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, but I had to bow my head and acknowledge, “Not my will but thine be done.”’As recorded in a Church News article posted September 4, Elder Renlund—who was traveling with President Russell M. Nelson in the Dominican Republic at the time—referenced the experience, almost nine months ago, when he and his fellow Apostles placed their hands upon the head of Russell M. Nelson and set him apart as the President of the Church.Elder Dale G. Renlund:“He is a consummate gentleman. He may be the man for whom the word ‘gentleman’ was created. He is very, very kind.”“The Lord has provided a divine plan so that His Church is always led by prophets, seers, and revelators. I embrace the opportunity to associate with my Brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I love them and look forward to serving with them as we—along with you—strive to serve the Lord.”Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:President M. Russell Ballard:In his April 2018 general conference address, “The Prophet of God,” Elder Andersen talked about why members of the Church sustain President Nelson as prophet.Following is a list of what members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have said about President Nelson since his ordination as the prophet.“The fellowship in the temple is something I look forward to every week and really keeps the focus on the spiritual ministry even when we are talking about administrative matters.”Elder Gerrit W. Gong:“The resurrected and living Christ directs the affairs of His restored and living Church,” Elder Bednar stated on a social media post. “On Sunday morning in a solemn meeting in the Salt Lake Temple, President Russell M. Nelson was sustained and ordained as the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know the Lord has called him to be the prophet at this time. For years, I have been tutored and strengthened by his strong faith and his inspired leadership.“I have known our new prophet-president for over 60 years. I have served with him in the Quorum of the Twelve for 33 years, and I am a witness that the hand of the Lord has been preparing him to become our presiding apostle and prophet to administer all the keys of the holy priesthood on the earth. May each one of us completely sustain him and his counselors and follow their direction” (“Precious Gifts from God”).
In preparation for the session, the three leaders drew on lessons they learned as a presidency in 2016 and early 2017.Referring to a recent time when the women were having so much fun together that they forgot to push the button on the elevator, Sister Jones said unity makes the gospel joyful. “There is joy in the journey,” said Sister Cordon.They are still centered “on the purpose to bring Heavenly Father’s children home to Jesus Christ,” said Sister Bingham.Some two and a half years later, the three women sat together again and reminisced about the year they served together before Sister Bingham was called as Relief Society General President and Sister Cordon was called as Young Women General President.“We are not in silos in wards or stakes or here,” said Sister Jones. “We are all God’s children. We are all here to serve.”Working together—not for the Relief Society or the Young Women or the Primary—but to strengthen families, individuals, and the Church will bring added insight, said Sister Cordon.Sister Jones said Latter-day Saints need to remember that members are all progressing along the covenant path. “We are not progressing alone. We will do that most effectively with the support of others.”One way is if the unity—and collaboration—of the current presidents could be mirrored on a local level, the leaders say. Outgoing Primary General President Rosemary M. Wixom and Mary R. Durham, outgoing Second Counselor, sit next to the new Primary General Presidency (First Counselor Jean B. Bingham, President Joy D. Jones, and Second Counselor Bonnie H. Cordon) during the afternoon session of the 186th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 2, 2016. Photo courtesy of Kristin Murphy, Deseret News. The former Primary General Presidency, Sister Joy D. Jones (Primary President) and her counselors, Sister Jean B. Bingham (First Counselor) and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon (Second Counselor), pose for photos in Salt Lake City, April 4, 2016. Photo courtesy of Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.Some callings further isolate ward members, they said. “I wish every Primary teacher could appreciate how loved they are by Heavenly Father for being there and planting seeds.”“You have to take your own personal ego and talents and stop and listen to what the Spirit has to offer,” said Sister Cordon. “We can learn from everyone. Everyone has great things to offer.”Next weekend, during the 188th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members worldwide will see that unity again as the first women’s session of conference is held Saturday evening—between the Saturday and Sunday general sessions.But if a Primary teacher is feeling isolated in this important responsibility, maybe a Relief Society presidency member could visit her class. “We need to sustain everyone in their callings,” said Sister Cordon.“We are looking for the Lord’s answers, not our own answers,” said Sister Bingham. “We know we have to listen with open hearts.”“There is no ego,” said Sister Jones, noting she trusts her former counselors completely.There are Church members that are “so lonely,” added Sister Cordon. “We have to be on the front porch after our meetings.”The ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidents, for example, could counsel together for the good of a Primary teacher who cannot attend Relief Society or for a young woman getting ready to transition to Relief Society.They joked about being told they look alike, spoke of their diverse backgrounds, and demonstrated through word and action that they were united as a presidency.Today, the three unified General Presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary bring their experiences to the table and learn from one another. They still meet together and discuss the children, youth, and women of the Church with the perspective of their new responsibilities.Social media has further isolated youth and women, said Sister Bingham.They are still united—but in their new roles the word has taken on deeper meaning.Serving together “was no accident,” said Sister Bingham.Sister Jones said of the year they served together in the Primary General Presidency, “I think we were being taught something.”The vision they had as a Primary General Presidency has not changed, just expanded, said Sister Cordon. “It encompasses all the children, all the youth, all the adults.”In their first public speaking assignment after being sustained as a new Primary General Presidency, Sister Joy D. Jones and her counselors, Sister Jean B. Bingham and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, addressed the topic of unity during BYU Women’s Conference on April 29, 2016.A simple part of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that everyone is united in the goal to help others “come to our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ,” said Sister Cordon. “It is a covenant journey.”“Women used to sit on their front porches,” said Sister Jones. “Now we close our doors and we are so separate.”“It is a responsibility of all members to become unified,” said Sister Cordon.Now they are asking themselves the question “How can we communicate that to every sister in the Church?”“We sat and studied about unity and wrote this talk together,” Sister Cordon said of the topic that become their theme for that year. “We knew we needed to be unified.”
“We were not figured to do anything in this tournament,” Aland said. “Every time we came up against a team, it was ‘Oh, that’s too bad you have to play those guys.’ Then we end up beating them.”“It was good to hang out for a couple of hours, have dinner, and talk about the good old days when we were up there playing,” Whitehead said. “It was déjà vu, a lot of fun.”Because they won back-to-back titles, the Chula Vista team is strongly considering another 50th anniversary reunion in 2019.That’s how team member Lee Aland remembers it.“I look back on that as a major accomplishment,” Aland said. “Because of our pitching, which was Rex Whitehead, we dominated everybody. It was fun, a lot of fun. That is what I remember most. We weren’t supposed to win, and we did.”“The victories were important, but I’m still really impressed with these guys winning the championship and the sportsmanship award,” Bob Wilkes said. “That wasn’t something that happened very often. It showed what kind of guys they were.”The All-Church tournaments of the late 1960s featured nearly 100 teams with some traveling from as far away as Canada, Georgia, and California. Thousands of fans turned out to watch the championship games at George Q. Morris Park.Elder Mark E. Petersen, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time, spoke to the participants in a pre-tournament devotional in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, according to the LDS Church News archives.Rick Black, of Orem, was one of the younger players. He looked up to many of the older teammates as mentors and examples. Seeing them again made for a sweet reunion.“We were kind of in the Bermuda Triangle of having some incredible athletes, all the same age, same ward, and same geographic boundaries at the same time, no ringers,” Black said.“The softball program of the Church has many values. It not only brings about conversions and reconversions, but also it is one of the best physical fitness programs in the nation today,” Elder Petersen said in the 1968 devotional. “But more than this, it is a great fellowshipping tool, one of the great tools we have in the Church.”When the boys from Chula Vista qualified for the weeklong tournament in Salt Lake City, a ward member with connections arranged for them to stay in a Church building in Holladay. The team camped out in the Relief Society room, cooked in the kitchen, and used the facility’s showers and bathrooms. They were also hosted for meals by the family of Elder Marvin J. Ashton, who was part of the committee that organized the tournament and later was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.“Life has smacked us all around a bit, and it was good to see they’ve come out on the other side,” Black said. “They all still have smiles on their faces, they are working hard, they are good citizens, they have great families. It was really good to see.”Sporting red, white, and blue uniforms, the Latter-day Saint softball team from California went on to win All-Church tournament titles in 1968 and 1969 before finishing as the runner-up the 1970 tournament. They also won the Sportsmanship Trophy in 1968. Members of a softball team that won the All-Church softball tournament in the late 1960s recently gathered for a reunion. Top row: Bob Wilkes (coach), Rick Black, Greg Wilkes, Jim Nutz. Bottom row: Carl Haas, Rex Whitehead, Jeff Wilkes (coach), Lee Aland. They paid tribute to deceased teammates: Steve Foster (died in 2011), Jerry Wilkes (1973), Wes Miller (1993), Gene Amonette (2012), Mike Gilbert (2014), and Bob Ferons (2017). Photo courtesy of Rick Black. A newspaper clipping details the victory of a softball team from Chula Vista, California, that won the All-Church softball tournament in the late 1960s. Photo courtesy of Rick Black.Reflecting on their playing days, Black marveled that so many talented players all lived in the same ward boundaries. Several of them went on to play college baseball, football, and basketball. Miller played football at Utah State University and was a scout-team player for the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers. Greg Wilkes pitched at San Diego State and played in the minor leagues for the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros.Coaches and players of the Chula Vista ward softball team, who now live in parts of Idaho, Utah, and California, gathered a few weeks ago in Salt Lake City to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their memorable achievement. Some of them hadn’t seen each other since their playing days.During the late 1960s, the boys from the Chula Vista 1st Ward weren’t expected to go far in the Junior Fast-Pitch All-Church Softball Tournament.At their August reunion, the group shared fond memories and paid tribute to teammates now deceased, Black said.Members of the 1968 team included coaches Steve Foster and Bob Wilkes, along with players Dennis Kirkman, Greg Wilkes, Wes Miller, Gary Braun, Jerry Wilkes, Rick Black, Jim Nutz, Gene Amonette, Carl Haas, Rex Whitehead, Bobby Ferons, Lee Aland, and Mike Gilbert.Whitehead was named the team’s most valuable player in the 1968 tournament, and Aland, whose interest in the sports program led him to join the Church at age 16, played third base and was the MVP in 1969. This is one of the trophies received by the Chula Vista, California, team that won two All-Church softball tournaments in the late 1960s. Photo courtesy of Rick Black.
The FamilySearch Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, has announced its free family history classes and webinars for October 2018.Select webinars are offered weekly along the following track schedule throughout the month:Thursdays—Research Classes at 1:00 p.m. MDT Tuesdays—FamilySearch.org and Family Tree Classes at 10:00 a.m. MDTAll class times are in mountain daylight time (MDT).Mondays—FamilySearch Catalog at 10:00 a.m. MDTResearch classes will focus on records from Denmark, Holland, England, Germany, and Wales. One class is offered in Spanish. A class for deaf community indexing is included. The genealogy merit badge is also featured. Participants can attend in person or online. See the calendar below for the complete list of classes. No registration is required. (Find or share this announcement online in the FamilySearch Newsroom.)If you are unable to attend a class in person or online, most sessions are recorded and can be viewed later online at your convenience at Family History Library classes and webinars. Online classes are noted on the schedule as webinars. Webinar attendees need to click the link next to the class title at the scheduled date and time to attend the class online. Those attending in person simply go to the room noted. Invite your family and friends.Wednesdays—Indexing Classes at 10:00 a.m. MDT
DATE AND TIME
WEBINAR | ROOM
Thursday, 4 October
Indexing Dutch Records (1.5 hours)
Thursday, 4 October
Using Archion for German Research
Tuesday, 9 October
Starting Family Tree: Overview of FamilySearch
Thursday, 11 October
United States Research: Pacific Region
Tuesday, 16 October
Starting Family Tree: Navigating, Adding, Editing, and Standardization of Dates and Places
Thursday, 18 October
England and Wales Census
Saturday, 20 October 10:00 a.m.
Boy Scout Genealogy Merit Badge (1½ hrs). For Registration.
Saturday, 20 October
Recursos genealógicos de la emigración Hispanoamericana
Thursday, 25 October
Deaf Community Indexing Training
Thursday, 25 October
Using Gazetteers to Determine Jurisdictionsin Denmark
Tuesday, 30 October
Using the FamilySearch Catalog Effectively
“Food storage is a foundational principle of self-reliance, taught to Latter-day Saint families worldwide,” added Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President and a member of the Church’s Welfare and Self-Reliance Executive Committee.Latter-day Saints have a long history of applying Christ’s commandment to “love one another” by donating their labor and sharing essential food to people in need, according to a Church news release.“In the next several years we anticipate increasing food donations to community charities by more than 20 million pounds annually,” said Bishop Gérald Caussé, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Increased donations of flour and other related products will allow the Church to more effectively assist those in need.“Just as the Church adapts food production and storage projects according to changing needs, families may want to make similar adjustments from time to time in their food storage plans to ensure availability for their own use and to share with others.”For many Latter-day Saint families, the benefit of setting aside a reliable supply of food storage was recently evident in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina. (See related story.)The conversion of a portion of the grain reserve into finished products necessitates some operational adjustments such as closing the Latty, Ohio, storage facility and increasing the volunteer hours at the Deseret Mill and Pasta Plant in Kaysville, Utah, according to the release.Many drew upon reserves of food and water in the challenging days following the storm when provisions were scarce. Fortunately, the disaster did not result in long-term shortages. But family preparedness offered precious peace of mind during a period of uncertainty.“The recent decision to convert a portion of our stored grain into finished products is an example of adapting to changing situations,” said David Frischknecht, managing director of the Church’s welfare operations. “In this case, having the finished products helps us provide for needs more quickly, particularly in emergencies, and to share more readily with those in need.”The Church has long encouraged families across the globe to keep their food storage current as personal circumstances and local regulations allow.The Church will continue to provide raw wheat for purchase through home storage centers and store.lds.org and will seek to provide selected finished products that many members of the Church may find to be more convenient to use in a time of need.The Church has announced plans to supply families and community agencies with “finished good” such as pasta, pancake mix, and flour—rather than raw wheat, which can be difficult to process at home.
In a welcome letter, young adult editors working on YA Weekly say: “Our goal is to help you find answers to your challenges and the strength to face them. We’ll do this by exploring the gospel of Jesus Christ together and examining how young adults all over the world are striving to live it.”
“We really wanted to help out and be part of that experience,” said Sister Herr of Tucson, Arizona.A sprawling Church-sponsored cleanup in hurricane-battered communities across eastern North Carolina was being planned for the weekend of September 29–30. Additional service projects were expected in the days and weeks to follow.Sister Dawna Herr and her friend Sister Alicia Jones sat in the recent North Carolina Raleigh Mission conference and began counting days.Sister Herr called working in the heat, the humidity, the grime, and the mud a sacred experience. In the final days of her North Carolina mission she was reminded “there is so much we can do to help our brothers and sisters.”Sister Herr was serving in a Spanish-speaking area in Durham. Sister Jones was assigned to an area in nearby Cary.The North Carolina Raleigh Mission missionaries were being enlisted to help during the ongoing recovery. But Sister Herr and Sister Jones realized they both would be returning to their homes days before the brunt of the missionary relief efforts began.On Saturday, September 22, President Holland’s wife, Sister Paige Holland, and their 14-year-old son, Danny, picked up the two sisters on their way to a stake-sponsored work assignment in flooded Wilmington.So the two missionaries, who were not companions, approached President Matthew Holland and asked if they could join one of the preliminary work crews prior to their September 26 departures.“We love the North Carolina people so much, so it was a beautiful experience to help them out,” said Sister Jones of Chubbuck, Idaho. “We’re so grateful to have had this opportunity before we went home.”The sisters felt, well, a bit left out.The missionaries spent the day clearing out fallen trees and debris from a member’s home. Wearing yellow Helping Hands T-shirts and donated work clothing, they toiled alongside Sister Holland, Danny, and a few other missionaries serving near the Wilmington area.“The sisters told me they did not want to miss the opportunity to serve,” said President Holland. He immediately agreed.
The Raleigh missionaries have witnessed several miraculous and inspired moments. Prayers, President Holland said, are being answered. Meanwhile, a storm that many predicted would hit landfall as a category 5 hurricane was markedly weaker when it arrived.Within days after President Wheatley asked for assistance, Oakton members were dropping off shoes, gloves, jeans, and other work clothes at the stake receiving center. The donations were then sorted by size and gender, packed in boxes, and labeled for shipping.To be sure, the damage wrought by Florence was awful. Dozens died and many more lost their homes and possessions. And the suffering continues in saturated cities across the Tar Heel State. But most agree it could have been worse.“As I went around today, I was astounded at the devastation and yet the tender mercies of the Lord,” reported Rose Mary Abrams, Relief Society president in the Wilmington 2nd Ward, North Carolina Wilmington Stake.“Some of the stories are so sad that you want to personally go help them yourself,” she said. “You can feel how desperate they are to get help. Many I have spoken to are elderly or disabled.”An Area Seventy, Elder Calderwood knows from firsthand experience what missionaries require to serve on work crews. He was presiding over the New York New York South Mission in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy battered much of the Atlantic Coast.A local shipping company, Paxton Companies, provided a large truck and a driver, sans cost, to make the five-hour drive to Raleigh.The North Carolina Raleigh missionaries were firsthand witnesses to another Florence-related miracle during a recent hastily scheduled mission conference.Under normal circumstances, the rugged work clothes laid out precisely on the tables would seem curious gifts. Missionaries are accustomed to serving in white shirts and ties—or dresses and skirts. But at that moment, a practical pair of work boots, sturdy jeans, and gloves was exactly what they needed. Missionaries from the North Carolina Raleigh Mission sort through work clothes donated by the Oakton Virginia Stake following Hurricane Florence. Photo courtesy of President Matthew Holland.“The Lord wanted us to minister. He is now teaching us firsthand how to do it.”Following the September 22 gathering in the stake center chapel in Raleigh, the elders and sisters were instructed to walk to the cultural hall. Waiting for them were rows of donated jeans, shirts, shoes, gloves, socks, and caps.Soon several rows of tables in the Raleigh stake center were laden with work clothes. In the end, there was more clothing items than needed. The surplus was quickly distributed to other community partners assisting with flood relief.A quick call was made to Oakton Virginia Stake President Scott Wheatley, who immediately volunteered to help. “We can do this,” assured the stake president.Call it Christmas in September.The Oakton members “gathered this donation in less than a week,” said Elder Calderwood.Following Hurricane Sandy, then-mission president Calderwood reached out to his home stake, the Oakton Virginia Stake, for help. For several years, the stake has conducted regular clothing drives for people in their community. They were skilled in gathering items quickly and efficiently.Most of the trees in her community fell into yards but caused little damage to dwellings.The Oakton members stepped up and delivered following Sandy, providing the New York missionaries with donated work clothes.“Elder Calderwood told me that our missionaries should not use their p-day clothes during cleanups because they would all be ruined,” said President Holland.In the days prior to the hurricane, the vast majority of the Raleigh missionaries were evacuated to member homes near mission headquarters. Almost all have now returned to their apartments and will be counted among the thousands expected to participate in a sprawling Church-sponsored cleanup effort this weekend across several storm-affected cities in eastern North Carolina.Fortunately, the Area Seventy knew people who were anxious to help outfit missionaries.The elders and sisters were already chomping at the proverbial bit to get out and serve. The mission conference focused on providing service while staying safe. Yards were waiting to be cleared. Homes were waiting to be mucked. But most missionaries owned only a set or two of preparation day clothing—and those were likely impractical for the grubby, grueling work of cleaning up after a hurricane.But for President Matthew Holland and the elders and sisters he leads in the North Carolina Raleigh Mission, a couple more words belong to the list: Miracle. Inspiration.Now outfitted with rugged work clothes, the missionaries are eager to serve in their respective areas. Church-sponsored Helping Hands crews clear out branches and fallen trees outside a hurricane-impacted home in Wilmington, North Carolina. Photo courtesy of Dianna White.Many North Carolinians, perhaps inspired by a divine impulse to care for others, are stepping forward to help. Latter-day Saints are joining the legions giving time, muscle, comfort, and cash to offer relief to those in need.“It was a sweet experience and a distinct moment of inspiration and miracle,” said President Holland.Many Latter-day Saints—and a few missionaries—got an early jump on the cleanup efforts by serving in their communities last weekend, September 22–23. Most attended Sunday services in their work clothes before heading out to help any in need.Soon after Hurricane Florence hit, President Holland realized the missionaries were ill-equipped for days and possibly weeks of flood relief work. So he reached out to Elder Kevin E. Calderwood.“There were some homes that are a total loss, and our hearts go out to them, but overall we feel truly blessed,” she said.Tart said one Relief Society leader in her stake shared an observation that aptly describes the service awaiting the members in North Carolina and beyond:
Sisters from the North Carolina Raleigh Mission sort through work clothes donated by members from the Oakton Virginia Stake. Photo courtesy of President Matthew Holland.“Now I think we can help your missionaries,” Elder Calderwood told President Holland.North Carolina Fayetteville Stake Relief Society president Janet Tart spent the past weekend working the Church-sponsored hotline where people of all backgrounds can call and request Church work crews.Several keywords that will forever define Hurricane Florence: Flooding. Storm surge. High winds. Fallen trees. Historic.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks at the G20 Interfaith Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, September 26, 2018. Photo courtesy of Gustavo Garello, Deseret News.“This is why we serve.”The Apostle’s remarks on religious freedom marked the second time in as many days that he participated in the day’s plenary sessions. Religious freedom, he declared, is critical for preserving and encouraging “all the good religion does.”
Elder Christofferson prepares for his speech during the G20 Interfaith Forum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Wednesday, September 26, 2018. Photo courtesy of Gustavo Garello, Deseret News.2. Religious freedom strengthens communities.The Church’s efforts to encourage and build self-reliance in individuals, families, and communities arise from the profound spiritual truth that every person has eternal worth, he said.Without the freedom to practice faith, the Church and its members—and many other faith communities—could not effectively serve the poor and do the great work they do in society at large, he said.“Much of my Church’s humanitarian work is done in coordination with other faith-based groups, such as Catholic Relief Services and the global Caritas Network, Muslim Aid, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, and the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, to name a few.”“Protecting and respecting religious freedom serves as a training ground for protecting and respecting other human rights and freedoms. It teaches us that government has limits, that there are aspects of life that are so sensitive and personal that the coercive jurisdiction of the state must yield to the jurisdiction of the sacred and individual conscience.”Drawing upon several sources, Elder Christofferson noted a few benefits of freely exercised religion:1. Religious freedom protects other fundamental rights.“Religion is fundamental to societal well-being, and freedom of religion benefits not only believers but all of society, whether they know it or not. Therefore, all have an interest in protecting this freedom, whether they are believers or not.”Religious organizations and faith communities have a vital role to play in alleviating poverty and helping people live better lives.Religious freedom, he added, also facilitates interfaith understanding, cooperation, and partnerships.Elder Christofferson touched on two of the key benefits of religious freedom.Elder Christofferson said he does not discount the “vast and critical” contributions of numerous nonreligious groups. “There is room for as many individualized approaches to serving as there are groups and people willing to serve—whether religious or secular. No one has a monopoly on service or love. All of us have a critical role to play.”“The freedom to express beliefs about God, which took centuries of struggle to establish, also supports the right to express opinions about morality, society, politics, literature, art, science, or virtually any other subject,” he said. “The hard-won religious rights to peacefully assemble for worship or to print religious literature also support the rights to assemble for political, social, cultural, and familial reasons or to print books or newspapers addressing a host of subjects.”“Religious liberty enables each faith-based group to serve in a way that is consistent with its deepest beliefs and motivations. Each religious community has its own unique approach to serving, which reflects its unique doctrines, its unique religious practices, and its unique way of loving and caring for people. Each reaches the poor and needy in different ways.”
Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, General Authority Seventy and president of the Mexico Area, said members in the meetings—and missionaries in particular—responded enthusiastically to the “asking questions” format.“These young people think to themselves, ‘If marriage did not work for my mom and dad, who were sealed in the temple, how is it going to work for me?’” said Elder Bednar.Other times he perceived questions that members may have, such as a moment with nearly 800 missionaries in a Mexico Missionary Training Center devotional. Elder Bednar counseled about the devastation some young people have as they watch parents struggle to honor their temple-marriage covenants.He answered with a pointed message: “You do not find the marriage you hope to have, you create it. As an agent, you create the relationship, the family, and the happiness you hope to have.”Elder Bednar commented that such ministering efforts by members and leaders are “really quite remarkable.”Church members in Mexico typically focus on the Savior, he added. “In some places, one can be overly concerned about programs and procedures—they focus on the simplicity of what matters most.”In one of the several missionary meetings, a young elder expressed uncertainty of how some of the Savior’s teachings could work in his life. Elder Bednar emphasized the difference between believing in Christ but not necessarily believing Christ, where one might believe the Savior’s teachings apply to others—but not to one’s own self.Inviting the elder to stand and come to the front of the chapel, Elder Bednar looked him in the eyes and said: “I am talking to you. I am not talking to your companion. I am not talking to the people on the stand. The Lord’s love and blessings apply specifically and personally to you,” said Elder Bednar, who underscored the interaction by giving the elder an abrazo, Spanish for “embrace.”“The questions reflect a lot of young people trying to get their lives in alignment with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Some are staying on the covenant path, and some have made mistakes but are trying to come back to the path. This is evidence they are not quitting . . . they’re wrestling with ‘how do I press forward’ or ‘how do I get back?’”“Elder Bednar took a significant amount of time to understand this missionary’s feelings and to teach pertinent doctrines to address the missionary’s concerns,” Elder Pingree said. “He took the time to minister to the one, just as the Savior would have done.”And how was the innocent question answered?“They both ministered ‘to the one’ among more than 700 people,” he continued. “I learned that there is no need for a specific place to minister to people. It can be where it is required—a meeting, a home, a workplace, or a place of diversion. We do not require a program to do it.”MEXICO CITY, MEXICOElder Bednar gently told the young boy, “Just like you are with your father, Jesus is with His Father.”“The missionaries asked very inspired questions that allowed Elder Bednar to enlighten their understanding of gospel principles, such as the power of faith, agency, the Atonement of Christ, and how to help others be their own agents,” he said, adding many received answers that will help them in being good missionaries, good members, and provide relief from afflictions.Questions served as a common thread of Elder Bednar’s nine-day trip to Mexico’s capital and four other cities in the country’s central region in late August and early September 2018. Thousands of members, leaders, and missionaries turned out in a series of youth and young single adult gatherings, leadership conferences, stake meetings, and mission settings to not only listen to what messages the Apostle shared but also his answers to the invited questions.“Oh, Apostle Bednar,” said the boy. Giving a hug to his father and then to Elder Bednar, the boy looked up as he embraced the latter and asked, “Where’s Jesus?”In a meeting with priesthood and auxiliary leaders, a young Relief Society president asked how she could continue to help others despite struggling with personal challenges and the demands of her calling. Elder Valenzuela watched Elder Bednar call on his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, to advise the tearful woman.Arriving more than an hour before he was to preside over a Sunday meeting with the Amecameca Mexico Stake in Mexico City, Elder David A. Bednar walked into a large tent set up to accommodate an overflow crowd. There the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles noticed a young boy of five or six years and his father—he greeted the child as the father identified the visitor by name.Asking, perceiving questions“We were able to witness how, in the midst of a great crowd, Sister Bednar ministered to this sister,” Elder Valenzuela said, calling it “a revelation that we all received” as the congregation of leaders watched and listened to the counsel.Church members worldwide could learn from the Mexican Saints—from the “simplicity of their lives and how they live the gospel,” said Elder Bednar after his Mexico assignment. By comparison, he cited passages in Jacob 4:14 about those who “sought for things that they could not understand” and whose spiritual blindness “came by looking beyond the mark.”Elder Rafael E. Pino, General Authority Seventy and First Counselor in the Mexico Area presidency, said the participating members and missionaries had prepared well and were anxious to have their questions answered.“Ministering to the one” Map of Elder David A. Bednar’s visit to Mexico, August 24–September 2, 2018. Photo byAaron Thorup, Deseret News.“Questions of the heart”Sometimes Elder Bednar himself was asking the questions, such as in Monterrey when he asked stake priesthood and auxiliary leaders what they have learned about ministering. A sister leader said she had learned one must be more Christlike to really minister, needing to follow the Savior’s higher and holier way and striving to become more like Him.“It applies to you”Elder John C. Pingree, Second Counselor in the Mexico Area presidency and a General Authority Seventy, witnessed a similar moment in a mission conference as an elder asked why he was not experiencing more success as a missionary even though he was striving to be obedient, to work hard, and to exercise faith.The Mexican Saints’ simplicityElder Bednar provides opportunities for those attending meetings to ask questions, online or via text, which are then forwarded to his digital tablet. As he scrolls through and scans the anonymous inquiries during the meeting, he answers “questions of the heart,” as he calls them, teaching doctrine, encouraging commitment to gospel principles, and counseling with compassion.
Elder Bednar draws close to address an elder during one of several meetings with missionaries during Elder Bednar's assignment to Mexico.Elder Bednar visits with a young boy in an overflow tent prior to a meeting with the Amecameca Mexico Stake members on Sunday morning, August 26, 2018.“Elder Bednar made it clear in the very beginning that the Holy Ghost is the teacher and that they would be taught as much as they were prepared and willing to learn,” Elder Pino said. “With this kind of preparation, we were able to receive inspiration, knowledge, revelation, and vision. We have felt the Lord in our midst speaking and teaching us through one of the His apostles.” Itinerary of Elder David A. Bednar’s visit to Mexico, August 24–September 2, 2018. Photo by Aaron Thorup, Deseret News.
Sister Barbara B. Ballard joins her husband, Elder M. Russell Ballard, at the pulpit during a member meeting in Netherlands in September 2014.During their time in Ontario, Sister Ballard made many cherished connections with the missionaries, Church members and community members.The couple moved to Toronto, Canada, in 1974, where President Ballard presided over the Canada Toronto Mission until 1977. It was during that service that he was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy on April 3, 1976, continuing his duties as mission president until the term of service was up. Elder M. Russell Ballard and his wife, Sister Barbara B. Ballard, prior to receiving the Legacy of Life Award April 17, 2008, in Salt Lake City. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“A friend of mine thought I ought to meet her, so he tagged in to dance with her, danced over to where I was, introduced me, and I danced with her 30 seconds before I was tagged out,” President Ballard recalled later. “That was the beginning of a courtship of 11 months.”During a devotional address on March 13, 2001, Elder Ballard spoke of his 50-year marriage to Sister Ballard. M. Russell Ballard and his wife, Barbara B. Ballard. Photo courtesy of Deseret News archive.According to her family, Sister Ballard’s greatest desire was to be a loving mother to her children—Clark (Leanna) Ballard, Holly (Paul) Clayton, Meleea (David) Roper, Tammy (Brad) Brower, Stacey (Hal) Murdock, Brynn (Peter) Huntsman, and Craig (Melissa) Ballard—43 grandchildren and 90 great-grandchildren.After a life of dedicated service to her family and the Church, Sister Barbara Bowen Ballard died peacefully Monday, October 1, 2018, at her home in Salt Lake City, surrounded by her family. She was 86.The couple married August 28, 1951, in the Salt Lake Temple, and had two sons and five daughters. Elder M. Russell Ballard and his wife, Sister Barbara B. Ballard, at right, and other leaders were presented white hats as symbols of western hospitality and good cheer at the October 2012 youth celebration held in conjunction with the Calgary Alberta Canada dedication. Photo by Gerry Avant, Church News.For 15 years Sister Ballard served as a caregiver to her mother, Afton Bowen—who came to live with the Ballards in her later years. Sister Ballard often commented on her gratitude for the time she spent with her mother during that time, according to Newsroom. Together they shared a love of laughter and created cherished family memories.In her remarks, Sister Ballard spoke on the theme, ”Standing in Holy Places.“ She affirmed that a woman can make every home a holy place by the standards that she keeps and the grace that she shows. She encouraged women to make good choices and develop their talents.
Elder M. Russell Ballard and Sister Barbara Bowen Ballard, when he was called in 1976 to serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy.Elder M. Russell Ballard and his wife, Sister Barbara B. Ballard, were among those attending the dedication of the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple on Sunday afternoon, August 23, 2009, in South Jordan, Utah. Photo by Gerry Avant, Church News. Sister Barbara Bowen Ballard, 1932-2018. Photo courtesy of the Ballard family.
M. Russell Ballard and Barbara Bowen Ballard smile in a wedding photo from 1951.Sister Ballard served faithfully in many Church callings. She taught classes and served in presidencies of the Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society. She found great joy as she befriended and fellowshipped others.
President M. Russell Ballard, currently the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, treasures his marriage and family with his wife, Sister Barbara Bowen Ballard, with both shown in this undated photo together. “I knew from the beginning that I wanted to marry her,” he said.Elder M. Russell Ballard and Sister Barbara B. Ballard wave to congregation at the conclusion of the Europe Area Sisters Meeting in September 2014. The meeting originated in Frankfurt, Germany, and was broadcast throughout Europe. Then-Elder M. Russell Ballard, background left, and Sister Barbara B. Ballard, right, match wits and luck with family members in playing a game of Bonkers.Year later, President Ballard said that “getting her to agree to marry me was the greatest sales job I ever did.”Barbara Bowen was born January 5, 1932, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to James Russell Bowen and Afton Wilkins Bowen. She was a student body officer at South High School in Salt Lake City, where she graduated as valedictorian of her class. She also attended the University of Utah and studied English.President Ballard often acknowledged Sister Ballard's support in their family’s success. “I married the right daughter of God,” he said. “Without the help and direction of Barbara, our family relationships would not have been as happy and fulfilling as they were. Barbara is a treasure for our family forever. We honor her for her constant love, good judgment, and counsel.”“The greatest day in my life was the day I met Barbara Bowen,” he said. “My greatest accomplishment was convincing her that I was the only true and living returned missionary among all of those she was dating. It was a most important day when we were married in the Salt Lake Temple.”Shortly thereafter, he was called to serve in a bishopric of the Monument Park 13th Ward in Salt Lake City. Later, he would serve as bishop of the ward.”She was not only beautiful but had a sparkling personality,“ he said.Just three days after Russell Ballard returned home from his mission in the British Isles, he met his future wife at a Hello Day dance.The wife of President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sister Ballard will be remembered for her characteristic grace, sense of humor, loving smile, and lack of guile. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Barbara B. Ballard, exit the stand following the Sunday morning session of the 184th Annual General Conference Sunday, April 6, 2014, at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News. Sister Barbara B. Ballard, center, laughs while her husband, Elder M. Russell Ballard, reads a missionary's report to family members during a family council meeting in Salt Lake City on Monday, December 26, 2016. Photo by Nick Wagner, Deseret News.On March 28, 2002, Sister Ballard was honored as the Exemplary Woman of the Year at Brigham Young University-Idaho.A loving wife, mother and grandmother, Sister Ballard faced many health issues in recent years, including Alzheimer’s disease.