President Eyring is conducting this session of Conference, with music by the Tabernacle Choir. Invocation by Sister Linda S. Reeves, Relief Society Second Counselor. Benediction by Elder Kevin S. Hamilton of the Seventy. For this on-the-fly summary, text in quotation marks is a direct quote of a speaker, subject to correction when transcripts are available; other text is my summary of remarks by a speaker; and text in brackets [like this] is my own helpful commentary.
[So I’m sitting here listening to pre-Conference Muzak, reflecting on the odd LDS practice of celebrating Easter Sunday by … not going to church and not partaking of the sacrament. The other thought that comes to mind as I mentally fortify myself for another two hours of sober counsel from the Brethren and the occasional Sister: One-day Conference. If we can’t get a two-hour block, let’s try for one-day Conference. Women’s Session at 10 am; a General Session at 2 pm; and Priesthood Session at 6 pm. I know that consolidating meetings in such a fashion runs counter to the general LDS practice of expanding meetings over time (General Conference now sprawls over two weekends; stake conferences have expanded to include half of Saturday). But it is undeniable that the attention the audience can give to the talks is inversely related to the length of the Conference. Edit it down to one day and the Saints will pay more attention to what is said. Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming.]
President Monson opened the session. This is his seventh year as President of the Church. Dedicated the Phoenix Temple last year — we have 144 temples in operation, with more on the way, a clear sign of the growth of the Church. Announces new temples to be built in the Ivory Coast, Haiti, and Thailand. Temple attendance enhances sprituality and brings peace. We can better handle temptations, trials, and challenges by attending the temple and obtaining the spiritual strength it provides.
Sister Rosemary M. Wixon, Primary General President, on asking questions and getting answers. Story about a young LDS sister who got married and had children — but whose questioning nature led her to question some LDS faith claims and distance herself from the Church. But she received support from ward members and her family. Upon reading of Mother Teresa’s surprising doubts about her own faith, this young LDS woman’s faith was strengthened, starting with basic gosepl truths. When encountering a troubling issue, she would look at the big gospel picture. Even though she did not really understand how the Book of Mormon was brought forth, she accepted and affirmed the truths it contained. In testimony, she affirms what she knows, even if she doesn’t know everything. Simple assurances will come. [Wow! No more primary voice and a powerful treatment of a tough and timely topic. Great talk. Sister Wixom gets the Most Improved Speaker award.]
Elder Jose A. Teixeira of the Seventy. Live joyfully. Don’t get wrapped up in online activities and groups; stay connected with the real people in your life and with family members. Three rules or habits for healthy online activity: (1) Visit LDS.org frequently. (2) Subscribe to LDS social networks and sites. (3) Get unplugged from time to time. Try setting aside your cell phone or iPad during sacrament meeting. “Life is not confined to a four-inch screen.”
Gerald Causse, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, lived near Paris for 22 years. Finally, his kids made him take the family up the Eiffel Tower! So often we somehow miss seeing the wonderful things around us. Notice the blessings God showers on you daily. Notice the hand of the Lord in your life. But our ability to marvel is fragile. Don’t get casual about the gospel. Recall how Book of Mormon people quickly forgot the signs and wonders they saw. “Is the gospel still wonderful to you?” Do three things: (1) Never tire of rediscovering the truth of the gospel. Hunger and thirst every day for special knowledge. There is always something new to learn. (2) “Anchor your faith in the plain and simple truths of the gospel.” (3) Seek and cherish the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Our natural senses cannot perceive spiritual things. It takes a special sense. Renew your testimony with the power of the Spirit of God.
Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy, on responding to those who have lost their way. Parable of the Lost Sheep. Parable of the Prodigal Son. His sister Susan left the Church: “her doubts overcame her faith.” Family members were devastated. Persistent efforts to rescue her only pushed her farther away. Mom put Susan’s name on the temple prayer roll on every visit. Lots of love, regular invitations to family events. Susan got a graduate degree in California. In 2006, Elder Nielson’s daughter and her husband moved to California (law school for the man) and established regular contact with wayward aunt Susan. In 2009, when Elder Nielson was going to be called as a GA, he called and invited Susan to watch Conference that day. She saw and heard the new younger apostles. She ended up watching most of Conference. Long story made short: happy ending. She is now active again and has a strengthened testimony. If you have a wayward family member — watch, pray, and wait with faith and patience, to find the right time and manner for approaching those who are lost sheep. After all, we are all the prodigal son, with a father (God) waiting for us to return home.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Twelve. Two brothers rock climbing in southern Utah. Close call on a narrow ledge near the summit. Younger brother pulls the older brother to safety, grasping his arms just as he was losing his grip and sliding away to certain death. Likens to the Atonement. We cannot fully appreciate the Atonement without considering an actual Adam and Eve who lived in an actual Garden, from which state they fell. Then they had children in that fallen world, and we, as their descendants, inherit that fallen state. Are we like those two brothers stuck on the ledge, looking for something to grip or hold on to in an unfriendly, uncaring, nihilistic Universe? NO! Prophets ancient and modern testify to the Plan of Salvation, an entire planned sequence stretching from Adam and Eve in the Garden and their transgression to the Atonement of Christ (the second Adam, as he is sometimes termed). I declare that Jesus of Nazareth is that Savior of the World, the author and finisher of our faith. As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. Jacob’s discourse on the Atonement: the resurrection must come by reason of the Fall. From Gethsemane to Calvary to the Garden Tomb, the very Son of God did what no other person could do: he resurrected. Biggest event in history. He suffered, died, and rose from death so he could grasp us as we fall. This Easter we celebrate “a gloriously empty tomb.”
President Uchtdorf on grace. “We are begotten again to a lively hope” by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We should not lose our sense of eternal awe and gratitude for this sacrifice. Why would He save us, imperfect and ungrateful creatures that we are? “God loves us deeply, perfectly, and everlastingly.” Grace does two big things. First, “grace unlocks the gates of Heaven.” No unclean thing can enter therein; “we can’t earn our way into Heaven.” Mercy appeases justice. Sins like scarlet can become white as snow. The gate is unlocked. But wait — there’s more! The gift of discipleship leads upward, not backwards (simply erasing the effects of sin and the Fall). All that the Father hath shall be given unto us. We don’t just walk through the gate: we must change our hearts, a dramatic change likened to being born again. Second, grace opens the windows of heaven. Grace helps us overcome our weaknesses, through faith. If bestows temporal blessings and spiritual gifts. Don’t be on autopilot, just drifting through church life, yawning our way through Sunday School class — plead for grace. You can’t “purchase salvation with obedience”; it requires the blood of Christ. We obey commandments out of love for God; discipleship helps us become more like God, to lead us back into his presence. Obedience is a natural outgrowth of our love of God and gratitude for His grace. “We labor diligently to persuade our children to believe in Christ and be reconciled to God: for it is by grace we are saved after all we can do.” But “after” does not equal “because.” The gates are unlocked and the windows are open, for those with broken hearts and contrite spirits. We should “show our love for God and gratitude for the gift of grace by keeping the commandments and joyfully walking in the newness of life.”