Led by its oldest-ever prophet in a time of increased media focus, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints staged its 192nd Semiannual General Conference this weekend.
President Russell M. Nelson, who turned 98 last month, and other top leaders of the 16.8 million-member global faith delivered sermons in sessions Saturday — with more to come Sunday — emanating from 21,000-seat Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City and streamed across the world.
During the twice-yearly conferences, Latter-day Saint authorities discuss spiritual subjects and timely topics. They frequently use these occasions to unveil policy changes and announce new temples.
This fall’s gathering comes at a moment when the Utah-based faith has found itself at the center of a string of films and documentaries — not all of them flattering — and increased scrutiny about its handling of reports regarding child sex abuse.
Below are the latest speeches and announcements from Saturday’s three sessions:
Apostle Neil L. Andersen: ‘Separate ourselves from the world’
Reading the “signs of the times” as predicted by Jesus, apostle Neil L. Andersen, said in Saturday’s concluding speech, it is clear that these are end times.
Even with the “increasing worldly influences around us, we need not fear,” he said. “The Lord will never desert his covenant people. There is a compensatory power of spiritual gifts and divine direction for the righteous.”
As evil increases in the world, “our spiritual survival, and the spiritual survival of those we love, will require that we more fully nurture, fortify and strengthen the roots of our faith in Jesus Christ,” Andersen said. “…Today and the days ahead require more focused and concentrated effort, guarding against diversions and carelessness.”.
In a recent social media post, Andersen asked Latter-day Saints to send him stories of how they were “different from the world.”
He received hundreds of responses and mentioned a handful.
One young woman, Lauren, said, “I was writing a skit with my classmates in high school. They wanted to have my quiet, reserved character have a sudden outburst of profanity. They kept pressuring me, but I refused and held my ground.”
Another, Ella, wrote, “My father is a member of the LGBTQ community. I always try to keep other people’s feelings in consideration while standing as a witness of Christ and being true to what I believe.”
Latter-day Saints “separate ourselves from the world through covenants with God, being distinct, uncommon and special,” Andersen said, “as we honor him and his teachings, without isolating ourselves from others who believe differently. It is a wondrous journey to be wheat among the tares, sometimes fraught with heartache, but always calmed by the maturing and assuring settling of our faith.”
Seventy Denelson Silva: Proclaim the gospel
In talking about the importance of missionary work, general authority Seventy Denelson Silva related his own conversion story, which occurred years ago when a classmate presented him with a Book of Mormon and asked him to read it.
After neglecting the volume, Silva began to study and pray about it in earnest when the missionaries came by his home five months later, which resulted in his baptism 39 years ago.
“During the following years,” the native Brazilian explained, “and with the help of very special people such as leaders, teachers, friends and also through my own personal study, I learned that when I decided to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, I had accepted the task of not only defending the truth but also of proclaiming it.”
Silva said the Lord provides members at all stages of life with the opportunity to share his gospel and called on young men not to delay serving a mission. He also invited women and married couples to serve and said it is important not to discount the importance of service missions.
In preaching the truth, Silva said it should be done “with genuine interest to love, share and invite the people we are testifying to about the truth, thinking only about the temporal and spiritual welfare of the children of a loving Heavenly Father.”
“The knowledge of the truth does not make us better than other people, but it teaches us what we must do to return to God’s presence,” Silva said. “As you proceed firmly in Christ and with courage not only to proclaim the truth but to live the truth, you will find comfort and peace during the turbulence that you shall encounter in these days.”
Seventy Kevin W. Pearson: ‘Faith in Jesus Christ is a choice’
Christian discipleship must be embraced willingly, said general authority Seventy Kevin W. Pearson.
“If our spiritual foundation is shallow or superficial, we might be inclined to base our willingness on a social cost/benefit analysis or a personal inconvenience index,” Pearson said. “And, if we embrace the narrative that the church consists primarily of outdated or politically incorrect social policies, unrealistic personal restrictions and time commitments, then our conclusions about willingness will be equally flawed. We should not expect the principle of willingness to trend positively with social media influencers or TikTok enthusiasts. The precepts of men rarely align with divine truth.”
Following Jesus is not easy, he said. It’s not a simple checklist but “is a process of spiritual growth and deepening commitment.”
At its core, the “central purpose of every commandment, principle, covenant and ordinance is to build faith and trust in Christ,” Pearson said. “Our determination to center our lives on Christ, therefore, must be consistent — not conditional, situational or superficial.”
Michelle Craig: Press on in faith
Michelle D. Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, cited the fortitude of the pioneer women who trekked to Utah despite immense trials in encouraging conferencegoers to press on during hard times.
She said Latter-day Saint prophet Joseph F. Smith, the faith’s sixth president, spoke of the inner strength of these pioneer women:
“‘Could you turn one of these women away from their convictions in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?’” she quoted Smith as asking. “’Could you darken their minds as to the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith? Could you blind them with reference to the divine mission of Jesus Christ, the Son of God? No, never in the world could you do it. Why? Because they knew it. God revealed it to them, and they understood it, and no power on earth could turn them from what they knew to be that truth.’”
In growing to meet the challenges of our times, said Craig, the third woman to speak at this conference, it is important to keep gospel covenants, even when it is not easy, and to act in faith, particularly in difficult moments. She further advised Latter-day Saints to be wholehearted and joyful in their devotion to the gospel.
“When hard times come, I try to remember that I chose to follow Christ before I came to earth and that challenges to my faith, my health and my endurance are all part of the reason I’m here,” Craig said. “And I certainly should never think that today’s trial calls into question God’s love for me or let it turn my faith in him into doubt. Trials do not mean that the plan is failing; they are part of the plan meant to help me seek God.”
Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé: ‘The care of the earth … is a sacred responsibility’
The work of creation is “an integral part of God’s plan for his children,” said Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé, the ecclesiastical leader over the church’s vast financial, real estate, investment and charitable operations. “Its purpose is to provide the setting in which men and women may be tested, exercise their agency, find joy, and learn and progress, so that they may one day return to the presence of their Creator and inherit eternal life.”
The divine gift, though, “does not come without duties and responsibilities,” Caussé said. “These duties are best described by the concept of stewardship…a sacred spiritual or temporal responsibility to take care of something that belongs to God, for which we are accountable.”
The Creator has “entrusted the earth’s resources and all forms of life to our care,” the French Latter-day Saint said, “but he retains full ownership.”
“…Our Heavenly Father allows us to use earthly resources according to our own free will. Yet, our agency should not be interpreted as license to use or consume the riches of this world without wisdom or restraint,” Caussé said. “The Lord gave this admonition: ‘And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.’”
The church leader said members can do much “collectively and individually to be good stewards.”
“Considering our individual circumstances, each of us can use the bountiful resources of the earth more reverently and prudently. We can support community efforts to care for the earth. We can adopt personal lifestyles and behaviors that respect God’s creations, and make our own living spaces tidier, more beautiful, and more inspirational.”
Stewardship over God’s creations also includes “a sacred duty to love, respect and care for all human beings with whom we share the earth,” he said. “They are sons and daughters of God, our sisters and our brothers, and their eternal happiness is the very purpose of the work of creation.”
That role of stewardship “is not solely about conserving or preserving them,” Caussé said. “The Lord expects us to work diligently, as moved upon by His Holy Spirit, to grow, enhance, and improve upon the resources he has entrusted to us — not for our benefit only but to bless others.”
He promised those who “stay faithful in this sacred stewardship and honor your eternal covenants, you will grow in the knowledge of God and of his son, Jesus Christ, and you will feel their love and their influence more abundantly in your life.”
Apostle D. Todd Christofferson: Create an environment of belonging
As the church’s worldwide membership continues to grow in diversity, so too must Latter-day Saints’ efforts in ensuring all feel welcome within the fold, apostle D. Todd Christofferson urged listeners.
“We cannot permit any racism, tribal prejudice, or other divisions to exist in the latter-day church of Christ,” he said. “We should be diligent in rooting prejudice and discrimination out of the church, out of our homes, and, most of all, out of our hearts.”
As an example, he quoted the story of a woman whose struggle with infertility left her feeling isolated in her congregation.
She noted that the church has “widowed, divorced and single members; those with family members who have fallen away from the gospel; people with chronic illnesses or financial struggles; members who experience same-sex attraction; members working to overcome addictions or doubts, recent converts; new move-ins; empty nesters; and the list goes on and on.”
“. . . The Savior invites us to come unto him — no matter our circumstances,” the woman stated. “We come to church to renew our covenants, to increase our faith, to find peace, and to do as he did perfectly in his life — minister to others who feel like they don’t belong.”
Among the lessons Christofferson drew from the story was the fact that the woman used her experience to identify others in her congregation who might be struggling.
“Belonging comes not as we wait for it,” he said, “but as we reach out to help one another.”
Ultimately, however, he stressed that members do not join the church for “fellowship alone.”
“We join for redemption through the love and grace of Jesus Christ,” he said. “The church is the custodian of the covenants of salvation and exaltation that God offers us through the ordinances of the holy priesthood. It is by keeping these covenants that we obtain the highest and deepest sense of belonging.”
Seventy Jorge F. Zeballos: Follow the divine design to resist sin
Drawing upon his own training as a civil engineer in designing seismic-resistant buildings that could withstand earthquakes, general authority Seventy Jorge F. Zeballos emphasized the importance of heeding the “divinely designed ‘plans’ and ‘technical specifications’” that teach Latter-day Saints how to resist sin and lead happy lives.
The Chilean native said following those specifications and learning to resist sin involve fasting and feasting on the word of God in the scriptures. Just as following correct plans and technical specifications can result in structures that can withstand an earthquake, he added, following God’s plans can help people weather the storms of life.
“The buffetings of the adversary can also cause ‘cracks’ or some partial damage in our lives in spite of our efforts to build our lives according to the perfect divine design …,” he said. “But what is truly relevant is that for having followed the divinely designed plans and specifications, that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are still standing.”
Seventy James W. McConkie III: ‘Spending time with Jesus in the scriptures changed everything’
As a mission president in the Czech Republic in 2013, general authority Seventy James W. McConkie III studied the words of Jesus as found in the New Testament and in the Book of Mormon.
“Spending time with Jesus in the scriptures changed everything,” McConkie said. “We gained a deeper appreciation for who he was and what was important to him. Together we considered how he taught, what he taught, the ways he showed love, what he did to bless and serve, his miracles, how he responded to betrayal, what he did with difficult human emotions, his titles and names, how he listened, how he resolved conflict, the world he lived in, his parables, how he encouraged unity and kindness, his capacity to forgive and to heal, his sermons, his prayers, his atoning sacrifice, his resurrection, his gospel.”
Through that reading, the Seventy said, “we learned in a very real way,” quoting a previous apostle, that “the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities.”
Drawing on a biblical story of friends bringing a man on a bed to Christ to be healed, McConkie said “the qualities exhibited by the four friends are worth considering and emulating. They are bold, adaptive, resilient, creative, versatile, hopeful, determined, faithful, optimistic, humble and enduring.”
At different times, he has “carried the corner of a bed, and at other times I have been the one carried,” the former mission president said. “Part of the power of this remarkable story of Jesus is that it reminds us just how much we need each other, as brothers and sisters, to come unto Christ and be transformed.
Apostle Ulisses Soares: Men and women should work together in ‘equal partnership’
Husbands and wives should view their roles as equal, albeit distinct, apostle Ulisses Soares stressed in a sermon on family “government.”
“Although each possesses specific attributes and divinely appointed responsibilities,” he said, “woman and man fill equally relevant and essential roles in God’s plan of happiness for his children.”
Spouses, he continued, should not “position themselves as president or vice president of their family.” Rather, “neither walks ahead of or behind the other.”
He noted that this pattern was different “in some respects” from “priesthood leadership in the church.”
A marriage, he explained, “entails that wives and husbands are accountable directly to God for the fulfillment of their sacred responsibilities in the family.”
He explained that “nurturing and presiding” represent “opportunities, not exclusive limitations.”
For this reason, “One person may have a responsibility for something but may not be the only person doing it.”
“The restored gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims the principle of full partnership between woman and man,” he said, “both in mortal life and in the eternities.”
Seventy Paul V. Johnson: Changing and being perfected in Christ
General authority Paul V. Johnson of the Presidency of the Seventy recounted the story of a grandson who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and required a bone-marrow transplant to save his life.
Just as his grandson could not cure himself, Johnson said, humans can’t save themselves. “No matter how capable, educated, brilliant or strong we are, we cannot cleanse ourselves from our sins, change our bodies to an immortal state, or exalt ourselves,” he said. “It is only possible through the Savior Jesus Christ and his infinite atonement.”
The transplant changed the very DNA of his grandson’s blood cells. Likewise, Johnson said, Christ’s atonement will enable Latter-day Saints to change and be perfected in him as they strive to do his will.
We are “made perfect,” he said, “through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.”
Kristin M. Yee: Jesus Christ can help heal survivors of abuse
Kristin M. Yee, second counselor in the general presidency of the women’s Relief Society, drew on her own experience growing up in an abusive home to speak on the power of forgiveness to transform individuals.
“With permission of my father,” she said, “I share that I grew up in a home where I didn’t always feel safe because of emotional and verbal mistreatment.”
The experience left her with a “warring heart,” she explained, and resentment for her dad. Only when she began to better understand and appreciate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ did that begin to change.
“Over the years and in my efforts to find peace and healing on that path of forgiveness, I came to realize in a profound way that the same Son of God who atoned for my sins, is the same Redeemer who will also save those who have deeply hurt me,” she said. “I could not truly believe the first truth without believing the second.”
This realization, she said, gave her a “desire to replace hurt and anger with his healing balm.” And while she acknowledged she still “has work to do,” she said her “heart is no longer on a warpath.”
Yee, the second woman to deliver a sermon at the conference, further stressed that “forgiving someone does not mean that you put yourself in a position where you will continue to be hurt,” and that the time it takes for a person to heal “is individual.”
“Jesus Christ,” she said, “weeps with you in your sorrows and rejoices to make you whole.”
Apostle M. Russell Ballard: Missionaries are ‘modern-day pioneers’
On the 175th anniversary of the arrival of Latter-day Saint pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley, apostle M. Russell Ballard reflected on his own ancestors and on today’s “pioneers.”
The word “pioneer” is “both a noun and a verb,” said Ballard, the 93-year-old acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “As a noun it can mean a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new territory. As a verb, it can mean to open or prepare the way for others to follow.”
Today’s missionaries are “modern-day pioneers because they share this glorious message with people around the world, thus opening the way for our Heavenly Father’s children to know him and his son Jesus Christ,” he said. “Accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ opens the way for everyone to prepare for and receive ordinances and the blessings of the church and the temple.”
Ballard repeated Nelson’s admonition last spring that “every worthy, able young man [should] prepare for and serve a mission,” and that a mission is a “powerful, but optional, opportunity” for “young and able sisters.”
The senior apostle urged his listeners to “follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and, with faith in our every footstep, focus on him, keeping our feet firmly planted on the covenant path.”
President Russell M. Nelson: Abuse is a ‘grievous sin’
“Abuse constitutes the influence of the adversary,” church President Russell M. Nelson said in a short, pointed speech while sitting down on Saturday morning. “It is a grievous sin.”
As the top Latter-day Saint leader, Nelson said, he affirms “the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ on this issue. Let me be perfectly clear: Any kind of abuse of women, children or anyone is an abomination to the Lord. He grieves and I grieve whenever anyone is harmed. He mourns, and we all mourn, for each person who has fallen victim to abuse of any kind. Those who perpetrate these hideous acts are not only accountable to the laws of man but will also face the wrath of God.”
The question of the Utah-based faith’s response to abuse was raised this summer in an Associated Press investigation of an egregious case in Arizona, where a Latter-day Saint father raped his two young daughters and then posted photos of the acts on the internet. A lawsuit alleges the abuser confessed to his Latter-day Saint bishop but that the lay leader did not report the abuse to legal authorities.
The church issued two rebuttals to the story, alleging a flawed timeline, a “mischaracterization of the fact” and “erroneous conclusions.”
On Saturday, Nelson reiterated the church’s position that it has long opposed abuse and has established guidelines for dealing with such behavior.
“For decades now, the church has taken extensive measures to protect — in particular — children from abuse ” he said. “There are many aids on the church website. I invite you to study them. These guidelines are in place to protect the innocent.”
Notably, he did not mention the so-called abuse help line, staffed by lawyers for the church.
The faith — along with other religious denominations — also has been lobbying to protect “clergy-penitent privilege,” laws that exempt church leaders from having to report child abuse if they learn about the crime in a confessional setting.
Nelson urged Latter-day Saints “to be alert to anyone who might be in danger of being abused and to act promptly to protect them. The Savior will not tolerate abuse, and, as his disciples, neither can we.”
He concluded his brief remarks by emphasizing the search for truth.
“God is the source of all truth,” Nelson said. The church “embraces all truth that God conveys to his children, whether learned in a scientific laboratory or received by direct revelation from him.”
Saturday’s address marked the first time that the 98-year-old leader has delivered a conference sermon while seated at the podium.
Nelson referred to his use of a stool on social media.
“Some noticed that I sat on a chair to deliver my message this morning. What a help that was!” he wrote on Facebook. “The other day it occurred to me that I have been alive during nearly half of the number of years since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830. That is a lot of years — even though I don’t feel old. My wife, Wendy, insists that she still can’t get me to act my age. But I will admit that sometimes even small adjustments — such as a chair — help those of us who ‘age on stage.’”
Nelson, a renowned heart surgeon during his professional career, has been known for his incredible vigor and health — even as he grows older.
“I may not ski black diamond runs anymore, but whether standing or seated, I delight in speaking and hearing words of truth,” he wrote. “And this weekend will be filled with them. I hope you will join me in savoring the beautiful messages that still lie ahead.”
He walked out of the Conference Center auditorium after Saturday’s sessions without assistance.
Apostle Ronald A. Rasband: All are needed to ‘flood the earth’ with the Book of Mormon
Echoing church founder Joseph Smith’s words that the Book of Mormon, the faith’s signature scripture, is the “the most correct of any book on earth,” apostle Ronald A. Rasband called on members to share the sacred text widely, be it in physical or digital form.
In doing so, he said, Latter-day Saints are following in the example of President Russell M. Nelson, who shares a copy with every world leader he meets.
“Our living prophet is doing his part to flood the earth with the Book of Mormon,” he said. “But he cannot open the floodgates alone. We must follow his lead.”
Rasband described one instance in which Nelson gave a Book of Mormon to an African tribal king, opening the text and sharing individual scriptures with him.
“You do not have to go to Mozambique or India or meet with kings and rulers to give someone this book of sacred teachings and promises,” Rasband said. “I invite you, ‘this day,’ to give a Book of Mormon to your friends and family, associates at work, your soccer coach or the produce man at your market.”
In doing so, members will be fulfilling prophecy in the form of “gathering Israel.”
“I testify that by divine design the Book of Mormon was prepared in ancient America to come forth to declare God’s word,” he said, “to bring souls to Jesus Christ and his restored gospel ‘this day.’”
Seventy Hugo Montoya: God is there for all his children
Adversity comes to all of us, general authority Seventy Hugo Montoya told conferencegoers. Even when doing what is right, the circumstances in life can change “from good to bad, from happiness to sadness.”
Montoya said one can wait for circumstances to change or look to bring about new circumstances. Whatever one’s circumstances, he added, the Lord is there.
“He is there for each one. I don’t know how he does it, but he does,” he said. “He and his firstborn are one in doing the work and glory of the father, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. They have sent us the Holy Ghost to guide us, to warn us and to comfort us.”
Thanks to the Savior’s atonement, Montoya added, all of God’s children will live forever and have the opportunity to live together with him.
Seventy Rafael E. Pino: Four habits members should adopt, no matter where they live
While members’ traditions and customs may differ in today’s global church, all should keep four practices at the center of their lives, advised general authority Seventy Rafael E. Pino.
These habits include personal and family scripture study and prayer, weekly sacrament meeting attendance and temple and family history work.
“This invitation is for all,” explained Pino, a native of Venezuela. “It does not matter whether we are poor or rich, educated or uneducated, old or young, sick or healthy. He invites us to let the ‘normal’ things in our lives be those which help keep us on the covenant path.”
Apostle Dale G. Renlund: The Lord’s framework for personal revelation
Just as a pilot must operate within the framework of following directions and using the correct runway and flight path to be successful, apostle Dale G. Renlund said Latter-day Saints must operate in the correct framework to stay on the covenant path.
“The promise of personal revelation through the Holy Ghost is awe-inspiring, much like an airplane in flight,” Renlund said. “And like airplane pilots, we need to understand the framework within which the Holy Ghost functions to provide personal revelation. When we operate within the framework, the Holy Ghost can unleash astonishing insight, direction and comfort. Outside of this framework, no matter our brilliance or talent, we can be deceived and crash and burn.”
To operate in the correct framework to receive guidance through personal revelation, Renlund counseled members to feast on the words of Christ and to receive personal revelation only for areas in their purview.
“Only the prophet receives revelation for the church,” Renlund added. “It would be ‘contrary to the economy of God’ for others to receive such revelation, which belongs on the prophet’s runway.”
Tracy Y. Browning makes history
Tracy Y. Browning, the first Black woman in a general presidency for the church, became the first to address General Conference when she discussed the importance of believers “seeing Jesus Christ in their lives.”
“As covenant children of God, we have been uniquely blessed with a rich supply of divinely appointed tools to improve our spiritual vision, said Browning, second counselor in the Primary organization for children. “…The Savior can also be our compass and our pilot as we steer through both the calm and the turbulent waters of life. He can make plain the correct path that leads us to our eternal destination. So, what would he have us see, and where would he have us go?”
When Browning joined the church, others noticed “changes in my behaviors, practices and choices,” she said. “…They were curious about the ‘whys’ of what they were seeing — why I chose to be baptized and join this congregation of believers. … why I refrain from certain practices on the Sabbath, why I’m faithful in keeping the Word of Wisdom, why I read the Book of Mormon, why I believe in and incorporate the teachings of modern-day prophets and apostles into my life, why I attend weekly church meetings, why I invite others to ‘come and see, come and help, come and stay’ and ‘come and belong.’”
While those questions felt “overwhelming and, transparently, sometimes accusatory,” Browning said, the scrutiny also helped the convert to “pick up and put on a pair of spiritual lenses to clarify, focus, and solidify what motivated my adherence to gospel practices and standards. What was the source of my testimony?”
Was she only carrying out “outward performances,” Browning asked herself, or had those practices embedded Jesus Christ “in my every thought and deed?”
In searching her own heart, she came to recognize that Jesus Christ “directs our mouths to testify of him, our hands to lift and serve as he would lift and serve,” Browning said. He also helps “our eyes to see the world and each other as he does — ‘as they really are, and … as they really will be.’”
Browning was the first woman to speak at the weekend’s conference.
Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf: New youth pamphlet emphasizes making positive choices over individual behaviors
Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf announced a new edition of the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet designed to take the emphasis off of individual decisions and instead focus on making “righteous decisions.” The update marks the first to the more than 50-year-old guide since 2011.
“I suppose the guide could give you long lists of clothes you shouldn’t wear, words you shouldn’t say, and movies you shouldn’t watch,” Uchtdorf said when announcing the change. “But would that really be helpful in a global church? Would such an approach truly prepare you for a lifetime of Christlike living?”
For this same reason, he said, the pamphlet does not “give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ about every choice you might ever face.”
Instead, the new “For the Strength of Youth: A Guide for Making Choices” stresses the “values, principles and doctrine” young Latter-day Saints can use to make decisions for themselves.
In this way, he added, the pamphlet echoes the teachings of church founder Joseph Smith, who said of the faith’s early followers, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”
Uchtdorf said the new pamphlet is not an invitation to make decisions solely “based on personal preference, or what is convenient or popular. The Lord is not saying, ‘Do whatever you want.’”
Rather, the apostle framed the change as a call to live the “highest standard possible” built on the teachings of Jesus Christ.
President Dallin H. Oaks: How much the church gives
The church gave $906 million to humanitarian aid in 188 countries worldwide in 2021, plus members volunteered over 6 million hours of labor in the same cause, Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the governing First Presidency, said in the session’s opening speech.
During his nearly 40 years as an apostle, the 90-year-old Oaks, a former president of church-owned Brigham Young University who later served as a Utah Supreme Court justice, has seen extensive “uncounted examples of such service throughout the world, beyond our own borders and beyond our common knowledge.”
Most humanitarian service “to the children of God worldwide is carried out by persons and organizations having no formal connection with our church,” he said. The church “is committed to serving those in need, and it is also committed to cooperating with others in that effort.”
Oaks mentioned specifically partnering with the Red Cross and Red Crescent agencies as well as Catholic Relief Services, the U.N. and Muslim agencies, providing “the children of God crucial relief during natural disasters and conflicts.”
“These organizations,” he said, “have taught us much about world-class relief.”
The longtime apostle, who is next in line to lead the faith, said Latter-day Saints also support efforts “combating racism and other prejudices, research on how to prevent and cure diseases, helping the disabled, supporting music and museum organizations, and improving the moral and physical environment for all.”
It is all done, Oaks said, to follow the “example of a righteous people” described in the faith’s unique scripture, the Book of Mormon.