During Saturday’s priesthood session of the 189th Annual General Conference, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints emphasized the importance of men being “team players” when it comes to participating in their quorums and sustaining leaders, as well as the necessity of self-improvement and making good choices.
Create a ‘playbook’ and be on the team
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles invited priesthood holders, particularly young men, to create their own “playbook” to prepare to face temptation and opposition in their lives, comparing it to becoming a successful athlete.
“Successful players study the playbook so thoroughly that, when a play is called, they know exactly, almost instinctively, where to go and what to do,” Stevenson said. “In a similar way, we priesthood holders also have a team — a quorum — and a playbook — the holy scriptures and the words of modern prophets.”
Stevenson suggested including offensive and defensive strategies in these playbooks. Offensive strategies include anything to strengthen the faith and testimonies of individual members, such as regular prayer, scripture study, church and temple attendance, paying tithing and following counsel found in the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet published by the church. Defensive strategies mostly focus on preparing how to respond when presented with temptation. Stevenson shared a story with the example of refusing to watch an inappropriate film.
Stevenson told the men and young men that they are “all-stars,” capable of doing great things.
“You might be thinking that you are no one special, that you are not all-star material. But that is not true,” Stevenson said. “Don’t you know that God has proclaimed, ‘The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones?’”
Stevenson’s message also invited young men to be team players and reach out to those around them, a message shared by Elder Carl B. Cook of the Presidency of the Seventy.
“There are some who detach themselves from the gospel and wander away. ... Go rescue them,” Cook said. “Some sit in the stands and watch the game from afar. ... Go help them. Some choose to sit on the bench, even though the coach has tried to send them in. ... Go include them!”
Cook shared his own personal experience of benefiting from a priesthood quorum, in addition to a network of family, after his mother was divorced with five children when Cook was 6 years old. Cook said he might have been considered a “long shot” or an “underdog” because of his family situation, but his priesthood quorum changed his life for the better.
“There are long shots and underdogs all around us. Perhaps we all are in one way or another. But each of us has a quorum, a place where we can both receive strength and provide strength,” he said. “I am so grateful for my friends — my brothers — who loved and supported me.
“Every priesthood holder, regardless of situation, benefits from a strong quorum.”
Like Stevenson, Cook encouraged men to reach out to their friends and neighbors, whatever their situation.
“Wherever you are, your quorum can grow through activation and sharing the gospel,” he said. “When one disciple reaches out to a friend, one can become two. Two can become four. Four can become eight. And eight can become 12.”
Make better choices
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, focused his message on the importance of making decisions. Both small and large, he said, can effect lives.
“Our present and our future will be happier if we are always conscious of the future,” Oaks said. “As we make current decisions, we should always be asking, ‘Where will this lead?’”
Oaks referenced another talk he gave years ago about making choices by choosing between things that were good, things that were better, and things that were best. The talk was aptly titled, “Good, Better, Best.”
“We make many choices between two goods, often involving how we spend our time. There is nothing bad about playing video games or texting or watching TV or talking on a cellphone,” Oaks said. “But each of these involves what is called ‘opportunity cost,’ meaning that if we spend time doing one thing, we lose the opportunity to do another. ... We need to measure thoughtfully what we are losing by the time we spend on one activity, even if it is perfectly good in itself.”
Oaks advised men, and women who may review his talk, to think about how their present-day decisions will affect the long-term. One decision he cautioned members against making was a decision to label themselves in a way which could prohibit them from achieving their goals.
“... Each of us is a child of God with a potential destiny of eternal life. Every other label, even including occupation, race, physical characteristics or honors, is temporary or trivial in eternal terms,” Oaks said. “Don’t choose to label yourselves or think of yourselves in terms that put a limit on a goal for which you might strive.”
Self-improve through covenants and daily repentance
Both Elder Kim B. Clark, a General Authority Seventy, and church President Russell M. Nelson emphasized the importance of becoming like Christ. Clark said this is done by making and keeping covenants, or promises, to serve God and Jesus Christ and try to become like them.
“When we live our covenants, they influence everything we say and do,” Clark said. “We live a covenant full of simple everyday acts of faith that focus on Jesus Christ.”
Clark said “simple, everyday acts of faith” include praying, scripture study, repentance, church attendance and “exercising (God’s) holy priesthood to serve God’s children.”
Nelson’s message of self-improvement focused on daily repentance.
“When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ,” Nelson said.
Nelson said God doesn’t expect perfection now, but he expects members to strive to become “increasingly pure.” Purity, Nelson said, will bring power into men’s lives.
One of the ways Nelson suggested men become more “pure” was by repenting if they had treated the women in their lives — wives, daughters, sisters or friends — poorly. He warned brethren of their responsibility to the women in their lives, specifically in regards to blessings.
“If you need to repent because of the way you have treated the women closest to you, begin now,” Nelson said. “Also, remember that it is your responsibility to help the women in your life receive the blessings that derive from the Lord’s law of chastity. Never be the reason that a woman is unable to receive her temple blessings.”
Nelson closely addressed the relationship between husbands and wives, telling husbands that their first duty as priesthood holders is to their wives, and said nothing in life should take priority over “building and eternal relationship” with their spouse, which includes, Nelson said, listening to the counsel of their wives.
“Her input will improve your output,” Nelson said.
Nelson told men to figure out what was stopping them from repenting, and then to change it and continually become better by repenting every day.
“I bless you to do better and to be better,” Nelson said.