The Sunday sessions of the 186th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continued the weekend’s theme of reinforcing the basic tenets for its faithful.
The theme of the morning session was the joy that can come from following the gospel of Jesus Christ.
President Thomas S. Monson started Sunday’s session reminding members of God’s plan of salvation, one of the primary foundations of the LDS faith. In his short address, he mentioned an experience watching a screening of “Man’s Search for Happiness” at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
A young man, not of the LDS faith, sat nearby. After the film, the man turned to Monson, and said. “This is the truth.” Monson explained that the plan of salvation, also known as the plan of happiness, is shared worldwide by missionaries because of the gift of its truth.
“Essential to the plan is Jesus Christ, without whom all would be lost,” he said. “We need to know God’s laws and live them.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, summed up how the plan of salvation can bring members’ joy in their everyday lives.
“When the focus of our lives is on the plan of salvation, as President Monson shared, and on Jesus Christ’s gospel, then we can feel joy regardless of what is happening in our lives,” Nelson said.
Following the principles of the gospel, with a focus on Heavenly Father, Nelson continued, allows members the ability to feel joy even when having “a bad day, a bad week, even a bad year.”
"Our joy has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives," he said.
Various speakers in both sessions touched on Jesus Christ’s atonement, which blesses faithful members with the opportunity to repent and improve. Linda S. Reeves, second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, reminded members of the joy that can come through repentance.
“Whatever the cost of repentance, it’s swallowed up in the joy of forgiveness,” she said. “When we sincerely repent of our sins, they are truly gone – without a trace.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve, focused on those who are struggling to feel that joy as they experience a trial of their faith.
"Life can be like hikers ascending a steep and arduous trail. It is a natural and normal thing to occasionally pause on the path to catch our breath, to recalculate our bearings, and to reconsider our pace," he said. But he reminded members to refresh themselves from the living water of the gospel, and not to wander off the path.
“Where will you go?” he asked, referring to those who are considering leaving the LDS Church. “Never abandon the great truths revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Never stop reading, pondering and applying the doctrine of Christ contained in the Book of Mormon.”
While the morning discussed the joy of the gospel, speakers during Sunday’s afternoon session -- including a number of those from the Quorum of the Seventy -- focused on the main source of that joy: Jesus Christ.
Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve, explained that members need to strengthen their belief in and of the Lord and Jesus Christ.
"Do we only know about the Savior, or are we increasingly coming to know him?" he asked. “Believing Him with our whole soul comes as we press forward along the covenant pathway, surrender our will to His, and submit to His priorities and timing for us. Believing Him — accepting as true His power and promises — invites perspective, peace and joy into our lives.”
One way members can better come closer to a relationship with their Savior and Redeemer, he said, is through service. Faithful service comes from truly trusting the Lord, and by serving him with each person’s might, mind and strength.
"We come to know the Savior as we do our best to go where he would want to go … and to become what he would want us to become,” Bednar said. “We come to know the Lord as we not only believe in Him, but also believe Him and His assurances.”
Elder Carl B. Cook, of the Quorum of the Seventy, echoed Bednar’s thoughts, suggesting that though service is very challenging, and members will sometimes have to switch gears in order to serve, they will always be strengthened by God.
“Through Jesus Christ and the power of his atonement we can serve,” he said. “Every member is needed, and every member needs an opportunity to serve.”
Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of the Quorum of the Twelve, echoed Ballard’s sentiments, addressing his talk to those who are struggling to believe. He reminded them not to forget what they have felt, heard and know of the Savior Jesus Christ.
“To all who feel the need to have their faith fortified I plead with you, do not forget,” he said.
True remembrance, faith and belief in Jesus Christ helps all people endure to the end, through trials of all types, said Evan A. Schmutz of the Quorum of the Seventy.
“All the hard experiences of this life are temporary,” he said. “Even the darkest nights turn into dawn for the faithful.”
Despite the difficulties that come – either from within or without -- to members, Elder Dale G. Renlund, of the Quorum of the Twelve, concluded the conference inspiring them to grab the joy that is within the gospel. Even repentance can be joyful because of the Savior.
“The reach of the Savior’s Atonement is infinite in breadth and depth, for you and for me…. "Repentance is not only possible but also joyful because of our Savior,” he said. “I invite you to feel more joy by repenting and turning your hearts to God.”