Viewpoint: Conference Provides Hope, Comfort, Direction
From the Church News
A growing chorus of cynical voices in the world makes light of religion and of age-old standards that long have held together families and societies. The Pew Research Center recently published a study that identified a fast-growing demographic that professes no religious affiliation.
Many of these “nones,” as they have come to be known, seem to be confused and searching. They make up one-third of all adults under the age of 30 in the United States—evidence of a generation searching for substantive answers to life’s most important questions.
It was against this backdrop that the 183rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints convened April 6 and 7 in Salt Lake City. And it was there that a loving Heavenly Father addressed these people through His anointed leaders.
The message given was clear, and it ought to give the world reason to rejoice. God lives, and He speaks today through His servants. Cynicism has no place in the divine plan. Despite the world’s turmoil and uncertainties, hope abounds; there is a pathway to happiness, certainty, and joy.
President Thomas S. Monson, a living prophet, spoke comfort to those who are searching. “Throughout the ages, men and women have sought for knowledge and understanding concerning this mortal existence and their place and purpose in it, as well as for the way to peace and happiness. Such a search is undertaken by each of us,” he said. “This knowledge and understanding are available to all mankind. They are contained in truths which are eternal” (“Obedience Brings Blessings,” April 2013 general conference).
Then he spoke words that should bring light and joy to all earnest seekers.
“There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fulness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth. A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide—even obedience. A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God” (“Obedience Brings Blessings”).
General conference is a time of rejoicing for all faithful Latter-day Saints. It is a time when divine communication brings specific instruction from heaven to the world—messages that would headline the front pages of newspapers worldwide if people only understood their importance.
It is a time of testimony-strengthening instruction and comfort to Church members. It is a time of instruction to the world at large, as well. The responsibility lies with Church members to make sure those messages find their intended targets.
There is nothing new in that responsibility. As President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, noted during the conference’s priesthood session, a general instruction to Church members in Britain in 1923 said every member should be a missionary in order to combat some bad feelings toward the Church at the time.
President David O. McKay reiterated that instruction in 1959, and it has been reemphasized in our time. “I pray that wherever we are and whatever duties we have in the priesthood of God, we will be united in the cause to bring the gospel to all the world,” President Eyring said (“We Are One,” April 2013 general conference).
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, bore powerful testimony to God’s light, which counters the darkness of the world and “is available to all.”
“It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound,” he said. “It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn” (“The Hope of God’s Light,” April 2013 general conference).
Could there be a more resounding message of hope to the “nones” who seem to have lost hope of finding answers to life’s meaning? Could there be a more convincing rebuke to those who would cynically belittle religion and its values as they cling to the doctrine of despair?
“The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments,” President Monson said.
“We live at a time in the world’s history when there are many difficult challenges but also great opportunities and reasons for rejoicing. There are, of course, those times when we experience disappointments, heartaches, and even tragedies in our lives. However, if we will put our trust in the Lord, He will help us through our difficulties, whatever they may be” (“Obedience Brings Blessings”).
It was a conference full of messages worth studying and pondering again and again. And, especially, it was a conference worth sharing with a world in desperate need of direction.