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The Conference Center for the April 2024 General Conference

Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ Inspires Members

What was taught at General Conference that moved the hearts of our team and writers?

The team and friends of Public Square Magazine found some notable themes at the April General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that we felt worthy of sharing.

What not Why

CD Cunningham

Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles structured his talk around the truth that “words matter.” He spoke about the importance of the word of God and the word of prophets. But he also spoke about the importance of our own words. How they can affect the very way we think. This reminded me of a lesson President Susan H. Porter of the General Primary Presidency had taught the day before. She said, “Sometimes you may want to know why something hard is happening in your life … Often the best question to ask Heavenly Father is not why but what?” 

When we are feeling stuck in the circumstance we find ourselves in life, ask what God would have us do next, not why God has put us in this circumstance, to begin with.

Only two talks after President Porter, Elder Paul B. Pieper of the Seventy gave a personal example of this principle in his own life. He had just taken a new job across the country when a new child with disabilities was born into his family. “I had never faced such a challenge and was overwhelmed,” he said, and he began to question why the Lord would direct him on this path. Then he recounts, “One day, the words ‘Don’t ask why; ask what I want you to learn’ came distinctly into my mind and heart.”

Both President Porter and Elder Pieper went on to use the example of Nephi to illustrate this point. When Nephi found himself in the wilderness with a broken bow, he didn’t focus on asking God why this happened to him but what to do instead. The Lord led him to make a new bow, which Elder Pieper taught gave him the faith he would need to have the Lord lead him in building an entire boat just a few years later.

The shift in that single word can dramatically change our perspective and relationship with God. Words do matter. 

Love and Eternal Glory

Skyler Sorensen

The most revered quote from Saint Thomas Aquinas is arguably his definition of love: “To love is to will the good of the other.” It’s a moving antidote to shallow, modern interpretations of love that fail to capture its true nature. 

When I think of those I love the most, this definition rings true. The love I have for my wife drives me to seek the best for her. The love I have for our daughter wills me to steer her in the direction where lasting joy is found. Elder Christofferson explores God’s manifestation of this type of love through his descriptions of the Kingdoms of Glory. 

God loves His children enough to prepare a place for each of them. But He also loves us too much to point us anywhere but the highest. The variations in each of our temperaments, experiences, and abilities mean not everyone will choose the highest, but like any good parent, God hopes we will. 

 “Our Father’s hope is that we will choose—and, through the grace of His Son, qualify for—the highest and most glorious of these kingdoms, the celestial, where we may enjoy eternal life as joint heirs with Christ.”

 The Urgency to Focus on the Celestial

Gale Boyd

I was impressed by the testimony of Jeffrey R. Holland, who was recently near death but who has miraculously recovered. He spoke of what he learned in that circumstance—the power of the prayers of many lifted on his behalf left a profound impression. But he focused on the impression he received from the Lord to minister with more urgency to encourage the Saints to plan for eternal life. We need to know the Christ so that He will know us—to see as we are seen.

Elder Kearon’s gorgeous talk built on this idea but focused on God’s desire to bring us to His side. “…my fellow disciples on the road of mortal life, our Father’s beautiful plan, even His fabulous plan, is designed to bring you home, not keep you out. …God is in relentless pursuit of you. He wants all of His children to choose to return to Him, and He employs every possible measure to bring you back.”

This idea is especially comforting to dedicated Latter-day Saints whose loved ones have turned their backs on the Church: “The intent of the Father’s great plan of happiness is your happiness right here, right now, and in the eternities. It is not to prevent your happiness and cause you worry and fear.” He then spoke about our responsibility: “God wants for us a radical reorientation of our selfish and prideful impulses, the eviction of the natural man, for us to go and sin no more.” But he finished with the assurance of God’s desire and willingness to help and to heal: “… the Father’s design, His plan, His purpose, His intent, His wish, and His hope are all to heal you, all to give you peace, all to bring you and those you love home.”

A Firmer Way Out 

Daniel Frost 

Blaise Pascal once wrote, “The only thing that consoles us for our miseries is distraction, yet that is the greatest of our wretchednesses. Because that is what mainly prevents us from thinking about ourselves and leads us imperceptibly to destruction. Without it, we would be bored, and boredom would force us to search for a firmer way out. But distraction entertains us and leads us imperceptibly towards death.”

 I was reminded of these lines by Elder David A. Bednar’s excellent talk on stillness and building our foundation on Christ. He begins by noting the often-hectic nature of modern life: “The busyness, noise, diversions, distractions, and detours that so often seem to demand our attention.” We are, alas, living in the golden age of distraction. Never have so many smart people tried so hard to capture our attention, and never have they had so much access to it.

 Living in a world of so much distraction has many downsides, but perhaps the most significant is that it can lead us to forget that “but one thing is needful” (Luke 10:42). Elder Bednar stressed the importance of “sacred time and holy places” to redirect our attention to what matters most. Strikingly, he said that “our homes should be the ultimate combination of both sacred time and holy place wherein individuals and families can be still and know that God is our Heavenly Father, we are his children, and Jesus Christ is our Savior.” This is a tall order, but what is the alternative? Allow the attention merchants to siphon yet more hours from lives, leaving us mildly amused, anxious, and alone? It won’t be easy, but we need “a firmer way out.” We can’t distract ourselves out of our misery. Elder Bednar is pointing the way forward.

Stillness Found in Holy Places

Brianna Holmes 

When Elder Bednar was leading some journalists through the temple, one of them reported back to him upon leaving the Celestial room, “I have never experienced anything like that in my life. I did not know that quiet like that existed in the world. I simply did not believe that such stillness was possible.” We believe that temples are the very house of God, and we can find evidence of this in the peace, calm, and quiet found there available to all members. I have appreciated the encouragement from this general conference and previous ones, to make temple worship more of a priority in our lives. 

President Nelson asked us to consider a very important thought: How would our lives be different without the restored priesthood keys? These priesthood keys allow us to make and keep covenants in the temple of the Lord, which include being sealed as families for time and all eternity. Covenants are not simply ‘things’ to check off; they are a deeper manifestation of the type of relationship we can have with Christ and Heavenly Father. Covenants tell us of our eternal destiny. As President Nelson said, as we go to the temple, we will catch a vision of who we really are. 

With these thoughts in mind, I am awestruck and filled with gratitude at the additional 15 temples announced, including one where I currently live. The blessings of the temple are available to all, and the mission of building temples increases the accessibility of these sacred covenants to the people who want to make them.

About the author

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Our core team, including our Editor, Managing Editor, Communications and Media Directors, Visual Display Director and Copy Editor.
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