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17 fascinating footnotes from general conference talks you don’t want to gloss over

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during a past general conference.
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Editor's Note: From January 2020 to June 2021, Lindsey Williams wrote a bi-weekly column for LDS Living titled Found in the Footnotes. If you would like to explore footnotes found in previous general conference talks, click here.

General conference footnotes tend to be an untapped treasure trove of resources: more articles to explore, new quotes to ponder, and even additional words from the speakers themselves. The footnotes from the April 2022 general conference are no exception.

Here are a few key takeaways, organized by topic, from the footnotes the speakers appended to their addresses when they were published in writing:

Mental Health, Gratitude, and Happiness

First, let’s look at what Church leaders said about mental health, gratitude, and happiness.

In his Sunday morning address, President Russell M. Nelson spoke of “igniting” positive spiritual momentum. Gratitude was one of several actions he suggested that can help us catch this momentum. In a footnote, the prophet added even more to that thought, “As the Apostle Paul said, ‘In every thing give thanks’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18). One of the surest antidotes for despair, discouragement, and spiritual lethargy is gratitude. What are some things for which we can give thanks to God? Thank Him for the beauty of the earth, for the Restoration of the gospel, and for the countless ways He and His Son make Their power available to us here on this earth. Thank Him for the scriptures, for angels who respond to our pleas to God for help, for revelation, and for eternal families. And most of all, thank God for the gift of His Son and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which makes it possible for us to fulfill the missions for which we have been sent to earth.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of Dr. Laurie Santos, a professor at Yale University whose college course, “Psychology and the Good Life” has taken on a life of its own. Elder Holland said, “Writing about this phenomenon, one journalist noted how painful it is to see so many bright, young students—and adults—desperately ‘looking for something they’ve lost’ or, worse yet, longing for something they never had.” In the footnote, Elder Holland links this article which features Santos, who reiterated the importance of gratitude and its correlation to happiness, “There’s also evidence that people who are more grateful are more likely to do things for other people. So I worry about complacency, but the evidence suggests it doesn’t work in the way we might expect. When you do have some positive emotion, you have the bandwidth to deal with other things.”

In his talk, Elder Gerrit W. Gong stated the following, “When asked where meaning comes in life, most people rank family first. This includes family living and gone before. Of course, when we die, we don’t cease to exist. We continue to live on the other side of the veil.” Elder Gong is teaching pure doctrine, but the footnote takes us to a Pew Research Study which supports Elder Gong’s statement. Answering an open-ended question, respondents in 14 of 17 advanced international economies (nearly 19,000 adults answering in total) listed family as a source of meaning in their lives—placing it above occupation, health, material well-being, and friends.

When the topics of mental health and happiness are discussed these days, social media often enters the conversation. In his invitation to be peacemakers, Elder Neil L. Andersen said, “Because of social media platforms, one voice of disbelief can appear to be a multitude of negative voices, but even if it is a multitude of voices, we choose the path of peacemakers.” In a footnote, Elder Andersen added, “Recent data shows that as many as 3 out of 5 people share a headline for a story they have not even read (see Caitlin Dewey, “6 in 10 of You Will Share This Link without Reading It, a New, Depressing Study Says,” Washington Post, June 16, 2015,; Maksym Gabielkov and others, “Social Clicks: What and Who Gets Read on Twitter?” [paper presented at the 2016 ACM Sigmetrics International Conference on Measurement and Modeling of Computer Science, June 14, 2016],”

At the conclusion of his talk, Elder Andersen also addressed the topic of gratitude–even gratitude for those who may be different than us as we “endeavor to be ‘peaceable followers of Christ.’” In his footnotes, he added this quote by President Gordon B. Hinckley: “We must not only be tolerant, but we must cultivate a spirit of affirmative gratitude for those who do not see things quite as we see them. We do not in any way have to compromise our theology, our convictions, our knowledge of eternal truth as it has been revealed by the God of Heaven. We can offer our own witness of the truth, quietly, sincerely, honestly, but never in a manner that will give offense to others. … We must learn to accord appreciation and respect for others who are as sincere in their beliefs and practices as are we” (“Out of Your Experience Here” [Brigham Young University devotional, Oct. 16, 1990], 6,

Prophets and Continued Revelation

Several footnotes dug in deeper with a call to follow and stay close to prophetic guidance.

In Elder Andersen’s talk, he said, “We endeavor to bless the sick, the lonely, the downhearted, and the poor and to strengthen the kingdom of God. We seek to know the Lord’s will and to proclaim it, especially to those who seek eternal life.” Elder Andersen added an interesting footnote: “Don’t be surprised if at times your personal views are not initially in harmony with the teachings of the Lord’s prophet. These are moments of learning, of humility, when we go to our knees in prayer. We walk forward in faith, trusting in God, knowing that with time we will receive more spiritual clarity from our Heavenly Father.”

Later, when speaking of the heartbreak associated with “harsh or dismissive words about the Savior, His followers, and His Church…spoken or published by those who once stood with us, took the sacrament with us, and testified with us of the divine mission of Jesus Christ,” Elder Andersen added a footnote with a quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “Church members will live in this wheat-and-tares situation until the Millennium. Some real tares even masquerade as wheat, including the few eager individuals who lecture the rest of us about Church doctrines in which they no longer believe. They criticize the use of Church resources to which they no longer contribute. They condescendingly seek to counsel the Brethren whom they no longer sustain. Confrontive, except of themselves, of course, they leave the Church, but they cannot leave the Church alone” (“Becometh As a Child,” Ensign, May 1996, 68).

Elder Dale G. Renlund reminded those in the Women’s session of general conference that “speculation will not lead to greater spiritual knowledge, but it can lead us to deception or divert our focus from what has been revealed.” A footnote added by Elder Renlund gives deeper insight into the message the Apostle was hoping to communicate. He wrote, “Even sincere questions about partially revealed or unrevealed truths can lead us to look ‘beyond the mark’ (Jacob 4:14). In particular, we need to rely ‘wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save’ (2 Nephi 31:19), Jesus Christ. Suggesting the need for something more than what Jesus Christ offers effectively diminishes the scope and power of His infinite Atonement. In so doing we divert our attention from the ultimate ‘source [to which we should] look for a remission of [our] sins’ (2 Nephi 25:26).”

Perhaps one of the most unique references found in the footnotes of this conference is Elder Quentin L. Cook’s testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith borne by introducing listeners to a man named Frederic W. Farrar. In his talk, Elder Cook explained that “Joseph Smith was only 26 years old, had limited education, and had little or no exposure to the classical languages from which the Bible was translated” and yet, in the 17th verse of section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph chose to use the word unjust rather than the word damnation, the latter having been used previously in the gospel of John. This is significant because forty-five years later, Frederic W. Farrar, an Anglican church leader, and academically credentialed classic scholar “asserted that the definition of damnation in the King James Version of the Bible was the result of translation errors from Hebrew and Greek to English.”

In the footnotes, Elder Cook digs deeper into what Farrar preached in a sermon delivered at Westminster Abbey: “Frederic Farrar felt compelled to correct teachings about damnation and hell. He strongly proclaimed what he termed ‘simple, undeniable, and indisputable facts. …The verb ‘to damn’ and its cognates does not once occur in the Old Testament. No word conveying any such meaning occurs in the Greek of the New Testament.’ He goes on to explain that the word damnation is a ‘grievous mistranslation … [and] perverts and obscures the real meaning of our Lord’s utterances.’ Farrar also pointed out the overwhelming demonstration of a loving Father in Heaven throughout the Bible as additional evidence that the definitions of hell and damnation used in the English translation were incorrect.”

Justice, Mercy, and Repentance

God’s love is often mistakenly referred to as “unconditional.” In his footnotes, Elder Kevin S. Hamilton expands on the following statement given in his talk: “Even God’s love, although infinite and perfect, is also subject to conditions.” The footnote quotes President Nelson who said, “While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional. The word does not appear in the scriptures. On the other hand, many verses affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us—and certain divine blessings stemming from that love—are conditional” (“Divine Love,” Ensign, Feb. 2003, 20–22; Liahona, Feb. 2003, 12–14).

In President Nelson’s talk from this conference, he spoke to those who may feel they are out of reach of God’s conditional love due to violating covenants they have made with Him.

He said, “He promised that though ‘the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed … my kindness shall not depart from thee.” In a footnote, President Nelson adds, “Kindness is translated from the Hebrew term hesed, a powerful word with deep meaning that encompasses kindness, mercy, covenant love, and more.”

As the talk went on, President Nelson dug deeper into this topic, “If you feel you have strayed off the covenant path too far or too long and have no way to return, that simply is not true.” A footnote further supports this statement: “It is possible to make restitution for some sins but not others. If one person abuses or assaults another, or if one takes the life of another, full restitution cannot be made. The sinner in those cases can only do so much, and a large balance is left owing. Because of the Lord’s willingness to forgive a balance due, we can come to Him regardless of how far we have strayed. When we sincerely repent, He will forgive us. Any balance owing between our sins and our ability to make full restitution can be paid only by applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ, who can make a gift of mercy. His willingness to forgive our balance due is a priceless gift.”

Elder Renlund also spoke of the Lord’s ability to remove “spiritual scars” when he said, “When we sincerely repent, no spiritual scar remains, no matter what we have done, how serious it was, or how many times we repeated it.” In the footnotes, he cites a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith: “There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy. … This doctrine appears glorious, inasmuch as it exhibits the greatness of divine compassion and benevolence in the extent of the plan of human salvation. This glorious truth is well calculated to enlarge the understanding, and to sustain the soul under troubles, difficulties and distress” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 471). See also Boyd K. Packer, “The Plan of Happiness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 28.

Elder Renlund reiterated the power of Christ’s mercy later in his talk when he said, “We should not doubt the Savior’s ability to help with our weaknesses because ‘when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy.’” The footnote attributes Elder Richard G. Scott with the second part of that quote but then Elder Renlund adds, “Consciously planning a sin with the callous plan to repent afterwards—in other words, preplanned repentance—is repugnant to the Lord. Those who do so ‘crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh” (see Hebrews 6:4–6). This warning should be considered: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation” (Hebrews 10:26–27).

Sacrifice and Consecration

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf reminded us that “our sacrifices show what we truly value. Sacrifices are sacred and honored by the Lord.” His footnotes expand upon the principles of sacrifice and consecration as he writes, “Very few of us will ever be asked to sacrifice our lives for the Savior. But we are all invited to consecrate our lives to Him.” In his talk, he said, “Our sacrifices show what we truly value. Sacrifices are sacred and honored by the Lord.” The footnote adds, “The scriptures say that, to God, our sacrifices are more sacred than our accomplishments (see Doctrine and Covenants 117:13). This may be one reason the Lord valued the widow’s mites more than the contribution of the wealthy. The former was a sacrifice, which has a purifying effect on the giver. The latter, while it may have accomplished more monetarily, was not a sacrifice, and it left the giver unchanged.”

A powerful story in the footnotes illustrates the points made in the talk: “One example comes from our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. When he was at the height of his professional career as a heart surgeon, he was called as stake president. Elders Spencer W. Kimball and LeGrand Richards extended the call. Recognizing the demands of his professional life, they said to him, “If you feel that you are too busy and shouldn’t accept the call, then that’s your privilege.” He answered that his decision about whether or not to serve when called was made long ago, when he and his wife made temple covenants with the Lord. “We made a commitment then,” he said, “to ‘seek … first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness’ [Matthew 6:33], feeling confident that everything else would be added unto us, as the Lord promised” (Russell Marion Nelson, From Heart to Heart: An Autobiography [1979], 114).

This sacrifice and consecration is something that attracts the attention of others and has since the Church was restored. Elder Gary E. Stevenson pointed out that it was “the determination to share their testimony of Jesus Christ [that] helped His newly established Church grow expansively.” A footnote asks the question, “What was the cause of the growth of the early Church?” And then answers the question with a quote by a historian, Ivor J. Davidson, who said, “The first thing that would have elicited serious inquiry concerning the nature of the faith was personal contact with other believers. … To live and work alongside those who followed Jesus, to witness their behavior at close quarters, and to listen as they talked about the gospel amid their ordinary daily activities was to be confronted by the evidence of changed lives. In this sense, the drawing power of the Christian faith must often have consisted not so much in the public declarations of its most prominent representatives as in the quiet testimony of ordinary worshipers of Jesus witnessing to the credibility of their commitment by their integrity, constancy, and openness to others” (Ivor J. Davidson, The Birth of the Church: From Jesus to Constantine, AD 30–312 [2005], 108–9).

There may never be enough time to speak the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its entirety, and while footnotes certainly help, there is no doubt that taking the things we learned in general conference and living them is the way that these principles sink deep into our hearts and allow us to share the joy of His gospel with those around us.

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