Amidst their world travels andbig Church changes, it's impossible to summarize all the good the prophet and apostles have done this year. But here's a glimpse into some of the most popular and touching stories and messages shared from the Brethren this year.
President Russell M. Nelson
Image from the Church's Special Witnesses of Christ series
"How can you increase in your discipleship? I have an invitation for you that will help—an assignment, actually—if you choose to accept it," President Nelson taught. "Commence [now] to consecrate a portion of your time each week to studying everything Jesus said and did as recorded in the Old Testament, for He is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Study His laws as recorded in the New Testament, for He is its Christ. Study His doctrine as recorded in the Book of Mormon, for there is no book of scripture in which His mission and His ministry are more clearly revealed. And study His words as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, for He continues to teach His people in this dispensation. . . ."
"If you think the Church has been fully restored, you're just seeing the beginning," President Russell M. Nelson said about the Church in a video during his South American tour.
While on the nine-day tour, which included the dedication of the Concepción Chile Temple, President Nelson and Elder Gary E. Stevenson shared their thoughts on the Church.
"This is a calling," President Nelson says. "It's a cause. It's the Lord's work and it's a privilege for us to participate in any way. We love it."
As the gospel continues to reach thousands throughout the world, President Nelson says there is more to come in restoring the gospel to the earth.
"Wait till next year, and then the next year," President Nelson says. "Eat your vitamin pills. Get some rest. It's going to be exciting."
During his first talk as prophet speaking to all Church members in general conference, President Russell M. Nelson bore a powerful witness of our Savior, Jesus Christ: "Without our Redeemer’s infinite Atonement, not one of us would have hope of ever returning to our Heavenly Father. Without His Resurrection, death would be the end. Our Savior’s Atonement made eternal life a possibility and immortality a reality for all."
"How can we become the men and women, the Christlike servants, the Lord needs us to be?" President Nelson asked. "What will your seeking open for you?" He then gave us these challenges and instructions to better ask of God and seek personal revelation:
1. "Follow the example of the Prophet Joseph."
2. "Find a quiet place where you can regularly go."
3. "Humble yourself before God."
4. "Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father."
5. "Turn to him for answers and for comfort."
Do we believe in angels? Yes! We believe in angels—heavenly messengers—seen and unseen; and earthly angels who know whom to help and how to help. Gospel messengers, or angels, can include ordinary people like you and me.
May angels, known and unknown, serve you and protect you along life’s perilous journey.
President Dallin H. Oaks
Image from lds.org of President Oaks and his daughter Jenny when she was a little girl.
"Again and again, prominent priesthood leaders, including the president of the Western States Mission in Denver and a visiting member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, went to my father’s bedside and gave priesthood blessings that contained promises of healing," President Dallin H. Oaks writes. "Each of these leaders rebuked the disease and commanded that my father be made whole. The blessings pronounced by others did the same. Two years earlier, as my parents were leaving for my father’s additional medical studies in Europe, they sought a blessing from a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. He told them that the time would come when my father “would heal thousands.” That promise had also sustained my parents during my father’s illness and then added to my mother’s dismay upon his death. . . ."
In response to his daughter's questions, “How can we have faith that someone will get well, or something will happen, when we know that everything is dependent upon the Lord’s will?” President Dallin H. Oaks wrote:
“I believe that the only true faith is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything we have ‘faith’ in is based on faith or trust in the Lord Jesus Christ (and His Father), that they will do what is best for us (another way of saying according to their will in our behalf). Therefore, we cannot really say that we have ‘faith’ that the Lord will do what we ask Him to do in any and all circumstances. There will be times when that is not even right for us. If we place our trust in Him, that is what we should do. And He has taught us that we should pray for those we love, and should pray for those who are sick. We do that, and exercise our faith in the Lord, and that is what we are supposed to do. . . . "
President Henry B. Eyring
Image by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.
"The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that Satan has power over us only to the degree that we permit him. So what can we do to be strengthened with power from God?" President Henry B. Eyring writes.
"-Keep the Sabbath day holy and honor the priesthood. -Make and keep sacred covenants. -Work on our family history and attend the temple. -Continuously repent and plead with the Lord to be forgiven of our sins. -Pray and serve and testify and exercise faith in Jesus Christ. -Immerse ourselves in the words of the scriptures and the words of the Lord’s chosen servants.
"I invite you to be diligent in doing these things. If you are, you will see God strengthen you with power beyond your own to overcome the evil that surrounds us."
"His wife has lost much of her memory, and President Henry B. Eyring's effort to capture his memories with her makes a surprising new exhibit of his watercolors especially poignant," an article from Church News states. "For 40 years, President Eyring has used his paintings to augment his written journal, capturing the feelings of a memory in a scene, in light, in shadows. Most often, the feeling he has sought to preserve is about a moment with Sister Kathleen Johnson Eyring."
President M. Russell Ballard
Image from Newsroom
When President M. Russell Ballard stepped up to the pulpit on Sunday morning, he revealed that the talk he would proceed to give was prepared before his wife’s passing on October 1, 2018, after battling many health problems, including Alzheimer's.
“My talk was prepared some time before the passing of my dear wife Barbara. My family and I thank you for your love and outreach and kindness,” he said.
"I have often taught that one of the ways you can be involved in sharing the gospel is to write down a date in the next two or three months that you want to have someone prepared to be taught by the missionaries. Then ask your Father in Heaven for guidance and help. Ask Him to bless you to be alert and prepared.
"Let me share with you a couple of experiences members have had in doing this. Sometime after I talked about this concept in general conference, I received from a woman a letter that was quite startling in content. It said, 'Dear Brother Ballard. I hate to tell you this but you are a false prophet. I did what you told us to do, and we had no success. Therefore you should not be teaching the people to do this.' She really got after me. It was not a gentle letter."
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Image from YouTube
"We all know that too many of God’s children do suffer silently and alone," Elder Holland writes. "Take, for example, a young man who wrote me expressing his testimony in a remarkably articulate letter but then adding that his heart breaks because he does not see any fulfillment or future joy for him as a person with same-sex attraction:
'I face a lifetime of lonely nights and dreary mornings. I attend my YSA ward faithfully and each week leave church knowing that I can never really fit in. I will never teach my son to ride a bike. I will never feel my baby girl hold my finger as she learns to walk. I will never have grandchildren.
'I will come home to an empty house, day after day, month after month, decade after decade, anchored only by my hope in Christ. Sometimes I wonder why He would do this to me and ask me to make such an impossible sacrifice. I cry at night when nobody can see. I have not told anybody, not even my parents. They and my friends . . . would reject me if they knew, just as they all have rejected those who have walked this path in front of me. I will live life at the margins. I have the option of either being harassed and avoided for being single, or pitied and ignored for telling the reason. Life looms long before me. Is there no balm in Gilead?'"
"One of the greatest prophets in the Book of Mormon goes unnamed in the record that documents his remarkable life. He is identified only as 'the brother of Jared,'" Elder Holland writes. "Yet the revelation that unfolded before his eyes was so extraordinary that his life and legacy have become synonymous with bold, consummate, perfect faith."
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Image from Facebook
"Harriet and I were thrilled to share a special moment with our family recently when our grandson opened his call to serve as a full-time missionary. This moment caused us to reflect again on how missionary work has blessed our family," Elder Uchtdorf shared on Facebook.
"You may know that Harriet’s family was introduced to the gospel of Jesus Christ thanks to two young missionaries who knocked on her family’s door when she was a teenager. Her father had passed away just six months prior. The good news of the gospel—and specifically the plan of salvation—provided Harriet’s family with the peace their hearts yearned for."
"The Lord knows you. He knows your heart and is pleased with your sacrifice. He smiles upon you each day. He will uphold you and prepare the way for you. He will send His angels before you. You will feel their presence. And with the help of heaven, your talents will be multiplied," Elder Uchtdorf writes.
"I promise you that as you lift those around you, the Lord God, the Creator of the universe, will lift you up. If you will only believe and incline your heart to our Beloved Father, He will place within you a peace that surpasses understanding. He will give you joy. May each of you always remember this."
Elder David A. Bednar
Image from Instagram
"As I think about our marriage, I am grateful that Susan and I complement each other in important ways. She understands things differently than I do. We may not fully agree about an idea or decision," Elder Bednar wrote on Instagram.
"But at the end of the day, we are grateful for our divinely designed differences and perspectives because they help us to learn from each other.
"To any young adults contemplating dating and marriage, please remember: you do not find the perfect partner or the perfect marriage you hope to have; you create it. As an agent, blessed with moral agency, you create the marriage, the family, and the happiness you hope to have, line upon line, precept upon precept, pressing forward along the covenant pathway."
"When we sincerely repent, are forgiven by the Lord, and strive to forgive ourselves, then through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the stain of sin is removed and our garments are washed white (see Alma 5:21)," Elder Bednar taught while visiting members in Mongolia. "May you and I truly come unto Christ and repent with sincerity of heart. I pray that we will seek through the Savior’s Atonement to have both clean hands and a pure heart, that we may become holy, without spot."
Elder Quentin L. Cook
Image a screenshot from YouTube
While discussing the Church's groundbreaking new book, Saints, Elder Cook said, “In learning more, we will bind our hearts together with saints of yesterday and today. We will find examples of imperfect people who went forward with faith and allowed God to work through them to accomplish his work.”
"In our lives, we often compare ourselves with the A+ performers in each category that we value, and then we feel inadequate and unsuccessful in what we are doing. There always seems to be somebody who seems to be better, in one way or another. Social media often exacerbates these perceptions and comparisons," Elder Cook shared on social media.
"I would ask, do we have to be an A in everything to be happy? Do we have to be so hard on ourselves? The scriptures address happiness, but not in terms of material or academic success, skill, or professional achievements.
"In Mosiah 2:41, King Benjamin taught: 'I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.'"
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Image from Facebook
"I don't believe I've ever met anybody who didn't want to belong to something that made them feel worthwhile, that made them feel that they had value," Elder Christofferson wrote on Facebook.
"When people wonder 'Is there a place for me in the church?' there may be any number of things behind that. And now they ask themselves, 'Do I fit? Do I belong here? Do they really need me?' And I want to say emphatically, 'Yes.' "I understand people's feelings at times that they may not be needed. And sometimes others are guilty of saying, 'We don't need this person. We don't need that person. We're fine as we are.' Neither one is true. That's not the Christian way. That's not the way Christ sees us. He sees all of us with infinite worth, and whatever our condition at the moment may be, the body of Christ is there to sustain each member."
“We have been tremendously blessed in recent years to reach people around the globe with messages that promote faith in Jesus Christ in ways that simply were not possible when I was a young man—or even a young father," Elder Christofferson says. "These advancements in communication are a blessing. We expect to continue to utilize digital channels—such as Instagram—that best help us in our desire to share the Savior’s message of hope, love, and peace."
Elder Neil L. Andersen
Elder and Sister Andersen with Tony Abbott, former prime minister of Australia. Image from Deseret News.
“As disciples of Christ, we strongly reject the notion that our lives are all about ourselves,” Elder Andersen said during a BYU devotional. “Rather, we follow the Savior.”
“Your ability to bring a holier approach to loving your neighbor, to caring and ministering to others will rest upon how strongly you keep the first commandment,” he said. “There is a unique and supernal gift of ministering that can come from someone who loves God with all his or her heart, and is settled, grounded, steadfast and immovable in his or her faith in Jesus Christ and in the restored gospel, and keeps the commandments with exactness.”
On March 16, Elder Andersen met with all 188 missionaries in the Australia Melbourne Mission, and he brought a special visitor with him: Tony Abbott, the former prime minister of Australia.
“The visit by Tony Abbott was quite a surprise,” said Mission President Peter Vidmar. “He was so complimentary of the missionaries and the sacrifices they were making. He encouraged them to persevere and admired their dedication.”
Elder Ronald A. Rasband
Image from Elder Rasband's new book, Led by Divine Design.
"Little Paxton, our grandson, was born with a very rare chromosomal deletion, a genetic disorder that distinguishes him, literally, as one in hundreds of millions," Elder Rasband writes. "For our daughter and her husband, an uncharted, life-changing journey began when Paxton was born. This experience has become a crucible for learning special lessons tied to the eternities."
"What are your God-given talents?" Elder Rasband asked on Instagram.
"There are talents that are visible, like being a musician, an athlete, an artist, or even a gardener. These are great talents to develop, but there are so many others that are character driven: the gift of being a good listener, a peacemaker, a righteous example, a compassionate and nonjudgmental friend, a quiet strength, one who is kind and loving. "You see where I am going with this? We must love and revere those talents that are embedded in our very natures, that prompt us to reach out and embrace others and, in the process, help us to become more like Jesus Christ. Talents are critical underpinnings for our eternal progression. They are like fingerprints, individual and significant. Each of you have been blessed with divine talents by our Father in Heaven. He is waiting for you to identify, develop, and magnify those talents He has blessed you with."
Elder Gary E. Stevenson
Elder Stevenson with the Petty family, who lost their daughter and sister in the Parkland shooting. Image from Church News.
After a shooter killed 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, Elder Stevenson met with the Petty family—Latter-day Saints who lost their daughter and sister in the shooting—and Madeleine “Maddy” Wilford, who was injured during the attack. While visiting with Maddy in the hospital, Elder Stevenson gave her a blessing. “We gathered around Maddy, and it was like a spiritual oasis in the midst of all this worldly chaos and oppression,” Elder Stevenson told the Church News. “We were there, in that hospital room, enjoying the fruits of the Comforter.”
"On Sunday morning, Jan. 14, just over a week ago, the Council of the Twelve met in the upper room of the Salt Lake Temple in a spirit of fasting and prayer, under the presiding direction of President Russell M. Nelson, acting as Senior Apostle and President of the Quorum of the Twelve,” Elder Stevenson said. “In this sacred and memorable meeting, seated by seniority in a semi-circle of thirteen chairs, following a well-established precedent in unity and unanimity, hands were raised to first sustain the organization of a First Presidency and then to sustain President Russell Marion Nelson as the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Elder Dale G. Renlund
Image from Newsroom
"In the Lord’s Church today, experienced priesthood holders work with those with less experience," Elder Rendlund writes in his new book The Melchizedek Priesthood: Understanding the Doctrine, Living the Principles.
"I had a wonderful service opportunity that demonstrated why the Lord uses this pattern to establish the Church. In a remote town, I asked a branch president—a relatively new convert and recently ordained elder—if he wanted to visit families in his branch one Saturday morning. The two of us ventured out. The first man we visited, Brother Thomas, was dying of AIDS. After offering comfort and support, I asked if there was anything we could do for him. Brother Thomas asked for a blessing. The branch president was asked to anoint and I was asked to seal the anointing. It was apparent that the branch president had never participated in blessing the sick. He held the plastic container of consecrated oil about ten inches over Brother Thomas’s head and squeezed out a very large drop that splattered on impact. The branch president then put his hands on Brother Thomas’s head and said, 'I put oil on your head to heal you. Amen.'"
"When I was released as a stake president, I was expecting a big thank you from the presiding authorities. I had worked diligently for years and felt I deserved such thanks," Elder Renlund writes.
"The weekend came, and the presiding authorities were focused on the call of the new stake presidency. They were not focused on thanking the outgoing stake presidency. After the stake conference, I felt disappointed. "That Sunday afternoon, I visited my father. He was a man of few words. He listened as I grumbled about not being thanked. He said nothing. The next morning, however, the phone rang at 6:00 a.m. It was my dad. Without preamble, he said, 'I’ve been thinking about what you were saying. I have one question for you: Who were you serving?' Then he hung up. In that moment, my dad taught me a valuable and enduring principle about priesthood service."
Elder Gerrit W. Gong
Image from lds.org
During BYU Women's Conference this year, Elder Gong spoke of our need for one another and how that is essential to our covenants, saying, “We belong to each other. By divine covenant, we belong to God and to each other. Covenant belonging is a miracle.”
Noting how most ordinances in the Church link our personal names with the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Elder Gong taught, "Meant to be eternal, our covenants include God our Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Eternal covenants can bring the power of God’s love to give hope and increase love, to lift and transform, to edify and sanctify, to redeem and exalt." But in addition to the loving and lifting we experience from our Heavenly Father through covenants, Elder Gong shared that covenants require us to love and lift others in return.
In 1980, as Elder Gong kneeled across the altar from his new wife, Susan Gong, Elder David B. Haight, the temple sealer who performed their marriage ceremony, gave the couple advice that would shape the rest of their lives. “He told us always to have a calling,” Elder Gong says. “We knew if we trusted God and did our best, He would help us.”
Elder Ulisses Soares
Image by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.
“President Nelson walked in and his eyes were very penetrating,” Elder Soares said about an appointment he had with the prophet just a few days before conference. “He sat down in front us, knee to knee. He held my hand and my wife’s hand . . . and then he extended the call. He told us the Savior wanted me to serve as one of His apostles.”
As we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the revelation that extended the priesthood to all worthy male members of the Church this year, Elder Soares shared how this revelation impacted his mission in Brazil. “After the revelation, the gospel spread out everywhere across Brazil,” he told the Church News.
“We saw many cities being opened for the teaching of the gospel, and more and more people accepting the gospel. . . . I had been on my mission for seven months and was serving in an area of the country where many people had the opportunity to be blessed by the gospel because of that revelation." Elder Soares' daily missionary work changed as a result of this historic change. “As a missionary, my capacity to share the gospel was enhanced because I could talk to everyone,” he said. “I could go among all people without considering circumstances of life. The gospel was for everyone — and now I was able to fully share the gospel with everyone.”