Continuing a pattern that has existed since the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, leaders from around the world gathered April 4 and 5, 2019, on Temple Square in Salt Lake City to receive instruction from senior leaders of the Church and to learn from one another. The meetings began Thursday with instruction from the First Presidency, and continued Friday with teaching from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Presiding Bishopric and presidents of the Church’s organizations for women, men, youth and children. This gathering included more than 300 leaders from every area of the world.
The Role of Area Seventies
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, spoke of the role and responsibilities of Area Seventies, regional Church leaders around the globe. “With the growth of the Church across the world, the need for Area Seventies has increased,” President Ballard said. “We love you. We trust you. We rely on you to extend our reach and to carry our teachings and direction to all the world. … You are to provide instruction and counsel consistent with the teachings of the living Apostles. … The ongoing establishment of the Seventy in Church governance is a powerful example of a ‘line upon line, precept upon precept,’ a pattern of revelation.”
The Gathering of Israel
Prophecies about the latter-day gathering of the scattered house of Israel have been given by prophets since Old Testament times. That gathering has been a prominent theme in the restored Church of Jesus Christ and was taught by Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Elder Ulisses Soares.
“Speaking on this topic with President Russell M. Nelson in the audience is like talking about ‘the flood’ with Noah present,” said Elder Cook. Drawing upon scripture and the teachings of modern prophets, Elder Cook provided a doctrinal history of the house of Israel and the prophecies and signs of their gathering in the latter days. “You wonderful leaders are gathered from across the world. Viewed through a broad, clear lens, we have the great privilege of gathering Israel on both sides of the veil from every continent, culture and religious background.”
Elder Uchtdorf spoke of the Savior’s commission to His original disciples to teach all nations, which continues today. “We know that as we lift the vision of our leaders and members by providing simple, natural and normal patterns for ministering to all through missionary work, the gathering of Israel will accelerate around the world.”
A related belief of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that this prophesied gathering of Israel includes the sacred work performed in 162 temples worldwide (with several more to dedicate this year). Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles offered direction on how to most effectively accomplish this work on a personal and congregational level.
Elder Bednar engaged the entire leadership session in an experiment using the new “Ordinance Ready” feature of the Church’s Family Tree app. “The ‘Ordinance Ready’ feature searches through your family tree and finds ancestors for whom temple ordinance work such as baptisms and confirmations, initiatories, endowments and sealings can be performed,” said Elder Bednar. “God has provided marvelous tools to accomplish His purposes. We simply need to use the tools. Use is the key word. It means we must act. And as we do, miracles happen. God is opening doors in remarkable ways.”
Home-Centered, Church-Supported Learning
In October 2018, Church leaders announced a new focus for Church members of home-centered, Church-supported learning. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve were joined by Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president and Tad R. Callister, Sunday School general president, to provide additional insight on this change and how to strengthen Latter-day Saints as they engage in this new effort.
Elder Holland began by acknowledging the difficulties and successes they have heard about in the first 90 days of the new Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families initiative. “For some, it feels more like a burden than a blessing,” Elder Holland said. “But many, many wonderful things are happening and going very well
. Members are having
Sister Bingham drew from the experiences of several women from around the world to illustrate that “when consistently implemented, Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families changes lives through strengthened relationships and deepened testimonies. … As leaders, our responsibility is to help members catch the vision of the wonderful potential to bring families closer together, deepen testimonies of the gospel, and increase protection from harmful influences through gospel study in the home.”
Members of the First Presidency offered remarks at the end of the Thursday morning instruction. “I am highly gratified with the teaching that has taken place,” said President Russell M. Nelson. “If you folks are not being persecuted on a daily basis, you are not doing your job very well. Fortify our people. The adversary is an incorrigible insomniac. He never sleeps.”
The prophet told leaders that it was important for Latter-day Saints “to become stronger in a spiritually darkened world.” He taught that the “Book of Mormon comes to our rescue” (see Moroni 7:14-19).
“Our members are standing like a rock in a moving river,” explained President Nelson.
“I can’t remember a more inspiring … and more motivating set of instructions than we’ve had here today,” added President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency. “I pay tribute to our prophet.”
“This has been one of the most challenging and wonderful meetings that I’ve ever been in my life,” said President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency. “I have to do better. The members are going to need our help. We’ve been given incredible new resources.”
Presentations at the Friday leadership session included instruction on honoring the name of the Church (Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Elder Gerrit W. Gong); ministering (Elder Neil L. Andersen and the Presiding Bishopric of the Church); and information about the coming rollout of the Church’s new children and youth development program, which was announced last year (Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Sister Joy Jones, Primary General President, Brother Stephen Owen, Young Men General President, and Sister Bonnie Cordon Young Women General President).
People from around the world are welcome to join the upcoming five sessions of the 189th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that begin tomorrow, Saturday, April 6 at 10:00 a.m. mountain daylight time and conclude Sunday. The conference will include inspirational messages and music centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Options for viewing or listening to the conference can be found at ChurchofJesusChrist.org.