Are you looking for talk summaries, quotes, or a recap of the October 2023 General Conference? Here is our recap of the Saturday Afternoon Session.
Elder Neil L. Andersen
Elder Andersen opened the Saturday afternoon session with a talk focused on the blessings of tithing.
He began by sharing an experience from a member of the Church in Venezuela,Brother Parra. The brother owned a small bakery in the midst of anarchy and civil unrest. Worried for his business, Brother Parra began to give away all the food to people in need. Brother Parra wrote, “As a family, we decided to give away all the food in our bakery to people in need. Through one very dark night, riots were everywhere. My only concern was for the safety of my beloved wife and children. At dawn, I went to our bakery. Sadly, every nearby food business had been destroyed by looters. But to my great astonishment, our bakery was intact; nothing had been destroyed. I humbly thanked my Heavenly Father.”
Brother Parra’s young son emphatically proclaimed that the bakery had been saved because the family had paid their tithing.
Elder Andersen said, “As disciples of Christ, we willingly share with those around us. With all the Lord gives to us, He has asked us to return to Him and His kingdom on Earth 10% of our increase. He has promised us that as we are honest in our tithes, He will open the windows of Heaven and pour out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it. He has promised us that He will protect us from evil.”
Elder Andersen shared some basic principles of tithing and how the funds are used, including for humanitarian aid and temple building. “Your tithes are allowing the blessings of the temple to be in places only the Lord could foresee.”
He addressed the important truth that tithing money belongs to the Lord and is treated with the utmost sacredness.
“These sacred funds do not belong to the leaders of the Church; they belong to the Lord,” He said. “His servants are painstakingly aware of the sacred nature of their stewardship. President Gordon B. Hinckley recounted this childhood experience: ‘When I was a boy, I raised a question with my father concerning the expenditure of church funds. He reminded me that mine is the God-given obligation to pay my tithes and offerings. When I do so,’ my father said, ‘that which I give is no longer mine; it belongs to the Lord to whom I consecrated.’ His father added, ‘What the authorities of the church do with it need not concern you, Gordon. They are answerable to the Lord, who will require an accounting at their hands.'”
Elder Andersen shared multiple experiences, including those who listened to the advice of President Henry B. Eyring before the technology bubble burst and were spared financial distress and of Charlotte Hlimis from France who paid tithing while living in an apartment with eight children. She told Elder Andersen, “My testimony of tithing was very real at the time and it’s even stronger now I am deeply grateful for this commandment. as I live it I continue to be abundantly blessed.”
He tenderly spoke of his own mother-in-law. “Twenty-five years ago, just before, just days before my mother-in-law Martha Williams died of cancer, she received a small check in the mail. She immediately asked my wife, Kathy, for her checkbook to pay her tithing. As her mother was so weakened that she could scarcely write, Kathy asked if she could write the check for her. Her mother responded, “No, Kathy, I want to do it myself,” and then she quietly added, “I want to be right before the Lord.” One of the final things Kathy did for her mother was to hand her tithing envelope to her bishop.”
Brother Jan E. Newman
Brother Newman’s talk focused on how we can “bring our little ones to [Jesus Christ].”
He talked about the experience in the latter part of the Book of Mormon where Christ invited the little children to come to Him. The experience was so moving, the Savior wept multiple times.
“I’ve often thought about this experience. It must have melted every person’s heart,” Brother Newman said. “They saw the Savior, they felt him, they knew him. He taught them, he blessed them, and he loved them. It’s no wonder that after this sacred event, these children grew up to help establish a society of peace, prosperity, and Christ-like love that lasted for generations.”
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our children could have experiences like that with Jesus Christ, experiences that would bind their hearts to him? He invites us, as he invited those parents in the Book of Mormon, to bring our little ones to him. We can help them know their Savior and Redeemer the way these children did.”
It’s not just enough for children to rely on the faith of their families and posterity. “For the rising generation, it’s not enough for faith in Jesus Christ to be the tradition of their fathers,” Brother Newman said. “They need to own faith in Christ for themselves. As the covenant people of God, how can we instill within the hearts of our children a desire to make and keep covenants with Him? We can start by following the example of Nephi. We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. Nephi’s words imply a constant, ongoing effort to teach our children about Christ. We can ensure that the voice of the Covenant people is not silent in the ears of the rising generation and that Jesus is not a Sunday-only topic.”
Brother Newman offered words of counsel and encouragement to those who may feel like they are struggling to bring their families to the Savior.
“What does it look like to feast on the words of Christ and hear Him? Well, it looks like whatever works best for you,” he said. “It might be gathering with your family to talk about the things the Holy Ghost taught you in your scripture study using Come, Follow Me. It might be gathering each day with your children to read a few verses from the scriptures and then looking for opportunities to discuss what you learned as you spend time together. Just find what works for you and your family, then try to do a little better each day.”
“Don’t give up,” he continued. “Just be consistent in your efforts. One of the most sacred responsibilities is to help our children come to know deeply and specifically that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, their personal Savior and Redeemer who stands at the head of His church. We cannot allow our covenant voice to become muted or silent when it comes to Him.”
Elder Joaquin E. Costa
Elder Costa talked about the great need for faith in these troubling times. He shared touching experiences he has witnessed throughout the world
“One of the greatest privileges for me and my wife, Renee, is to meet with the Saints where we serve. We hear their stories, witness their losses, share their grief, and rejoice with their success. We have witnessed many of the blessings and miracles that the Savior has bestowed upon the faithful. We have met people who have gone through the impossible, who have suffered the unthinkable. We have seen the manifestation of the Savior’s power in the widow who lost her husband while they were on the Lord’s errand in Bolivia. We have seen it in a young woman in Argentina who was pushed under the train and lost her leg just because someone wanted to steal her cell phone. And in her single father who now must pick up the pieces and strengthen his daughter after such an inexplicable act of cruelty. We have seen it in the families that lost their homes and every possession during fires in Chile just two days before Christmas in 2022. We have seen it in those who suffer after a traumatic divorce and in those who are innocent victims of abuse.”
“What gives them the power to go through hard things? What keeps an extra layer of stamina to go on when everything seems lost? I have found that the source of their strength is faith in Jesus Christ as we intentionally seek to come unto Him each and every day.”
Having faith in God isn’t transactional, but about covenants that transform us, Elder Costa taught.
“One of the mistakes is to think that keeping covenants or the promises we make to God is somehow a transaction we make with Him, like, ‘You protect me from anything bad that can happen to me, and I’ll pay my tithing, and I will never lose my job, or the fire will not burn my house.’ But then when things don’t go as expected, we cry unto the Lord, ‘Carest thou not that I perish?’ Our covenants are not merely transactional; they are transformational. Through my covenants, I receive consoling power to overcome the impossible.”
Such stories of faith are rarely heralded. Elder Costa honors those who struggle and strive in faith.
“For stories of heartbreak and disappointment that never make the front page of a newspaper or never go viral. For the pictures that are not taken of tears shed and prayers offered after the loss of a marriage or a divorce. For the posts that are never made of the fear, the sorrow, and the pain that becomes bearable thanks to faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement. These people strengthen my own faith, and for that, I am deeply grateful.”
Elder Gary E. Stevenson
Elder Stevenson started by talking about the recent Women’s World Cup in soccer.
“We marvel at performers in various sports and other disciplines who achieve the highest level of their art. We speak of their God-given talents or gifts. This includes those gifted in dance, gymnastics, music, art, drama, mathematics, science, and more. Each demonstrates God-given gifts that are then refined and honed by a lifetime of hard work, study, and practice. God-given gifts make gifted people.”
Elder Stevenson related this to God’s spiritual gifts to His children.
“God endows His children with many spiritual gifts, making them spiritually gifted people. Covenant-keeping members of the church are bestowed with gifts of the Spirit, which include the gift of a testimony of Jesus Christ as our savior, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the gift of faith to heal and be healed, of receiving miracles, and the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. The Lord invites us to earnestly seek the best gifts, even spiritual gifts. He gives spiritual gifts to bless us and to use in blessing others.”
Elder Stevenson shared that one of the most important gifts God has given us is the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
“Over the course of my ministry, I found a universal longing by everyone to know how to invite and recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Such promptings are very personal and come in different ways. We are, however, to have words of prophets, both ancient and modern, give us valuable insights about how to receive direction from the Spirit. Let me offer four guiding principles that may be of assistance to you in recognizing the promptings of the Spirit.”
These four principles are:
- Stand in holy places.
- Stand near holy people.
- Testify of holy truths as often as you can.
- Listen to the Holy Spirit.
For standing in holy places, Elder Stevenson described a recent visit to Japan for the dedication of the temple in Tokyo. During a tour, one of the guests leaned over to Elder Stevenson and shared how different he felt in the temple
“I recognized he was trying to describe the presence of the Holy Spirit, which indeed dwells in sacred spaces. If you hope to feel the Spirit, be in a place where the Spirit can easily dwell. Our temples and homes are the most sacred of these dedicated spaces. In them, we more easily invite and recognize the Spirit.”
In discussing gathering with holy people, Elder Stevenson said, “If you hope to feel the Spirit, be with people where the Spirit can easily dwell. The Savior said it in this way, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ Choose to be with people and go to places where righteousness is found. Find your strength in numbers. Find good friends; be good friends. Support one another, for as you stand with holy people, you will find the Spirit in abundance.”
Testifying of holy truths will always be accompanied by the confirming power of the Spirit, Elder Stevenson said.
“I remember once taking a 45-minute taxi ride in New York City,” he shared. “Having had a warm gospel conversation with the driver for the duration of my ride to the airport, I paid her and prepared to exit the taxi when I realized I had not offered a testimony. Pausing, I shared a simple, short testimony, inviting the Spirit, bringing tears to both our eyes. As you seek and take opportunities to share your testimony with others, you will create moments to recognize the Spirit for yourself.”
Elder Stevenson talked about how it can be difficult to feel the promptings of the Spirit, which often come quietly.
“I have observed that sometimes His voice is so subtle, or I am so preoccupied, that a loved one captures it for me. Many of the times that promptings of the Holy Ghost have come to me, it’s through my wife, Lisa. Righteous parents or leaders may also receive inspired guidance for you. The noise, clamor, and contention prevalent in the world may overpower still, quiet impressions of the Holy Spirit. Find a quiet place, a holy space, where you can seek to receive direction from the Spirit.”
Elder Stevenson also gave a warning about what we can receive revelation about.
“As you consider these principles to invite and recognize the Spirit, consider the following words of cautionary guidance. For example, impressions from the Spirit will align with the scriptures and the teachings of living Prophets. Be certain that the feelings you receive are consistent with your assignment unless you’re called by proper spiritual authority.”
“Spiritual matter cannot be forced. You can prepare yourself, but you cannot dictate how and when revelation comes. When the time is right, use your own best judgment. Sometimes we want to be led by the Spirit in all things; however, often the Lord wants us to use our God-given intelligence and act in ways that are consistent with our best understanding.”
Elder Stevenson concluded with a powerful invitation, especially to youth.
“Many of you start your day by standing in front of a mirror. Tomorrow, this week, this year, always pause. As you look at yourself in the mirror, think to yourself, or say aloud if you like, ‘Wow, look at me, I’m amazing. I’m a Child of God. He knows me, He loves me. I’m gifted—gifted with the Holy Ghost as my constant companion.'”
Elder Yoon Hwan Choi
Do you want to be happy? Stay on the covenant path! This was the theme of Elder Choi’s talk. He shared three principles to help us stay on the covenant path.
First, he discussed what the covenant path is and how we make covenants such as baptism, the sacrament, and temple worship.
Second, he asked us to consider if we are firmly on the covenant path. He shared examples of those who had returned to the covenant path after departing or struggling.
He told a poignant story of when he was issued an overwhelming calling.
“When I was called to be a bishop, it was during the most difficult time of my life. I was a young father in my early thirties, but I was troubled, finding it hard to sleep because of family challenges. I couldn’t find any solution and I thought the challenges would never end. I was exhausted financially and emotionally. I started doubting my scriptures. It was at this difficult time that my stake president extended the calling to me. I accepted the call anyway, although it was hard.”
Through touching spiritual experiences, Elder Choi learned the Lord was supporting him. “Whenever the Lord asks us to serve in any calling, whether it is a lighter or a heavy calling, He sees our needs. He provides the strength we need and has blessings ready to be poured out upon us as we face challenges. There are many other things that distract us from staying on the covenant path. No matter what it is, it is never too late to turn our hearts to Heavenly Father for help.”
Third, Elder Choi talked about how covenants can make us happy!
“As we yoke ourselves to Him, we can do things we couldn’t do on our own because He can do the things we cannot do for ourselves.”
Elder Choi testified, “My dear brothers and sisters, do you want to be happy? Stay on the covenant path. Your life will be easier, happier, and filled with joy.”
Elder Alan T. Phillips
Elder Phillips began by sharing a time when they forgot their 5-year-old son, Jasper, at a service station. As they frantically raced back, a 45-minute drive, they found Jasper with police, playing with the buttons on the car.
Elder Phillips used this to illustrate what the Lord teaches about those who feel lost.
“As this incident with Jasper has played in my mind over the years, I have reflected on the divine identity and importance of God’s children, the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, and the perfect love of a Father in Heaven who knows you and me. I hope to bear witness to these truths today,” he said.
First, Elder Phillips talked about how we need to know our divine identity. “God loves you so much that He sent His Son to heal, rescue, and redeem you. Jesus Christ recognizes the divine nature and eternal worth of each person.”
Once we know how beloved we are, we are to treat others accordingly as we actively become in building God’s kingdom.
“Are we passively attending church, or actively creating communities whose purpose is to worship, remember Christ, and minister to one another? We can heed President Nelson’s counsel to judge less, love more, and extend the pure love of Jesus Christ through our words and actions,” Elder Phillips taught.
Secondly, Elder Phillips talked about the redemptive power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“The word ‘atonement’ describes the setting at one of those who have been estranged or separated,” he taught. “Our Savior’s mission was to provide both a way to return to Heavenly Father and relief in the journey. The Savior knows, through his experience, how to support us through life challenges. Make no mistake, Christ is our rescuer and the healer of our souls.”
As we embrace the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will pull together with Him through life’s challenges.
“To anyone burdened, lost, confused, you do not have to do this alone. Through the atonement of Christ and His ordinances, you can be yoked or bound to Him. He will lovingly provide the strength and healing you need to face the journey ahead. He is the refuge from our storms.”
Finally, Elder Phillips talked about the love of Heavenly Father. Tenderly, he spoke of his son Jasper, and the love he had for his child.
“If an imperfect earthly father feels this way about his child, can you imagine how a perfect, glorified, loving Heavenly Father feels about you?”
Elder Phillips offered this invitation in closing: “If you are feeling lost, if you have questions or doubts, or if you are struggling with your circumstances or wrestling with spiritual dissonance, turn to Him. Pray to Him for comfort, love, answers, and direction. Whatever the need and wherever you are, pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. For some, you may want to follow President Nelson’s invitation and ask if He is really there, if He knows you. Ask Him how He feels about you, and then listen.”
Elder Ronald A. Rasband
Elder Rasband’s thoughts were focused on the gathering of Israel and the need for more missionaries, especially senior missionaries.
“The gathering is the ultimate recognition that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. It is as simple as that,” Elder Rasband taught. “We are gathering God’s children in these last days that they might have blessings poured out upon their heads and the promises of the riches of eternity.”
He shared an experience from 2015 when he was a newly called member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and was assigning missionaries to their fields of labor. After assigning a number of young missionaries, he had ten senior couples to assign. Surprised at the small number, Elder Rasband asked his associate from the missionary department how many senior couples were needed to fulfill the requests.
“He responded, ‘300.’ That sobering moment has stayed with me. Ten couples to fill 300 requests.”
Elder Rasband then shared an emotional story of how his parents were vital to the conversion of Rebecca Guzman, her mother, and two sisters. Elder Rasband took a photo with Sister Guzman and brought it to his mother.
“I took it home to my elderly mother, and she held it close to her heart. Then she said to me, ‘Ronnie, this is one of the happiest days of my life.’ My mother’s response begs the question for our seniors: What are you doing at this stage of your life? There are so many ways senior missionaries can do what no one else can. You are a remarkable force for good, seasoned in the church, and poised to encourage and rescue God’s children.”
Elder Rasband detailed the many ways in which senior missionaries can serve today, calling them a “smorgasbord” of options.
“You may serve in mission offices or temples, strengthen young missionaries, bolster small branches, work in family history centers or at historic sites, teach institute, provide humanitarian service, work with young adults, help in employment centers, or on church farms. The particulars of ways to serve, what best suits you, where you are needed, and how you can get ready to go are addressed on the website SeniorMissionary.ChurchofJesusChrist.org. You can also talk with your bishop or branch president.”
“As an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I ask you to serve as a missionary in the Gathering of Israel, and perhaps even serve again. We need you. We need you.”