Are you looking for talk summaries, quotes, or a recap of the October 2023 General Conference? Here is our recap of the Sunday Afternoon Session.
Elder Dale G. Renlund
Elder Renlund kicked off the last discussing the discovery of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. The excavators spend five fruitless years searching. In the very last season of searching, they realized every area had been searched except what was under their own base camp.
“Within a few days of digging, there they found the first steps leading down to the tomb. When [Howard] Carter eventually peered into the answer chamber of Tutankhamun’s tomb, after 3 months of cataloging the contents of the answer chamber, they opened the sealed burial chamber in February 1923, 100 years ago. This was the most famous archaeological find of the 20th century.”
Elder Renlund related this to our habit of looking beyond the mark, undervaluing what the gospel of Jesus Christ provides us.
“During Jesus’ moral ministry, many looked beyond the mark. Beyond Him, they looked past the Savior of the world. Instead of recognizing His role in fulfilling Heavenly Father’s plan, they condemned and crucified Him. They looked and waited for someone else to bring them salvation. Like those people in Jerusalem, and like Carter and Carnarvon, we too can be prone to look beyond the mark,” he said.
Elder Renlund then shared a personal experience from his youth.
“When I was 8 years old, I was baptized by my father. Afterwards, I held his hand as we were going to cross a busy street. I wasn’t paying attention and stepped from the curb just as a big truck came rumbling by. My father jerked me back out of the street and onto the curb. Had he not done so, I would have been hit by the truck. Knowing my own mischievous nature, I thought maybe it would have been better for me to be killed by the truck because I’ll never be as clean as I am now right after my baptism,” he shared.
“As an 8-year-old, I mistakenly presumed that the water of baptism washed away sins, but not so. In the years since my baptism, I’ve learned that sins are cleansed by the power of Jesus Christ through His atoning sacrifice as we make and keep the baptismal covenant. Then, through the gift of repentance, we can remain clean. I’ve also learned that the sacrament brings a powerful, virtuous cycle into our lives, enabling us to retain a remission of our sins. Just like the treasure it was under the feet of Carter and Carnarvon, the treasured blessings of the sacrament are available for each time we attend sacrament meeting.”
Likewise, the temple is a treasure to us. With so many temples announced in recent years, we have more access to temples than ever before. But this can make us casual.
“When temples are distant, we plan our time and resources to travel to the temple to worship there,” Elder Renlund taught. “We prioritize these journeys. With a temple close at hand, it can be easy to let little things get in the way of attending, saying to ourselves, ‘Well, I’ll just go another time.’ Living close to a temple does bring greater flexibility in scheduling time in the temple, but that very flexibility can make it easier to take the temple for granted. When we do, we miss the mark, undervaluing the opportunity to draw closer to the Savior in His holy house. Our commitment to attend should be at least as strong when the temple is nearby as when it’s distant.”
Elder Renlund continued, “After Carter and Carnarvon excavated elsewhere in the Valley of the Kings, looking for Tutankhamun’s tomb, they realized their oversight. We don’t need to labor unsuccessfully, as they did for a time, to find our treasure. Nor did we seek counsel from exotic sources, prizing the novelty of the source and thinking such counsel will be more enlightened than that which we can receive from a humble prophet of God.”
“When we trust God’s Prophet on Earth today and act on his counsel, we will find happiness, and we too can be healed. We need to look no further. Brothers and sisters, I encourage you to remember and always focus on Jesus Christ. He’s our Savior and Redeemer, the mark to whom we should look, and our greatest treasure.”
Elder John C. Pingree Jr.
Elder Pingree focused his remarks on the power of eternal truths. He began with a personal experience.
“Many years ago, after receiving a call to serve a full-time mission, leaders in our family determined to learn each missionary’s name before arriving in the field. We obtained photos, created flashcards, and began memorizing faces and names. Once we arrived, we had introductory conferences with the missionaries. As we mingled, I overheard our 9-year-old son saying, ‘Nice to meet you, Sam. Rachel, where are you from? Wow, David, you are tall.'”
“Alarmed, I went to our son and whispered, ‘Hey, let’s remember to refer to the missionaries as ‘Elder’ or ‘Sister’.” He gave me a puzzled look and said, ‘Dad, I thought we were supposed to memorize their names.'”
“Our son did what he thought was right based on his understanding. So, what is our understanding of truth in today’s world?”
Elder Pingree then elaborated on the distinct yet interconnected roles God, Christ, prophets, and people play in seeking and learning eternal truth. First, God is the source of eternal truth. Second, the Holy Ghost testifies of all truth. Third, prophets receive truth from God and share that truth with us.
“Finally, you and I play a crucial role in this process. God expects us to seek, recognize, and act on truth. Our ability to receive and apply truth is dependent on the strength of our relationship with the Father and the Son, our responsiveness to the influence of the Holy Ghost, and our alignment with Latter-Day prophets,” Elder Pingree said.
Two questions can help us on our journeys. First, is the concept taught consistently in the scriptures? Second, is the concept confirmed by the witness of the Holy Ghost? Elder Pingree said as we live these principles, “we gain a sure knowledge of that truth. For example, I’ve made mistakes and felt remorse for poor choices, but through prayer, study, and faith in Jesus Christ, I received a witness of the principle of repentance. As I continue to repent, my understanding of repentance grew stronger. I felt closer to God and His Son. I now know that Christ, because I experienced the blessings of repentance each day.”
What if we do not receive answers?
“I have empathy for those of us who yearn for answers that do not seem to come,” Elder Pingree said. “To Joseph Smith, the Lord counseled, ‘Hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known concerning the matter,” and to Emma Smith, he explained, “Not because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee the information.'”
“I too have sought answers to heartfelt questions. Many answers have come; some have not. As we hold on, trusting God’s wisdom and love, keeping His commandments, and relying on what we do know, He helps us find peace until He reveals the truth of all things.”
Elder Pingree also discussed why teaching truth is so important.
“Paul encouraged us to speak the truth in love. Truth has the best chance of blessing another when conveyed with Christ-like love. Truth taught without love can cause feelings of judgment, discouragement, loneliness; it often leads to resentment and division, even conflict. On the other hand, love without truth is hollow and lacks the promise of growth.”
“Both truth and love are essential for our spiritual development. Truth provides the doctrine, principles, and laws necessary to gain eternal life, while love engenders the motivation needed to embrace and act upon what is true. I am forever grateful for others who patiently taught me eternal truth with love.”
Elder Pingree concluded by sharing a testimony of the eternal truths he knew to be true.
Elder Valeri V. Cordón
Elder Cordón began his talk by asking, “Have you ever held a new born in your arms?” He continued, “Parenting is one of life’s more special experiences. Today I would like to share parenting lessons from scriptures. We must climb to higher ground of gospel culture in our families.”
“Jesus Christ is the center of this gospel culture. Adopting the gospel culture in our families is critical to creating a fertile environment where the seed of faith may flourish.”
Elder Cordón focused on “three crucial parenting responsibilities described by prophets and apostles that can help us establish a higher gospel culture in our homes.”
First, we need to teach freely. “The scriptures tell us that Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and daughters. We teach our children generously when we spend meaningful time with them. We teach without restraint when discussing sensitive topics such as screen time, using resources that the Church has made available. We teach literally when we study the scriptures with our children, using home follow me, and allowing the Spirit to be the teacher,” Elder Cordón said.
Second, we need to model discipleship. What do we need to model for our children?
Third, we can invite children to act. “Jesus Christ should be the core of our children’s testimonies, and these testimonies must come to each child through individual revelation.” By inviting them to act, we invite them to gain personal revelation and build a relationship with the Savior.
Elder Cordón shared a personal experience.
“When I was serving in a branch in Guatemala, my parents began to teach me about the value of patriarchal blessings. My mother took the time to share her experience receiving her patriarchal blessing. She taught me about blessings and, through intentional parenting, inspired me to have the desire to receive my patriarchal blessing.”
“When I was 12, my parents helped me navigate the search for a patriarch. This was necessary because there was no patriarch in the district where we lived. I traveled to a patriarch that was a distant 156 km away. I distinctly remember when the patriarch laid his hands upon my head to bless me. I knew, by powerful spiritual confirmation, without a doubt, that my Heavenly Father knew me, the 12-year-old boy from a small town, and that meant everything to me.”
Elder Cordón closed by saying, “This world is full of philosophies, cultures, and ideas competing for our children’s attention. The great and spacious building advertises, but in the gift of His Son, the prophet Moroni taught, have God prepared a more excellent way. As we partner with God through covenants and become His agents in the care of our children, He will sanctify our intentions, inspire our teachings, and temper our invitations.”
Elder J. Kimo Esplin
Elder Esplin opened his address by talking about his youth in Hawaii and the Japanese saints who would travel there to receive the blessings of the temple there.
“One of these members was a sister from the beautiful island of Okinawa,” he shared. The story of her journey to the Hawaii temple is really remarkable. Two decades earlier, she had been married in a traditional arranged Buddhist wedding. Just a few months later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, thrusting the United States into a conflict with Japan. In the wake of battles such as Midway and Iwo Jima, the tides of war pushed the Japanese forces back to the shores of her island home, Okinawa.”
During the Battle of Okinawa, this sister, her husband, and two small children faced extreme hardships. Elder Esplin shared, “They endured unspeakable misery through the ensuing weeks and months. One desperate night amidst the battle, with her family near starvation and her husband unconscious, she contemplated ending her suffering with a hand grenade, which the authorities had supplied to her and others for that purpose. However, as she prepared to do so, a profoundly spiritual experience unfolded that gave her a tangible sense of the reality of God and His love for her, which gave her the strength to carry on.”
For six months, they survived in a cave, surviving on weeds and wild honey.
“When the family returned home and began rebuilding their lives, this Japanese woman started searching for answers about God. She gradually kindled a belief in Jesus Christ and the need to be baptized. However, she was concerned about her loved ones who had died without a knowledge of Jesus Christ, including her mother who died giving birth to her.”
“Imagine her joy when two sister missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to her house one day and taught her that people can learn about Jesus Christ in the spirit world. She was captivated by the teaching that her parents could choose to follow Jesus Christ after death and accept baptism performed on their behalf in holy places called temples. She and her family were converted to the Savior and baptized,” Elder Esplin said.
The sister and her family worked hard, but tragedy struck and her husband passed away. A few years following her husband’s untimely death, the mission president of Japan felt inspired to encourage the Japanese members to work toward attending the temple.
“The mission president was an American veteran of the Battle of Okinawa, in which this Okinawan sister and her family had suffered so much,” Elder Esplin said. “Nonetheless, the humble sister said of him, ‘He was then one of our hated enemies, but now he was here with the gospel of love and peace. This, to me, was a miracle.'”
“She made the 10,000-mile journey thanks to a generous gift from missionaries who had served in her branch and had eaten many meals at her table. While in the temple, she shed tears of joy as she acted as a proxy for her mother’s baptism and was sealed to her deceased husband.”
Elder Esplin used this story to illustrate the ongoing fulfillment of temple blessings spreading throughout the world.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong
“Love is spoken here.” This simple phrase from a Primary song was the theme of Elder Gong’s talk. He focused on three languages of gospel love.
First, Elder Gong discussed the language of warmth and reverence. “With warmth and reverence, our sacraments and other meetings focus on Jesus Christ. We speak reverently of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, personal and real, not only of the Atonement in the abstract. We call Jesus Christ’s restored Church by His name, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We use reverent language when we address Heavenly Father and warm respect when we speak with each other.”
He continued, “The words we use can draw us closer or distance us from other Christians and friends. Sometimes, we speak of missionary work, temple work, humanitarian and welfare work in ways that may cause others to think we believe we work on our own. Let us always speak with warm and reverent gratitude for God’s work and glory, and the mercy, merits, and grace of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.”
Second, Elder Gong focused on the gospel language of service and sacrifice. “As we gather again at church each week to honor and rejoice in the Sabbath day, we can express our commitment to Jesus and each other through callings and service,” he said. He discussed that some will turn down callings.
“With King Benjamin, we say, ‘If I had, I would give and offer all we can.’ Stake and ward leaders, let’s do our part as we call and release brothers and sisters to serve in the Lord’s Church. Let’s please do so with dignity and inspiration, helping each feel appreciated and that they can be successful. Please counsel with and listen to sister leaders. May we remember, as President J. Reuben Clark taught, ‘In the Lord’s church, we serve where called, which place one neither seeks nor declines.'”
He also encouraged leaders to focus on simple activities to help unite members.
Finally, he talked about the gospel language of covenant belonging. “We live in a self-centered world; so much is “I choose me.” It is as if we believe we know best our own self-interest and how to pursue it. It’s not true. Jesus personifies this ageless truth,” Elder Gong said.
“Jesus Christ offers a better way: relationships founded on divine covenant; stronger than the cords of death. Covenant belonging with God and each other can heal and sanctify our most cherished relationships. In truth, He knows us better and loves us more than we know or love ourselves. In truth, when we covenant all we are, we can become more than we are. God’s power and wisdom can bless us with every good gift in His time and way,” he continued.
Elder Gong closed with this testimony, “So where and how does Jesus Christ speak to you in love? Where and how do you hear His love spoken here? May we each learn to speak and hear His voice here, in our hearts and homes, in our gospel callings, activities, ministering, and service. In God’s plan, we will each transition one day from this life into the next life when we meet the Lord. I imagine Him saying with words of instruction and promise, ‘My Love Is Spoken Here.'”
Elder Christophe G. Giraud-Carrier
Elder Giraud-Carrier centered his remarks on seeing people as Jesus Christ does, remembering to look upon the heart.
“Do you recall the experience the disciple Ananias had when the Lord sent him to bless Saul?” he began, sharing the scriptural account. “Reputation preceded him, and Ananias had heard about Saul and his cruel, relentless persecution of the Saints. Ananias heard and jumped to a conclusion that perhaps he should not administer to Saul. It turned out to be the wrong conclusion, and the Lord taught Ananias, ‘He is a chosen vessel unto me to bear my name before the Gentiles, and Kings, and the children of Israel.'”
He gave multiple other scriptural examples, such as the woman with the issue of blood, the woman taken in adultery, and the centurion sick with palsy. Jesus Christ saw them for who they truly were and ministered to them accordingly.
“May we likewise not let our eyes, our ears, or our fears mislead us, but open our hearts and minds and minister freely to those around us, as He did.”
Elder Giraud-Carrier talked about the need to not get caught up in the labels we often give ourselves. He recalled President Nelson’s words that we need to remember we are children of God and children of the covenant.
“I pray that we may come to a greater appreciation of this wonderful truth; it changes everything,” he said. “We may have been raised in different cultures; we may come from different social, economic circumstances. Our mortal heritage, including our nationality, preferences, political orientation, etc., may vary greatly, but we are His children, all of us without exception. We have the same divine origin and the same limitless potential through the grace of Jesus Christ.”
Born and raised in France, Elder Giraud-Carrier has been to many places.
“Our family has been privileged to live in different countries and cultures,” he shared. “Our children have been blessed to marry within different ethnicities. I have come to realize that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the great equalizer. As we truly embrace it, the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. This amazing truth frees us, and all labels and distinctions that may otherwise afflict us and our relationships to each other are simply swallowed up in Christ. It soon becomes clear that we, as well as others, are no more strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God.”
He closed with these words:
“My dear brothers and sisters, how we treat each other really matters. How we speak to and about others, at home, at church, at work, and online, really matters. Today, I am asking us to interact with others in a higher, holier way.
This afternoon, in the spirit of that invitation, I wish to echo the pledge of our wonderful Primary children: “If you don’t walk as most people do, some people walk away from you, but I won’t, I won’t. If you don’t talk as most people do, some people talk and laugh at you, but I won’t, I won’t. I’ll walk with you, I’ll talk with you; that’s how I show my love for you. Jesus walked away from none; He gave His love to everyone, so I will, I will.”
President Russell M. Nelson
President Nelson concluded the prophet with a special video message after an injury prevented him from attending General Conference.
“I recently celebrated my 99th birthday and thus commenced my 100th year of living. I’m often asked the secret to living so long. A better question would be, ‘What have I learned in nearly a century of living?’ Time today does not allow me to answer that question fully, but may I share one of the most crucial lessons I have learned?”
“I have learned that Heavenly Father’s plan for us is fabulous, life really matters, and the Savior’s plan is possible.”
“As I have wrestled with the intense pain caused by my recent injury, I have felt an even deeper appreciation for Jesus Christ and the incomprehensible gift of His Atonement. Think of it! The Savior suffered pains, afflictions, and temptations of every kind so that He can comfort us, heal us, and rescue us in times of need. Jesus Christ described His experience in Gethsemane and on Calvary, ‘which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore.'”
President invited us to adopt the practice of “thinking celestial.”
“Thinking celestial means being spiritually minded,” he said. “We learn from The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob that to be spiritually minded is life eternal. Mortality is a master class in learning to choose the things of greatest Eternal import. Far too many people live as though this life is all there is.”
Our choices today will determine three things: where you will live through all eternity, the kind of body you’ll be resurrected in, and who you will live with forever.
“So, my dear brothers and sisters, how, where, and with whom do you want to live forever? You get to choose. When you make choices, I invite you to take the long view, an eternal view. Put Jesus Christ first because your eternal life is dependent upon your faith in Him and in His Atonement. It is also dependent upon your obedience to His laws. Obedience paves the way for a joyful life for you today and the grand eternal reward tomorrow.”
Our hearts will gradually change as we embrace the invitation to “think celestial.” President Nelson gave an impassioned plea to give up anything that would take away our agency.
“As you think celestial, you will find yourself avoiding anything that robs you of your agency. Any addiction, be it gaming, gambling, debt, drugs, alcohol, anger, pornography, sex, or even food, offends God. Why? Because your obsession becomes your god. You look to it rather than to Him for solace. If you struggle with an addiction, seek the spiritual and professional help you need. Please do not let an obsession rob you of your freedom to follow God’s fabulous plan.”
President Nelson focused on the law of chastity as a part of this plea. “Few things will complicate your life more quickly than violating this divine law.”
Thinking celestial will help us through difficulties, including when we are tempted to leave the covenant path. It will also help us as we seek spiritual revelation. He shared this personal experience.
“When I was a young intern, my income was $15 a month. One night, my wife asked me if I was paying tithing on that meager income. I quickly repented and began paying the additional $1.50 in monthly tithing. Was the church any different because we increased our tithing? Of course not. However, becoming a full-tithe payer changed me. That’s what I learned, that paying tithing is all about faith, not money. As a full tithe payer, the windows of Heaven began to open for me. I received several subsequent professional opportunities due to our faithful payment of tithes. Paying tithing requires faith, and it also builds faith in God and His Son, Jesus Christ.”
President Nelson encouraged us to visit temples and announced 20 new temples.