Author and popular youth speaker Scott Anderson called education conference attendees’ attention to the significance of this year’s theme, “Be of Good Cheer, the Future is as Bright as Your Faith,” reminding them that it is “an important responsibility of our dispensation.”
The concluding sessions of the annual two-day conference also featured Andrew Skinner, executive director of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, and Robert L. Millet, the Richard L. Evans professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, both of whom also spoke the day prior. Former president of the San Diego Temple and general authority emeritus Joe J. Christensen concluded the conference.
Anderson’s talk, “Follow the Prophet: Prophetic Priorities,” focused on the need for Latter-day Saints to recognize that President Monson’s call to “be of good cheer” is in fact the message he was foreordained and prepared to teach to our generation.
Speaking of the truthfulness of President Monson’s claim that “the future is as bright as your faith,” Anderson used scripture and heartfelt personal experiences to show that human beliefs generate the feelings they have towards themselves and God, which in turn influence the way they behave.
Anderson, who has a Ph.D. from Brigham Young University in marriage and family therapy, testified that he has seen the application of this principle heal troubled marriages and people with addictive behavior. If “they can change the way they believe . . . and come to understand things differently and feel differently, then their behavior is a natural outgrowth of what they have learned in this process,” he said.
Using this pattern as a foundation for the remainder of his talk, Anderson went on to teach that God prepares and empowers prophets in every dispensation to accomplish a specific purpose, which he referred to as “prophetic priorities.”
“This theme we have is not some gentle theme,” he said. “It is the purpose of our dispensation. President Monson is not telling us nice little stories about learning to find joy in our lives . . . he was raised up, specifically prepared to teach us how to endure this day, how to be of good cheer and how to find joy in the journey.”
Andrew Skinner complimented his Friday remarks about temple worship with his talk, “Jerusalem and the House of Israel: Present, Past, and Future,” explaining the current events involving Jerusalem which he said should help Latter-day Saints appreciate Israel’s past and prophetic future.
“The news is not all good at the current moment,” said Skinner. “[But] if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” He said it is essential for Latter-day Saints to understand why things in the world are the way they are, and to know what blessings are promised to look forward to the future with faith.
A former dean of religious education at Brigham Young University with a master’s degree in theology from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Denver, Skinner explained the role of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Jerusalem, particularly in reference to the BYU Jerusalem Center.
“BYU Jerusalem is neutral to all parties, and is right in the middle of the skirmish,” he said. “All eyes are on them.”
Helping the conference attendees understand the implications of his remarks, Skinner testified, “No place on earth has shaped the world’s history more than Jerusalem; no place is more important and significant to the theme of this conference.”
Skinner reassured Latter-day Saints that Jerusalem was not always a city of conflict and will not always be that way, encouraging them to look forward to the Savior’s second coming.
Robert L. Millet gave his second address in the conference, entitled, “Wholly Converted, a Holy People,” focusing on the need for Church members to have a deeper conviction of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Millet spoke of improvements Church members have made in the last thirty years, including increased sacrament meeting attendance, tithing faithfulness and gospel-literacy, especially among youth. “But acknowledging all that,” he said, “the task before us now is to create a generation of church members who have been able to bring the gospel from their mind to their heart, and have undergone the kind of spiritual regeneration and spiritual transformation that makes them true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Speaking of the Church’s programs intended to strengthen families and individual testimony, Millet warned conference attendees not to forget what those programs are really for. “The Church isn’t given so we can serve it,” he said. “The Church is given to serve the Saints.”
Millet, also a former dean of religious education at Brigham Young University, outlined principles that would help Latter-day Saints progress towards a change of heart, specifically encouraging them to focus their conversion on the Lord and aligning their motives, desires, and wills with God.
“To the degree that we try to live the gospel and make it a seven-day-a-week religion, things begin to happen in our lives,” he said. “We do begin to be transformed. Eventually the gospel moves us from being a commandment keeping to a commandment loving people.”
To conclude the conference, Elder Joe J. Christensen instructed Latter-day Saints on how to stand in holy places and be not moved with his talk, “Holy Places: Past, Present and Future.”
Elder Christensen discussed six holy places: The Premortal World; The Garden of Eden; Adam-ondi-Ahman; The New Jerusalem; The United States of America and Temples. He provided a historical overview of each and context by which one could reverence their holiness.
Speaking of his decision to include the United States of America in his list of holy places, Elder Christensen said that our country was reserved by divine providence to become the only place where the establishment of freedom and the restoration of the Church could have occurred.
“The United States is the only nation that fits the many prophesies in the Book of Mormon about the promised-land,” he said. “The prophets prophesied that [it] would be a land of liberty, not to be governed by kings, including freedom of religion, a land of prosperity and security, and a land in which Christ would appear to the inhabitants.”
He ended his remarks with seven suggestions to help Latter-day Saints stand in holy places and be not moved.
1. Listen to and follow the counsel of living prophets
2. Read scriptures daily
3. Really pray and not just say prayers
4. Be of good cheer
5. Decide now that you will not get involved in any form of pornography
6. Love everyone, keep romantic feelings in their proper perspective, and avoid even the appearance of evil
7. Keep yourself worthy to have and use a current temple recommend as frequently as your circumstances permit
Elder Christensen was named a general authority in 1989, and served in the Presidency of the Seventy for more than six years. He was named a general authority emeritus in 1999, after which he served as president of the San Diego California Temple from 1999 to 2002.