Themes from the October 2021 General Conference

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It’s always interesting to see the themes that come out during General Conference. It’s rare for speaking topics to be assigned in Conference, yet somehow common themes still show up between the talks. Let’s take a look at a few of the major themes we heard about this October:

1. Love the Lord

So many people covered this topic! The world has a lot of challenges and we have so many distractions in our lives, but doing this one thing – loving our Lord – can anchor us. Elder Holland led out in this topic, and I really loved some of his words on this:

“When the love of God sets the tone for our own lives, for our relationships to each other and ultimately our feeling for all humankind, then old distinctions, limiting labels, and artificial divisions begin to pass away, and peace increases… This love of God is the first great commandment in the universe. But the first great truth in the universe is that God loves us exactly that way—wholeheartedly, without reservation or compromise, with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. And when those majestic forces from His heart and ours meet without restraint, there is a veritable explosion of spiritual, moral power.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Greatest Possession,” 2 October 2021

Restraining ourselves from meeting and loving God is one of the most detrimental things we can do in our lives. We need Him, we need His love and power if we want to be saved and progress through eternity. Choosing to meet Him “without restraint” will not only give us these things, but it will also change our hearts.

President Ballard built on this idea:

“Do you wonder what Jesus was referring to when He asked Peter, “Lovest thou me more than these?” Relating this question to ourselves in our day, the Lord may be asking us about how busy we are and about the many positive and negative influences competing for our attention and our time. He may be asking each of us if we love Him more than the things of this world. This may be a question about what we really value in life, who we follow, and how we view our relationships with family members and neighbors. Or maybe He is asking what really brings us joy and happiness.”

President M. Russell Ballard, “Lovest Thou Me More Than These?” 2 October 2021

It’s easy to say that we love the Lord, but do we live it? I think this is a significant challenge in our lives, to go beyond lip service and really dedicate ourselves to God in every way we can. 

2. We Need a Willingness to Change

As Elder Holland mentioned, God loves us with His entirety. That is one of the greatest truths of the gospel. But His love does not excuse us from changing or repenting. Elder Christofferson explained,

“Because God’s love is all-embracing, some speak of it as “unconditional,” and in their minds they may project that thought to mean that God’s blessings are “unconditional” and that salvation is “unconditional.” They are not. Some are wont to say, “The Savior loves me just as I am,” and that is certainly true. But He cannot take any of us into His kingdom just as we are, “for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence.” Our sins must first be resolved.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “The Love of God,” 2 October 2021

One of our great tests in life is to humble ourselves to the knowledge that we are not perfect, that we require repentance, and that we can’t give ourselves redemption. Instead, to overcome sin and weakness, we have to give ourselves over to Christ and rely on Him.

Elder Uchtdorf shared his thoughts on repentance as well:

“We can navigate our way through the darkness and trials of this life and find our way back to our loving Heavenly Father if we seek and accept the spiritual landmarks He has provided, embrace personal revelation, and strive for daily restoration. This is how we become true disciples of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ. As we do so, God will smile upon us.”

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Daily Restoration,” 3 October 2021

3. Temples

Temples are typically a recurring topic during General Conference. In October, both President Nelson, Elder Stevenson, and Elder Rasband addressed the need for us to be worthy of a temple recommend. President Nelson also stated:

“If you don’t yet love to attend the temple, go more often—not less. Let the Lord, through His Spirit, teach and inspire you there. I promise you that over time, the temple will become a place of safety, solace, and revelation… And to each of you who has made temple covenants, I plead with you to seek—prayerfully and consistently—to understand temple covenants and ordinances. Spiritual doors will open… Whenever any kind of upheaval occurs in your life, the safest place to be spiritually is living inside your temple covenants!”

President Russell M. Nelson, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” 3 October 2021

As more and more temples fill the earth, we see the work of the Lord progress. Attending the temple is a privilege, and ensuring that we are ready and worthy of it is essential to our spiritual strength in these last days. 

4. Identity

One challenge of modern life is knowing who we are, what our personal identity is. So many voices tell us that our identity should conform to various worldly trends, perceptions, and influences. But Sister Cordon shared this experience:

“Under sacred circumstances, our beloved prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, once reminded me of two simple truths that are foundational to your grand and glorious work.

As I sat on the couch with my husband, our prophet pulled his chair over, almost knee to knee with us, and looked at me with his piercing blue eyes. I wasn’t sure if my heart was racing or had completely stopped as he called me to serve as the Young Women General President. He asked a question that still echoes in my heart, “Bonnie, what’s the most important thing the [youth] need to know?”

I pondered for a moment and said, “They need to know who they are.”

“YES!” he exclaimed, “and they need to know their purpose.”

You are a cherished, beloved child of Heavenly Father. He loves you so perfectly that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for you and for me.”

Bonnie H. Cordon, “Come Unto Christ And Don’t Come Alone,” 2 October 2021

The identity that will lead us to be the best person we can be, that will best define us, is our divine identity as children of God. When we believe, know, and understand this as our primary identity, so many other things in our lives make sense and fall into place. We have something solid to hold to every day.

5. We are Understood by the Lord

Trials and struggles can be isolating, frustrating, and difficult to endure. The people around you may not quite understand what you’re experiencing. 

But Christ does.

Elder Perkins, who is battling cancer, shared, 

“Heavenly Father is intimately aware of your suffering. While in the midst of trials, we can mistakenly think that God is far away and unconcerned with our pain… I vividly recall my own experience at one point in my cancer battle when the doctors had not yet diagnosed the cause of some severe pain. I sat with my wife, intending to offer a routine blessing on our lunch. Instead, all I could do was simply weep, “Heavenly Father, please help me. I am so sick.” For the next 20 to 30 seconds, I was encircled in His love. I was given no reason for my illness, no indication of the ultimate outcome, and no relief from the pain. I just felt of His pure love, and that was and is enough. I witness that our Heavenly Father, who notes the fall of even a single sparrow, is aware of your suffering.”

Elder Anthony D. Perkins, “Remember Thy Suffering Saints, O Our God,” 3 October 2021

6. Joy

All of us, worldwide, have experienced the effects of the pandemic. And even now, we are still dealing with the virus and its varied consequences. Many people have individual struggles in addition to the pandemic. But many of our leaders expressed joy and the possibility of having joy always. 

The quote that was referenced most in this General Conference was from President Nelson:

“When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening – or not happening – in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him.”

President Russell M. Nelson, “Joy and Spiritual Survival,” October 2016

It’s truly our choice to follow Christ that determines our joy. We find more purpose, we find who we are, and we meet His love when we put our focus on Christ every day.

These are just a few of the themes spoken about in October’s Conference. There were a lot more topics covered, so consider this week what themes and topics stood out to you during General Conference?

Want to Read More Like This On Seeking Christ?

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10 Essential Things to Remember About Jesus Christ

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God Won’t Change for Us

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