“The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.”Doctrine & Covenants 65:2
Sunday morning’s session of General Conference was, for me, the most inspiring conference session I have ever witnessed. Mind you, I’m not one of those people who gets carried away on social media with my anticipation for conference as if it is Santa coming in April. The prospect of ten hours of people reading talks to me is not exactly an adrenaline rush.
But Sunday morning. That was electric.
When my family joined the Church in 1973, there were 13 temples in the world. For the most part, the Church was still a North American phenomenon, white to the point that if we had to defend our diversity, we would point to the brunettes. Blacks could not receive the priesthood, and I think that made us somewhat suspect in the eyes of many people who didn’t look like my Uncle Otis. While there may have been pockets of the Church that that radiated a different tone of sunshine, I certainly didn’t see it in central California.
Back then, talk of the Church “penetrating every clime” was prophetic but aspirational. Missionary work in Africa was a non-starter, and much of the world was sealed off to us by an Iron Curtain. As a kid, I figured that all of this talk of a global church was really about the millennium, something I could neither spell nor imagine.
So Sunday morning. Wow.
Speakers from every “inhabited continent,” according to President Nelson, shamelessly throwing shade at Antarctica. Tiny choirs from around the world singing “I Am a Child of God.” Elder Dube becoming a Conference rock star, generating the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for Elder Holland (or anyone more animated than the Abraham Lincoln robot at Disneyland). And the Korean kids.
Seriously, the Korean kids. Those amazing, beautiful, radiant Korean kids.
If you didn’t choke up with them, you just might be a Son of Perdition.
We heard languages we don’t usually hear. We listened to speakers who speak in a dramatically different fashion than octogenarian guys from Utah. We heard dramatic stories of harsh trials and sacrifices that are taking place right now, rather than on the snow-blasted plains of 19th century America.
Although it was spoken of as showcasing an “international church,” that doesn’t come close to capturing what we saw. The point isn’t how big the Church is. The point is whose Church it is. It is the Church of Jesus Christ and of our Father in Heaven. It belongs to Them and Their family. The Father’s children. The Savior’s siblings. And all of us, whatever language, color, or culture, are part of that family.
For the saints in Africa: This is your Church, too.
For the people with awesome accents in New Zealand, this is your Church, too.
For the people of Central and South America, this is your Church, too.
Whether you are living in comfort or squalor, in loft apartments or thatch huts, this is your Church, too.
And if you are a beautiful little Korean girl singing your heart out, this is totally your Church. We might just love you the most.
The Church I knew in 1973 looks so different, now. It looks more and more like the creations of God Himself, the designer of diversity, who found a place for cactus and redwoods, rhinos and fireflies, and spared no color on the palette in making a home for His children.
Sunday morning conference.
An unmatched invitation to all to come unto Christ.
“The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”Joseph Smith, Jr.