As the closing speaker of the 187th Semiannual General Conference on Oct. 1, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on how general conference "is one of the very important times [the Lord] gives direction to His Church and to us personally."
The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have been sustained and ordained as prophets, seers and revelators, Elder Andersen said. "In the commotion and confusion of our modern world, trusting and believing in the words of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve is vital to our spiritual growth and endurance."
Elder Andersen asked the brethren how inspiration for a general conference talk comes. He said, "One of my brethren told me that his subject for this conference was given to him immediately after his talk last April. Another mentioned three weeks ago that he was still praying and waiting upon the Lord. Another, when asked how long it had taken to compose an especially sensitive talk, responded, '25 years.'"
Elder Andersen said that while the central idea may come quickly, the content and details still require spiritual climbing. "Fasting and prayer, study and faith are always part of the process," he said.
"Direction for a general conference talk often comes in the night or the early morning hours, when the talk is far from the thoughts of the mind. Suddenly, unanticipated insight and, at times, specific words and phrases flow as pure revelation," Elder Andersen said.
The messages in general conference may be very literal or customized to the listener. "I promise you that as you prepare your spirit, and come with the anticipation that you will hear the voice of the Lord, thoughts and feelings will come into your mind that are customized especially for you," Elder Andersen said.
The teachings of general conference are what the Lord intends for His people to know now and in the months ahead, he said. "Often, His voice directs us to change something in our lives. He invites us to repent. He invites us to follow Him."
Elder Andersen invited listeners to think about statements that they had heard in previous conference addresses.
"We should not be alarmed when the words of the Lord's servants run counter to the thinking of the world and, at times, our own thinking. It has always been this way. I am on my knees in the temple with my brethren, and I attest to the goodness of their souls. Their greatest desire is to please the Lord and help God's children return to His presence," Elder Andersen said.
The test for all following general conference is how to respond to what was heard and felt.
Elder Andersen shared the example of President Russell M. Nelson who, in 1979, heard the words of President Spencer W. Kimball who challenged all present in a meeting he attended to take the gospel to all the world. "We should be of service to the Chinese," President Kimball said. "We should learn their language."
Despite being busy as a heart surgeon, President Nelson took that counsel and began learning Mandarin from a tutor. Not long after, he struck up a conversation and professional relationship with a distinguished Chinese surgeon, Dr. Wu Yingkai.
Soon after his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, then-Elder Nelson was called on to operate on China's most famous opera singer.
"Just two years ago [in October 2015], President Russell M. Nelson was once again honored with an official declaration, naming him an 'Old Friend of China,'" Elder Andersen said.
Following general conference in April, President Nelson responded to the prophet's counsel again when he took President Thomas S. Monson's plea to "prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day."
"Just like he did as a busy heart surgeon when he hired a Mandarin tutor, President Nelson immediately took the counsel of President Monson and applied it to his own life," Elder Andersen said.
"I promise that as you hear the voice of the Lord to you in the teachings of this general conference, and then act on those promptings, you will feel heaven's hand upon you, and your life and the lives of those around you will be blessed."
During his address, Elder Andersen read a few lines from a message prepared by Elder Robert D. Hales, in preparation for general conference, before his death on Sunday, Oct. 1:
“When we choose to have faith we are prepared to stand in the presence of God. After the Savior’s crucifixion, He appeared only to those who had been faithful in the testimony of Him while they lived in mortality. Those who rejected the testimonies of the prophets could not behold the Savior’s presence nor look upon His face. Our faith prepares us to be in the presence of God.”