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Remarks offered by Elder and Sister Koch in a devotional to the Area Office Staff in Johannesburg upon the Area Presidency’s return from General Conference on April 9, 2018.

General Conference Impressions

Elder Joni L. and Sister Michelle Koch

Remarks by Elder Koch

I want to share some impressions with you.  I have made some notes here – not on the talks themselves, but thoughts that came to my mind when conference was being carried out.  We had a lot of changes – a lot of new things in conference.  One of them was that we sustained a new First Presidency in a Solemn Assembly.  That doesn’t happen every day.  For some people it was a first time – the last one had been ten years ago with President Monson.  That was an interesting thing.  I was assigned to the Assembly Hall, with Elder Maynes.  It was great to be able to support and sustain a new First Presidency.

Interesting how President Nelson organized the First Presidency.  Just showing us an example in the Church that we do not move upward or downward – we just move forward when we accept our new callings.  That was the case of President Eyring who was sustained as the second counselor. And Elder Uchtdorf was brought back to the Quorum of the Twelve.  That was a great example.  We sustained two new apostles, both of them very well known to us.  Elder Gerrit Gong travelled here with us a little while ago and Elder Ulisses Soares, who had previously served in the Area Presidency, was here about a month and a half ago.  So that was a great thing to support them.  We had Elder Carl B. Cook called to be a member of the Presidency of the Seventy.  Just think about it — about five years ago our Area Presidency here was Elder Renlund, Elder Soares, and Elder Cook.

We had Elder Michael Dunn being sustained as an Area Seventy. He was just here with us until one year ago as mission president here in Johannesburg.  It was great to see him there being sustained as a Seventy.  In our area we had Elder Duane D. Bell, Elder Eustache Ilunga, Elder Clement M. Matswagothata, and Elder Pungwe S. Kongolo called as Area Seventies.  It was great to sustain them.  We had Sister Bonnie H. Cordon – we know her very well – she was a counselor in the Primary General Presidency and now newly sustained as the Young Women General President.

And then we have the new approaches to ministering instead of just home or visiting teaching.  That was interesting – a less structured program – and that is quite a change.  We had also the combination of the two priesthood quorums, so all of the High Priests and Elders belong to the elders quorum.  We will continue to have a High Priest Quorum in the stake, but just for the standing officers such as Stake Presidency, Bishoprics, High Counselors, and the functioning Stake Patriarch.  That is going to be quite a change.  Now all of these new things –  these changes – they are important, but now come my thoughts on all this.

Sometimes we are more interested in the changes and the new things than in the core of the gospel.  While all these things that were changed are important, I see them as seasoning to the food. And this food, the core of the gospel – it remains unchanged.   The doctrine, the ordinances.  That is going to kept there.  And while the seasoning can bring a better taste to the food, the food is still more important.  The core of the gospel.  The ordinances and the doctrine of the Church.  This is one of my thoughts.

I had a feeling when I heard something in my meetings before and after the weekend of conference.  I heard Elder Bednar say in one of those meetings, that “We usually say the gospel has been restored.  But the right way to say it is the gospel is being restored.  Because not everything has been restored yet in terms of procedures, guidelines, and also in terms of Priesthood keys that are not on the Earth, yet”.  So, I thought Elder Bednar’s point was very interesting.  And then President Nelson – right after conference, when we had our assignment meeting – he said, “The completion of the restoration is still under way.”

And I also heard Elder Bednar say that we had better buckle up because many more new things will come. But we still must remember that the core of the gospel – the food – is going to be the same. 

And my last thought that I would like to share with you is going back to ministering.  Much will be said about that.  I think everyone received letters about this. We have some instructions on on these changes, with ministering instead of only visiting and home teaching.

In our meetings when we were being taught about this new ministering, what came to my mind was an episode that is described in Doctrine and Covenants 108.  There was a man, his name was Lyman Sherman, and he was a Seventy.  Specifically, he was ordained as a Seventy, but he wasn’t given an assignment on what he should do.  So, he was really after the Prophet Joseph Smith saying something like, “I need to receive a revelation about what I am supposed to be doing until I am assigned to do something as a Seventy”.  President Joseph Smith ended up receiving a revelation for him.  That is section 108.  There is a verse that I like very much, it is  verse 7. Many of you know it.

This scripture kept coming to my mind as President Nelson and the others were teaching us about ministering.  This scripture was given to Lyman Sherman, but it is to all of us and it is about ministering.  “Therefore, strengthen your brethren in every conversation, in every prayer, in every exhortations, and in all your doings.”  That means that we are supposed to be ministering everywhere.  In formal and informal settings.  We can be ministering in the supermarket or the drug store, at the restaurant, or when we are walking here down the hall.  So this is what I think and what I feel the First Presidency is telling us to do.  Yes, we are going to be assigned to some people or individuals or families to minister to them – and it can be by visiting, by teaching, by calling, and by texting through social media.  It doesn’t matter how, as long as we are ministering, we are caring, and we are attaining their needs – spiritual and temporal.

So these are some of my feelings and thoughts.  It was no ordinary conference.  I am 56 years old, a member of the Church my whole life, and I have never been to or watched a conference like this.  Such an impact.  And one more thing, I loved the way President Nelson conducted the meetings and conducted the businesses and the new things that he presented.  It was a bit less formal, less structured.  I could feel his love and interest for all the members of the Church.

I know this Church is true, I have no doubt.  I know especially that Jesus is the Christ, and this is his living Church.  I know that Heavenly Father lives and listens to us, answers to our prayers.

In the name of Jesus Christ.


Remarks by Sister Koch

I want to share my testimony about the feelings I had in this last General Conference.  As you watched, I am sure that all of you had some feelings and some promptings come to you as the spirit spoke to your heart.  During the Solemn Assembly, when we sustained President Nelson as our prophet and president of the Church, I felt in my heart just how much the Church is alive.  It was also wonderful to have the opportunity to sustain two new apostles.  I felt a very positive energy in all sessions.  When we look at all members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and First Presidency with all the positions filled, it is a blessing to all members of the Church.

President Nelson talked about revelation and I could feel the revelation coming through him, our prophet.  He said that each one of us can have the ability to receive personal revelation.  The Holy Ghost helps us and teaches us to learn and understand his promptings.  President Nelson announced seven new temples and the phrase that I kept in my mind is something he said, “Construction of Temples may not change a life, but time inside the temple surely will”.  So what is going to make a difference in our life is the time that is spent inside the temple.  I am so grateful for this true church of Jesus Christ – alive in this time – for the restoration, and the support of our prophet, President Nelson, and all of the apostles.  And I really know this Church is true.  I can feel in my heart that it is true, and I am so grateful for temples, and so grateful to have the temple so close to us.

In the name of Jesus Christ.