How Elder David Bednar and his wife, Susan, prepare for General Conference

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Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Susan, in the Rome Italy Temple Visitor’s Center. | Photo courtesy Elder David A. Bednar

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is holding its 189th Annual General Conference this weekend. Members and leaders have reflected on many historic events that have happened over the last six months.

One highlight was the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple in March. For the first time in church history, all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, along with their wives, gathered outside of the United States at the dedication.

Elder David A. Bednar, a former president of Brigham Young University-Idaho who is now a senior member of the Quorum of the 12, serves as the chairman of the temple and family history council of the church. He played a significant role in the open house and dedication of the Rome Temple.

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Elder Bednar and his wife, Susan, spoke with EastIdahoNews.com reporter Nate Eaton about the experience, why it’s historic, the groundbreaking of the Pocatello Temple and how they prepare for General Conference.

NATE EATON, EASTIDAHONEWS.COM: What do the both of you do to prepare for conference?

SUSAN BEDNAR: One thing my husband has taught me that has been really rewarding and made conference more meaningful is take a question to conference. If you’re prayerful and seek divine guidance, that question will be answered. He also taught me that the brethren have a pattern they use as they speak and teach about doctrine and principles. During the course of the message, they usually invite us to do something, and then we should look for the promised blessings. Doctrines and principles are taught, invitations are given to act and then blessings come.

ELDER DAVID A. BEDNAR: I always look forward to hearing from my brethren. As has been described on many occasions, we do not have assigned topics. I always find it miraculous to note the themes that emerge in each session of conference — knowing that those themes were orchestrated by heaven. I like to go back and consider the themes that emerged in previous conferences – the last conference, maybe the one before that – and see how those are linked to the points of emphasis that are developed in this conference.

NE: President Russell M. Nelson has been the leader of the church for a little over a year now. What are your thoughts thus far on his presidency and all the changes he’s instituted?

DAB: He’s a remarkable man spiritually, intellectually and physically. He will soon be 95 years old. You do not find many 95-year-old’s as engaged, as enthusiastic, as capable as is President Nelson, and who are traveling around the world as he does. And beyond his natural ability and experience, his capacity is being enlarged and magnified as he fulfills the sacred responsibilities that have been placed upon his shoulders as the senior apostle. We often attribute to a particular person or persons the credit for “ getting things done.” But the truth is, the Lord hastens His work according to His will and His timing. It is not the people who to move this work forward — it is the Lord.

NE: The Rome Italy Temple open house was held for three weeks and you participated in several dedicatory sessions. What is the main thing you learned?

DAB: The thing you learn about is the great desire and yearning of Latter-Day Saints all over the world for the blessings available in the House of the Lord. As we are privileged to participate in temple dedicatory sessions, we are seated in a location that enables us to look into the faces of the people. To observe the Latter-day Saints assembled in the celestial room as the messages are given, as the dedicatory prayer is offered, as we sing the Hosanna Anthem – it is truly spiritually stirring. The brothers and sisters who have been pioneers in the Church in Italy, people who have given their whole souls to the Savior and His gospel — to see them so joyful because now the temple is near to them and the blessings are more readily available — that is a delight to behold.

SB: I’ve been to temple dedications before and this one was terrific and wonderful. I, like David, feel that this is going to be such a blessing to the people there. They were excited and we felt that excitement. Plus it was historic to have all of the members of the Quorum of the 12 there and that’s never happened abroad before. To be a part of that historic moment was thrilling and to know that the people in Italy felt the love of the Brethren was heartwarming to me.

The First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather in the Rome Italy Temple Visitor’s Center. | Photo: LDS Newsroom

NE: You mentioned having the entire Quorum of the 12 and First Presidency together outside of Salt Lake City. Many people have shared the photographs of all of you inside the Visitor’s Center. What was that experience like?

DAB: In the photographs, you have the resurrected Christ, the ancient apostles, and the modern apostles in one picture. That is quite remarkable.

NE: Both of you, along with Elder Ronald Rasband, recorded a video tour of the temple before it was dedicated that was released worldwide. That’s never happened before. What was that like?

DAB: The basic functions of a temple are described in this video. You’ll find that it guides you through all of the various areas of the temple and explains the essential work that is performed in each area.

The Rome Temple truly is a beautiful facility. But we should not over-emphasize that characteristic of the Rome temple and somehow think it is dramatically different from temples in other locations around the world. All temples are beautiful and sacred buildings. The temple in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will soon be dedicated, and I suspect the saints in that country will think the Kinshasa temple is every bit as beautiful as the one in Rome.

SB: The process of making the video was faith promoting to me. We were asked to do that at the end of a busy day when we were there for an open house. The video was not scripted and was just authentic. Whatever was said was from our hearts and I felt like that came through in the video. I felt like we and Elder Rasband received help from heaven. It’s wonderful to have the membership so excited about something that they can view with their families and share with their friends.

NE: President Russell M. Nelson called the Rome Temple dedication a “hinge point” in church history. What do you think that means and how was this experience a “hinge point” in your lives?

SB: When you think about it being a hinge point, a hinge has two parts. To think that antiquity and our modern day were joined at that temple dedication was quite remarkable. We were at the temple site in Rome four years ago when it was under construction and to watch this event unfold was miraculous and amazing knowing some of the behind-the-scenes things that have gone on over the past 8-10 years.

DAB: Consider the scriptures that indicate the church will come out of obscurity and out of darkness. I think the light shining on the work of the restored Church of Jesus Christ today is a little bit brighter than it was a few weeks ago. And that illumination will continue to grow in intensity and brightness as we go forward.

Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Susan, in the Rome Italy Temple Visitor’s Center. | Photo courtesy Elder David A. Bednar

NE: A few weeks ago, ground was broken on the Pocatello Temple. When you moved to eastern Idaho in 1997 to become president of Ricks College, there was not a temple in Twin Falls or Rexburg or Star Valley – just Idaho Falls. What are your thoughts now that the area will be getting a fifth temple in Pocatello?

An artist rendering of the Pocatello LDS Temple. | Photo: LDS Newsroom

DAB: The leaders of the church have long wanted to have temples close to the people all over the world. In the early days of the restoration, the Latter-day Saints gathered in Nauvoo or Salt Lake and the other places where temples had been constructed. Now the saints are invited to remain in their home countries, and associated with that instruction is the need to build temples where the people are. The work to achieve that great objective is gaining greater and greater momentum as more temples are built. We see the evidence of this truth in announcements of temples in places like Guam, Praia Cabo Verde, and Puerto Rico. It’s very significant that the Latter-day Saints in so many remote locations will have temples so close.

SB: Living in Idaho, we feel like we’re part of Idaho. We’re thrilled for the new temple. We have friends in Pocatello and we know how excited the people are. This is an amazing time for Pocatello and the people there. We’re excited for them and rejoice with them.

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NE: Can we foresee some additional temple announcements at General Conference?

DAB: Stay tuned.

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