Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
The healing power of forgiveness, caution on divorce and the continued opportunity for repentance were among the varied topics addressed during the final day of the 177th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Gordon B. Hinckley provided his closing counsel Sunday afternoon in the Conference Center: "May there be peace and harmony in your homes. Husbands, love and treasure your wives. They are your most precious possessions. Wives, encourage and pray for your husbands. They need all the help they can get. Parents, treat your children with great kindness. They are the coming generation who will bring honor to your name."
President Hinckley said he hoped the conference would "inspire and cause all who heard it to stand a little taller and be a little better."
Sunday morning, he reflected once again on his unusually long life, both in serious and light references.
"In my 49 years as a general authority, I have spoken well over 200 times in general conference," he said. "I am now in my 97th year. The wind is blowing, and I feel like the last leaf on the tree."
He also corrected exaggerations of his declining health.
"Actually my health is quite good, despite all the rumors to the contrary," he reported. "Skillful doctors and nurses keep me on the right track. Some of you may go before I do."
President Hinckley then delivered a sermon on gospel truths that Latter-day Saints embrace.
President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke Sunday morning on "the healing power of forgiveness."
In an emotional address, he recounted stories involving accidents and crimes that ultimately included significant examples of forgiveness. He lauded the rapid forgiveness from the Amish community in Pennsylvania for the gunman who killed five young girls last fall and their outreach to the gunman's family.
He also recounted the stories of two northern Utah families devastated by sudden tragedy who forgave those who harmed them.
"If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being," he said, adding the Lord requires his people "to forgive all men."
"Let us remember that we need to forgive to be forgiven."
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke clearly on the subject of divorce. "This is a sensitive subject because it evokes such strong emotions from persons it has touched in different ways."
Elder Oaks stressed, "I speak out of concern, but with hope," noting that divorce touches most families in the church in one way or another.
He said many good members of the church have been divorced many of whom are innocent victims "whose former spouses persistently betrayed sacred covenants or abandoned or refused to perform marriage responsibilities for an extended period." Such members "have firsthand knowledge of circumstances worse than divorce."
"When a marriage is dead and beyond hope of resuscitation, it is needful to have a means to end it," he said.
Still, he cautioned that those considering divorce must look first at reformation, rather than separation. "Often the cause is not incompatibility but selfishness," he said, adding those with "serious marriage problems should see their bishop. As the Lord's judge, he will give counsel and perhaps even discipline that will lead toward healing."
However, "Bishops do not counsel members to divorce, but they can help members with the consequences of their decisions," he said.
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