Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The 183rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened Saturday morning with a session that featured the announcement of two new temples by President Thomas S. Monson and emotion-charged sermons from church leaders, including a memorable poem and testimony from 88-year-old President Boyd K. Packer.
For Latter-day Saints watching the proceedings in Cedar City, Utah, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the highlight of the session was church President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement that the church will build new temples in those locations. The Cedar City Utah Temple will be the 17th temple in the state of Utah; the Rio de Janeiro Temple will be Brazil’s seventh such structure.
“Brothers and sisters, temple building continues unabated,” said President Monson, who also referred to the recent dedication of new LDS temples in Calgary, Canada, and Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and the rededication of the Boise Idaho Temple in his opening remarks.
President Monson also remarked on what he called the “remarkable and inspiring” response of young church members to his announcement at last October’s conference reducing the age at which LDS missionaries can be called.
“We have 65,634 full-time missionaries serving, with over 20,000 more who have received their calls but who have not yet entered a Missionary Training Center and over 6,000 more in the interview process with their bishops and stake presidents,” President Monson said, adding that such growth in the numbers of missionaries has made it necessary for the church to create 58 new missions.
“To help maintain this missionary force, and because many of our missionaries come from modest circumstances, we invite you, as you are able, to contribute generously to the General Missionary Fund of the church,” President Monson said.
The 85-year-old church president concluded his remarks by urging church members to be “attentive and receptive to the messages which we will hear” during the next two days of general conference sessions.
“We will hear inspired messages today and tomorrow,” he said. “Those who will address us have sought prayerfully to know that which the Lord would have us hear at this time.”
For President Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the second-eldest apostle (at age 90, Elder L. Tom Perry is the eldest), that meant sharing a poem of personal reflection and testimony called “Unfinished Composition” that he started writing at the age of 68. Ten years later, at age 78, he added a few stanzas to the poem, and then added more lines to the poem last year when he turned 88.
Those in the 21,000-seat Conference Center chuckled at his poetic references to his “metal hip” and the plate in his neck (because of which, he writes, “I’ve joined the stiff-necked generation”) and the fact that “the only thing that grows in strength with me is my forgetter.” And there were smiles as he shared the last of his most recently written verses:
I know that He will come anew
With power and in glory,
I know I will see Him once again
At the end of my life’s story.
I’ll kneel before His wounded feet;
I’ll feel His Spirit glow.
My whispering, quivering voice will say,
“My Lord, my God, I know.”
To which President Packer added: “And I do know!”
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