Tom Smart, Deseret News
The congregation sings during the opening session of the 183rd Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, in Salt Lake City.
“Come, join with us,” said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency.
Speaking during the Saturday morning session, President Uchtdorf said that God’s children will find “the words of eternal life, the promise of blessed redemption, and the pathway to peace and happiness” in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
“If you seek truth, meaning and a way to transform faith into action; if you are looking for a place of belonging: Come, join with us,” he said.
“If you have left the faith you once embraced: Come back again. Join with us.
“If you are tempted to give up: Stay yet a little longer. There is room for you here.
“I plead with all who hear or read these words: Come, join with us."
At a time where many churches throughout the world are experiencing significant decreases in numbers, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the fastest growing churches in the world, said President Uchtdorf, who noted that President Thomas S. Monson announced earlier in the session that the Church has more than 15 million members now.
There are many reasons for this growth, he said.
- First, the Church was restored by Jesus Christ Himself. “Here you will find the authority to act in His name — to baptize for the remission of sins, to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost, and to seal on earth and in heaven,” he said. “Those who join this Church love the Savior Jesus Christ, and they wish to follow Him.”
- Another reason is because the Church provides opportunities for doing good. Believing in God is commendable, but most people want to do more than listen to inspirational sermons, he said. “They want to put their faith into practice. They want to roll up their sleeves and become engaged in this great cause.”
- A third reason why people join the Church is because walking the path of discipleship leads to precious blessings, President Uchtdorf said. “Those who follow this path faithfully avoid many of the pitfalls, sorrows and regrets of life. The poor in spirit and honest of heart find great treasures of knowledge here. Those who suffer or grieve find healing here. Those burdened with sin find forgiveness, liberty and rest.”
President Uchdorf said the search for truth has led millions of people to the Church. However, he added, there are some who leave the Church they once loved.
“One might ask, ‘If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?’
“Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple,” he explained. “In fact there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.”
President Uchtdorf said some members struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. “We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history — along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events — there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question,” he said. “Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.”
President Uchtdorf said there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. “There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine.
“I suppose the Church would only be perfect if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us — His imperfect children — and imperfect people make mistakes.”
Speaking to “those who have separated themselves from the Church,” President Uchtdorf said, “Come, and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.”
He said it is natural to have questions or doubts.
“Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true (Alma 32:21),” he said. “Therefore, please, first doubt your doubts, before you doubt your faith.”
Some, he said, don’t think they fit in with the people in the Church. “If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose.”
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And some wonder if they can live up to the Church’s standards. ”All the more reason to come,” President Uchtdorf said. “The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet.”
He said that in spite of our human imperfections, he is confident that among the members of the Church are many of the finest souls this world has to offer. “In this age of waning faith — in this age where so many feel distanced from heaven’s embrace — here you will find a people who yearn to know and draw closer to their Savior by serving God and fellowmen, just like you. Come, join with us!”