President Monson notes growth of LDS Church during Saturday morning conference session
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — On a clear crisp morning in Salt Lake City, 86-year-old President Thomas S. Monson opened the 183rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a prayer in his heart "that we may be filled with the Spirit of the Lord as we listen and learn" during the next two days of conference sessions.
"We have come here to be instructed and inspired," President Monson said one day after the 50th anniversary of his call to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. "Many messages, covering a variety of gospel topics, will be given during the next two days. Those men and women who will speak to you have sought heaven's help concerning the messages they will give."
During the Saturday morning session "those men and women" included a diverse group of church leaders, with Portuguese, African and German accents mingling with U.S. voices both masculine and feminine, young and old.
During his brief opening remarks President Monson announced that total membership of the LDS Church has reached 15 million. "The church continues to grow steadily and change the lives of more and more people every year," he said.
Part of the reason for that growth, he said, is the "missionary force" that "seeks out those who are searching for truth." That force, he noted, has increased in numbers from 58,500 in October 2012, when he announced new, lower minimum age requirements for full-time missionary service in the church, to more than 80,000 today.
"What a tremendous and inspiring response we have witnessed!" he said.
"Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord's vineyard to bring souls unto him," President Monson said. "He has prepared themeans for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and he will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill his work."
To that end, the church president urged Latter-day Saints to contribute, as they are able, to the General Missionary Fund of the church to help support "thousands of missionaries whose circumstances do not allow them to support themselves."
Later in the session President Monson's counselor in the First Presidency, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, pleaded with those who have left the LDS Church for a variety of reasons to "come back again. Join with us!"
"My dear friends," he said, "there is yet a place for you here. Come, and add your talents, gifts and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result."
President Uchtdorf acknowledged a variety of reasons why people may choose to leave the church, including struggles 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 devine 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 ... Sometimes there is a difference to what the 'facts' really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others.
"And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes," President Uchtdorf continued. "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."
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