SALT LAKE CITY — Temple blessings and welfare principles highlighted Sunday's topics as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints concluded its 181st annual general conference.
And LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson touched on both subjects in one of his two addresses Sunday, declaring the church's welfare program as "inspired of Almighty God" and speaking of a myriad of Mormon temples — from those in Kirtland and Salt Lake to New Zealand, Tahiti and Brazil and the one under construction in Rome.
"I express my undying gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the temple now being built in Rome and for all of our temples, wherever they are," he said.
"Each one stands as a beacon to the world, an expression of our testimony that God our Eternal Father lives, that he desires to bless us and, indeed, to bless his sons and daughters of all generations. Each of our temples is an expression of our testimony that life beyond the grave is as real and as certain as is our life here on earth."
With the LDS Church commemorating the 75th anniversary of its welfare program, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, used one of his Saturday addresses to call on Latter-day Saints to participate in a "Day of Service."
The theme continued Sunday morning, as Presiding Bishop H. David Burton and Sister Silvia H. Allred, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, spoke of the anniversary and their personal experiences of watching and witnessing welfare principles in action.
"We honor those innovative giants whom the Lord raised up to organize and administer the institutional outreach to needy members of his Church," Bishop Burton said. "We honor those who, in our day, reach out in countless and often silent ways to be kind to the poor, clothe the naked, minister to the sick and visit the captive.
"This is the sacred work the Savior expects from his disciples. It is the work he loved when he walked the earth. It is the work I know we would find him doing were he among us today.
From humble beginnings 75 years ago, the welfare church has ennobled and blessed the lives of tens of millions, Bishop Burton added. "The prophetic welfare plan is not merely an interesting footnote in the history of the church. The principles upon which it is based defines who we are a people. It is the essence of who we are as individual disciples of our Savior and exemplar, Jesus the Christ."
Saying Relief Society "has always been at the heart of welfare," Sister Allred saluted the LDS women's role in the program and principles.
"The pure love of Christ is expressed as we give selfless service," she said. "Helping one another is a sanctifying experience, which exalts the receiver and humbles the giver. It helps us become true disciples of Christ. …
"I pray that the Lord will bless each of us with a greater sense of mercy, charity and compassion. I plead for an increase in our desire and ability to reach out and assist the less fortunate, the distressed, and those who suffer; that their needs may be met, that their faith may be strengthened and their hearts may be filled with gratitude and love."
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf noted the apostle Paul's dramatic conversion and warned Latter-day Saints to not "spend their days waiting on the road to Damascus" but instead increase belief one step at a time, to hearken and heed, to serve others and to share the gospel.
"God loves you. He hears your prayers. He speaks to his children and offers comfort, peace and understanding to those who seek him and honor him by walking in his way," he said, adding "Let us not wait too long on our road to Damascus; let us courageously move forward in faith, hope and charity, and we will be blessed to discover the light we are all seeking on the path of discipleship."
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve addressed the spirit of revelation and its patterns.
"As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will 'walk in the light of the Lord,' he said. "Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it.
"But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding and direct and protect you and your family."
Sharing tender experiences with and memories of his late wife, Jeanene, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve called marriage and family "two of the vital pillars" that sustain God's plan of happiness.
"Jeanene's kindness taught me so many valuable things. I was so immature, and she was so disciplined and so spiritual," he said. "Marriage provides an ideal setting for overcoming any tendency to be selfish or self-centered. I think one of the reasons that we are counseled to get married early in life is to avoid developing inappropriate character traits that are hard to change.
"I feel sorry for any man who hasn't yet made that choice to seek an eternal companion, and my heart weeps for the sisters who haven't had the opportunity to marry. Some of you may feel lonely and unappreciated and cannot see how it will be possible for you to have the blessings of marriage and children of your own family. … Have faith in those promises and live worthy of them so that in his time the Lord can make them come true in your life. With certainty, you will receive every promised blessing for which you are worth."
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve underscored the teaching provided in general conference, calling the speakers "mortal messengers with angelic messages."
"If we teach by the spirit and you listen by the spirit, some one of us will touch on your circumstance, sending a personal prophetic epistle directly to you," he said. "Brothers and sisters, in general conference we offer our testimonies in conjunction with other testimonies that will come, because one way or another God will have his voice heard."
Speaking of one's willingness to accept and even seek correction, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve said divine chastening has at least three purposes — to persuade to repent, to refine and sanctify, and to redirect life's course to what God knows as a better path.
"Eventually, much of our chastening should come from within — we should become self-correcting," he said, saluting the late Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin and his self-analysis in every assignment task. "In his desire to please God, he resolved to learn what he could have done better, and then he diligently applied each lesson learned."
In his conference-concluding address, President Monson expressed his love for the Savior, mindful of the upcoming Easter commemorations.
"I believe that none of us can conceive the full import of what Christ did for us in Gethsemane, but I am grateful every day of my life for his atoning sacrifice in our behalf," he said. "He could have turned back. But he did not. He passed beneath all things that he might save all things. In doing so, he gave us life beyond this mortal existence."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company