Pride is the universal sin and the main stumbling block to progression for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was the message President Ezra Taft Benson gave Saturday morning.

In the opening address of the church's 159th General Conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, read President Benson's message. The 89-year-old church president attended the session but asked President Hinckley to read his remarks.In his message, President Benson chastised church members who are more concerned with pleasing man than obeying God, and he urged them to be humble, forgiving and selfless.

An overflow crowd attended the session in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, and LDS congregations watched via satellite television at more than 2,500 locations in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

President Benson, revered by church members as a prophet, seer and revelator, identified pride as the great vice that has led to the downfall of nations, and he said it is a greatly misunderstood sin.

He said the message has been weighing heavily on his soul. "I know the Lord wants this message delivered now."

Jesus Christ was not proud and always sought to please God. President Benson urged church members to follow that example.

"Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance or haughtiness," his message said. "All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart or core is still missing.

"The central feature of pride is enmity - enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen." President Benson defined enmity as hatred, hostility or opposition.

"The proud wish God would agree with them," his message said. "They aren't interested in changing their opinions to agree with God."

Proud people measure their own worth by pitting their talents and abilities against others, President Benson said. They interpret the success of another person to be a failure for themselves. Pride leads to secret combinations in an effort to gain power, as well as to arguments, fights, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots and other ills.

"Some prideful people are not so concerned as to whether their wages meet their needs as they are that their wages are more than someone else's," President Benson's message said. "Their reward is being a cut above the rest. This is the enmity of pride.

"When pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world and deliver our freedom to the bondage of men's judgment. The world shouts louder than the whisperings of the Holy Ghost."

While normally associated with wealthy and learned people, pride is a common fault among those below looking up, President Benson said.

"It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous," he said.

President Benson said self-esteem comes from fearing God's judgment more than the judgment of men. He urged church members to be humble, meek and submissive.

"Think of the repentance that could take place with lives changed, marriages preserved and homes strengthened if pride did not keep us from confessing our sins and forsaking them," President Benson said. "Think of the many who are less active members of the church because they were offended and their pride will not allow them to forgive or fully sup at the Lord's table."

If its members forsake pride, the LDS Church will see many more young men and women serve full-time missions and more work being done in the church's temples President Benson said church members should humble themselves by forgiving others, performing selfless acts, confessing and forsaking sins, serving missions and performing sacred ordinances in temples.

President Hunter

-Miracles should lead to greater faith and humility and should not be discounted because they are not understood by the scientific mind, said President Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve.

President Hunter said miracles abound in everyday life and are not always thought of as such.

"It is most remarkable to witness one who is deaf made to hear again, but surely that great blessing is no more startling than the wondrous combination of bones and skin and nerves that let our ears receive the beautiful world of sound," he said. "Should we not stand in awe of the blessing of hearing and give glory to God for that miracle, even as we do when hearing is restored after it has been lost?"

President Hunter, 81, had been confined to a wheelchair for more than a year. However, he walked to the lectern Saturday using a walker. Although he fell midway through his talk, he was helped up almost immediately and then continued speaking as though nothing had happened.

"All who have witnessed him (President Hunter) coming to the podium have witnessed a miracle," President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, said after President Hunter's talk.

Then, referring to President Hunter's quick recovery during his talk, President Monson said, "Perhaps not one miracle, but two."

President Hunter said life, limb, sight and speech are the greatest miracles of all. "There will always be plenty of miracles if we have eyes to see and ears to hear."

He quoted Elder James E. Talmage, a scientist and member of the Council of the Twelve in the early 1900s, as to how unexplained miracles should be perceived.

"Science and the unaided human mind, he said, have not advanced far enough to analyze and explain these wonders," President Hunter said. "But, he (Elder Talmage) cautioned to deny the reality of miracles on the grounds that the results and manifestations must be fictitious simply because we cannot comprehend the means by which they have happened is arrogant on the face of it."

President Hunter cited scriptures showing how Jesus Christ was ridiculed after restoring the sight of a blind man. He urged church members to be more humble, grateful, kind and believing because of the miracles in their lives.

"When we are personal witnesses to these wonders which God performs, it should increase our respect and our love for him. It should improve the way we behave," he said.

"We are miracles in our own right, every one of us, and the resurrected son of God is the greatest miracle of all," President Hunter said. "He is, indeed, the miracle of miracles, and every day of his life he gave evidence of it. We should try to follow after him in that example."

Elder Perry

-Church members should be better prepared to do missionary work and should not worry about offending their friends by sharing the gospel, said Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve.

Elder Perry cited three gospel messages that are appealing to non-members and urged LDS Church members to be more prepared to discuss those messages.

The first message concerns the meaning of life, which is explained in the gospel of Jesus Christ, he said.

"The main purpose of Earth life is to allow our spirits, which existed before the world was, to be united with our bodies for a time of great opportunity in mortality," Elder Perry said. "The association of the two together has given us the privilege of growing, developing and maturing as only we can with spirit and body united.

"With our bodies, we pass through a certain amount of trial in what is termed a probationary state of our existence. This is a time of learning and testing to prove ourselves worthy of eternal opportunities."

The second message is that families can be together eternally, Elder Perry said.

"Look around you and you will soon discover that the greatest joy in this life and the comforting hope for the eternities to come is found in the uniting of eternal family units," he said. "Whether we are married or single, we are a part of a family which can be eternal."

Elder Perry said the third message is the personal testimony that members of the church have that Jesus Christ is the Lord and savior.

"We abhor the doctrine that he (Jesus) is a myth or a creation of conspiring men in the world," Elder Perry said. "We denounce the fact that he was just a great teacher. We testify of the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, that he is the son of God, the savior of the world."

He urged members to study and use the Book of Mormon as a testimony of the divinity of Christ.

Elder Perry said church members should not worry about offending non-member friends, but should develop meaningful, caring relationships with them.

Elder Wirthlin

-Parents should instill a strong work ethic in their children, but this can only happen if parents know where their children are and monitor their television viewing habits and other behavior, said Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Council of the Twelve.

"I have heard of parents who travel extensively for pleasure, leaving their young teenage children without parental protection for extended periods," he said. "Unprotected children can indulge in a little sin without realizing the possible consequences in sorrow and disappointment."

Elder Wirthlin urged church members to send their "roots deep into the soil of the gospel."

He said young people should learn that all sins come from the devil. "Too many of our young people have the idea that limited sin is not really wrong because it will be forgiven easily with no consequences."

He said no sin is unimportant.

"We ask our young people who will be approaching marriage within a few years to think of their own unborn children. Think of what these spirits would ask you to do in your life if they could speak to you now."

Elder Wirthlin said the increasing abundance of television programs portraying sin and evil as normal and desirable is evidence of a society that appears to be choosing evil over good.

"Viewers set the standards for television broadcasting," Elder Wirthlin said. "The networks and stations broadcast the types of programs that most of the people want to see.

"If television-viewing choices serve as a valid measure of our society, they who choose evil surely are more numerous than they who choose good."

Elder Wirthlin also urged church members to develop faith; the courage to follow prophets; the charity Christ displayed; love, harmony and unity in families; and testimonies of the divinity of the gospel.

Elder Pinnock

-Church members should assume responsibility for their own actions and stop blaming others for things that are wrong, said Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

He said all members should realize that they must one day stand alone to be judged by Christ according to their actions.

"It is entirely appropriate to depend upon others for some of what we need," Elder Pinnock said. "There is no substitute for loving and supportive parents, priesthood and auxiliary leaders, skilled doctors, dedicated teachers and expert auto mechanics. This is not wrong. What is wrong is expecting others to do what we can and should do for ourselves."

He said missionaries cannot rightfully say they brought people into the church, nor can other members say they brought less active members back to full participation. The people who were baptized or came back into activity must assume responsibility for their actions.

Elder Pinnock urged church members to help others, but not to perform tasks that people could be doing for themselves.

"Think of the days, weeks, even months and years wasted by a person waiting for someone else to assume responsibility for their needs," he said. "It simply cannot be. God, in his heaven, will not do for us what we can and should do for ourselves."