SALT LAKE CITY — The announcement of three new temples and a call for Mormons everywhere to plan and participate in a "Day of Service" highlighted Saturday's first day of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 181st Annual General Conference.
A total of 19 talks were given during Saturday's three sessions at the LDS Conference Center — the morning and afternoon general sessions and the evening priesthood session for males ages 12 and older.
The speakers included all three members of the church's First Presidency and seven members of the Quorum of the Twelve, individuals the Latter-day Saints revere as prophets, seers and revelators.
President Thomas S. Monson opened the morning session by announcing new temples in Fort Collins, Colo., Meridian, Idaho; and Winnipeg, Canada.
He also recapped LDS humanitarian efforts in Japan following its recent catastrophes, encouraged donations to the church's general missionary fund and expressed appreciation to Latter-day Saints for their faithfulness, service, devotion and donations.
With his concluding priesthood-session address serving as the day's bookend, President Monson emphasized the importance of personal worthiness, righteous conduct, repentance, the importance of marriage and maintaining marriage commitments.
"It is up to each of us who holds the priesthood of God to discipline ourselves so that we stand above the ways of the world. It is essential, however, that we be honorable and decent men. Our actions must be above reproach. The words we speak, the way we treat others and the way we live our lives all impact our effectiveness as men and boys holding the priesthood."
In the morning session, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, related past and current expressions of welfare and charity in the face of devastation and despair.
Noting the 75th anniversary of the church's welfare program, President Eyring called for members worldwide to participate in a day of service.
He offered three suggestions:
"First, prepare yourself spiritually …
"Choose as recipients of your service people whose needs will touch the hearts of those who will give the service …
"Plan to draw on the power of the bonds of families, of quorums, of auxiliary organizations and people you know in your communities."
Exclaiming "our LDS women are incredible," Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve encouraged Mormon women to keep in mind two principles as they prayerfully consider the choices they make and how those choices affect marriage and family.
"First, no woman should ever feel the need to apologize or to feel that her contribution is less significant because she is devoting her primary efforts to raising and nurturing children. Nothing could be more significant in our Father in Heaven's plan," he said.
"Second, we should all be careful not to be judgmental or assume that sisters are less valiant if the decision is made to work outside the home. We rarely understand or fully appreciate people's circumstances. Husband and wives should prayerfully counsel together, understanding they are accountable to God for their decisions."
Also Saturday morning, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke of the importance of Sabbath patterns, including worship, sacrifice and sacrament.
"As we consider the pattern of the Sabbath and sacrament in our lives, there appear to be three things the Lord requires of us," he said. "First, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. Second, to go to the house of prayer and offer up our sacraments. And third, to rest from our labors."
The afternoon session featured four members of the Quorum of the Twelve — President Boyd K. Packer and Elders Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks and M. Russell Ballard.
President Packer spoke of the importance of being guided by the Holy Spirit and the value of forgiving others. Mindful of the outside use of "Mormon" to describe the church, its members, doctrines and practices, he emphasized the church's full, revealed name — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — and the central role of the Savior in the church's name and beliefs.
"The world will refer to us as they will, but in our speech always remember that we belong to The Church of Jesus Christ," he said. "Some claim we are not Christians. They either do not know us at all or they misunderstand."
Elder Nelson called on LDS members to face the future with faith. "All that the future holds in store for each sacred child of God will be shaped by his or her parents, family, friends and teachers," he said. "Thus, our faith now becomes part of our posterity's faith later."
He suggested teaching faith in God's plan of salvation, in keeping the commandments in order to receiving blessings and joy, and in knowing that obedience provides physical and spiritual protection.
Elder Oaks spoke of desire and putting the things of eternal importance ahead of the desires of the world and to not put as our highest priorities "the worldly quartet of property, prominence, pride and power."
He added: "Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving and our becoming."
And joy in serving was Elder Ballard's theme, including serving in the home, church, community and mission field.
"Great things are wrought through small and simple things," he said. "Like the small flecks of gold that accumulate over time into a large treasure, our small and simple acts of kindness and service will accumulate into a life filled with love for Heavenly Father, devotion to the world of the Lord Jesus Christ and a sense of peace and joy each time we reach out to one another."
Just as President Monson spoke of priesthood power in the evening session, his two counselors echoed similar themes.
President Eyring likened growth in the priesthood as an opportunity of learning.
"If you will be diligent and obedient in the priesthood, treasures of spiritual knowledge will be poured out upon you," he said. "You will grow in your power to resist evil and to proclaim the truth that leads to salvation. You will find joy in the happiness of those you lead toward exaltation. Your family will become a place of learning."
And President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, called on the men and young men to recognize and realize priesthood potential and privileges by seeking to learn the doctrine through scripture study, strengthening testimony by receiving spiritual revelation and finding joy in regular priesthood service.3 comments on this story
"As we do these things, we will begin to live up to our potential and privileges as priesthood holders, and we will be able to 'do all things through Christ which strengtheneth [us],' " he said.
Also, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve told of former New Zealand rugby star Sid Going — his past and current missionary efforts, his sacrifices and successes.
Elder Andersen reminded young men ages 12 to 25 of their opportunities and responsibilities, including missionary service. "Your mission will be a sacred opportunity to bring others to Christ and help prepare for the second coming of the Savior."