SALT LAKE CITY — Racism is morally wrong, a church leader said during the Saturday afternoon session of the LDS Church's global general conference.
Other leaders encouraged church members to follow absent church President Thomas S. Monson's counsel in his last talk to study the Book of Mormon each day, cautioned against spiritual eclipses and said repentance is always positive.
"Anyone who claims superiority under the Father’s plan because of characteristics like race, sex, nationality, language, or economic circumstances," said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve, "is morally wrong and does not understand the Lord’s true purpose for all of our Father’s children."
Elder Cook cautioned against pride and arrogance and drew a distinction between humility and a modern use of the term "authentic."
Christ's example of humility and sacrifice is "the most profound event in history," he said. "Unfortunately, in our day in almost every segment of society we see self-importance and arrogance flaunted while humility and accountability to God are denigrated. Much of society has lost its moorings and does not understand why we are on this earth. True humility, which is essential to achieve the Lord’s purpose for us, is seldom evident."
He said it is important to understand the scriptural descriptions of Christ’s humility, righteousness, character and intelligence.
"It is foolish to underestimate the necessity of continuously striving for these Christlike qualities and attributes on a day by day basis, particularly humility."
Then he addressed authenticity.
"In today’s world, there is an increased emphasis on pride, self-aggrandizement, and so-called 'authenticity' which sometimes leads to a lack of true humility," he said. "Some suggest the moral values for happiness today include: "be real, be strong, be productive — and most important, don’t rely on other people...because your fate is...in your own hands."
The scriptures advocate a different approach, he said. They suggest that discipleship establishes accountability to God and approaching life humbly.
"Some misuse ‘authentic’ as a celebration of the natural man and qualities that are the opposite of humility, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and civility," he said. "We can celebrate our individual uniqueness as children of God without using authenticity as an excuse for un-Christlike behavior."
He said humility is a sign of spiritual strength.
"Humility about who we are and God's purpose for us is essential," he said.
President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, said he has followed President Monson's counsel in his last conference talk to study the Book of Mormon each day.
He invited listeners — 20,000 in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City and millions via broadcast — to consider three questions.
"First, what would your life be like without the Book of Mormon? Second, what would you not know? And third, what would you not have?"
He said the Book of Mormon teaches about life after death and provides the fullest understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
"These and other truths are more powerfully and persuasively taught in the Book of Mormon than in any other book. The full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the Book of Mormon. Period."
He promised members that if they follow President Monson's counsel, they will receive answers and be immunized against "the evils of the day." He asked them to learn that it "is unequivocally the word of God. We must feel it so deeply that we would never want to live even one day without it."
Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve encouraged church members to put on the equivalent of gospel eclipse glasses.
"Don't let life’s distractions eclipse heaven’s light," he said.
Glasses with special filtered lenses allow viewers to avoid eclipse blindness during solar eclipses.
"In the same manner that the very small moon can block the magnificent sun, extinguishing its light and warmth, a spiritual eclipse can occur when we allow minor and troublesome obstructions — those we face in our daily lives — to get so close that they block out the magnitude, brightness, and warmth of the light of Jesus Christ and his gospel."
Pride and social media that distorts reality can cause spiritual eclipses, he said, blocking the brightness and warmth of the gospel. Pride, he added, is the opposite of humility, which he defined as a willingness to submit to the will of the Lord.
Significant events unfold in the gospel, the church and lives that do not happen by accident but by God’s plan, said Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve. Agency fits within this "divine design" because each has "a choice to follow or to not follow our Savior and his chosen leaders."
"When we are righteous, willing and able, when we are striving to be worthy and qualified, we progress to places we never imagined and become part of Heavenly Father’s 'divine design,'" he said.
He asked believers to recognize the divine design in their own lives.
"Think of those times, some daily, when the Lord has acted in your life — and then acted again," he said. "Treasure them as moments the Lord has shown confidence in you and in your choices. But allow Him to make more of you than you can make of yourself on your own. Treasure His involvement. Sometimes we consider changes in our plans as missteps on our journey. Think of them more as first steps to being on 'the Lord’s errand.'"
The church's Young Men general president, Brother Stephen W. Owen, taught that Christ's gift of repentance brings happiness, requires persistence, is for everyone and is a lifelong pursuit.
"My message to all," he said, "especially to the youth, is that repentance is always positive."
Elder O. Vincent Halek of the Seventy encouraged church members to develop “the widow’s heart.”
“The heart of the widow who gave her two mites is a heart that will give all by making sacrifices; by enduring hardships, persecution, and rejection; and by bearing burdens of many kinds. The heart of the widow is a heart that senses, feels and knows the light of truth and will give anything to embrace that truth. It also helps others to see that same light and come to the same measure of eternal happiness and joy. Finally, the heart of the widow is defined by a willingness to give all for building up the kingdom of God on the earth.”