SALT LAKE CITY — LDS leaders added more diversity in church leadership to a church with 16.1 million members worldwide, announced a new Young Women general presidency and delivered messages on meekness and sacrifice during the Saturday afternoon session of the faith's 188th Semiannual General Conference.
President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, announced a new Young Women general presidency, five new members of the Presidency of the Seventy and eight new General Authority Seventies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
After the announcements, six speakers also asked church members to engage in temple work and encourage and help Young Women to contribute.
After the first Asian-American and first Latin American apostles, Elders Gerrit W. Gong and Ulisses Soares, took their places in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the morning session, leaders announced five new members of the Presidency of the Seventy in the afternoon.
Three of them are from outside the United States — Elder Terence M. Vinson of Australia, Elder José A. Teixeira of Portugal and Elder Carlos A. Godoy of Brazil.
Two Americans, Elder Carl B. Cook and Elder Robert C. Gay immediately replace Elder Gong and Elder Soares in the Presidency of the Seventy.
Elders Vinson, Teixeira and Godoy will replace Elders Craig C. Christensen, Lynn G. Robbins and Juan A. Uceda effective Aug. 1.
Eight new general authorities were called — Elders Steven R. Bangerter, Matthew L. Carpenter, Jack N. Gerard, Mathias Held of Colombia, David P. Homer, Kyle S. McKay, Juan Pablo Villar of Chile and Takashi Wada of Japan.
President Oaks said the additional callings announced Saturday afternoon brought the number of LDS general authorities to 116, with nearly 40 percent born outside the United States.
Sister Bonnie H. Cordon was called and sustained as the new general president of the church’s Young Women auxiliary, with Sisters Michelle D. Craig and Becky Craven as first and second counselor, respectively. Sister Cordon had been serving as the first counselor in the Primary general presidency. Sister Lisa Harkness is the new first counselor in the Primary general presidency.
After the callings, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged church members to seek the Christ-like quality of meekness, calling it an essential quality that all people should strive to incorporate in their lives because the prophet Mormon identified it "as the foundation from which all spiritual capacities and gifts arise."
"Meekness is a defining attribute of the Redeemer," Elder Bednar said, "and is distinguished by righteous responsiveness, willing submissiveness and strong self-restraint."
He said meekness attenuates arrogance and is strong, active, courageous, restrained, modest and gracious. "A meek person is not easily provoked, pretentious, or overbearing and readily acknowledges the accomplishments of others," he added.
The meek have a settled, calm demeanor and are empowered by the spirit with disciplined self-restraint. They also are spiritually mature and awake, obedient and compassionate.
He said President Nelson and President Eyring modeled meekness, and their willingness to follow a prophet, with their immediate and heartfelt responses to President Monson’s final general conference message a year ago, when he called on church members to study, ponder and apply the truths of the Book of Mormon.
"Meekness is strong, not weak," he said. "Active, not passive; courageous, not timid; restrained, not excessive; modest, not self-aggrandizing; and gracious, not brash. A meek person is not easily provoked, pretentious or overbearing and readily acknowledges the accomplishments of others."
He said believers can develop meekness through desire, the righteous exercise of moral agency and striving to retain a remission of sins. He promised those who sought to become meek would have God to guide, protect and walk with them.
A woman's leader asked Mormons to help all members contribute to the work of the church and feel valuable, especially the Young Women.
Teenage Mormon girls have much to contribute to the church and should feel like the valuable resources they are, said Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, who was released at the start of the session after five years of leading the church’s international Young Woman organization.
"Every young woman in the church should feel valued, have opportunities to serve and feel that she has something of worth to contribute to this work," she said, adding that they are "equally needed and essential in accomplishing the work of the Lord in their families and in his church" as the Young Men who are Aaronic Priesthood holders.
She said each church member should know how much he or she is needed.
"Each person has something important to contribute and has unique talents and abilities that help move this important work along. Our young men have Aaronic Priesthood duties described in the Doctrine and Covenants that are rather visible. It may be less obvious to the young women of the church, their parents and their leaders that, from the time they are baptized, young women have covenant responsibilities ‘to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that (they) may be in, even until death.'"
Ward councils and others should see teenage Mormon girls as valuable resources they can call on for help, Sister Oscarson added.
"Our young women can be called upon to provide service and minister to the needs of ward members with their mothers or other exemplary sisters,” she said. “They are capable, eager, and willing to do so much more than merely attend church on Sundays!"
Helping the Young Women help in the work of the church can prepare them for their futures, too, she said.
"As we consider the roles that our young women will be expected to assume in the near future, we might ask ourselves what kind of experiences we could provide for them now that will help with their preparation to be missionaries, gospel scholars, leaders in the church auxiliaries, temple workers, wives, mothers, mentors, examples and friends."
She also called on young women to step forward.
"I encourage you young women to raise your hands to volunteer and to put those hands to work when you see needs around you," she said. "As you fulfill your covenant responsibilities and participate in building the kingdom of God, blessings will flow into your life and you'll discover the deep and lasting joy of discipleship."
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve encouraged Mormons to participate in family history and temple work in one of the faith’s 159 temples. He said performing ordinances for the dead heals God’s children on earth.
"As church members, we do have a divinely appointed responsibility to seek out our ancestors and compile family histories," he said. "This is far more than an encouraged hobby because the ordinances of salvation are necessary for all of God’s children."
A member of the faith’s temple and family history executive council, Elder Renlund said Mormons are to identify their own ancestors, perform vicariously for them the saving ordinances they didn’t receive in life, and then their ancestors may choose to accept those ordinances.
He shared 11 healing blessings he said flow from temple work, though he said that when members do God’s work and are blessed, the blessing may not be the one they expect.
"It is breathtakingly amazing that, through family history and temple work, we can help to redeem the dead,” he said. “But, as we participate in family history and temple work today, we also lay claim to ‘healing’ blessings promised by prophets and apostles."
The 11 blessings he listed are:
- "increased understanding of the Savior and His atoning sacrifice;
- "increased influence of the Holy Ghost to feel strength and direction for our own lives;
- "increased faith, so that conversion to the Savior becomes deep and abiding;
- "increased ability and motivation to learn and repent, because of an understanding of who we are, where we come from and a clearer vision of where we are going;
- "increased refining, sanctifying and moderating influences in our hearts;
- "increased joy through an increased ability to feel the love of the Lord;
- "increased family blessings, no matter our current, past or future family situation or how imperfect our family tree may be;
- "increased love and appreciation for ancestors and living relatives, so we no longer feel alone;
- "increased power to discern that which needs healing and thus, with the Lord’s help, serve others;
- "increased protection from temptations and the intensifying influence of the adversary;
- "and increased assistance to mend troubled, broken, or anxious hearts and make the wounded whole."
Elder Taylor G. Godoy, a General Authority Seventy from Peru, suggested three ways sacrifice can be the key to successful, meaningful days. First, personal sacrifice strengthens and gives value to that for which someone sacrifices. Second, all are blessed when one makes a sacrifice for another. Third, any sacrifice is small compared to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
"May we fill our days with that impulse and the strength that personal sacrifice and the sacrifice that we make or receive from others give us. And in a special way, may we enjoy the peace and rejoicing that the sacrifice of the Only Begotten offers us," he said.
Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, a General Authority Seventy from Fiji, also focused on saving ordinances.
"I promise that participating in ordinances and honoring the associated covenants will bring you marvelous light and protection in this ever-darkening world," he said.
Brother Devin G. Durrant, first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, said parents have a joyful and sacred responsibility to teach their children.
"We never stop being their parents. We never stop being their teachers. We are never released from these eternal callings," he said.
After President Oaks had announced the new callings and the church membership sustained them, a woman yelled three times from a corner of the balcony, "Stop protecting sexual predators." After the disruption, staff escorted her out of the Conference Center.
President Nelson is expected to speak multiple times during the conference, which includes one more session for priesthood holders today at 6 p.m. MDT at the 21,000-seat Conference Center across from Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.
Sunday sessions are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. MDT.
Those interested can watch the conference live on DeseretNews.com, which also will provide summaries of each of conference talks soon after they end and news coverage of the conference throughout both days.
Deseret News reporters and web producers will be live tweeting through all conference sessions using the hashtag #ldsconf.6 comments on this story
The 188th Annual General Conference convenes at the end of a week in which church leaders reinforced their denunciations of all forms of abuse, changed church policies about bishopric and stake president interviews, donated $1 million to ease hunger in Africa and announced the open house and dedication dates for the highly anticipated Rome Italy Temple.
After the conference, the approximately three dozen messages from church leaders will be available on demand on LDS.org, the general conference YouTube channel and the Gospel Library app in more than 80 languages.