Mormon leaders laud ‘traditional families,’ warn against ‘counterfeit’ lifestyles

First Published      Last Updated Mar 22 2017 02:45 pm

General Conference » Speakers point to man-woman marriage as the “ideal” — Monson skips welcoming remarks.

Speaker after Mormon speaker warned Saturday about the need to defend "traditional families" — a legally married mother and father, who rear their children together — and about the dangers of "counterfeit and alternative lifestyles."

"Strong traditional families are not only the basic units of a stable society, a stable economy and a stable culture of values," LDS apostle L. Tom Perry said in the morning session of the faith's 185th Annual General Conference, "but ... they are also the basic units of eternity, and of the kingdom and government of God."

Perry, who at age 92 is the oldest Mormon apostle, lamented the media's glorification of "immorality and amorality," suggesting that it makes it harder to keep marriages and families intact.

"Despite what much of media and entertainment outlets may suggest, however, and despite the very real decline in the marriage and family orientation of some," he said, "the solid majority of mankind still believes that marriage should be between one man and one woman."

The drumbeat for "traditional families" comes in the wake of the increasing legalization of same-sex marriage — in Utah, most U.S. states and many other nations.

LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, who is 87, skipped his customary welcoming remarks Saturday morning as part of an effort to limit his public addresses this weekend.

Monson was present and presided at all three Saturday sessions, occasionally waving to onlookers and friends in the audience before and after the meetings.

"President Monson has chosen to reduce the number of talks he will deliver this conference," church spokesman Dale Jones said in a news release. "Over the years various formats have been used in General Conference programs."

Instead, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Monson's second counselor, greeted the 20,000 Mormons assembled in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City and millions more listening and watching across the globe.

This spring's General Conference officially started last Saturday with the General Women's meeting, which for the first time was designated the first session of the twice-yearly gatherings.

Perry began his address by describing the LDS Church's involvement with last fall's Colloquium on Marriage and Family, which Pope Francis convened at the Vatican and included representatives from 14 faiths.

"It was remarkable for me to see how marriage and family-centered priorities cut across and superseded any political, economic or religious differences," Perry said. "When it comes to love of spouse and hopes, worries and dreams for children, we are all the same."

But Mormons alone have "an eternal perspective" on marriage, Perry said. "We take the commitment and the sanctity of marriage to a greater level because of our belief and understanding that families go back to before this Earth was, and that they can go forward into eternity."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hopes to be "a leader and a participant in worldwide movements" to strengthen marriage and families, he said. " ... We want our voice to be heard against all of the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God himself established."

Other conference speakers also zeroed in on marriage and family.

"The end of all activity in the church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home and sealed together for time and for all eternity," said Boyd K. Packer, the 90-year-old president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and next in line for the Mormon presidency.

"The desire to mate in humankind is constant and very strong. Our happiness in mortal life, our joy and exaltation, are dependent upon how we respond to these persistent, compelling physical desires," said Packer, who spoke from his seat — as has been his routine in recent years — with some difficulty. " ... Pure love presupposes that only after a pledge of eternal fidelity, a legal and a lawful ceremony, and ideally after the sealing ordinance in the temple, are those procreative powers released in God's eye for the full expression of love. It is to be shared only and solely with that one who is your companion forever."

Packer also praised Donna Smith Packer, his wife of nearly 70 years, and spoke fondly of mature marriages that have stood the test of decades.

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Mormonism by the numbers

Members » 15,372,337

Converts (in 2014) » 296,803

Full-time missionaries » 85,147

Church-service missionaries » 30,404

Wards and branches » 29,621

Stakes » 3,114

Missions » 406

Operating temples » 144

Source: Statistical report from LDS First Presidency as of Dec. 31, 2014