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Mormon apostles speak out on bullying, bigotry, slurs and guns

First Published      Last Updated Apr 08 2017 07:32 pm


Holland, others condemn bigotry; Monson’s chair vacant in afternoon, but he addresses priesthood session.

During a time of jarring political polarity and town hall meetings marred by shouts and boos, several top Mormon officials Saturday strongly condemned hostility and hatred as anathema to Christian discipleship.

"Someday I hope a great global chorus will harmonize across all racial and ethnic lines," apostle Jeffrey R. Holland said, "declaring that guns, slurs and vitriol are not the way to deal with human conflict."

Holland was among more than a dozen speakers who addressed tens of thousands of Mormons in downtown Salt Lake City and millions more around the world, tuned into the LDS Church's 187th Annual General Conference.




One voice the faithful didn't hear during the morning and afternoon sessions was that of LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson. The increasingly frail 89-year-old leader presided over the morning gathering after being helped to his seat.

In the afternoon, that chair — between Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf, his two counselors in the governing First Presidency — sat noticeably vacant.

A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Monson, viewed by Mormons as a "prophet, seer and revelator," was "conserving his energy" for the remainder of the weekend's sessions.

Monson has led the 15.8 million-member church for more than nine years; Mormon presidents serve for life.

Two years ago, the Utah-based religion announced Monson was "feeling the effects of advancing age." Since then, the longtime LDS leader, who also didn't attend last Saturday's women's meeting, has been scaling back his conference sermons.

Other speakers had no trouble preaching with passion about current ills.

"Economic deprivation is a curse that keeps on cursing, year after year and generation after generation. It damages bodies, maims spirits, harms families, and destroys dreams," Holland said, decrying poverty and lamenting that "so many around us suffer from mental and emotional illness or other debilitating health limitations."

The former president of LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University pleaded with members to stay in the faith's expanding fold.

"There is room for those who speak different languages, celebrate diverse cultures, and live in a host of locations. There is room for the single, the married, for large families and for the childless," he said. "There is room for those who once had questions regarding their faith and room for those who still do. There is room for those with differing sexual attractions."

In short, Holland proclaimed, "there is a place for everyone who loves God."

Fellow apostle Robert D. Hales said as Latter-day Saints follow Christ, "there will be no disparity between the kindness we show our enemies and the kindness we bestow on our friends. We will be as honest when no one is looking at us as when others are watching. We will be as devoted to God in the public square as we are in our private closet."

Like the parable of the good Samaritan, true believers "cross the road to minister to whomever is in need, even if they are not within the circle of our friends," Hales said. "We bless them that curse us. We do good to those who despitefully use us. Is any attribute more godly or Christlike?"

In the morning, apostle Dale G. Renlund cautioned Mormons against railing on opponents.

"We must guard against bigotry that raises its ugly voice toward those who hold different opinions. Bigotry manifests itself, in part, in unwillingness to grant equal freedom of expression," he said. "Everyone, including people of religion, has the right to express his or her opinions in the public square."

Renlund, a physician by training, spent his teen years in Europe in the 1960s, where he felt "picked on and bullied" as an American, he said, "as though I were personally responsible for unpopular foreign policies."

LDS Church by the numbers

Membership » 15,882,417

Converts in 2016 » 240,131

Full-time missionaries » 70,946

Wards, branches » 30,304

Operating temples » 155

Source: LDS Church, through 2016

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AT A GLANCE

LDS Church by the numbers

Membership » 15,882,417

Converts in 2016 » 240,131

Full-time missionaries » 70,946

Wards, branches » 30,304

Operating temples » 155

Source: LDS Church, through 2016


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