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Mormon leader Monson preaches love in brief sermon; counselor Uchtdorf cautions about seeking worldly praise

First Published      Last Updated May 30 2017 09:33 pm

Priesthood session » Church president delivers first sermon of the evening, while Dieter Uchtdorf calls on the faithful to show humility.

The soft, strained tone differed from the lilting voice Mormons had grown used to from their prophet-leader through the years, but the encouraging tune was oh-so familiar.

Kindness, charity, love — that's what 89-year-old LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson preached from the pulpit Saturday night in his first address of the faith's 187th Annual General Conference.

His remarks to the all-male priesthood of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lasted just shy of four minutes and harked back to an earlier theme for the longtime general authority, who has been in the top echelons of the Mormon hierarchy for more than five decades.

"Brethren, we do not honor the priesthood of God if we are not kind to others," he told the crowd of men and boys in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

He asked his listeners to self-reflect, and put themselves in a better position to "call down the powers of heaven for ourselves, for our families and for our fellow travelers in this sometimes difficult journey back to our heavenly home."

The increasingly frail Monson delivered the first sermon of the priesthood session. Traditionally, the church president gives the final talk of that meeting.

Viewed by Mormons as a "prophet, seer and revelator," Monson attended the Saturday morning session, but did not go to the afternoon meeting, choosing to conserve his strength for the rest of the conference, which concludes Sunday.

He quoted verses from the faith's foundational scripture, the Book of Mormon, regarding the principle of Christlike love: "If ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth."

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Monson's second counselor in the governing First Presidency, spoke of humility and gratitude in service while cautioning LDS leaders of every rank and stripe about how they wield their authority.

"There is nothing wrong with wanting to serve the Lord," he said, "but when we seek to gain influence in the church for our own sake — in order to receive the praise and admiration of men — we have our reward."

Uchtdorf recalled words he'd been told as a new general authority by the late LDS apostle James E. Faust about the relationship between Mormons and their leaders with lofty positions.

Members treat LDS authorities kindly and say nice things about them, Faust told his younger charge, but added, after a pause, "Dieter, always be thankful for this, but don't you ever inhale it."

Church leadership, Uchtdorf said, is "not so much about directing others as it is about our willingness to be directed by God."

He paraphrased Jesus' words to James and John, two "rough-around-the-edges" apostles in the Bible. Uchtdorf said Christ essentially reminded those "Sons of Thunder" that "you can't get honor in the kingdom of heaven by campaigning for it. Nor can you power-lunch your way to eternal glory."

The LDS leader urged his listeners to love all God's children "regardless of their socioeconomic circumstance, race, language, political orientation or nationality."

Monson's first counselor, Henry B. Eyring, encouraged Mormon priesthood holders to see others as "clean, bright, noble" children of God.

Eyring called the priesthood a spiritual gift through which Mormon boys and men can serve others.

He said God "notices and will support" those who try to do his will. Heaven's work is "not just to solve problems; it is to build people," Eyring said, adding that priesthood service "will change the way you look at others."

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