Contemporary society still takes seriously four of the Ten Commandments it abhors murder, stealing and lying and urges children to respect their parents but the other six are routinely dismissed, a Mormon apostle said Sunday.
Worldly priorities ("other gods") take precedence over God, L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles told more than 20,000 Mormons in the giant Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City and millions more watching the 183rd Annual General Conference around the world.
Celebrities, lifestyles and wealth have become modern idols, Perry said. God's name is routinely profaned and the sabbath day has become the time for sports, recreation and shopping. Sexual relations outside of marriage and coveting have become ways of life.
The main consequence of these attitudes, he said, is the deterioration of families, which, in turn is damaging society.
"For man to substitute his own rules for the laws of God on either end of life is the height of presumption and the depth of sin," Perry said. "The world changes constantly and dramatically, but God, his commandments and promised blessings do not change. They are immutable and unchanging."
Mormons must not "pick and choose" which divine commandments to obey, he said, but must "stand firm and steadfast, having perfect confidence in the Lord's consistency and perfect trust in his promises."
Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the faith's Relief Society general presidency, offered the invocation for the Sunday afternoon session, becoming the second woman in LDS history to pray at General Conference.
On Saturday, Jean A. Stevens, first counselor in the church's Primary general presidency, gave the historic first prayer.
In closing remarks Sunday, President Thomas S. Monson, the faith's 85-year-old "prophet, seer and revelator," admonished Mormons to "be good citizens of the nations in which you live and good neighbors in your communities, reaching out to those of other faiths as well as to our own."
Latter-day Saints should be "tolerant of, as well as kind and loving to, those who do not share our beliefs and our standards," Monson said. "The Savior brought to this Earth a message of love and good will to all men and women."
Earlier Sunday, apostle Jeffrey R. Holland discussed the relationship between doubt and faith.
"The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue," he said. "It is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know."
Holland urged those who struggle not to start with what they don't believe, but what they do.
"I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have," he said. "Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don't let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle."
The apostle suggested that such members build their faith on how the church has helped millions of people.
"This is a divine work in process with the manifestation and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so don't hyperventilate if, from time to time, issues arise that need to be examined, understood and resolved," Holland said. "They do and they will. In this church what we know will always trump what we do not know."
Fellow apostle Dallin H. Oaks warned Mormons about being too worldly.
Some want the "praise of men" more than they want to emulate Jesus, Oaks said. Their failures to follow Christ range all the way "from worldly practices like political correctness and extremes in dress and grooming to deviations from basic values like the eternal nature and function of the family."
Other Sunday speakers discussed missionary work, male-female equality in marriage, and transcending trials. Several mentioned the use of social media for good or ill.
Apostle Neil L. Andersen spoke approvingly of members who share their faith online, on Facebook and Twitter even giving a shoutout to Boston bloggers who did so.
"Those who joined the church began their learning online, followed by discussions with the missionaries," Andersen said. "This experience also helped the youth have greater faith in talking about the gospel in person. One of them said: 'This isn't missionary work. This is missionary fun..' "
In successful marriages, husbands and wives treat one another as equal partners, said L. Whitney Clayton of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
They make decisions jointly, each partner a "full participant and entitled to an equal voice and vote."
Their relationship is based on cooperation, mutual respect and loyalty.
"Practices from any place or any time in which husbands have dominated wives or treated them in any way as second-class partners in marriage," Clayton said, "are not in keeping with divine law and should be replaced by correct principles and patterns of behavior."
Healthy marriage partners, he said, "turn off electronics and forgo personal entertainment in order to help with household duties."
And they have no secrets.
"They keep their social media use fully worthy in every way. They permit themselves no secret Internet experiences. They freely share with each other their social-network passwords," Clayton said. "They do not look at the virtual profiles of anyone in any way that might betray the sacred trust of their spouses. They never do or say anything that approaches the appearance of impropriety, either virtually or physically."
God wants believers to use "persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned," said Enrique R. Falabella, a member of the Seventy from Guatemala.
It is not enough to preach about these attributes, Falabella said, Mormons must live them.
Physical abuse in various societies may be declining, he said, but emotional abuse is not.
"The harm caused by this form of abuse dwells in our memory, it wounds our personality, it sows hatred in our hearts, it lowers our self-esteem, and it fills us with fear."
Anyone who strives to follow Christ's principles would "give comfort to those who suffer," Falabella said. "They bring joy to those who are depressed, direction to those who are lost, peace to those who are distressed and a sure guidance to those who seek the truth."
Join us live online today at sltrib.com at 12:30 p.m. for a Trib Talk video chat about news out of the semiannual gathering of LDS faithful. The Salt Lake Tribune's Jennifer Napier-Pearce will lead the discussion in which religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack, a representative of Let Women Pray in General Conference and others will participate. The group will take questions during the chat, which will last about 45 minutes.