It is wrong to assume that Mormons who leave the faith "have been offended or lazy or sinful," a top leader told members Saturday during the LDS Church’s 183rd Semiannual General Conference.
"It is not that simple," said Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the LDS Church’s governing First Presidency.
Some struggle with "unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past," Uchtdorf explained. "We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of church history — along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable and divine events — there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question."
"To be perfectly frank," Uchtdorf said, "there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine."
God is perfect and his doctrine is pure, he said, but human beings — including LDS leaders — are not.
LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson opened the conference by announcing that global Mormon membership has reached 15 million.
Speaking from the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City before 20,000 Mormons and to millions more worldwide via telecasts and the Internet, Monson also reported that the number of LDS missionaries has skyrocketed — in the year since he announced lower ages for missionary service — from 58,500 then to 80,333 today. That’s a 37 percent jump.
"Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto him," said the 86-year-old leader. "He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and he will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill his work."
Monson, considered a "prophet, seer and revelator" by members of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also noted his request for members to contribute to various missionary funds to help support the growing proselytizing force and urged continued donations.
"I thank you for your generous contributions," he said. "The need for help is ongoing, that we might continue to assist those whose desire to serve is great but who do not, by themselves, have the means to do so."
Mormon men now can serve missions at age 18 (down from 19) and women at age 19 (down from 21).
Other speakers Saturday took up timely topics such as the role of women and how to cope with mental illness as well as perennial subjects like the need for missionary work and the importance of scripture reading.
In the afternoon, LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland tackled a difficult issue: "major depressive disorder," commonly called depression.
"I am not speaking of bad hair days, tax deadlines or other discouraging moments we all have," Holland said. "I am speaking of something more serious, of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively."
The apostle acknowledged that he suffered from depression himself as a young father.
"When financial fears collided with staggering fatigue, I took a psychic blow that was as unanticipated as it was real," Holland said. "With the grace of God and the love of my family, I kept functioning and kept working, but even after all these years, I continue to feel a deep sympathy for others more chronically or more deeply afflicted with such gloom than I was."
He mentioned Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and the eighth LDS Church president, George Albert Smith, who suffered from recurring depression for years as an apostle.
Holland encouraged members with depression to get professional help.
" ... If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So, too, with emotional disorders," he said. "Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts he has provided in this glorious dispensation."
Those suffering should not consider suicide, Holland pleaded. "Whatever your struggle — mental or emotional or physical or otherwise — don’t vote against the preciousness of life by ending it. ... Trust in God. Hold on to his love."
The rest of us, he said, "can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental and kind."Next Page >
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