Jesus, ancient prophets and, by extension, Mormon apostles, considered "prophets, seers and revelators" in the 15 million-member faith, are often unpopular because they have to tell uncomfortable truths and insist on upholding moral standards.
These modern LDS leaders "know full well that the road leading to the Promised Land, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ of necessity runs by way of Mount Sinai, flowing with ‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt nots,’ " Jeffrey R. Holland, of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles, said in the opening session of the church’s 184th Annual General Conference.
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We invite readers to send their tweets and photos from Temple Square this conference weekend to the hashtag #ldsban. The LDS Church has barred news photographers and reporters from the church-owned square in downtown Salt Lake City during the two-day gathering.
By the numbers by 2013’s end
Membership » 15,082,028
New children of record » 115,486
Converts » 282,945
Stakes » 3,050
Missions » 405
Wards, branches » 29,253
Full-time missionaries » 83,035
Service missionaries » 24,032
Operating temples in operation » 141*
* Temple in Gilbert, Ariz., last month became the 142nd operating temple.
LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson did not announce any new temples when ushering in Saturday morning’s session. But he noted that when all previously announced temples are completed, the Utah-based faith will have 170 such edifices throughout the world.
"We are a temple-building and a temple-attending people," the 86-year-old Monson said.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints see temples as houses of God, places where they take part in their faith’s highest sacraments, including eternal marriage.
Monson addressed more than 20,000 Latter-day Saints gathered in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City and millions more watching on television or online.
For the first time, the general women leaders of the church’s auxiliary organizations — Relief Society, Young Women and Primary — were seated among members of the Quorum of the Seventy. Usually, the women sit off to the right.
Controversy has arisen in the buildup to this two-day conference.
The group Ordain Women, pushing for female ordination to the Mormon priesthood, is again seeking standby tickets to Saturday night’s all-male meeting. LDS officials have already said they wouldn’t be accommodated and invited the women to watch the live broadcast of the priesthood session.
In addition, news reporters and photographers have been barred from Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. LDS officials hope to avoid a repeat of what happened last fall when media pictures showed women being turned away, one by one, as they sought tickets to the all-male priesthood meeting.
"We found the interaction between protesters and news media to be disruptive to the sacred atmosphere of Temple Square," a church spokesman said last week, "and do not wish to play host to similar circumstances again."
In Saturday’s sermons, several LDS leaders emphasized the importance of Mormons following their church leaders — even when their teachings may seem rigid.
"Unfortunately, messengers of divinely mandated commandments are often no more popular today than they were anciently," Holland said. And because their words at times seem harsh, LDS leaders are accused of being "provincial, patriarchal, bigoted, unkind, narrow, outmoded and elderly."
In contemporary society, "if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds," Holland said. "Talk about man creating God in his own image."
The apostle pointed to gospel teachings as divine and demanding, pointing out that Jesus said "not only should we not break commandments, but we should not even think about breaking them."
"And if we do think about breaking them," Holland continued, "we have already broken them in our heart. Does that sound like ‘comfortable’ doctrine, easy on the ear and popular down at the village love-in?"
Holland urged Latter-day Saints to "forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others."
Russell M. Nelson, also of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, echoed that thought.
"Political campaigns and marketing strategies widely employ public opinion polls to shape their plans. Results of those polls are informative. But they could hardly be used as grounds to justify disobedience to God’s commandments," Nelson said. "Evil, error and darkness will never be truth, even if popular. ... Immorality is still immorality in the eyes of God, who one day will judge all our deeds and desires."
Fellow apostle Robert D. Hales cautioned listeners against choosing which commandments to follow.
The commandment not to kill, he said, "is founded upon spiritual law that protects all of God’s children, even the unborn. ... Yet many believe it is acceptable to terminate the life of an unborn child for reasons of preference or convenience."Next Page >
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