Showing love toward others is the essence of the gospel and follows Jesus Christ’s example, LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson said Sunday during the Utah-based faith’s 184th Annual General Conference.
"Beyond comprehension, my brothers and sisters, is the love of God for us," Monson said. "Because of this love, he sent his son, who loved us enough to give his life for us that we might have eternal life. As we come to understand this incomparable gift, our hearts will be filled with love."
Updated LDS missionary stats
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released updated statistics (through March 31) on its missionary force:
Total missionaries serving » 85,039
Number who have received calls » 14,375
Percentage who are “elders” » 64 percent
Percentage who are “sisters” » 28 percent
Percentage who are “seniors” » 8 percent
Considered a "prophet, seer and revelator" by Mormons, the 86-year-old LDS leader urged church members to "begin now, this very day, to express love to all of God’s children, whether they be our family members, our friends, mere acquaintances or total strangers."
It was among many talks urging Latter-day Saints to follow God in sometimes difficult ways — from being grateful in adversity to inviting others to listen to Mormon missionaries at least four times a year.
"Love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our exemplar," Monson told 20,000 people in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City and millions more watching worldwide. "His life was a legacy of love. The sick he healed, the downtrodden he lifted, the sinner he saved," and even forgave those who crucified him.
He advised members that love should be "the very heart of family life and yet ofttimes it is not. There can be too much impatience, too much arguing, too many fights, too many tears."
Monson said "forgiveness should go hand in hand with love," adding that "blame keeps wounds open. Only forgiveness heals."
Senior apostle Boyd K. Packer, next in line for the church’s presidency, shared a testimony of what he has "learned and experienced in nearly 90 years of life and over 50 years as a [Mormon] general authority," including knowing for sure that Jesus Christ lives — and that everyone can learn that.
He noted that Mormon church founder Joseph Smith and a counselor, Sidney Rigdon, once wrote that they know that Christ lives, for they saw him.
"Their words are my words," Packer said. "I believe and I am sure that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. ... I know the Lord. I am his witness. I know of his great sacrifice and eternal love for all of Heavenly Father’s children. I bear my special witness in all humility but with absolute certainty."
The ailing 89-year-old leader, who heads the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke while seated in a chair — as has been his custom in recent years. He attended only the Sunday afternoon meeting. A church spokesman said Saturday that Packer likely watched the other sessions at home to preserve his energy for when he would be speaking.
Similar to Packer’s testimony, apostle D. Todd Christofferson said Christ’s resurrection shows he is more than a philosopher or prophet —that he is divine.
"Did the Lord in reality die and rise again? Yes," he said. "I stand myself as a witness."
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Monson’s second counselor in the governing First Presidency, offered an unexpected solution to bitterness and sorrow that may come in life: gratitude.
"I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives," he said. "There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, even joyful, even glorious. We can be grateful."
He added, "Those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace and understanding."
He said being grateful is even a commandment, given, like all commandments, to make blessings available to those who live them.
"We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved," Uchtdorf said, "but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?"
He added that prophets — from Job in the Bible to Nephi in the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith in modern times — wrote of being grateful to God and his blessings even when they were suffering — and early LDS pioneers sang and danced to lift spirits in the middle of tough times.
"Your testimony of Christ, born of the Holy Ghost, can help you look past the disappointing endings in mortality and see the bright future that the redeemer of the world has prepared," he said. "A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues."
Apostle M. Russell Ballard later challenged members to replace "fear with real faith" by inviting someone at least once a quarter — four times a year — to be taught by full-time Mormon missionaries.Next Page >
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