lDS leader touts 15 million membership and missionary surge

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:50 PM2 comments

Antone Clark, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

SALT LAKE CITY — President Thomas S. Monson urged LDS Church members to engage in an ongoing missionary effort, even as he announced church membership worldwide has reached 15 million and the total number of missionaries has increased from 58,500 in October 2012 to 80,333 today.

Monson opened the church’s 183rd Semiannual General Conference on Saturday with a renewed call for church members to be involved in the accelerating missionary effort.

He did not announce any new policies or temple plans.

“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,” Monson said.

He also asked members to continue to donate to the missionary effort financially.

The first day of conference featured three two-hour sessions, including a session for boys and men in the early evening, which was available for the first time on television for all members.

The conference will conclude with two sessions today.

Talks ran the gamut on various topics from various leaders.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a counselor in the First Presidency, was frank about the church’s past and present in his address closing the morning session.

In asking why the church was growing, he addressed many who have left the faith, suggesting mistakes have been made by some leaders in the church. But he suggested the church’s doctrine is pure and God will not allow the church to drift from its appointed role in fulfilling its divine destiny.

“It’s natural to have questions — the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the church who at one time or another have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions,” Uchtdorf said.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, addressed the issue of women in the church in the afternoon session and slammed what he described as the “pernicious philosophy” that devalues the role of motherhood and homemaking as a career.

“Some feminist thinkers view homemaking with outright contempt, arguing it demeans women, and that the relentless demands of raising children are a form of exploitation,” he said.

“They ridicule what they call the ‘mommy track’ as a career. This is not fair or right.”

Christofferson said no temporal rewards will exceed the ultimate rewards of family.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, also of the Twelve, spoke of the battle with mental illness and depression. He shared a personal experience in battling depression and urged any members facing that challenge to not lose hope.

“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. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts he has provided in this glorious dispensation,” Holland said.

“Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed.”

Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, urged members to learn and partake of the blessings of tithing.

He stressed that people who faithfully pay one-tenth of their income to God enjoy significant but subtle blessings. He said many people expect immediate and dramatic blessings in giving but that the reward often comes in small things that are best discerned by the spiritually attentive and observant.

Bednar also stressed the simplicity of God’s way of finance. He said the church lives within its means and does not spend more than it receives.

He said it also sets aside a portion of the annual income donated for contingencies and unanticipated needs.

Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve, also addressed missionary work and the need for local members to be involved.

“My message this afternoon is that the Lord is hastening His work. In our day, this can only be done when every member of the church reaches out with love to share the truths of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

A combined choir from Roy, Hooper and West Haven provided music for the afternoon session of the conference.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.