SALT LAKE CITY -- The need for members to seek the Holy Ghost for inspiration in how to serve both the living and the dead was a central message Sunday morning at the 181st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The conference marked the 75th anniversary of the formation of the church's welfare program, formerly known as the church security system. The system is designed to serve those in need in an organized way, with food and supplies made available through bishop's storehouses.
"We pray for kind and virtuous societies where wickedness is forsaken and goodness and right prevail," said Bishop H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the church, who oversees welfare programs.
"No matter how many temples we build, no matter how large our membership grows, no matter how positively we are perceived in the eyes of the world -- should we fail in this great core commandment to 'succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees,' or turn our hearts from those who suffer and mourn, we are under condemnation and cannot please the Lord, and the jubilant hope of our hearts will ever be distant," Burton said.
He was quoting New Testament Scripture Matthew 22: 36-40 and LDS scripture Doctrine and Covenants 81: 5.
Burton said that through the welfare system, church volunteers have blessed the lives of tens of millions of people throughout the world. He emphasized the program's goal of combining efforts to meet immediate needs with those to help people become self-sufficient.
"The prophetic welfare plan is not merely an interesting footnote in the history of the church," Burton said. "The principles upon which it is based defines who we are as a people. It is the essence of who we are as individual disciples of our Savior and exemplar, Jesus the Christ."
Silvia H. Allred, first counselor in the church's General Relief Society Presidency, said Heavenly Father knows each individual and understands his or her unique circumstances and abilities.
"Although we seek his help daily through prayer, it is usually through another person that he meets our needs," Allred said. "The Lord said, 'By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another,' " she said, quoting John 13:35.
President Thomas S. Monson told of great sacrifices members from around the world have made in order to get to a temple, where members receive ordinances and perform work vicariously for the dead.
Monson, on Saturday, announced plans to build three new temples in Meridian, Idaho; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. On Sunday he urged all members to be willing to make sacrifices to attend a temple.
"There is no more important goal for you to work toward than being worthy to go to the temple," Monson said. "Your sacrifice may be bringing your life into compliance with what is required to receive a recommend."
He said whatever the sacrifice, temple attendance is worth what one receives.
"Until you have entered the House of the Lord and have received all the blessings which await you there, you have not obtained everything the church has to offer," he said.
Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, emphasized recognition of the spirit of revelation in helping members provide service and live their lives.
He discussed ways Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery learned to follow the spirit as they translated the Book of Mormon.
"These brethren learned they could receive whatever knowledge was necessary to complete their work if they asked in faith, with an honest heart, believing they would receive," Bednar said.
"As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will 'walk in the light of the Lord,'" he said, quoting Isaiah 2:5 and 2 Nephi 12:5 in the Book of Mormon.
He also warned about offending the Spirit.
"Because the Spirit whispers to us gently and delicately, it is easy to understand why we should shun inappropriate media, pornography and harmful, addictive substances and behaviors," he said. "These tools of the adversary can impair and eventually destroy our capacity to recognize and respond to the subtle messages from God delivered by the power of his spirit."
Elder Paul V. Johnson, of the Quorum of the Seventy, encouraged people to turn to the Holy Ghost for help in enduring trials necessary for their growth.
"Since personal growth is an intended outcome of these challenges, it should come as no surprise that the trials can be very personal -- almost laser-guided to our particular needs or weakness," Johnson said.
He said trials come even to the best of people.
"Even very rich ore needs refining to remove impurities."