SALT LAKE CITY – Members of the top leadership council for the Mormon Church spent Friday reflecting on accomplishments as the three men marked their 10 years serving as the First Presidency.
President Gordon B. Hinckley and his top two counselors, James E. Faust and Thomas S. Monson, detailed church advances since they began serving March 12, 1995.
Hinckley noted several initiatives during the past 10 years, including the formation and expansion of the Perpetual Education Fund.
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“When we announced that, we didn’t have a thing. But through the generosity of our people, that corpus has grown to a point where we can now educate some 18,000 young people,” he said, “lifting them out of a place of poverty to rise above what they’ve known all their lives to a far better position.”
Construction of the Conference Center downtown has been a “very significant thing. We didn’t know the Tabernacle was as worn out as it is,” he said.
The world-famous home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was closed recently for a seismic upgrade and restoration work.
Hinckley also noted the growing dispersal of the Book of Mormon, about 51 million copies of which have been distributed in the past 10 years, including a hard-back version released late last year in conjunction with a commercial publisher and geared toward a general audience.
The church has also distributed $641 million in humanitarian aid during the past decade, he said, to assist those in need, the majority of them not members of the LDS Church.
Millions of children have been vaccinated against measles in the past couple of years through a donation by the church in partnership with the American Red Cross.
Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, said the church has expanded its cooperative efforts with people of other faiths to help the less fortunate.
He detailed LDS cooperation with Catholics, Jews, Muslims and those of other faiths to supply food and volunteers for a local soup kitchen, provide tsunami relief and provide clothing and relief supplies at home and abroad.
Faust, second counselor, said he sees a wider acceptance and understanding about Latter-day Saints reflected in the growing number of congressional representatives who are LDS: three U.S. senators and nine congressmen from outside Utah.
When asked if America is ready to elect a Latter-day Saint as U.S. president – whether in the person of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (whose name often has been mentioned) or another candidate – he said that many believed years ago that American voters would never elect a Catholic, which changed with John F. Kennedy’s election.
The Mormon church is the nation’s fifth-largest with about 5 million members. Worldwide, it has about 12 million members.
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