SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — After opening the second day of their semiannual general conference with music from the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were reminded to rise above evil by striving for holiness, particularly by spending time in holy places.
“We unavoidably stand in so many unholy places and are subjected to so much that is vulgar, profane and destructive of the Spirit of the Lord that I encourage our Saints all over the world wherever possible to strive to stand more often in holy places,” said President James E. Faust, one of two counselors to church President Gordon B. Hinckley.
“Our most holy places are our sacred temples,” Faust said. “We should seek to be worthy to take our families to the temple to be sealed together for eternity.”
Faust encouraged members to also complete family history to bring their ancestors into the LDS church.
Mormons practice a temple ritual known as “baptism for the dead” in which deceased persons are baptized by proxy. The practice is rooted in the belief that deceased persons who accept the Mormon gospel in the afterlife may still gain salvation.
Often referred to as the “Saints,” more than 20,000 church members packed the church’s Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City on Sunday to hear from church leaders. The proceedings are broadcast in 75 languages to the world’s 12 million-plus Mormons in more than 80 countries.
On Saturday, Hinckley opened the conference with prayers of condolence for Catholics, whose leader Pope John Paul II would die a few hours later.
Faust’s remarks Sunday were followed by a call to increase the number of young men serving as church missionaries. More than 59,000 Mormon missionaries are at work in 339 mission fields around the world, but their ranks have been decreasing in recent years, said M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, one of the church’s key apostolic groups.
Men embark on the optional missions at 19, and women enter at 21. Bishops and presidents in each of the church’s 26,000 wards and branches were asked to identify at least one more young person for missionary work this year. That would swell the ranks and help accomplish the Mormon mandate to preach the word of God, Ballard said.
Hinckley closed the more than two-hour long morning session by recounting the life and work of Joseph Smith, who founded the church 175 years ago this week. Mormons believe Smith communicated directly with God and that his revelations completed the Christian gospel.
The doctrines and practices unique to the LDS church — including priesthood authority for men, eternal families and baptisms for the dead — were born of Smith’s revelations, Hinckley said.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Smith’s birth. A yearlong celebration will begin May 6-7 with a commemorative event at the Library of Congress.