SALT LAKE CITY (AP), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints president urged members Saturday not to ignore the faith leaders who seek truth. He also expressed gratitude to those who followed church guidance during the coronavirus pandemic.
Russell M. Nelson, President, acknowledged at a church conference the fact that the world still struggles with the ravages caused by COVID-19. He also thanked church leaders and medical experts for their advice.
This faith, based in Utah, has encouraged its 16,000,000 members to prevent the spread of disease by wearing masks and getting vaccines.
Contrary to what some may think, there is a right and a wrong. Nelson spoke from a mostly empty conference room in Salt Lake City, saying that absolute truth is eternal truth. The plague of our time is that not enough people know where truth can be found. You can be sure that the truth you hear today and tomorrow is pure truth."
The conference will be held again, with limited attendance due to pandemic. However, leaders returned to the faith's 20,000-seat conference centre for the first time since 2012 with hundreds of people in person.
Also, the well-known Tabernacle Choir of Temple Square, which is a church institution, was back in person. The church stated that the choir had less members than usual to allow social distancing and that all members were vaccinated.
The previous three conferences were held in a smaller venue with no choir or attendees. Leaders spoke at them. These conferences were the first in over 70 years to be held without full attendance.
The two-day conference, which is being attended by members of the Mormon faith are being viewed from their homes via TVs, computers and tablets. The event was attended by about 100,000 people before the pandemic. It featured five sessions spread over two days.
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The church's push to get people vaccinated has caused divisions in the faith. Supporters of the stance fear that Latter-day Saints who refuse vaccinations will abandon their faith in a faith that values unity and obedience. Others are unhappy that their leaders don't allow them to make their own decisions about vaccines or masks.
A survey was conducted earlier this year and found that about 65% of Latter-day Saints responded that they are vaccine acceptors. This means they have received at least one dose of the vaccine or plan to do so soon. According to the survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (based in Washington) and Interfaith Youth Core, another 15% were unsure and 19% stated they wouldn't get the vaccine.
According to the survey, 79% of white Catholics were willing to accept vaccines while 56% of white Evangelical Protestants accepted them.
Utah is the home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its members make up nearly two-thirds of Utah's 3.2 million residents. A summer surge in the number of unvaccinated residents caused hospitals to close to capacity. The peak number of cases was in September, but they have been declining for the past few weeks, which is consistent with national trends. According to state data, approximately 65% of Utah residents aged 12 or older were fully vaccinated.
The pandemic was not a major topic of conference speeches on Saturday. Most speakers focused instead on spiritual guidance. Many speeches were recorded by middle-tier international leaders who couldn't travel due to the pandemic.
One of them was Erich W. Kopischke from Germany. He pleaded for members to be more understanding of mental health issues and not judge those suffering from such conditions. He shared the story of his son's battle with anxiety, panic attacks and depression which prevented him from completing his church mission. This led him to contemplate suicide.
Kopischke admitted that he and his wife were worried about what other people would think. They were also disappointed and sad that their son could not complete a mission. Youth and their parents have long struggled to return home on time after missions are considered rites of passage.
Parents may find it difficult to recognize their children's difficulties, but we need to educate ourselves. How do we distinguish between difficulties that are normal developmental and those that are signs of illness? We have the sacred responsibility as parents to help our children navigate their lives. However, Kopischke noted that few of us are mental healthcare specialists. However, we must care for our children and help them to be satisfied with their sincere efforts in achieving the appropriate expectations.
Ulisses Soares from Brazil, who was elected in 2018 as the first Latin American member to the Quorum Of The Twelve Apostles, encouraged fellow members to show compassion for others.
Soares stated that we should not judge our fellow men or women harshly. We are all in need understanding and mercy from our loving Heavenly Father for our imperfections.
Bonnie H. Cordon was the president of the church's program for young ladies. She encouraged young members to remember Gods love and never forget Him. She was one of two women who spoke at Saturday's sessions.
Cordon stated that remembering this love can help to push back the confusion in the world, which tries to undermine your faith in your divine identity. It also helps you see your potential.
Dallin Oaks reminded members to go to church every Sunday. As a first counselor for Nelson and member of the Quorum of the Twelve, he is the second-highest rank member of the church.
Oaks stated that if we stop valuing churches for any reason, it threatens our spiritual life and significant numbers of people will separate themselves from God, which reduces his blessings to the nations.