LDS leaders focus on crisis in Kosovo
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Prayers for refugees from Kosovo, condemnation for their oppressors and encouragement about the strength and growth of the church at the dawn of the 21st century were all part of Saturday's opening of the 169th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Gordon B. Hinckley said in his opening remarks Saturday morning the church was preparing 200,000 pounds of clothing and blankets that will be shipped to refugees who have fled Kosovo for Macedonia. "At this moment our hearts reach out to the brutalized people of Kosovo," President Hinckley said. "I am grateful that we are rushing humanitarian aid to the victims of these atrocities."
Donated clothing, shoes, personal hygiene items and supplies for newborn children among the refugees are scheduled to leave Salt Lake City on Tuesday. New wool blankets bought by the church will be shipped directly from the Rhode Island mill where they were made, said Garry Flake, director of the church's Humanitarian Services Division.
The shipment is being coordinated with efforts by the United Nations, the Red Cross and other relief organizations. Mercy Corps, a Christian relief agency already working among the refugees in Macedonia, is aware the supplies will soon be on their way and will distribute the clothing.
"Our spirits are weighed down by the scenes of tragedy and terror visited upon so many thousands of innocent children, mothers and fathers and others," Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Presidency of the Seventy said in his prayer at the opening of the conference. "Minister to their needs and suffering through us."
President Hinckley did not mention the Serb security forces by name but said, "It is difficult for us to understand how those who claim to be Christians can be so barbaric to those of another faith."
"We must never forget that we live in a world of great diversity," President Hinckley said. "We must cultivate tolerance and appreciation and respect for one another."
Inside the church, "We are all individuals with our own needs and problems, our own hopes and dreams, our own faith and convictions," President Hinckley said.
Keeping up as church membership grows well beyond 10 million members is one of the church's major challenges. "We now have approximately 60,000 missionaries. Come July, there will be 333 missions," President Hinckley said. "Additionally, there are 137,629 volunteers and missionaries in non-proselyting activities."
New temples in Anchorage, Madrid and Colonia Juarez, Mexico have been dedicated since October, and 14 more are expected to be dedicated by the end of the year. "This is a tremendous undertaking, with many problems constantly, but no matter the difficulty, things work out and I am confident we will reach our goal."
President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency,
told a gathering of the church's priesthood Saturday night the church needs
to watch over the pathway its young men follow toward priesthood
responsibility "since far too many boys falter, stumble, then fall
"For every successful person, there is a mentor or mentors to whom the individual has looked on the road of life," President Monson said. Parents, bishops counselors and other church officers and teachers can be of immeasurable help. "This, then, is our assignment: to save every young man, thereby assuring a worthy husband for each of our young women, strong Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and a missionary force trained and capable of accomplishing what the Lord expects."
President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, said Saturday morning the century now ending has been marked not only by an explosion of secular knowledge but by treasures of intelligence opened up by God. "The next century will bring exponential advances in that treasury."
Advances in technology have helped the church move forward at a rapid pace, but technology has created pitfalls as well. "As we approach the year 2000, the pressure of mastering the wonders of technology becomes more and more challenging. In this pursuit, we could become technologically wise but spiritually illiterate," he said. "Technical savvy is not fully useful unless there is a spiritual purpose and meaning to it."
"Today many people are obsessed with the Y2K problem," he said. "While some glitches may occur, I am optimistic that no great catastrophic computer breakdown will disrupt society as we move into the next century. I have a far greater fear of the disruption of the traditional values of society."