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LDS International Society's 20th Annual Conference

Elder Cree-L Kofford, an emeritus General Authority, gave the keynote address at the LDS International Society's 20th Annual Conference on the BYU campus April 6.

His remarks, titled "The Church and the Global Community," examined issues the Church faces as it continues growing into parts of the world where Church congregations were few or altogether nonexistent.

"The Lord intends His gospel to go throughout the world," Elder Kofford said. "His gospel cannot effectively go without the Church going throughout the world. And so when we speak of the Church in the global community, we are in reality speaking about the doctrine of the Lord. We are talking about the purpose and some substance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are talking about why all that we do is done. And so it is in that framework that we begin to understand what we know about the Church in the world."

In painting the picture of a global Church, Elder Kofford primarily referred to experiences he had while serving in the Asia Area Presidency.

"My frame of reference (is) taken from Asia," he said. "It is a fascinating place. I am told that it has over five million square miles of the earth's surface. It has 3.4 billion people, which is about 52 percent of the world's population … (and) is an interesting assortment of 17 different major countries.

"What I consider to be the heartbeat of the Asia Area is Taiwan. It contains the largest assembly of Latter-day Saints of any place in this massive area. It is a family-oriented place living in relative democracy. And it is a place where the gospel has taken root, and it is progressing well."

One poignant question raised by Elder Kofford was whether prospective missionaries should be called to serve in their own countries or sent abroad to learn from seeing the Church functioning at full capacity.

He said: "When you reach the point where young men and young women are prepared to serve missions, do you recommend that they serve in-country where they can help their own people, stay in their own country, develop and go forward; or do you recommend that they be sent to foreign countries, preferably places like the United States where they can witness the full Church in action, experience a large number of members of the Church, become better educated and better equipped to lead the people at home, with the concomitant possibility that they will not want to return home or will be dissatisfied with home when they come back?

"I do not presume to know that correct answer in all cases, but I do understand the problem in all cases, and that is something that must be examined by the Church, each in turn, as it goes through the process of spreading across the world."

Other issues Elder Kofford specifically addressed included the complications that can arise from having to teach the gospel to people while using translators, and the question of how fast to teach deeper gospel principles to Church members when they are still trying to assimilate the basics of gospel living.

BYU law professor W. Cole Durham Jr. also spoke at the International Society Conference on April 6. In the wake of General Conference, Brother Durham urged members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to reach for heaven's help in order to increase religious liberty the world over.

"We will not be able to do what needs to be done without drawing on higher forms of power," he said. "I think one of the initiatives that we have just all heard going on (at General Conference) is the call for us to do the things that we can to access the higher powers that are going to be needed.… We heard over the past weekend of people calling us to move to another level."

The Director of the Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU Law School, Brother Durham is an expert in the field of international religious liberty. He believes freedom of religion is an inherent right every human deserves to enjoy.

He said: "It's worth underscoring how significant religious freedom is not only to us as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but also to people of the other faiths. … (Freedom of worship) is the most basic doctrine, because without freedom, none of the other things can be done. I think that is one of the fundamental things we need to bear in mind."

Brother Durham envisions Church members playing a prominent role in extending religious liberty to places where it doesn't presently exist.

"I don't know all the ways that we are supposed to do things," Brother Durham said. "But I've learned something about the importance of religious freedom and the initiatives that we can take in very practical ways that will make a global difference. And I am convinced that we will see many people in the Kingdom find different ways to do that … that the people who have international experience in the Church will play a crucial role in making that go forward."

Borrowing a phrase from the late Elder Neil A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve, Brother Durham called the struggle to extend international religious liberties a spiritual "high adventure."

"I remember early in my career going to a talk that Elder Maxwell gave to a small group in Salt Lake City on (Joseph Smith's) birthday," Brother Durham recollected. "He talked about all the things the Prophet went through in his life, all the persecutions, then talked about some of the early hardships of the early Saints – the Martin handcart company, etc.

"And then he said, 'All the easy things have been done. What lies ahead are times of high adventure. And the new high adventure will be more cerebral, it will be different, but it will be equally hard, challenging and taxing.'

"I think some of the work we've been doing (at the Center for Law and Religion Studies) is part of that high adventure. Many of you are doing it in other aspects of your lives. Those of us who have felt the high adventure of international work and know what it means for the Church know that we have a special responsibility."

Brother Durham concluded his talk with a prayer for greater effort and deeper commitment from Church members.

"I pray," he said, "that we will be able to be recommitted to be able to push ourselves, to deepen our commitments so that we will have access to the powers that we are going to need to move forward with these great things."

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