Members told to give more of themselves

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    By Mark Wilcox

    SALT LAKE CITY ? Kindness. Missionary work. Sacrifice. Service. These are the threads that wove through the fabric of the Saturday afternoon session of general conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Church leaders in the Conference Center imparted sage counsel and provided doctrinal reminders to a church whose membership topped 12 million this year.

    ?Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known,? said Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. ?Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last a lifetime.?

    Elder Wirthlin shared a simple act of kindness that had stayed with him since his college football days more than 60 years ago. A man congratulated him on his performance in the football game he had played, but also praised his good sportsmanship.

    Those kind words were spoken ?by Gordon B. Hinckley, who would later become president of the church,? Elder Wirthlin said.

    Elder Wirthlin said all church members can increase their value in God?s kingdom by lifting others to their full potential rather than criticizing their imperfections.

    At many times, it may take sacrifice to be a true example of kindness.

    ?Genuine sacrifice has been a hallmark of the faithful from the beginning,? said Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the First Quorum of the Seventy. ?Among those who do not sacrifice, there are two extremes: one is the rich gluttonous man who won?t, and the other is the poor destitute man who believes he can?t.?

    An example of the ?natural man? that refuses to give, Elder Robbins said, is Ebenezer Scrooge, the timeless character from Charles Dickens,? ?A Christmas Carol.?

    ?For Scrooge,? he said, ?as with any selfish or ?natural man,? sacrifice is never convenient.?

    Elder Robbins said this kind of person thinks almost exclusively of himself, placing himself first and rarely placing anyone else second, including God.

    On the opposite extreme from Scrooge, many college students may see themselves as too poor to give, and can likely relate with the widow who the prophet Elijah asked to give of her ?handful of meal? first.

    ?The Lord often teaches using extreme circumstances to illustrate a principle,? Elder Robbins said. ?In fact, the truer measure of sacrifice isn?t so much what one gives to sacrifice, as what one sacrifices to give. Faith isn?t tested so much when the cupboard is full, as when it is bare.?

    He said that these defining moments, rather than create character, reveal it.

    ?The crisis is the test,? Elder Robbins said.

    In other talks, sacrifice was also emphasized.

    Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in a follow-up talk to his conference address of four years ago, outlined the blessings couple missionaries gain as they sacrifice and serve.

    ?Every missionary experience requires faith, sacrifice and service,? he said. ?These are always followed by an outpouring of blessings.?

    Elder Richard G. Scott excitedly described a development in missionary work, the new ?Preach My Gospel? missionary guide, which marks the first time a missionary guide has been released to the general public through church distribution.

    He said apart from being a great guide to help missionaries teach by the Spirit, it can also be used to help motivate the youth of the church to serve missions if studied before they go out to preach the gospel.

    One mission president?s wife studied the guide, including every scriptural reference, and found the courage to invite a close relative to study the Book of Mormon, Elder Scott said.

    Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke on the fruits of the first vision as a way to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Prophet Joseph Smith?s birth.

    Finally, Elder Harold G. Hillam of the Quorum of the Seventy related the story of one great grandfather who, by becoming inactive in the church, denied the blessings of the church to more than a thousand people in his line of descendants. By contrast, he shared the story of a loving stake president who laid his hands on the heads of many of his stake members and literally blessed them.

    In referring to these people the stake president had blessed, Elder Hillam said: ?Yes, these will be the great-grandfathers who will, because of this loving leader, leave a legacy of generations of thousands that will call him blessed.?

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