MORMON PROPHET DEFENDS THE BOOK OF MORMON FICTION
Church president defends Mormon faith, validity of Book of Mormon
By Jennifer Dobner
April 1, 2007
Wishing followers safe
travels, peace and harmony in their homes, the president of The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints closed a two-day biannual conference Sunday by
reminding the faithful to treat each other with care.
"Husbands, love and treasure your wives. They are your most precious
possessions. Wives, encourage and pray for your husbands. They need all the help
they can get," president Gordon B. Hinckley said. "Parents, treat your children
with great kindness. They are the coming generation who will bring honor to your
Earlier the 96-year-old Pres. Hinckley told Latter-day Saints he is in
good health despite "rumors to the contrary."
"Skillful doctors and nurses keep me on track and some of you may go
before I do," the 96-year-old Hinckley said, drawing laughter from those
gathered in the downtown conference center near church headquarters.
Pres. Hinckley is the 15th president of the church and has served in its top leadership circle for 49 years, at times acting as the de facto president when his predecessors took ill. He ascended to the presidency in 1995. Members revere the leader of the church as a prophet of God.
The April 2006 conference was
underscored by speculation about Pres. Hinckley's health. Then 95 and recovering
from colon cancer surgery, he told Latter-day Saints he was in the "sunset" of
On Sunday, Pres. Hinckley repeated a favorite joke, saying that at his
age, "the wind is blowing and I feel like the last leaf on the tree."
He then offered followers his testimony of faith, defending the church's
central text, the Book of Mormon, as a valid account of Christ's dealings with
ancient Americans. Mormons believe church founder Joseph Smith translated the
text from a set of gold plates delivered to him by an angel.
"This is all recorded in detail in the Book of Mormon," Pres. Hinckley
said. "I would think that every Christian would welcome this second witness of
the reality of Jesus Christ. Strangely, they do not."
Some mainline religious faiths discount Mormonism as not being a Christian
faith, in part because of its reliance on Smith's text. Doctrinally Mormons also
differ from other faiths, believing in a preordained existence and that man can
progress to a God-like state in heaven.
The debate is a sore spot for the church which in 1995 even altered its
logo to place more emphasis on the inclusion of the words "Jesus Christ" in its
"I am puzzled by any who question this church's belief in the Bible and
our position as Christians," said M. Russell Ballard, a top church leader who
added that church leaders quoted from the book more than 200 times at the last
conference. "We not only believe in the Bible, we strive to follow its precepts
and to teach its message."
Other speakers called for couples to avoid divorce, serve others, tithe
and strive for forgiveness despite the anger and bitterness that can follow
"Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all
manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness," an emotional James E. Faust, one
of Pres. Hinckley's two counselors. "If we can find forgiveness in our hearts
for those who have caused us hurt, and injury, we will rise to a higher level of
self-esteem and well being."
The 12.5 million member Utah-based church holds general conference twice
yearly, gathering more than 100,000 followers at the conference center to hear
spiritual direction and words of inspiration from church leaders. The April and
October proceedings are broadcast on television, radio, satellite and over the
Internet to 85 countries, simultaneously translated into 89 different languages.
This weekend's event — the 177th for the church founded April 6, 1830 —
was marked by Saturday's reopening of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Closed since
2005, the home of the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir has undergone
renovation work and seismic retrofitting to preserve the 140-year-old building
and prevent damages in the event of a major earthquake.
Saturday's service there was the first since 1999, when the church opened
its 21,000-seat conference center nearby allowing more Latter-day Saints to
attend the biannual meetings in person.
With the Tabernacle's reopening, the choir is expected to return there for its weekly television and radio broadcasts of "Music and the Spoken Word," one of the longest, continuous running programs in broadcast history.
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