Mormons have overcome the persecutions of their 19th century past and gained respect throughout the world, the faith’s president said Saturday.
“We must always be worthy of that respect. We must earn it or we will not have it,” President Gordon B. Hinckley said in opening the church’s 166th Semiannual General Conference.
Hinckley stressed that respect for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints among non-Mormons would not be bought by theological compromise. Indeed, he and other church leaders emphasized many of the doctrines and beliefs that always have separated Mormonism from mainstream Christianity.
Mormons believe theirs is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth,” that founder Joseph Smith was visited by God and Jesus Christ and that prophetic and priestly authority was divinely restored to Smith and his successors down to Hinckley.
The 86-year-old Hinckley, who assumed the presidency in 1995, told the church’s 9.6 million members never to hesitate to speak up for the church or its doctrine.
“The only things that can ever embarrass this work are acts of disobedience to its doctrine and standards by those of its membership,” he said. “This work will be judged by what the world sees of our behavior.”
Hinckley noted that next year the church will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon exodus to the Salt Lake Valley, 16 years after Joseph Smith founded the church in upstate New York.