SALT LAKE CITY -- Mormon leaders urged church members Sunday to strengthen their families and their religious commitments in the face of growing secularism.
Addressing a semiannual meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the senior leaders lamented that many in broader society have tried to dismiss biblical teaching as outdated or false. Leaders also noted that the number of births outside marriage is growing and blamed the trend for "a host of societal and economic ills."
"The spiritual divide gets ever wider as evil becomes ever more deceptive and subtle and pulls people toward it like a dark magnet," said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the second-highest ranking body in the church.
Ballard was among several Mormon leaders who spoke at the two-day General Conference, which ended Sunday. Mormons meet in April and October to hear speeches and spiritual guidance from the faith's senior leaders.
More than 20,000 people gathered for the event at a church conference center in Salt Lake City. Millions more watched from around the world through satellite and the Internet or listened to radio broadcasts. The Utah-based church claims more than 14.5 million members.
President Thomas S. Monson, considered a prophet by Mormons, urged church members to use their "power to think, to reason," to choose the right path as they move through life. He said blessings can be earned through a life of "striving, seeking" and repentance.
Apostle D. Todd Christofferson addressed what he called confusion about church teaching, affirming that core doctrine comes through revelation by church authorities. He said isolated statements by an individual church leader reflect "a personal, though well-considered opinion" but are not meant to be binding for the whole church.