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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Recalling his first-ever address as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 10 years ago, Gordon B. Hinckley opened the 175th conference of the church Saturday by calling on members to "stand a little taller, lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater millennial mission."
The words were the same President Hinckley used a decade ago, just weeks after he and his counselors President Thomas S. Monson and James E. Faust were elevated to lead the church March 12, 1995.
"You must be the judge of how far we have come in realizing the fulfillment of that invitation given 10 years ago," he told 21,000 faithful who filled the church's Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.
Millions were expected to participate in the semiannual conference, which is being broadcast in 75 languages to more than 80 countries around the world. The conference continues on Sunday, beginning at 9:30 a.m.
During the evening session of the meeting exclusively for male members of the church, President Hinckley warned against the evils of gambling, which he said is a growing problem -- especially among youth.
He spoke of a letter received from an LDS mother concerned over her son's Internet poker habit and quoted from news articles documenting a growing interest in games of chance.
"In all too many cases this practice, which appears innocent, can lead to actual addiction," he warned, noting that from the beginning LDS church leaders have denounced the practice.
President Hinckley encouraged LDS youth to find other pursuits, such as reading, music, dancing, or outdoor activities.
"Please do not fritter away your time or your talents on an aimless pursuit," he said. "It will disappoint your parents, and as the years pass and you look back, you will be disappointed with yourself."
Midday conference sessions opened with President Hinckley offering condolences to the world's Catholics over the death of Pope John Paul II, calling him a courageous man of faith, vision and intellect.
"The Pope's voice remained firm in defense of freedom, family, and Christianity," President Hinckley said, reading from a prepared statement. "On matters of principle and morality, he was uncompromising. On his compassion for the world's poor, he has been unwavering."
The afternoon session was also marked by the sustaining of 12 men and three women to leadership positions in the First Quorum of the Seventy, the Second Quorum of the Seventy and the Primary.
Appointed to serve in the First Quorum of the Seventy are: Benjamin De Hoyas, of Mexico City; David F. Evans, of Salt Lake City; C. Scott Grow, of Meridian, Id.; Paul V. Johnson, of Sandy; Paul E. Koelliker, of Salt Lake City; Paul B. Pieper, of Sandy; and Ulisses Soares, of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Richard G. Hinckley, of Salt Lake City, who is the son of President Hinckley, was also appointed.
New members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy include, Won Young Ko, of Seoul, Korea; Wolfgang H. Paul, of Frankfurt, Germany; Lowell M. Snow, of North Salt Lake; and Paul K. Sybrowski, of Provo.
Cheryl C. Lant was appointed as the 11th president of the Primary, the church's organization for children. She will be assisted by counselors Margaret S. Lifferth and Vicki F. Matsumori.
On President Hinckley's watch, the LDS Church reports that it has grown by 3 million members, eclipsing a total of 12 million members in more than 160 countries. That growth has been primarily outside the United States, President Hinckley noted.
Among other milestones noted were the expansion of a church education program, the printing of the faith's Book of Mormon into 106 languages, the distribution of 51 million copies of the text, and the hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid distributed around the world.
President Hinckley also touched on what many believe has been his most important accomplishment: the building of small temples across the globe. Ten years ago, there were just 47 temples in which LDS faithful could conduct the sacred practices they consider central tenants of their beliefs.
Today, there are 119 temples and three more slated for dedication this year.
Most of those religious sites have been visited by President Hinckley and his wife, Margery Pay Hinckley, before her death April 6, 2004.
"It has been lonely since then," the church president said.
President Hinckley said the church has accomplished more in the past 10 years than ever before.
"It is the result of the faith, the prayers, the efforts, the dedicated service of every member of the a stake presidency or high counsel, of every bishopric and quorum presidency, of every auxiliary presidency, of every faithful, active member of the church."
He added that he hoped his continued service to the LDS Church would be acceptable to members.
"Our burden in going forward is tremendous," President Hinckley said. "But our opportunity is glorious."
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)