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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday opened the faith's two-day semiannual conference with a reminder of Mormons' history of sacrifice and persecution.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, speaking in the church's 21,000-seat Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City, talked of the faith's "long march" from its founding on April 6, 1830, to its present stature, and extolled global missionary efforts.
"Our people have passed through oppression and persecution; they've suffered drivings and every imaginable evil. And out of that has come something which today is glorious to behold," Hinckley said.
The Church, which has 11.7 million members on its rolls and more than 26,000 congregations around the world, actively proselytizes through its missionary program. There are 60,000 missionaries now in 120 nations, Hinckley said.
Their efforts, and the Church's reach "is only the beginning. We have scarcely scratched the surface," he said.
When Hinckley finished his address, he called for Elder David B. Haight, who at 97 is the faith's oldest living apostle since the church's founding and is four years older than Hinckley, who is 93.
Haight, who came to Hinckley's side with a helper supporting him, laughed when Hinckley asked if he wanted to wave to the people. "I must," Haight responded, his arm sweeping the air in front of him. "I'm waving."
The conference sessions were broadcast live in Salt Lake City and simultaneously translated into 58 languages and broadcast live via the church's satellite system to Mormon chapels worldwide.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)