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Mormon leaders counseled women to find and maintain peace through church service and to rely on Jesus Christ during the first session of the faith's 187th Annual General Conference held Saturday.

Relief Society General President Linda K. Burton thanked members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their "tenderhearted and enthusiastic response" to an invitation issued last year by LDS leaders to reach out to refugees. She encouraged people to continue efforts to seek inspiration and act on spiritual promptings.

Burton's comments centered on a biblical reference to "certain women" who focused their lives on Christ throughout history and, though imperfect people, served as "inspiring" witnesses of his divinity.

Thomas S. Monson, 89, president of the Utah-based faith, was absent from the General Women's Session, "saving his strength" for the conference gatherings that will come next weekend, church representatives said. Instead, Monson's first counselor, President Henry B. Eyring, presided.

Eyring spoke words of encouragement to the women at the meeting who may fall short in efforts to be like Christ.

"Those who do not see their weaknesses do not progress," Eyring said. "Your awareness of your weakness is a blessing as it helps you remain humble and keeps you turning to the savior. The Spirit not only comforts you, but he is also the agent by which the atonement works a change in your very nature. Then weak things become strong."

While "loving unity" among family and church groups is difficult to maintain, Eyring said, it requires the companionship of the Holy Ghost to "open our eyes and temper our feelings."

Oneness will come as people look at one another "with the pure love of Christ," he said.

Holiness is another virtue that brings peace, said Carol F. McConkie, first counselor of the Young Women General Presidency. It comes from keeping covenants, relying on the Holy Ghost and using the gift of Jesus Christ's sacrifice, she said. It requires a conscious effort to set aside time to meditate, study and pray, McConkie said.

Bonnie H. Cordon, second counselor of the Primary General Presidency, added that trusting in God and serving others can bring serenity, even as the person serving experiences challenges in her own life, such as sickness, loss and depression.

The auxiliary leaders and Eyring were accompanied by fellow counselor President Dieter F. Uchtdorf; apostles Jeffrey R. Holland, Todd D. Christofferson, Ronald A. Rasband; and Gerald Caussé, the presiding bishop.

Twitter: @mnoblenews

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