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It is easy to see others' faults before we recognize our own, but self-awareness is the beginning of wisdom, a top LDS authority said Saturday night during the faith's all-male priesthood session of General Conference.

"We are able to diagnose and recommend remedies for other people's ills so well," said Dieter Uchtdorf, second counselor in the governing First Presidency, "while we often have difficulty seeing our own."

The German leader condemned the hypocrisy of those Mormons "who may appear on the outside to be disciples of Jesus Christ, but on the inside their hearts have separated from their Savior and his teachings."

Such members can rationalize their behavior "to avoid looking deeply into our souls and confronting our weaknesses, limitations and fears," Uchtdorf said. "Consequently, when we do examine our lives, we look through the filter of biases, excuses and stories we tell ourselves in order to justify unworthy thoughts and actions."

That behavior, though, ultimately blocks spiritual growth, he said. "If our weaknesses and shortcomings remain obscured in the shadows, then the redeeming power of the Savior cannot heal them and make them strengths. Ironically, our blindness toward our human weaknesses will also make us blind to the divine potential that our Father yearns to nurture within each of us."

LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, harking back to a conference address he delivered in April 1982, also talked about getting off track in the journey toward spiritual maturity.

The 87-year-old leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints described the German battleship Bismarck, which launched with much acclaim in 1939 and was dubbed nearly unsinkable. Two years later, it took a direct torpedo hit in a fight with British warships and lost its rudder. It could not make its way back to port.

"Like the vital rudder of a ship, brethren, we have been provided a way to determine the direction we travel," Monson said. " ... To us comes the signal: Chart your course, set your sail, position your rudder, and proceed."

Apostle Quentin L. Cook discussed spiritual preparedness, urging the boys and men make good choices as they deal with a panoply of worldly voices and influences.

"It is of particular importance in our day, when Satan is raging in the hearts of men in so many new and subtle ways, that our choices and decisions be made carefully, consistent with the goals and objectives by which we profess to live," he said. "We need unequivocal commitment to the commandments and strict adherence to sacred covenants."

Mormon authorities "encourage and celebrate truth and knowledge of every kind," Cook said. " But when culture, knowledge and social mores are separated from God's plan of happiness and the essential role of Jesus Christ, there is an inevitable disintegration of society. In our day, despite unprecedented gains in many areas, especially science and communication, essential basic values have eroded and overall happiness and well-being have diminished."

Bishop Dean M. Davies, second counselor in the church's Presiding Bishopric, which oversees the faith's physical and financial affairs, echoed sentiments expressed earlier in the day by apostle Jeffrey R. Holland.

"Caring for the poor and needy is one of four divinely appointed church responsibilities that help individuals and families qualify for exaltation," Davies said. "Caring for the poor and needy contemplates both temporal and spiritual salvation. It includes the service of individual church members ... as well as formal church welfare."

He encouraged Mormons to give generously in "fast offerings" as well as tithing, which provides assistance to members and nonmembers' physical needs.

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