I'm not sure I've ever heard stronger statements made in General Conference about the imperative to house the homeless, feed the hungry, and address the needs of the poor than I did in the third general session of this past General Conference.
One of the most astonishing statements came during the talk of Presiding Bishop H. David Burton, quoting President Heber J. Grant to the effect that the Church should shut down the seminaries, discontinue its missionary work, and close the temples before it should stop meeting the temporal needs of the hungry and homeless. Bishop Burton reiterated this point in his talk later, when he stated that it does not matter how many temples we build, how large our membership grows, and how positive our public image is. If we do not care for the poor, "we are under condemnation and cannot please the Lord." He also reminded the general membership of the Church of King Benjamin's teaching that we cannot hope to retain a remission of our sins if we allow the poor to suffer and starve. Society, he later stated, in order to be founded upon true principles, must be "woven with the threads of charity."
Silvia H. Allred, First Counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency followed up with equally strong statements. To "visit the poor and the needy," she stated, constitutes the "essence of discipleship," because it is an expression of the general commandment to love one another and serve one another. It is "pure religion."
If this is true -- and I am convinced that it is in the very deepest part of my soul -- then it means there is not one of us, no matter what our status is in relation to the Church, whether we be excommunicated or in good membership standing, whether we be gay or straight, whether we have a burning testimony or are struggling to believe, who cannot exercise faith in this matter. In something so crucial, so central to the Gospel, can we really hope to have any sort of a living faith, if it isn't alive in at least this principle?
In his testimony later in that session, President Monson stated that the temples are a testimony that life beyond the grave is as real as our life on earth. But when a prophet of the Lord has said that we should close the temples before we stop caring for the poor, isn't that the same as saying that there is no eternal life worth having without charity?