Welcome to Conference
President Thomas S. Monson
Of the First Presidency

All Photos © 2006 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Brothers and sisters, our missionary force, serving throughout the world, continues to seek out those who are searching for the truths, which are found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church is growing steadily, as it has since its organization over 178 years ago.

It has been my privilege during the past six months to meet with leaders of countries and with representatives of governments. Those with whom I’ve met feel kindly toward the Church and our members, and they have been cooperative and accommodating. There remain, however, areas of the world where our influence is limited and where we are not allowed to share the gospel freely. As did President Spencer W. Kimball over thirty-two years ago, I urge you to pray for the opening of those areas that we might share with them the joy of the gospel. As we prayed then in response to President Kimball’s pleadings, we saw miracles unfold as country after country, formerly closed to the Church, was opened. Such will transpire again as we pray in faith.

Let Him Do It with Simplicity
Elder L. Tom Perry
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

Those of us who have been around awhile—and Elder Wirthlin and I have been around for a long time—have recognized certain patterns in life’s test. There are cycles of good and bad times, ups and downs, periods of joy and sadness, and times of plenty as well as scarcity. When our lives turn in an unanticipated and undesirable direction, sometimes we experience stress and anxiety. One of the challenges of this mortal experience is not to allow the stresses and strains of life to get the better of us—to endure the varied seasons of life while remaining positive, even optimistic.

Perhaps, when difficulties and challenges strike, we should have these hopeful words of Robert Browning etched in our minds: “The best is yet to be.” We can’t predict all the struggles and storms in life, not even the ones just around the next corner, but we, as persons of faith and hope, know beyond the shadow of any doubt that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and “The best is yet to come.”

I remember a particular period of my life when I was under unusual stress. There were troubles with my employment, and at the same time, my wife was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. This was one of those times when it felt like adversity had mounted a frontal assault against me and my family. On days when the stresses and anxieties of our tumultuous life were about to get the best of us, my wife and I found a way to relieve them.

We drove to a place, just a few miles from our home, to get away for a few moments of relief from our troubles, talk, and give emotional comfort to each other. Our place was Walden Pond . It was a beautiful, little pond surrounded by forests of trees. When my wife was feeling strong enough, we’d go for a walk around the pond. Other days, when she did not feel up to the exertion of walking, we’d just sit in the car and talk. Walden Pond was our special place to pause, reflect, and heal. Perhaps it was partly due to its history—its connection to the efforts of Henry David Thoreau to separate himself from worldliness for a period of years—that it offered us so much hope for simplicity, and provided such a renewing escape from our overly complex lives.

It was in March of 1845 that Thoreau decided to move out on the banks of Walden Pond and spend two years trying to figure out what life was all about. He settled on a piece of property owned by his good friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson. He purchased an old shanty from a railroad worker, tore it down, and from the lumber from the shanty and the lumber from the woods, he constructed his own cabin. He kept meticulous financial records, and he concluded that for a home and freedom he spent a mere $28.12. He planted a garden where he sowed peas, potatoes, corn, beans, and turnips to help sustain his simple life. He planted two-and-a half acres of beans with the intent of using the small profit to cover his needs. Small profit, indeed: $8.71.

Thoreau lived quite independent of time. He had neither a clock nor a calendar in his little cabin. He spent his time writing and studying the beauties and wonder of nature that surrounded him, including local plants, birds, and animals. He did not live the life of a hermit—he visited the town of Concord most days, and he invited others to come into his cabin for enlightening conversations. When the two years ended, he left his cabin behind without regret. He considered the time he had spent there a proper amount of time to accomplish his purpose—to experience the spiritual benefits of a simplified lifestyle.

“Go Ye Therefore”
Sister Silvia H. Allred
First Counselor General Relief Society Presidency

When I was fourteen years old, on a beautiful August morning, Elder Prina and Elder Perkins knocked at our door. They began teaching our family about the true nature of God. In the visits that followed, they taught us how to pray. They also taught us about the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. After the third or fourth visit, most of my family stopped listening to the missionaries, except for my seventeen-year-old sister Dina and me. We both felt the witness of the Holy Ghost in our hearts and received the spiritual confirmation that the message was true.

We bought a copy of the Book of Moron and began reading it. Every day, after school, we would race home to get to the book first. While the first one home was reading, the other one impatiently waited until meal time, ate in a hurry, and then took her turn reading until bedtime. Such was the excitement we felt. We started attending Church and soon we asked to be baptized. Our father readily gave his permission, but our mother was hesitant, and it took one more month to persuade her to sign the permission slip. On the day of our baptism, she and the rest of our siblings went to church for the first time. She felt the Spirit. After hearing our testimonies, she went to the missionaries and asked them to start teaching her again. A few weeks later she and our younger sisters and brothers were baptized. My life changed forever and the gospel of Jesus Christ became the compelling force in my life.

Words fail to express the deep feelings of gratitude for the Lord and the missionaries He sent to our home. The Lord blessed me with the knowledge of the restored gospel and I felt an urgency to share this knowledge with others. I wanted to be a missionary.

Within months, my sister Dina and I were called as local missionaries in San Salvador .


This calling gave us the opportunity to go door to door to share the glad news of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and bring many people to the waters of baptism.

In due time, we both served full-time missions in the Central American Mission.

My mission had a great impact on my life. I learned to rely more on the Lord, to seek the guidance of the Spirit, and to feel an overwhelming love for God’s children. My knowledge of the scriptures and my understanding of the doctrines increased. So did my desire to be obedient and to keep the commandments with exactness. My testimony of the Savior and His infinite atonement was strengthened. My missionary experiences became part of who and what I am. Missionary work became my passion. It has impacted my life and that of my family more than anything else.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland describes the impact his mission has had in his life with these words: “My mission means everything to me 47 years after the fact. There may have been one day in those 47 years that I have not thought of my mission; I’m just not sure what day that would have been.”

You Know Enough
Elder Neil L. Andersen
Of the Presidency of the Seventy

Nearly forty years ago as I contemplated the challenge if a mission, I felt very inadequate and unprepared. I remember praying, “Heavenly Father, how can I serve a mission when I know so little?” I believed in the Church, but I felt my spiritual knowledge was very limited. As I prayed, the feeling came, “You don’t know everything, but you know enough!” That reassurance gave me the courage to take the next step into the mission field.

Our spiritual journey is the process of a lifetime. We do now know everything in the beginning or even along the way. Our conversion comes step-by-step, line upon line. We first build a foundation of faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. We treasure the principles and ordinances of repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We include a continuing commitment to prayer, a willingness to be obedient, and an ongoing witness of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is powerful spiritual nourishment.

…I once visited a mission in southern Europe . I arrived on the day a new missionary was preparing to return home at his own insistence. He had his ticket to leave the next day.

We sat together in the mission president’s home. The missionary told me about his challenging childhood, of learning disorders, of moving from one family to another. He spoke sincerely of his inability to learn a new language and adapt to a new culture. Then he called, “Brother Anderson, I don’t even know if God loves me.” As he said those words, I felt a sure and forceful feeling come into my spirit, “He does know I love him. He knows it.”

I let him continue for a few more minutes and then I said, “Elder, I’m sympathetic to much of what you’ve said, but I must correct you on one thing; you do know God loves you. You know He does.”

As I said those words to him, the same spirit that had spoken to me, spoke to him. He bowed his head and began to cry. He apologized. “You’re right, Brother Andersen,” he said, “I do know God loves me, I do know it.” He didn’t know everything but he knew enough. He knew God loved him. That priceless piece of spiritual knowledge was sufficient for his doubt to be replaced with faith. He found the strength to stay on his mission.

Brothers and sisters, we each have moments of spiritual power, moments of inspiration and revelation. We must sink them deep into the chambers of our soul. As we do, we prepare our spiritual home storage for moments of personal difficulty. Jesus said: “Settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you.”

Because My Father Read the Book of Mormon
Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis
Of the Seventy

I consider June 2, 1040, to be a very important day in the history of my family. On this day my father was baptized into the Church.

Writing to his father, Elder Jack McDonald, one of the missionaries who baptized my father, described the day with these words:

Last Sunday was an especially beautiful day. We missionaries went out to a secluded spot on the river’s edge, out in the country, and there Elder Jones and I made our first baptism. Antony Aidukaitis entered into the icy waters and became a member of the Church…Everything was perfect. The sky so blue, the country-side so still, so green, so lovely, that none of us could help feeling the presence of some great influence.

Walking home with our new member, he said that he just couldn’t explain how wonderful this day had been for him, how he actually felt like a new man…That was our first baptism—no credit to me or anybody. He converted himself.”

This event changed the history of my life. I am not sure if my father was able to foresee the wisdom of his act, but I love him for what he did that day. He passed away more than 30 years ago, but I will honor and bless his name forever.

…I admire the courage my father had to be baptized into the Church, inspite of the circumstances he faced at the time. It was not easy for him. His wife did not get baptized with him. The vices of drinking alcohol and smoking were strong temptations for him. He was poor. His mother was against his joining the church and told him that if he were baptized, she would no longer consider him her son. With fewer than 300 members in Brazil , the Church did not have a single chapel there. I am truly astonished by my father’s determination and courage.

How could he make such a decision in the face of so many unfavorable circumstances? The answer is simple: It was because my father read the Book of Mormon.

Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

Now I speak particularly to the priesthood holders, who officiate in the sacrament. This ordinance should always be performed with reverence and dignity. Priests who offer the prayers in behalf of the congregation should speak the words slowly and distinctly, expressing the terms of the covenants and the promised blessings. This is a very sacred act.

The teachers who prepare and the deacons who pass the emblems of the sacrament also perform a very sacred act. I love President Thomas S. Monson’s account of how, as a twelve-year-old deacon, he was asked by the bishop to take the sacrament to a bedfast brother who longed for this blessing. “His gratitude overwhelmed me,” President Monson said. “The Spirit of the Lord came over me. I stood on sacred ground.” All who officiate in this sacred ordinance stand “on sacred ground.”

Young men who officiate in the ordinance of the sacrament should be worthy.


 

 

 

The Lord has said: “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (D&C 38:42). The scriptural warning about partaking of the sacrament unworthily surely applies also to those who officiate in that ordinance.

 

In administering discipline to Church members who have committed serious sins, a bishop can temporarily withdraw the privilege of partaking of the sacrament. That same authority is surely available to withdraw the privilege of officiating in that sacred ordinance.

What I said earlier about the importance of appropriate dress for those who receive the ordinance of the sacrament obviously applies with special force to the young men of the Aaronic priesthood who officiate in any part of that sacred ordinance. All should be well groomed and modestly dressed. There should be nothing about their personal appearance or actions that would call special attention to themselves or distract anyone present from full attention to the worship and covenant-making that are the purpose of this sacred service.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a valuable teaching on this subject in General Conference thirteen years ago. Since most of our current deacons were not even born when these words were last spoken here, I repeat them for their benefit and that of their parents and leaders.

May I suggest that wherever possible a white shirt be worn by the deacons, teachers and priests who handle the sacrament. For sacred ordinances in the Church we often use ceremonial clothing, and a white shirt could be seen as a gentle reminder of the white clothing you wore in the baptismal font and an anticipation of the white shirt you will soon wear into the temple and on to your missions.

The Infinite Power of Hope
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Of the First Presidency

Toward the end of World War II, my father was drafted into the German army and sent to the western front of the war, leaving my mother alone to care for our family. Though I was only three years old, I can still remember this time of fear and hunger. We lived in Czechoslovakia and, with every passing day, the war came nearer and the danger grew greater.

Finally, during the cold winter of 1944, my mother decided to flee to Germany, where her parents were living. She bundled us up and somehow managed to get us on one of the last refugee trains heading west. Traveling during that time was dangerous. Everywhere we went, the sound of explosions, the harried faces, and ever-present hunger reminded us that we were in a war zone.

Along the way, the train stopped occasionally to get supplies. One night during one of these steps, my mother hurriedly stepped out of the train to search for some food for her four children. When she returned, to her great horror, the train and her children were gone!

Weighted down with worry, desperate prayers filled her heart. She frantically searched the large and dark train station, urgently crisscrossing the numerous tracks while hoping against hope that the train had not already departed.

Perhaps I will never know all that went through my mother’s heart and mind on that black night as she searched through a grim railroad station for her lost children. That she was terrified, I have no doubt. I am certain it crossed her mind that if she did not find this train, she might never see her children again. But this I know with certainty, her faith overcame her fear and her hope overcame her despair. She was not the kind of woman who would sit and bemoan tragedy. She moved. She put her faith and hope into action.

And so she ran from track to track and from train to train until finally she found our train. It had been moved to a remote area of the station. There, at last, she found her children again.

I have often thought about that night and what my mother must have endured. If I could go back in time and sit by her side, I would ask her how she managed to go on in the face of her fears. I would ask about faith and hope and how she overcame despair.

While that is impossible, perhaps today I could sit by your side and by the side of any who might feel discouraged, worried, or lonely. Today, I would like to speak with you about the infinite power of hope.

Hope is one leg of a three-legged stool together with faith and charity. These three stabilize our lives regardless of the rough or uneven surfaces we might encounter. The scriptures are clear and certain about the importance of hope. The apostle Paul taught that the scriptures were written to the end that we “might have hope.”

Hope has the power to fill our lives with happiness. Its absence—when this desire of our heart is delayed—can make “the heart sick.”

Hope is a gift of the Spirit—it is a hope that through the atonement of Christ and power of His resurrection, we shall be raised unto life eternal, and this because of our faith in the Savior. This kind of hope is both a principle of promise as well as a commandment, and—as with all commandments—we have the responsibility to make it an active part of our lives and overcome the temptation to lose hope. Hope in our Heavenly Father’s merciful Plan of Happiness leads to peace, mercy, rejoicing, and gladness. The hope of salvation is like a protective helmet; it is a foundation of our faith, and an anchor to our souls.

Moroni, in his solitude—even after having witnessed the complete destruction of the people—believed in hope. In the twilight of the Nephite nation, Moroni write that without it we cannot receive an inheritance of the kingdom of God.