175th Annual General Conference

Standing in Holy Places

President James E. Faust
2nd Counselor in the First Presidency

At the funeral of Patriarch Joseph Smith Sr., his feelings about the temple were described in these words:

“To dwell in the house of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple, was his daily delight:  and in it he enjoyed many blessings, and spent many hours in sweet communion with his Heavenly Father.  He has trod its sacred aisles, solitary and alone from mankind, long before the king of day has gilded the eastern horizon; and he has uttered his aspirations within its walls, when nature has been asleep.  In its holy enclosures have the visions of heaven been opened to his mind, and his soul has feasted on the riches of eternity” (History of the Church, 4: 193-194).

I am grateful that our temples all bear the words, “The House of the Lord, Holiness to the Lord.”  This reminder of holy places has roots that go back to the Old Testament.  Zechariah reminds us that the day will come when “there [shall] be upon the bells of this horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 14: 20-21).  I greatly admire the door handles in the Salt Lake Temple.  They are so artfully designed, each bearing that reminder, “Holiness to the Lord.”

As a boy in Southern Utah over 65 years ago I used to feel a thrill when the words, “Holiness to the Lord” would appear on some of the buildings in the little towns.  Those golden words were often a central adornment for most important buildings, such as the co-op store and the bishop’s storehouse…I wonder what has become of these mottoes of holiness?  Have they vanished with so many other reminders of faith and devotion?

The days of our lives will be greatly blessed as we frequent the temples to learn the transcending spiritual relations we have with Deity.  We need to try harder to be found standing in holy places.  Temple ceremonial covenants and observances are means to help secure holiness of character.  In our desire to create in our people more commitment to the holy work of the temples, we must urge them to look deeper to the profound spiritual meaning to be found there.

One More

Elder M. Russell Ballard
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

It is true that the bar has been raised for our missionaries.  This means that the bar has been raised for parents and leaders as well. We will need to increase our faith and expand our efforts to give every young man the opportunity to serve.

President Hinckley also expressed this concern:  “We need more missionaries.  The message to raise the bar on missionary qualifications was not a signal to send fewer missionaries but a call for parents and leaders to work with young men earlier to better prepare them for missionary service and to keep them worthy of such service.  All young men who are worthy and who are physically and emotionally able should prepare to serve in this most important work” (Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast, June 19, 2004).

Similarly, with references to young women, President Hinckley said: “There has been some misunderstanding of earlier counsel regarding single sisters serving as missionaries.  We need some young women.  They perform a remarkable work.  They can get in homes where the elders cannot.  But it should be kept in mind that young sisters are not under obligation to go on missions.  They should not feel that they hold a duty comparable to that of young men, but some will wish to go” (Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast, June 19, 2004).

Brothers and sisters, there is an incredible amount of work that needs to be done.  The Spirit of the Lord is brooding over many of the nations of the world.  Doors previously locked are opening to us.  We need more hard-working, testimony-enriched missionaries in order to reach more of Heavenly Father’s children who are now at a place where we can reach them.  These are our brothers and sisters, and we have the responsibility to teach them the message of the Restoration.

We know that great things happen in the lives of those who faithfully serve full-time missions.  Missionary service is not easy, but it is infinitely worth it.  Those who serve and return home with honor have established a pattern of living and serving that will bless their own lives and the lives of generations to follow.  They return better prepared to be strong leaders and teachers in the organization of the Church.  They return better prepared to be righteous fathers and mothers able to teach their children the gospel.  Full-time missionary service is a blessing for those whom the missionaries find and teach as well as for the missionaries themselves.

Now we have a special request for you bishops and branch presidents. We are aware that you already know those who have cleared the bar and are preparing to accept mission calls during this year.  What we are asking leaders in every unit to do is to counsel together with parents, and pray to find at least ONE MORE young man, above those already committed, who can be called to serve.

If the over 26,000 wards and branches in the Church will send all those whom they are already planning to send into the mission field—plus ONE MORE—the ranks of our full-time missionaries will swell; and we will move that much closer to our divine mandate to take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.  Perhaps this ONE MORE might be ready right now.  So we ask parents and stake and ward council members to rely upon the discerning power of the Holy Spirit to know who you can help to be ready for a call this year.

Faith is the Answer

Elder David E. Sorensen
Of the Presidency of the Seventy

I have learned faith is the answer to our concerns, cares and suffering.  Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ is truly the power that can change our lives and lead us to salvation.

How can we build this faith?  Through our actions.  We must “go and do the things which the Lord commandeth” just as Nephi counseled.  We must “trust in the Lord, with all our hearts,” as my mother so lovingly taught me.  Gratefully, many times when we exercise faith to do the Lord’s will, we find that we are richly blessed for our obedience.

Sometimes, though, we find that even when we do our best to serve the Lord, we still suffer.  You may know someone who faces these most challenging of circumstances:  consider the parent whose child becomes ill, for whom everyone prays and fasts with all their heart and soul, but who ultimately dies.  Or the missionary who sacrifices to go on a mission, then develops a terrible illness that leaves him or her severely disabled and in chronic pain.  Or the woman who lives her life as faithfully and obediently as she can but is never able to have children she hopes for.  Or the wife who does very best making a good home for her family and raising her children, but whose husband leaves her.  The scriptures have many examples of people who were saved after showing great faith such Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace.  But the scriptures also have many examples of devout people who did not get divine intervention during a crisis.  Abinadi was burned at the stake, John the Baptist was beheaded, Alma’s and Amulek’s followers were cast into the flames. To do well does not mean everything will always turn out well.  The key is to remember that faith is still the answer—even when things go wrong; perhaps, especially when things go wrong.

Remember the Lord has promised that He will help us as we face adversity.  He has particular compassion for those who suffer.  It was he who said, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

As part of the Atonement, our Savior suffered all things.  He knows physical and emotional pain; He knows the sorrow of loss and betrayal.  But He showed us that ultimately love, patience, humility, and obedience are the path to true peace and happiness.  Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.”  But then, to warn us to look for more than just worldly comfort, Jesus added, “Not as the world giveth, give I unto you” ( John 14:27).

What Greater Goodness Can We Know?  Christ-like Friends

Sister Kathleen H. Hughes
First Counselor of the Relief Society General Presidency

Thirty-eight years ago this month, Dean and I, then newly weds, traveled to New Mexico to visit my parents.  While there, my father took us on a day trip into the mountains in the northern part of the state.  In the afternoon, we encountered a car stranded on the roadside with a flat tire.  The driver told my father that his spare was also flat and he needed a ride to the nearest town to get the tired fixed.  My father, seeing the man’s family inside the car, said to him, “You’ll never be able to get to town and back before dark.  But listen, you have the same sized wheel as mine.  Take my spare, and next tie you come to Albuquerque, bring it back to me.”  The stranger, shocked by the offer, said, “But you don’t even know me.” Daddy’s  response, typical for him, was, “You’re an honest man, aren’t you?  You’ll bring the tire back to me.”

A few weeks later I asked my dad about the spare tire.  He told me that it had been returned.  My father, now in his 90th year, still goes about his life the same way.  Most people his age receive “meals on Wheels” but my dad delivers food to the “aged.”  He’s often at the bedside of friends who are ill or dying.  He goes out with his chain saw helping the Rotary Club with their annual clean-up efforts.  As I think of Daddy’s life and actions, I’m reminded of President Packer’s thought:  He’s “active in the gospel.”  His life, as the hymn suggests, touches lives for good, and in the touching, all are enriched.

Hearts Bound Together

Elder Henry B. Eyring
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

My message is to those who are converts to the Church…

Many of your deceased ancestors will have received a testimony that the message of the missionaries is true.  When you received that testimony you could ask the missionaries for baptism.  But those who are in the spirit world cannot.  The ordinances you so cherish are only offered in this world.  Someone in this world must go to a holy temple and accept the covenants on behalf of the person in the spirit world.  That is why we are under obligation to find the names of our ancestors and assure that they are offered by us what they cannot receive there without our help.

For me, knowing that turns my heart not only to my ancestors who wait but to the missionaries who teach them.  I will see those missionaries in the spirit world and so will you.  Think of a prophet standing there with those he has loved and taught who are your ancestors.  Picture as I do the smile on the face of a prophet as you walk up to him and your ancestors who he converted but could not baptize nor send to family until you came to the rescue.  I do not know what the protocol will be in such a place, but I imagine arms thrown around your neck and tears of gratitude.

If you can imagine the smile of the missionary and your ancestors, think of the Savior when you meet Him.  You will have that interview.  He paid the price of the sins of you and all of Heavenly Father’s spirit children.  He is Jehovah.  He sent Elijah.  He conferred the powers of the priesthood to seal and to bless out of perfect love.  And He has trusted you by letting you hear the gospel in your lifetime, giving you the chance to accept the obligation to offer it to those of your ancestors who did not have your priceless opportunity.  Think of the gratitude He has for those who pay the price in work and faith to find the names of their ancestors and who love them and Him enough to offer them eternal life in families, the greatest of all the gifts of God.  He offered them an infinite sacrifice.  He will love and appreciate those who paid whatever price they could to allow their ancestors to choose His offer of eternal life…

The Great Things Which God Has Revealed

President Gordon B. Hinckley
Of the First Presidency

Lucy Mack Smith’s narrative of her son’s life…tells that upon hearing of Joseph’s encounter with the angel, his brother Alvin suggested that the family get together and listen to him as he detailed “the great things which God has revealed.”

I take that statement as the subject of my talk—the great things which God has revealed through Joseph the Prophet.  Permit me to name a few of many doctrines and practices which distinguish us from all other churches, and all of which have come of revelation to the youthful Prophet.  They are familiar to you, but they are worth repeating and reflecting on. 

The first of these, of course, is the manifestation of God Himself and His Beloved Son, the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  This grand theophany is, in my judgment, the greatest such event since the birth, life, death and resurrection of our Lord in the meridian of time.

We have no record of any other event to equal it…

I speak next of another very important thing which God revealed.

The Christian world accepts the Bible as the word of God.  Most have no idea of how it came to us…

We reply that it is, insofar as it is translated correctly.  The hand of the Lord was in its making.  But it now does not stand alone.  There is another witness of the significant and important truths found therein…

The Book of Mormon has come forth by the gift and power of God.  It speaks as a voice from the dust in testimony of the Son of God.  It speaks of His birth, of His ministry, of His crucifixion and resurrection, and of His appearance to the righteous in the land Bountiful on the American continent…

Another is restored priesthood.  Priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God.  That authority is the keystone of any religion.  I have read another book recently.  It deals with the apostasy of the primitive church.  If the authority of that church was lost, how was it to be replaced?

Priesthood authority came from the only place it could come, and that is from heaven.  It was bestowed under the hands of those who held it when the Savior walked the earth…

Another great and singular revelation given to the Prophet was the plan for the eternal life of the family…

The innocence of little children is another revelation, which God has given through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph…

Were there time I could speak of many others.  There is one more that I must mention.  This is the principle of modern revelation…

A growing Church, a Church that is spreading across the earth in these complex times, needs constant revelation from the throne of heaven to guide it and move it forward.

With prayer and anxious seeking of the will of the Lord, we testify that direction is received, that revelation comes, and the Lord blesses His Church as it moves on its path of destiny.

Sunday Afternoon Session

What Seek Ye?

Elder L. Tom Perry
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

We find a world today looking for answers to the question, “What seek ye?” in so many different ways.  Too many are sowing seeds of fruit that will not nourish an eternal soul.

Let me illustrate with an experience the Europe Central Area Presidency had while traveling by train to a meeting.  We were taking advantage of the time together to discuss our assignments.  The man seated across the aisle from us became curious about our conversation.  He finally asked, “Are you Protestant or Catholic?”  We replied, “Neither, we are members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”  He acknowledged that he had heard of the Church, but then went on to say, “You’ll never get very far in this country.  The government only recognizes the Catholic and Protestant churches.  They are the only ones who receive government financial support.  A church cannot exist without government support.”

We tried to explain that our Church manages very well without government help—that we use the Lord’s system of tithing.  He insisted our Church would not get very far in his country, and suggested we should place our efforts in some other place.  Of course, we testified that the Lord’s system does work and told him about all the chapels and temples we are constructing throughout the world without having to resort to borrowed funds to build them.  He seemed very surprised but still unconvinced.

Seeing that we could not persuade him that a church could exist without government support, we tried to change the subject.  I asked, “What will happen in your country with the changes that are occurring?  The declining population and the influx of an increasing number of immigrants will eventually make you a minority in your own land.”  With great national pride, he replied, “This will never happen.”  I countered, “How can you support such a position when immigration exceeds your country’s birth rate?”  He kept insisting this would never happen in his country—they would close their borders before they would allow it to occur.

I pressed on and said, “How do you prevent it with your current trends?”  His next statement shocked me.  He said, “I’m 82 years old.  I will be long gone before I have to face that problem.”

A major problem we face in preaching the gospel to the world is the general apathy toward religion, toward things spiritual.  Most people are very comfortable with their present lifestyle and feel no need to do more than “eat, drink, and be merry.”  They are not interested in anything but themselves, here and now.

Too many, mainly in developed nations of the world, are becoming so secular in their beliefs and actions that they reason that a human being has total autonomy.  An individual does not have to give an account to anyone or anything except to himself and, to a limited extent, the society in which he lives.

Societies in which this secular lifestyle takes root have a deep spiritual and moral price to pay.

Pornography

Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

Last summer Sister Oaks and I returned from two years in the Philippines.  We loved our service there, and we loved returning home.  When we have been away, we see our surroundings in a new light, with increased appreciation and sometimes with new concerns.

We were concerned to see the inroads pornography had made in the United States while we were away.  For many years our Church leaders have warned against the dangers of images and words intended to arouse sexual desires.  Now, the corrupting influence of pornography, produced and disseminated for commercial gain, is sweeping over our society like an avalanche of evil…

My fellow holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and also our young men, I wish to speak to you today about pornography.  I know that many of you are exposed to this and that many of you are being stained by it.

In concentrating my talk on this subject I feel like the prophet Jacob, who told the men of his day that it grieved him to speak so boldly in front of their sensitive wives and children.  But notwithstanding the difficulty of the task, he said he had to speak to the men about this subject because God had commanded him (see Jacob 2:7-11).  I do so for the same reason.

In the second chapter of the book that bears his name, Jacob condemns men for their “whoredoms” (vs. 23, 28).  He told them they had “broken the hears of [their] tender wives and lost the confidence of [their] children, because of [their] bad examples before them’ (v. 35).

What were these grossly wicked “whoredoms”?  No doubt some men were already guilty of evil acts.  But the main focus of Jacob’s great sermon was not with evil acts completed, but with evil acts contemplated.

Strengthen Thy Brethren

Elder Robert J. Whetten
Of the Quorum of the Seventy

Conversion means consecrating your life to caring for, and serving others who need your help, and sharing your gifts and blessings.  The Lord didn’t say tend my sheep when it is convenient, watch my sheep when you aren’t busy.  He said feed my sheep and my lambs; help them survive this world, keep them close to you.  Lead them to safety—the safety of righteous choices that will prepare them for eternal life.

Every unselfish act of kindness and service increases your spirituality.  God would use you to bless others.  Your continued spiritual growth and eternal progress is very much wrapped up in your relationships—in how you treat others.  Do you indeed love others and become a blessing in their lives?  Isn’t the measure of the level of your conversion how you treat others?  The person who does only those things in the Church that concern himself alone will never reach the goal of perfection.  Service to others is what the gospel and exalted life is all about.

Be Of Good Cheer and Faithful in Adversity

Elder Adhemar Damiani
Of the Seventy

How can we find peace in this world?  How can we endure to the end?  How can we overcome the difficulties and trials we are facing?

The Savior Jesus Christ said:  “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation;  but be of good cheer;  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

As part of our mortal probation, we pass through affliction, pain, and disappointment.  Only in Jesus Christ can we find peace.  He can help us to be of good cheer, and to overcome all the challenges of this life.

What does it mean to be of good cheer?  It means to having hope, not getting discouraged, not losing faith, and living life joyfully: “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).  It means to face life with confidence.

The gospel of Jesus Christ gives us the strength and the eternal perspective to face what is coming with good cheer.

Appreciating the Counsel of Those Who Are “Bowed in Years”

Elder Stephen B. Oveson
Of the Second Quorum of the Seventy

President Ezra Taft Benson in the November 1989 Ensign, is quoted as follows:  “The Lord knows and loves the elderly among His people.  It has always been so, and upon them He has bestowed many of His greatest responsibilities.  In various dispensations, He has guided His people through prophets who were in their advancing years.  He has needed the wisdom and experience of age, the inspired direction from those with long years of proven faithfulness to His gospel” (Ezra Taft Benson, “To the Elderly in the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 4).

These thoughts have caused me to reflect on the great sermons, blessings, testimonies, and admonitions that prophets and apostles throughout the ages have left, especially as they felt themselves “waxing old” or preparing to “go down to the dust.”  Some of these parting passages are among our most noteworthy and quoted scriptures.

The Tender Mercies of the Lord

Elder David A. Bednar

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

This afternoon I want to describe and discuss a spiritual impression I received a few moments before I stepped to this pulpit during the Sunday morning session of general conference last October.  Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf had just finished speaking and had declared his powerful witness of the Savior.  Then we all stood together to sing the intermediate hymn that previously had been announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley.  The intermediate hymn that morning was “Redeemer of Israel.”

Now the music for the various conference sessions had been determined many weeks before—and obviously long before my new call to serve.  If, however, I had been invited to suggest an intermediate hymn for that particular session of the conference—a hymn that would have been both edifying and spiritually soothing for me and for the congregation before my first address in this conference center—I would have selected my favorite hymn “Redeemer of Israel.”  Tears filled my eyes as I stood with you to sing that stirring hymn of the restoration.

Near the conclusion of the singing, to my mind came this verse from the Book of Mormon:

“…But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20)

My mind was drawn immediately to Nephi’s phrase, “the tender mercies of the Lord,” and I knew in that very moment I was experiencing just such a tender mercy.  A loving Savior was sending me a most personal and timely message of comfort and reassurance through a hymn selected weeks previously.  Some may count this experience as simply a nice coincidence, but I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence.  Often, the Lord’s timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.

Closing Remarks

President Gordon B. Hinckley
Of the First Presidency

My beloved brethren and sisters, we have had a wonderful conference.  The Spirit of the Lord has been with us.  We have been taught many truths.  Our testimonies have been strengthened, our faith quickened.

Through the miracle, and it is a miracle, of modern technology these proceedings have been broadcast worldwide.  Ninety-five percent of the membership of the Church in all the world could have participated with us…

I leave with you my benediction and my love and look forward to the time when we may again assemble together in worship of the Lord.