Latter-day Saints gathered Saturday and Sunday to hear counsel and be inspired by their leaders at the 175th Annual General Conference this past weekend. Today we share excerpts from Saturday’s talks and tomorrow excerpts from Sunday’s talks. You can listen to these talks at www.lds.org and the full talks will be available Thursday online at the same address.
Saturday Morning Session
President Gordon B. Hinckley
Of the First Presidency
The past decade has been a wonderful season in the history of the Church. There has never been another to equal it. There has been a remarkable flowering of the work. There have been many meaningful accomplishments.
This forward thrust is not the work of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, the Seventy, or the Presiding Bishopric alone. It is the result of the faith, the prayers, the efforts, the dedicated service of every member of a stake presidency or high council, of every bishopric and quorum presidency, of every auxiliary presidency, of every faith, active member of the Church…
For instance the Church has grown across the world until our membership outside of North America exceeds that in North America. We have become a great international family, 12 million strong, scattered through 160 nations.
In these ten years more than 500 new stakes have been created and more than 4,000 new wards and branches. Three million new members have been added.
The enrollment in our Educational System has increased by approximately 200,000. For the most part, our youth are stronger and more faithful.
The Perpetual Education Fund has been created. We started with nothing but hope and faith. Today nearly 18,000 young people are being assisted. They live in 27 different nations. They are being trained and are moving out of the slough of poverty in which they and their forebears have lived for generations. Their skills are being refined and their earnings multiplied.
We have increased the number of temples. In 1995, there were 47. Today, there are 119, with three more to be dedicated this year.
The Book of Mormon was had in 87 languages in 1995. Today, it is available in 106 languages.
Fifty-one million copies of the Book of Mormon have been distributed during the past ten years.
We have constructed literally thousands of buildings across the earth. They are of a better quality and more suitable to our needs than those previously built.
In addition, we have constructed this remarkable hall from which we speak today, the unique and beautiful Conference Center in Salt Lake City.
With all of this, we have reached out across the earth to assist those in distress and need wherever they may be. In the last ten years we have supplied in cash and commodities hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to those not of our faith.
We have traveled the earth bearing witness of this the work of the Almighty. During these same years, I personally have traveled nearly a million miles visiting some 70 countries. My beloved companion traveled with me until a year ago when she passed away. Our feelings of loneliness cannot be described.
But our hope is great and our faith is strong.
Plain and Precious Things
President Boyd K. Packer
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
As we stand on the summit of these years and look back, we must never feel arrogant or proud, but we can feel humbly grateful for what has been accomplished in a variety of undertakings.
Life moves all too fast. When you feel weak, discouraged, depressed, or afraid, open the Book of Mormon and read. Do not let too much time pass before reading a verse, a thought, or a chapter.
My experience has been that a testimony does not burst upon us suddenly. Rather it grows, as Alma said, from a seed of faith. “It will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow” (Alma 32:30). If you nourish it, it will grow; and if you do not nourish it, it will wither (see Alma 32:370-41).
Do not be disappointed if you have read and reread and yet have not received a powerful witness. You may be somewhat like the disciples spoken of in the Book of Mormon who were filled with the power of God in great glory “and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20).
Do the best you can. Think of this verse: “See that all these things are done in wisdom and order, for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).
The spiritual gifts described in the Book of Mormon are present in the Church today-promptings, impressions, revelations, dreams, visions, visitations, miracles. You can be sure that the Lord can, and at times does, manifest Himself with power and great glory.
A Still Small Voice and a Throbbing Heart
Bishop Richard C. Edgley
Of the Presiding Bishopric
In 1995, I was invited to give a welcome and some opening remarks at a scientific seminar in Salt Lake City on the subject of child nutrition. Ninety-six scientists from 24 countries attended. As I surveyed the audience during my remarks, I was impressed by the many nations represented, as evidenced by their dress, skin color, language, and other distinguishing features.
Three or four months later I attended a stake conference on the East Coast of the United States. As I sat on the stand in preparation for the priesthood leadership session, an African man entered the chapel and sat down by the aisle. He looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t remember where I might have a seen him. I leaned over and asked the stake president who the man was. The stake president answered, “Oh, he is not a member of the Church. He is a visiting professor from Africa teaching at a prestigious university in the area. A few months ago he attended some kind of scientific seminar in Salt Lake City. He picked up a pamphlet about the Church, which led him to read everything he could find about the Church. He now attends every meeting possible.” Half in jest, the stake president then said, “I would be surprised if he were not attending Relief Society meetings.”
After the priesthood leadership meeting, I reintroduced myself to the visiting professor. He affirmed his excitement for this newly discovered source of truth. He explained that his family, still in Africa, was studying with the missionaries and would be joining him in America in about four weeks, at which time they would all be baptized together.
At the conclusion of the Saturday evening adult session, this man came rushing to the podium and thumping his chest excitedly declared; “My heart is throbbing just like this. I can hardly contain it in my body. I don’t know if I can wait the four weeks for my family to be baptized.” I suggested he ought to slow down his heart and wait for his wife and children, so could be baptized together.
When Elijah was fleeing for his life from the wicked Phoenician princess Jezebel, the Lord directed him to a high mountain where he had a most unusual experience. As Elijah stood upon the mount before the Lord, he felt “a great and strong wind.but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (I Kings 19:11-12).
I am occasionally asked by those not of our faith why it is that our Church grows so rapidly, in both membership and activity, while other churches are reportedly declining in both. The answer to that question is simply a still small voice and then a throbbing heart. In this busy, tumultuous, and noisy world, it is not like a wind, it is not like a fire, it is not like an earthquake, but it is a still small, but a very discernable voice and it causes a throbbing heart.
All Thy Children Shall Be Taught
Sister Coleen Menlove
Primary General President
Recent disasters around the world have touched our hearts. The suffering children, who are innocent victims, weigh particularly heavy upon us. We have seen children without family members to provide, protect, and love them. Our hearts desire to reach out and help in some way-any way that would relieve their suffering and bring hope to their lives. We are grateful for the opportunities we have to give assistance. We are encouraged by the efforts of many who are helping these children.
However, we do not need to look far to find children who live in different yet challenging circumstances. Unknowingly, we may look beyond the children in our own midst. Are we really aware of the perilous circumstances surrounding our own children? We can usually determine if their physical needs are met, but what about their spiritual needs? Do they know of the light and peace of the gospel of Jesus Christ? The scriptures teach, “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (3 Nephi 22:13).
Children need the peace that comes from knowing they have a loving Heavenly Father, who sent His Son Jesus Christ, to bring light and hope into the world. It is up to us as adults to direct children to that peace and light.
Now Is the Time to Prepare
Elder Russell M. Nelson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
My dear brethren and sisters, since our last general conference, my sweetheart-my beloved wife for 59 years-passed away. While I was at home on a rare Saturday with no assignment, we had worked together. She had washed our clothing. I had helped to carry it, fold it, and put it in place. Then sitting on the sofa, holding hands, enjoying a program on television, my precious Dantzel slipped peacefully into eternity. Her passing came suddenly and unexpectedly. Just four days earlier, our doctor’s report at a routine checkup indicated that her laboratory tests were good. After my efforts to revive her proved fruitless, feelings of shock and sorrow overwhelmed me. My closest friend, angel mother of our 10 children, grandmother of our 56 grandchildren, had been taken from us.
Dantzel was not only a loved and loving companion. She was a teacher: By her noble example, she taught faith, virtue, obedience, and mercy. She taught me how to listen and to love. Because of her, I know all the blessings that can come to a husband, father, and grandfather.
From her sudden departure we can learn a very important lesson: Now is the time to prepare to meet God. Tomorrow may be too late. Prophets through the ages have so declared: “This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God.Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance” (Alma 34:32-33, See also Alma 13:37).
Yet many do procrastinate. A prophet warns us: “Ye cannot say.that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will.possess your body in that eternal world” (Alma 34: 34 emphasis added).
Constant Truths for Changing Times
President Thomas S. Monson
Of the First Presidency
Several years ago we had a young paperboy who didn’t always deliver the paper in the manner intended. Instead of getting the paper on the porch, he sometimes accidentally threw it into the bushes or even close to the street. Some on his paper route decided to start a petition of complaint. One day a delegation came to our home and asked my wife Frances to sign the petition. She declined saying, “Why, he’s just a little boy, and the papers are so heavy for him. I would never be critical of him for he tries his best.” The petition, however, was signed by many of the others on the paper route and sent to the boy’s supervisors.
Not many days afterward, I came home from work and found Frances in tears. When she was finally able to talk, she told me that she had just learned that the body of the little paper boy had been found in his garage where he had taken his own life. Apparently the criticism heaped upon him had been too much for him to bear. How grateful we were that we had not joined in that criticism. What a vivid lesson this has always been regarding the importance of being nonjudgmental and treating everyone with kindness.
The Savior should be our example. As is recorded of Him, he increased “in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He went about doing good.for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).
Saturday Afternoon Session
The Virtue of Kindness
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
When we are filled with kindness, we are not judgmental. The Savior taught, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). He also taught that, “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt 7: 1-2).
“But,” you ask, “What if people are rude?”
“And if they are obnoxious?”
“But what if they offend. Surely I must do something then?”
The answer is the same.
Why? In the scriptures Jude taught, “And of some have compassion, making a difference” (Jude 1:22). Who can tell what far-reaching impact we can have if only we are kind?
The Power of the Missionary Guide
Elder Richard G. Scott
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
May I share with you why I am so enthusiastic about Preach My Gospel? It has focused our missionary efforts as never before. For years I have asked groups of missionaries “what is the purpose of your mission?” Their individual responses differed greatly. Most did not have any concrete purpose to organize their efforts. Page one of this guide powerfully focuses missionaries on their true purpose: “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” The contents then suggest how to do that as led by the Spirit.
The former missionary materials were effective for their time but the world has changed dramatically. The values which form the bedrock foundation of society are being assaulted by Satan and his allies. There has been an urgent need for an improved way to share the fullness of truth that God has placed on earth again. This includes an understanding of God’s plan of happiness and of how it has been returned to earth through his singular prophet, Joseph Smith. Also, that the Church of Jesus Christ with the priesthood authority to act in His name is once again on earth in its fullness. Well did President Hinckley teach: “For many years now we have had a standard set of missionary lessons. Great good has come of this.But unfortunately this method, in all too many cases has resulted in a memorized presentation, lacking in Spirit and in personal conviction.[Missionaries] should master the concepts of the lessons. But they should.teach the concepts in their own words under the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit.” That principle is a foundation pillar of Preach My Gospel.
The Worth of Souls
Elder Harold G. Hillam
Of the Quorum of Seventy
One of the talks that has had an everlasting impression on me is one given in a Saturday evening session of a stake conference years ago. The talk was given by a young mother. Here’s what she said:
“I have been doing the genealogy of my great-grandfather. He and his large family of sons and daughters were members of the Church. My great-grandfather,” she said, “left Church one Sunday with his family and they never returned: no indication why.” She then said, “In my research, I have found that my great-grandfather has over 1,000 descendants.”
And then she said, and this is the part I have not been able to forget, “Of those 1,000 descendants, I am the only one active in the Church today.”
As she said these words, I found myself thinking? “Is it only 1.000, or could it be more?”
The answer is apparent. The spiritual influence that family might have had on their neighbors and friends did not happen. None of his sons, nor any of his daughters, served as missionaries, and those they would have touched with their testimonies were not baptized, and those who were not baptized did not go on missions. Yes, there are probably many thousands who are not in the Church today, and not in this meeting today, because of that great-grandfather’s decision.
That opportunity of the past is lost. But we can now look to the present, and to the future. I would say to those who find themselves in the same position as the great-grandfather, would you consider what you might be doing to your family, and to all those who come after you? Would you ponder the effects of your thoughts and your actions?
Tithing-A Commandment Even for the Destitute
Elder Lynn G. Robbins
Of the First Quorum of the Seventy
One reason the Lord illustrates doctrines with the most extreme circumstances, is to eliminate excuses. If the Lord expects even the poorest widow to pay her mite, where does that leave all others who find that it is not convenient or easy to sacrifice?
No bishop, no missionary should ever hesitate or lack the faith to teach the law of tithing to the poor. The sentiment of “they can’t afford to,” needs to be replaced with, “they can’t afford not to.” One of the first things a bishop must do to help the needy is to ask them to pay their tithing. Like the widow, if a destitute family’s decision is to pay their tithing or eat, they should pay their tithing. The bishop can help them with food.
In October of 1998, hurricane Mitch devastated many parts of Central America. President Gordon B. Hinckley was very concerned for the victims of this disaster, many of whom lost everything-food, clothing, and household goods. He visited the Saints in the cities of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, Honduras and Managua, Nicaragua. And, like the loving Prophet Elijah to a starving widow, this modern prophet’s message in each city was similar-to sacrifice and be obedient to the law of tithing.
How can you ask someone so destitute to sacrifice? President Hinckley knew that the food and clothing shipments they received would help them survive the crisis, but his concern and love for them went far beyond that. As important as humanitarian aid is, he knew that the most important assistance comes from God, not from man. The Prophet wanted to help them unlock the windows of heaven as promised by the Lord in the Book of Malachi (see Malachi 3:10).
President Hinckley taught them that if they would pay their tithing they would always have food on their tables, they would always have clothing on their backs, and they would always have a roof over their heads.
The Fruits of the First Vision
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
God has spoken to Joseph Smith for the purpose of blessing all of God’s children with His mercy and love, even in times of uncertainties and insecurities, of wars and rumors of wars, of natural and personal disasters. The Savior said: “Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whoever will come, him will I receive (3 Nephi 9:14). And all who accept this invitation will be “encircled about with the matchless bounty of His love” (Alma 26:15).
Through our faith in the personal witness of the Prophet Joseph and the reality of the First Vision, through study and prayer, deep and sincere, we will be blessed with a firm faith in the Savior of the world, who spoke to Joseph “on the morning of a beautiful clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty” (Joseph Smith-History 1:14).
Faith in Jesus Christ and a testimony of Him and His universal atonement is not just a doctrine with great theological value. Such faith is a universal gift, glorious for all cultural regions of this earth, irrespective of language, race, color, nationality, or socioeconomic circumstance. The powers of reason may be used to try to understand this gift, but those who feel its effects most deeply are those who are willing to accept its blessings, which come from a pure and clean life of following the path of true repentance and living the commandments of God.
Blessings from Sacrifice and Service
Elder Robert D. Hales
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Allow me to share some of [the] miraculous blessings [of senior missionaries] from letters and accounts I have received over the past four years. A humble couple from Idaho met fear with faith when the Lord called them to Russia. They wrote the following acceptance letter: “No one would have imagined we would be called to this assignment. We have no idea how we will learn the language or manage to be of service, and although we accept with much trepidation, going completely on faith, we know that the Lord and His prophet know more than we do where we should serve.” Ten months later the Stockholm Sweden Temple welcomes 30 saints from a small branch in Russia led by this couple from Idaho who had barely begun to learn the Russian language. The scriptures tell us, “God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles” (Mosiah 8:18). Thus, God’s work is carried out by His children: “That faith also might increase in the earth.That the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world” (D&C 1: 21, 23).
Another couple faced family concerns with faith. A faithful sister wrote: “The decision to serve a mission was not hard. But my ninety-year-old mother was extremely apprehensive about our leaving. She took great comfort when she heard that our families would be blessed as we serve.” A faithful brother expressed similar concerns about leaving his elderly parents, to which his father responded, “Don’t use your mother and me as an excuse not to go on a mission with your wife. You pray about it and follow the guidance of the Spirit.”