SEOUL, Korea — The 200th anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith coincides with the 50th anniversary of the dedication of Korea to the Lord by the restored church. An appearance by President Gordon B. Hinckley, who is as beloved in Korea as he is all over the world, highlighted the conference held on July 31.
A sense of quiet expectation and hope fill the arena as Elder Won Yong Ko of the 2nd Quorum of the Seventy stepped to the pulpit and announced that President Hinckley had finally landed at the Gimpo airport and would be coming as soon as he cleared immigration. President Hinckley, who presided over the meeting, had instructed Elder Ko to begin in his absence.
After an opening hymn and invocation Elder Ko spoke. His words were broadcast throughout all Korea via satellite and were also sent overseas (including Hawaii, Canada, and Australia as well as the mainland United States). Elder Ko compared this Korean gathering to another one in ancient times — that of King Benjamin gathering his people to teach them.
After King Benjamin’s address, he sent among the people to see if they believed his words. The people exclaimed they did, and desired to live righteously and were willing to enter into a covenant to do so. Elder Ko exclaiamed, “How wonderful is this covenant! This is an amazing blessing; you have already made these covenants, and now need to be spiritually born again.” He told the Korean Saints that even though President Hinckley is very old he had traveled to Korea because he loves them, adding that the Korean Saints should take that love to their neighbors to help spread the gospel.
Sister Un Hee Kim (Elder Ko’s wife — in Korea the women don’t take their husband’s name when they marry) spoke next. She spoke of how King Lamoni and his wife accepted the gospel and how the wife supported her husband. She said that the wife should support her husband even if he must spend many hours serving the Lord. She said she has always supported Elder Ko, and he has always done Heavenly Father’s work.
As Sister Kim concluded her remarks, President Hinckley arrived. It was an electric moment as he walked into the building to the beautiful hymn, “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.” The entire congregation sang these heartfelt words, even while straining to get a first glimpse of the Prophet as he entered.
As the meeting continued, Elder Kikuchi spoke. He said that the country is growing prosperous and church members are growing spiritually, and are following the brethren. There is strong unity in the Church in Korea.
Because of Visiting Teaching and Home Teaching sacrament meeting attendance is on an upward trend and temple worship is increasing every year,” he added. He challenged them to pay an honest tithe to the Lord, and he invited couples who are near retirement and young people to serve missions. He bore strong testimony that President Hinckley is a prophet of God and that this is the Lord’s church.
Speaking with the help of translator-elder In Sang Han, President Hinckley spoke next. Elder Han was often touched by what our Prophet said, making it a little difficult for him to speak. Everyone who was within the sound of the translator’s voice could feel his love for the Prophet of the Lord.
Pres. Hinckley told the congregation about his visit to Vladivostok, Russia, and recounted the beginning of the work there. The mission in Vladivostok has only been open for a short time, and there were about 200 members in attendance there. President Hinckley said, “I told them that if they will be faithful and true, the Lord will bless them and we will see what we see in Korea.”
The Prophet reminisced about previous visits to Korea, beginning in 1960. He said, “I have witnessed something miraculous here.” On his first visit to Korea, he arrived just after the United States had given Korea’s police force 100 motorcycles, and he recalled that his party received three tickets en route to their destination.
“The police really loved those motorcycles!” he said. “The Church owned one vehicle [in Korea], a green monster (an International Harvester). The only other vehicles in Korea were the military jeeps given to them by other countries. Today I didn’t see one U.S. auto on the road.”
President Hinckley continued, “The people then were so poor then, they lived under the worst of circumstances. I saw one living in a piano box, and they were poorly dressed. Now, all that has changed. You look prosperous. The Lord has blessed you, and has blessed this land because of you. There is security and peace.”
Then he said, “The well-being of this nation rests on the righteousness of the people. If the Saints will live the gospel they will be spared from war and other afflictions.”
”I love you,” he said. “I have a special love for the Saints in Korea. When I see all these old friends (he looked back and pointed at the leaders sitting behind him) who have been faithful all these years, what wonderful people you are. You know the gospel is true and what the Lord expects of you.
“Elder Ko spoke of tithing and the Word of Wisdom and other elements of the gospel,” he continued. “I want to endorse what he said. Pay your tithing. You need the blessings of the Lord, and He cannot bless you unless you pay your tithing and put your trust in the Lord.
“This may be the last time you hear my voice in Korea,” he said. “I’m an old man now, so old I don’t eat kimchee, (a very spicy Korean dish made of cabbage and other vegetables). I may never come to Korea again. I want you all to know that God our Eternal Father lives, He is the great Governor of the universe. We are His children; He hears and answers the prayers of His children. I want you to know Jesus Christ is the Son, that He left His royal home on high and came among men and was hated and abused, but went about doing good. He was crucified and rose the third day, the first fruits of them that slept. I want you to know that the Father and Son appeared to the boy Joseph Smith and ushered in this dispensation, the greatest of all dispensations. The Book of Mormon is a second witness of Jesus Christ and has come forth to testify of Jesus Christ. I want you to know that the Holy Priesthood is on the earth. God bless you.”
After bearing this powerful testimony, President Hinckley said he wished he could shake the hands of everyone in attendance, “but my hand would then be worn out.
” Instead he expressed his love again.
“There is only one thing missing today,” he added, “ — my beloved wife and companion. She used to bring chocolates to the missionaries, she even ate kimchee. I miss her. She is my eternal companion. The time is soon when I shall join her.
“I feel in my heart a great emotional tie, feeling the love of this vast congregation. God bless you and be with you till we meet again. May Heaven smile upon you, and may your lives be filled with gladness. There is nothing greater I could ask for.”
As the Prophet left the auditorium, the congregation of more than 10,000 Saints rose and respectfully waved their goodbyes.