In the October General Conference of 1974, Gordon B. Hinckley delivered an address that is still startlingly relevant to our day. He spoke of the experience of being involved in the open house for the Washington, D.C. temple. He stood at the threshold and greeting all the visitors including ambassadors, senators and heads of state; but he also stood on the threshold of something else. He spoke from a place of reflection on our pioneer past and prophetic understanding of the future we are facing today:
Unless the world alters the course of its present trends (and that is not likely); and if, on the other hand, we continue to follow the teachings of the prophets, we shall increasingly become a peculiar and distinctive people of whom the world will take note. For instance: As the integrity of the family crumbles under worldly pressures, our position on the sanctity of the family will become more obvious and even more peculiar in contrast, if we have the faith to maintain that position.
Further on, he says:
It is not always easy to live in the world and not be a part of it. We cannot live entirely with our own or unto ourselves, nor would we wish to. We must mingle with others. In so doing, we can be gracious. We can be inoffensive. We can avoid any spirit or attitude of self-righteousness. But we can maintain our standards. The natural tendency will be otherwise, and many have succumbed to it.
In 1856, when we were largely alone in these valleys, some thought we were safe from the ways of the world. To such talk, Heber C. Kimball, the grandfather of our beloved president, responded: “I want to say to you, my brethren, the time is coming when we will be mixed up in these now peaceful valleys to that extent that it will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint from the face of an enemy to the people of God. Then, brethren,” he went on, “look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall; for I say unto you there is a test, a Test, a TEST coming, and who will be able to stand?” (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball,Bookcraft, 1945, p. 446.)
I do not know precisely the nature of that test. But I am inclined to think the time is here and that the test lies in our capacity to live the gospel rather than adopt the ways of the world.
We are beginning to fully understand the nature of the tests that have come upon us and will continue to come, but this man who would go on to lead the Church, knew that we could find the strength to “become as a city upon a hill.”
To read the full address, click here.