President Boyd K. Packer
Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles?

All photographs Copyright 2006 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

[President Packer told the story of the brethren erecting an ensign to the world on Ensign Peak their third day in the valley of the Great Salt Lake, then said this.]

Those Brethren on Ensign Peak knew that they were to live ordinary lives and keep the image of Christ engraved in their countenances (see Alma 5:14).

They understood that the stakes were to be a defense and a refuge, but at that same time there was not one stake on the earth.  They knew their mission was to establish stakes of Zion in every nation of the earth.

Perhaps they wondered what kind of wrath of storm could be poured out that they had not already experienced.  They had endured savage opposition, violence, terrorism.  Their homes had been burned, their property taken.  They were driven from their homes time after time after time.  They knew then, as we know now, that there would be no end to opposition, violence, terrorism.  Their homes had been burned, their property taken.  They were driven from their homes time after time after time. 

They knew then, as we know now, that there would be no end to opposition.  The nature of it changes, but it never ends.  There would be no end to the kinds of challenges that the early Saints would face.  New challenges would be different than, but certainly not less than, that through which they had made their way.

Now the stakes of Zion number in the thousands and are all over the world.  The members number in the millions and growing.  Neither of these can be held back, for this is the work of the Lord.  Now members live in 169 countries and speak over 200 languages.

Some live in an unspoken fear of what awaits us and our children in the world.  It grows ever darker in morality and spirituality.  If we will gather into the Church, live the simple principles of the gospel, live moral lives, keep the Word of Wisdom, tend to our priesthood and other duties, then we need not live in fear.  The Word of Wisdom is a key to both physical health and revelation.  Avoid tea, coffee, liquor, tobacco and narcotics.

We can live where we wish, doing the best we can to make a living, whether modest or generous.  We are free to do as we wish with out lives, assured of the approval and even the intervention of the Almighty, confident of constant spiritual guidance.

Each stake is a defense and a refuge and a standard.  A stake is self-contained with all that is needed for the salvation and exaltation of those who would come within its influence, and temples are ever closer.

There has been no end to opposition.   There are misinterpretations and misrepresentations of us and our history, some of them mean-spirited and certainly contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His gospel.  Sometimes clergy, even ministerial organizations, oppose us.  They do what we would never do.  We do not attack or criticize or oppose others as they do us…

We face the challenge of raising families in the world in darkening clouds of wickedness.  Some of our members are unsettled and sometimes they wonder:  Is there any place one can go to escape from it all?  Is there another town or a state or a country where it is safe, where one can find refuge? The answer generally is no.  The defense and the refuge is where our members now live.

The Book of Mormon prophesies, “Yea, and then shall the work commence, with the Father among all nations in preparing the way whereby his people may be gathered home to the land of their inheritance” (3 Nephi 21:28).

Those who come out of the world into the Church, keep the commandments, honor the priesthood, and enter into activity have found the refuge.

 And Nothing Shall Offend Them

Elder David A. Bednar
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

One of my favorite activities as a priesthood leader is visiting members of the Church in their homes. I especially enjoy calling upon and talking with members who commonly are described as “less active.”

During the years I served as a stake president, I often would contact one of the bishops and invite him to prayerfully identify individuals or families we could visit together.  Before traveling to a home, the bishop and I would kneel and petition our Heavenly Father for guidance and inspiration, for us and for the members with whom we would meet.

Our visits were quite straightforward.  We expressed love and appreciation for the opportunity to be in their home.  We affirmed that we were servants of the Lord on His errand to their home.  We indicated that we missed and needed them — and that they needed the blessings of the restored gospel.  And at some point early in our conversation I often would ask a question like this:  “Will you please help us understand why you are not actively participating in the blessings and programs of the Church?”

I have participated in hundreds and hundreds of such visits. Each individual, each family, each home, and each answer was different.  Over the years, however, I detected a common theme in many of the answers to my questions. Frequently responses like these were given:

“Several years ago a man said something in Sunday school that offended me, and I have not been back since.”

No one in this ward greeted or reached out to me.  I felt like an outsider.  I was hurt by the unfriendliness of this ward.”

I did not agree with the counsel the bishop gave me.  I will not step foot in that building again as long as he is serving in that position.

Many other causes of offense were cited — from doctrinal differences among adults to taunting, teasing, and excluding by youth.  But the recurring theme was, “I was offended by…”

The bishop and I would listen intently and sincerely.  One of us might next ask about their conversion to and testimony of the restored gospel.  As we talked, eyes often were moist with tears as these good people recalled the conforming witness of the Holy Ghost and described their prior spiritual experiences.  Most of the “less active” people I have ever visited had a discernable and tender testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel.  However, they were not presently participating in Church activities and meetings.

And then I would say something like this.  “Let me make sure I understand what has happened to you.  Because someone at Church offended you, you have not been blessed by the ordinance of the sacrament.  You have withdrawn yourself from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.  Because someone at Church offended you, you have cut yourself off from priesthood ordinances and the Holy Temple.  You have discontinued your opportunity to serve others and to learn and grow.  And you are leaving barriers that will impede the spiritual progress of your children, your children’s children, and the generations that will follow.”  Many times people would think for a moment and then respond, “I have never thought about it that way.

Receiving by the Spirit
Brother A. Roger Merrill
Sunday School General President

I have come to better understand how vitally important it is to receive by the Spirit.  We often focus, appropriately, on the importance of teaching by the Spirit.  But we need to remember that the Lord has placed equal, if not greater, importance on receiving by the Spirit. (See Doctrine and Covenants 50: 17-22.)

Such receiving is a foundational gospel pattern.  It is set forth in the very ordinance by which we are confirmed members of the Church.  In this ordinance, we are instructed to “receive the Holy Ghost.”  This is a formal invitation to act, to receive this great gift.

As I have become more aware of this principle, I find that the scriptures are replete with the doctrine of receiving.  As President Boyd K. Packer has said, “No message appears in scripture more times, in more ways, than ‘Ask, and ye shall receive.’”

As the very core of our mortal probably is the choice to receive Jesus as the Christ.  The apostle John taught:

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God… (John 1:11-12).

One cannot help but wonder how many gifts and blessings surround us that we do not receive. 

More Glorious than Moving Mountains

Elder Craig A. Cardon
Of the Quorum of the Seventy

The priesthood…has the power to change our very natures.  As Paul wrote, “[A]ll those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God” (JST Hebrews 7:3; see also, Moses 1:6)  This likeness is not only in ordination and ordinance, but also in the perfecting of individual hearts, something that occurs “in process of time” as we “[yield] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and [put] off the natural man” (Mosiah 3:19).  When a man is ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood, he enters into an order by which he may be refined through service to others, especially his own family, and blessed by the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

The Lord instructed all of us when He taught that for priesthood bearers, unrighteousness brings an end to heavenly power or influence while righteousness strengthens them.  He identified qualities that “greatly enlarge the soul” as “persuasion… long-suffering… gentleness… meekness… love unfeigned… kindness, and pure knowledge” (D&C 121: 41, 42).

He then added these instructive words:  “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly;  then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God;  and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:45).

It is significant that after inviting us to have charity toward “all men” the Lord added the phrase, “and to the household of faith.”  Why?  Doesn’t “all men” include the “household of faith”?  Consider the implications when this added phrase is understood to mean more specifically, “your very own” household of faith. 

Unfortunately, there are a few within the Church who exhibit greater charity toward non-family members than toward their own spouses and children, siblings and parents.  They may show feigned kindness publicly while privately sowing and cultivating seeds of contention, demeaning those who should be closest to them.  These things should not be.

Becoming Instruments in the Hands of God
Elder Don R. Clarke
Of the Seventy

My grandfather, Alma Benjamin Larsen, was only 34 years old when he woke up one morning and noticed that he had problems seeing.  Shortly thereafter, he lost his sight entirely.  Grandfather had served a mission and been a faithful member of the Church.  He was a farmer, had a wife and three children, and he could not imagine life without sight.  Grandfather’s wife and small children now had to bear the extra burdens of helping on the farm, and money became tight.

During this time of physical darkness many people became instruments in God’s hands to help my blind grandfather.  One experience that had a powerful impact on his family happened in 1919.  It was a year of great financial difficulty for all the people in grandfather’s town.  Farms were being foreclosed and businesses were going broke.  There was a sizeable mortgage on his farm, and Grandfather received a statement saying he would have to pay $195.00 in order to carry the mortgage over for another year. 

For him, paying this bill was like demanding a pound of flesh.  Nearly everyone was in the same condition, and it seemed impossible to obtain that much money.  If he had gathered everything that the farm produced — the horses, cows and machinery — he could not have sold them for $195. 

Grandfather asked a neighbor to butcher two or three of his cows, and he sold them and some other products.  He had extended credit to his neighbors with the understanding that they would pay at the end of the year, but none of his debtors was able to pay him.  The economic situation of his family was bleak.

In his journal, Grandfather recounts, “I shall never forget that cold evening, just before Christmas of 1919.  It looked as though we would lose the farm.  My daughter, Gladys, laid a slip of paper in my hand and said, ‘This came in the mail today.’  I took it to her mother and asked her what it was.  This is what my wife read to me, ‘Dear Brother Larsen, I’ve had you on my mind all day today.  I am wondering if you are in financial trouble.  If you are, I have $200.00 you may have.’  The letter was signed, ‘Jim Drinkwater.’ 

Jim was a small, crippled man and he would have been the last man on earth that anyone would have thought had that much money on hand.  I went to his house that night and he said, “Brother Larsen, I received a wireless message from Heaven this morning and I could not get you off my mind all day.  I was sure you were in financial trouble.’  Brother Drinkwater gave me $200 and we sent the $195.00 to the mortgage company and with the extra five dollars we bought boots and clothes for the children.  Santa Claus did come that year.”

My grandfather then goes on to bear his testimony, “The Lord has never let me down.  He has touched the hearts of others as he touched the heart of Brother Drinkwater.  I bear witness that the only safety and security that I have ever found has come through trying to keep the commandments of the Lord and upholding and sustaining the authorities of this church.”

I have thought about Jim Drinkwater many times and wondered how he came to be one that the Lord could trust.  Jim was a little crippled man that God trusted to help a blind farmer with a heavy mortgage and three children.  I have learned a great deal from my grandfather’s experience with Jim Drinkwater. I have learned that a person does not need to have a church calling, an invitation to help someone, or even good health to become an instrument in God’s hands.

That They Might Know Thee

Elder Keith R. Edwards
Of the 2nd Quorum of the Seventy

There are, throughout the scriptures, a line of men and women who always seemed to keep their focus on Christ.  People who, no matter what injury or injustice life dealt them, remained faithful and willing to endure.  I speak of Abraham, dispossessed of the land of his inheritance and commanded to sacrifice Isaac; of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers, imprisoned for honoring virtue and chastity, and left to linger in jail because of a thoughtless servant; Ruth, widowed young and left destitute, yet constant and loyal to her mother-in-law; all three Nephis, both Almas and, of course, the Prophet Joseph.

Particularly notable to me is Nephi’s endurance.  Continually receiving the wrath of his brothers, he was bound for four days on the boat coming to the promised land.  He could not move and on the fourth day, when it appeared that they were about to be swallowed up by the ocean, the brothers, fearing they might perish, “loosed the bands, which were upon [his] wrists and behold they had swollen exceedingly, and also [his] ankles were much swollen and great was the soreness thereof.  Nevertheless, he did look unto God and did praise him all the day long and did not murmur…” (1 Nephi 18: 14, 15).

Remember, though, that it was Nephi that recorded, “they scourge him, and he suffereth it, and they smite him, and he suffereth it.  Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it…”  Nephi understood.

Wherefore, Settle This in Your Hearts
Elder Larry W. Gibbons
Of the Seventy

As Elder Henry B. Eyring said in the first Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast, “The Lord has given us His standards of worthiness.  He has not done it to keep us away from Him but to draw us to Him.”

Brothers and sisters, keeping the commandments makes all the difference in this life and in the next.  To be worthy of the celestial kingdom and the joy that is there we must keep the commandments!

The only standard that makes sense for any of us is a celestial standard.  In the Doctrine and Covenants we read:  “For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.”  It’s that simple!  But, we do not have to wait to experience celestial joy.  Living the commandments brings joy here and now.

My fear is that too many of us are not fully committed to living all the commandments.  These saints are not wiling to leave the world completely behind.  They are holding back.

In the priesthood leadership session of a regional conference, we sang the hymn “Ye Elders of Israel.”  The chorus contains a line “O Babylon, O Babylon, we bid thee farewell.”  Following the singing, Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke and expressed the thought that bidding Babylon farewell is actually one of our challenges — that too many of us like to keep a summer cottage there.

“Prophets in the Land Again”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

In my own expression of testimony and gratitude for the messages and meaning of general conference, may I suggest [what] things these twice-yearly gatherings declare to all the world.

…They declare eagerly and unequivocally that there is again a living prophet on the earth speaking in the name of the Lord.  And how we need such guidance!  Our times are turbulent and difficult.  We see wars internationally and distress domestically.  Neighbors all around us face personal heartaches and family sorrows.  Legions know fear and troubles of a hundred kinds. 

This reminds us that when those mists of darkness enveloped the travelers in Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, it enveloped all of the participants — the righteous as well as the unrighteous, the young along with the elderly, the new convert and seasoned member alike.  In that allegory, all face opposition and travail, and only the rod of iron — the declared word of God — can bring them through to safety. 

We all  need that rod.  We all need that word.  No one is safe without it, fir in its absence any can “[fall[ into forbidden paths and [be] lost.”  How grateful we are to have heard God’s voice and felt the strength of that iron rod in this conference these past two days.

Not often but over the years some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don’t know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out of date, not relevant to our times.

As the least of those who have been sustained by you to witness the guidance of the Church firsthand, I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between.  I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor that I know of anywhere on earth.  I bear personal witness of how thoroughly good they are, of how hard they work, and how humbly they live.  It is no trivial matter for this Church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation but we do declare it.  It is true light shining in a dark world, and it shines from these proceedings.


President Gordon B. Hinckley
The First Presidency

We wish that there were peace in the earth and constantly pray that it may come.  Now, we leave with you our love and our blessing.  May the Spirit of the Lord dwell in your homes.  May love govern your family relations.  For this we pray as we bid you goodbye for another six months.