President Hinckley greeted the brethren in his talk by saying that he supposed this was “the largest such gathering of priesthood ever assembled.”  He then contrasted that “with the occasion described by Wilford Woodruff when all the priesthood in all the world assembled in one room in Kirtland, Ohio, to receive instruction from the Prophet Joseph.”

Priesthood meeting for the men of the Church is rich with tradition and brotherhood.  Many Dads take their sons out for ice cream either before or after the great meeting.  Young boys look forward to it.  Dads relish it.  Grandfathers gather with many of their righteous posterity and join in.  The men always walk away uplifted, strengthened and resolved to be better holders of the priesthood.  The following are excerpts from the talks given at the 174th Semi-Annual General Conference Priesthood Session.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve
Be Not Deceived

Elder Oaks captured the attention of the audience by saying “I assume there are no boys in this audience, only young men who are holders of the priesthood.”  Then he added, “I will speak to you as one man speaketh to another.”

Elder Oaks then went on to say that Satan is the author of some of the signs that beacon us along the road.  “He seeks to confuse and deceive us, to get us on a low road that leads away from our eternal destination.”  He talked about “some ways the devil will try to deceive us.”  Some of these ways are:

  1. “One kind of deception seeks to mislead us about who we should follow.”
  2. “Satan also seeks to deceive us about right and wrong and persuade us that there is no such thing as sin.”
  3. “And others will he pacify,” quoting from Nephi, “and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion: yea, Zion prospereth, all is well…”

Emphatically, Elder Oaks then said, “Be not deceived, brethren.  Heed the ancient and modern prophetic warnings against thievery, drunkenness, and all forms of sexual sin.  The deceiver seeks to destroy your spirituality by all of these means.”

Elder Oaks concluded by giving the brethren the keys to how not to be deceived by drawing upon the parable of the Ten Virgins.  “For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day” (D&C 45:57).

Elder Carl B. Pratt of the First Quorum of the Seventy
The Blessings of a Proper Fast

“Fasting has always been a practice among God’s people,” Elder Carl Pratt said in his opening sentence.  “In our day it is a commandment given by the Lord to all members of the Church.”

And then, speaking very clearly to the brethren, he said forcefully, “I fear, brethren, that too many of us are either not fasting on fast day, or we are doing so in a lackadaisical manner.  If we are guilty of taking our fast day for granted or simply fasting Sunday morning instead of making is two complete meals—24 hours, we are depriving ourselves and our families of the choice spiritual experiences and blessings that can come from a true fast.”

He went on to say that “The purpose of our fast may be a very personal one.  Fasting can help us overcome personal flaws and sins.  It can help our weaknesses become strengths…Our fast may have a focus on a family challenge.”

“Let us begin our fasts with prayer,” he admonished.  This could be kneeling at the table as we finish the meal with which we begin the fast.  That prayer should be a natural thing as we speak to our Heavenly Father concerning the purpose of our fast and plead with him for his help in accomplishing our goals.  Likewise let us end our fasts with prayer.”

He concluded by quoting from Isaiah, chapter 58, where the Lord outlines the fast that He has chosen (see Isaiah 58: 6-11).

Elder Cecil O. Samuelson then spoke to the brethren, but a copy of his transcript is not available at the time of going live on Meridian.

President James E. Faust, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency
The Key to the Knowledge of God

President Faust spoke to the brethren from a chair because he is recovering from a temporary back problem.  “Those of you who have had back trouble will understand.  Those of you who haven’t—just wait a while!” he quipped.

“It is hard to imagine anything more important for us as priesthood holders to learn than the key of the knowledge of God,” President Faust taught.  “What is the key of the knowledge of God, and can anyone obtain it?  Without the priesthood there can be no fullness of the knowledge of God.  The Prophet Joseph Smith said that the ‘Melchizedek Priesthood…is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation and every important matter is revealed from heaven.’”

President Faust used Abraham as an example and taught the brethren how he, Abraham, wanted to “become a greater follower of righteousness.”  In his clear and powerful approach, President Faust said, “To obtain the full portion of these supernal blessings and come to a full knowledge of God, a man must enter into and keep the oath and covenant of the priesthood.”  He drew from the teachings of President Marion G. Romney who said that to magnify the callings in the priesthood, it requires at least the following three things:

  1. That we obtain a knowledge of the gospel.
  2. That we comply in our personal living with the standards of the gospel.
  3. That we give dedicated service.

President Faust continued to draw upon the example of Abraham, encouraging the brethren to look to him for an example.  “We are commanded to come to Christ by doing ‘the works of Abraham.’  These works include:  obedience to God, receiving and keeping priesthood and temple ordinances and covenants; preaching the gospel; building a family unit and teaching our children; and being faithful to the end.”

President Thomas S. Monson, 1st Counselor in the First Presidency
Anxiously Engaged

President Thomas S. Monson encouraged the brethren in their duty to reach out and rescue the “vast numbers of priesthood bearers who, for whatever reason, have drifted from their duties and have chosen to pursue other pathways.”  Quoting from the Doctrine and Covenants he said that “men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.”  (See D&C 58: 26, 27)

Ever drawing upon the example of Jesus Christ, President Monson told the brethren that even as “The Savior was ever up and about—teaching, testifying and saving others.  Such is our individual duty as members of priesthood quorums today.” 

He exhorted the priesthood to look for “those men whose habits and lives include but little church attendance or church activity of any kind.  The ranks of these prospective elders have grown larger.  This is because of those younger boys of the Aaronic Priesthood quorums who are lost along the Aaronic Priesthood pathway and also those grown men who are baptized but do not persevere in activity and faith so that they might be ordained elders.

He continued, “I reflect not only on the hearts and souls of such individual men, but also sorrow for their sweet wives and growing children.  These men await a helping hand, an encouraging word and a personal testimony of truth expressed from a heart filled with love and a desire to lift and to build.”

Speaking of why certain ones are brought back into the fold, he told the brethren that “Two fundamental reasons largely account for these changes of attitudes, of habits, of actions.

“First, men have been shown their eternal possibilities and have made the decision to achieve them.  They cannot really long rest content with mediocrity once excellence is within their reach.

“Second, other men and women and, yes, young people have followed the admonition of the Savior and have loved their neighbors as themselves and helped to bring their neighbors’ dreams to fulfillment and their ambitions to realization.

“The catalyst in this process,” President Monson taught, “has been the principle of love.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley
President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
A Tragic Evil Among Us

President Hinckley approached the brethren in the concluding talk of the session in great solemnity and seriousness.  Quoting from Alma he began, “This is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance (Alma 29:9).  Then he said, “What I have to say is not new.  I have spoken on it before…While the matter of which I speak was a problem then [some years ago]; it is a much more serious problem now.  It grows increasingly worse.  It is like a raging storm, destroying individuals and families, utterly ruining what was once wholesome and beautiful.  I speak of pornography in all of its manifestations.”

He said he spoke on this topic because of the letters he had received from broken-hearted wives.  He then proceeded to read from one of those letters a story or irony and tragedy.  It was from a woman who husband of 35 years had recently passed away, but before he did, he visited with the bishop and confessed that he had been addicted to pornography the whole of his marriage and wanted to find forgiveness before he died.  The wife wrote, “I was stunned, hurt, felt betrayed and violated.  I could not promise him forgiveness at that moment but pleaded for time…I was able to review my married life [and how] pornography had…put a stranglehold on our marriage from early on.”

He continued to read the detailed letter in length and then read this poignant, concluding line from the woman who wrote him, “Please warn the brethren (and sisters), Pornography is not some titillating feast for the eyes that gives a momentary rush of excitement, [Rather] it has the effect of damaging hearts and souls to their very depths, strangling the life out of relationships that should be sacred, hurting to the very core those you should love the most.”

President Hinckley then said to the brethren about pornography, boldly, “And sin it is.  It is devilish.  It is totally inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel, with personal testimony of the things of God, and with the life of one who has been ordained to the holy priesthood.”

He continued, “Suffice it to say that all who are involved become victims.  Children are exploited and their lives are severely damaged.  The minds of youth become warped with false concepts.  Continued exposure leads to addiction that is almost impossible to break.  Men, so very many, find they cannot leave it alone.  Their energies and their interests are consumed in their dead-end pursuits of this raw and sleazy fare.

“The excuse is given that it is hard to avoid, that it is right at our fingertips and there is no escape.

“Suppose a storm is raging and the winds howl and the snow hurls about you.  You find yourself unable to stop it.  But you can dress properly and seek shelter and the story will have no effect upon you.”

With great energy President Hinckley pled with the brethren:  “If there be any within the sound of my voice who are doing so [who are involved with pornography], then may you plead with the Lord out of the depths of your soul that He will remove from you the addiction which enslaves you.  And may you have the courage to seek the loving guidance of your bishop and, if necessary, the counsel of caring professionals.

“Let any who may be in the grip of this vise, get upon their knees in the privacy of their closet and plead with the Lord for help to free them from this evil monster.  Otherwise, this vicious stain will continue through life and even into eternity.”