“A Modern Prophet at Ninety-Five,” Ensign, July 1971, 31
With a ninety-fifth birthday on July 19, resident Joseph Fielding Smith, tenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, can look back on a year of intense activity.
This spiritual giant who leads God’s church on the earth was born in 1876 in Salt Lake City. His schedule during the past year was geared to a man half his age.
July 1970 found him in Mexico City speaking at the Benemerito School and at two stakes in that city. Pioneer Day (July 24) he was home in Salt Lake City, where he was the Days of ’47 parade marshal, greeted President and Mrs. Richard M. Nixon, and then accompanied them to the rodeo.
During the past year he has set apart new temple presidencies in Mesa, Arizona; Idaho Falls, Idaho; and St. George, Utah. He has participated in laying cornerstones for the Ogden and Provo temples. He has counseled new missionaries at the language training missions at Brigham Young University and Church College of Hawaii, as well as met with the missionaries in Hawaii.
He dedicated the Laguna Hills (California) Ward chapel and the Independence (Missouri) Visitor’s Center. He has spoken at two general conferences, Relief Society conference, Primary conference, and stake conferences in the Salt Lake Valley and Hawaii.
He has spoken at Brigham Young University, Church College of Hawaii, Ricks College, Snow College, and Southern Utah State College. He has met with students at institutes of religion and firesides at Utah State University and the University of Utah and in Long Beach, California.
All of this activity, of course, has been in addition to his regular duties in directing the affairs of the Church through regular meetings of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve and others.
And in the midst of this hectic pace he has met with the notables of the world who have come to Salt Lake City.
These are only a sampling of President Smith’s activities. As a tribute to this modern-day prophet, the Ensign has excerpted significant portions from several of the addresses of President Smith during the past year.
I am so grateful that we have the gospel, that we know what the Lord’s laws are, and that if we keep the commandments and do the things the Lord expects of us, we shall overcome the world and gain salvation eventually in his kingdom.
We have been commanded to put first in our lives the things of his kingdom. None of us have done this as fully as we should; there is some degree of worldliness in all of us, and we overcome the world by degrees.
To aid and help us in this process of working out our salvation, the Lord has given us this counsel: “… that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions to the Most High.” (D&C 59:9–10.)
My plea is that all of us will seek the Lord; that we shall worship him in spirit and in truth; that we shall live as becometh saints and rise above the carnal and evil standards of the world and thereby qualify for an inheritance in his eternal kingdom, in accordance with his promise:
“… he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in the world, and eternal life in the world to come.” (D&C 59:23.)
I know we face greater problems than was the case with many of our ancestors. But the Lord has not forsaken the world, nor has he left his people without guidance and inspiration. We have the truths of salvation. We have the holy priesthood. We have the gift of the Holy Ghost, and if we live the way we know we should, the Lord will guide and direct us by the power of his Spirit.
I was once in a Latter-day Saint community where I saw many members of the Church breaking the Sabbath day by boating and fishing. Later when I spoke in the morning session of their stake conference, I said that although I did not know when Christ would come, I had a pretty good idea. I said I thought he would come on a Sunday, in the afternoon, when the Saints should be attending conference, but when they would be out fishing and breaking the Sabbath. You know, that afternoon, there wasn’t any fishing and boating; all the Saints were back in conference where they belonged.
Now we are living in the last days; these are the days when the signs of the times are being fulfilled. Much that has been promised by the prophets to precede the Second Coming has already taken place.
There has been the predicted apostasy from the faith once delivered to the saints. An angel has come through the midst of heaven having the everlasting gospel to preach unto all that dwell upon the earth. The gospel has been restored. The Lord has sent his messenger to prepare the way before him.
Elijah has returned. The Book of Mormon has come forth and the gathering of Israel from the four quarters of the earth has commenced. The gospel is being preached in many of the nations of the earth, and the honest in heart are being converted to the truth.
But there are some other things that the prophets spoke about, which are now transpiring and which we can recognize, but which have not wholly been fulfilled. These things are the wars and perplexities that shall cover the earth during the Saturday night of time.
In this present day, confusion, bloodshed, misery, plague, famine, earthquake, and other calamities shall cover the face of the earth. The distress and perplexity, bloodshed and terror, selfish ambition of despotic rulers, such as the world has never before seen, all indicate that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is very near, even at our doors.
Many things have taken place to impress faithful members of the Church with the fact that the coming of the Lord is near. The gospel has been restored. The Church has been fully organized. The priesthood has been conferred upon man. The various dispensations from the beginning have been revealed and their keys and authorities given to the Church. Temples are being built and ordinance work for the dead, as well as the living, is performed in them. The hearts of the children have turned to their fathers, and they are seeking after their dead. The covenants which the Lord promised to make with Israel in latter days have been revealed and thousands of gathered Israel have entered into them.
Thus, the work of the Lord is advancing, and all these things are signs of the near approach of our Lord. The words of the prophets are rapidly being fulfilled, but it is done on such natural principles that most of us fail to see it. Wonders in heaven and in the earth should be seen, and there should be fire, blood, and pillars of smoke. Eventually the sun is to be turned into darkness and the moon as blood, and then shall come the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Some of these signs have been given; some are yet to come. The sun has not yet been darkened. We are informed that this will be one of the last acts just preceding the coming of the Lord. One wonders if we are not now seeing some of the signs in heaven.
Daniel stated: “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Are not the people running to and fro today as they never did before in the history of the world? Go to the Bureau of Information in Salt Lake and ask there how many tourists visit Temple Square each year. Are we not, most all of us, running to and fro in our automobiles seeking pleasure?
Remember what it says in the scriptures: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matt. 24:34.) Shall we slumber on in utter oblivion or indifference to all that the Lord has given us as a warning?
May we heed this warning given by the Lord and get our houses in order and be prepared for his coming. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is gratifying to know that the youth of the Church are seeking knowledge and understanding in both temporal and spiritual fields.
We believe in education. As a people we have always sought learning in every field, and as a church we have spent great sums and made considerable sacrifice to make educational opportunities available to the Church members. And particularly in this day of scientific research and development, we think our young people should get as much education and technical training as in wisdom is necessary.
But we think this pursuit of worldly learning should be tempered with a like pursuit of spiritual understanding. It is more important, a thousand times over, to have a knowledge of God and his laws, so that we can do the things which bring salvation, than it is to have all the worldly knowledge that can be obtained.
The Lord, however, expects us to have knowledge of temporal things so we can care for ourselves temporally; so we can be of service to our fellowmen; and so we can take the gospel message to his other children throughout the world. Of those who seek learning and wisdom, Jacob said, “… to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2 Ne. 9:29.)
Now, my good brethren and sisters, I ask you to note that the knowledge and understanding of eternal truths, of which we are speaking, comes by revelation from God as a result of obedience to his laws and ordinances of the gospel. Christ did not study chemistry or physics or sociology in the colleges of his day. Indeed, as we know them, these subjects were neither devised nor taught in his day.
But he did so live as to receive knowledge and revelation from the Holy Ghost, thus setting the pattern for all of us. We are commanded to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” I think we should do all we can during our student years to learn those things which will benefit us during our mortal probations and enable us to have the means and talents to further the Lord’s work on earth.
But I think that it is far more important to seek the things of God and be in harmony with his eternal laws so that we may inherit the fullness of his blessings and glory in due course.
There is no work connected with the gospel that is of a more unselfish nature than the work in the house of the Lord for our dead. Those who work for the dead do not expect to receive any earthly remuneration or reward. It is, above all, a work of love, which is begotten in the heart of man through faithful and constant labor in these saving ordinances. There are no financial returns, but there shall be great joy in heaven with those souls whom we have helped to their salvation.
It is a work that enlarges the soul of man, broadens his views regarding the welfare of his fellowman, and plants in his heart a love for all the children of our Heavenly Father. There is no work equal to that in the temple for the dead in teaching a man to love his neighbor as himself.