“Konferens: A Report of the Scandinavian Area General Conference Held at Stockholm, Sweden,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, 77
In times of old, Elisha said of Naaman, “Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” (2 Kgs. 5:8.)
Well might it be written again, but this time in reference to President Spencer W. Kimball and the Saints attending the three-day, mid-August Scandinavian Area General Conference of the Church in Stockholm.
The scriptures call Naaman “a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper” and thus, he needed to be “recovered” of this illness of the flesh. (See 2 Kgs. 5.)
In many ways, the spirit of much of this passage might also be said of the Church in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The Church of these lands has been “great” with its “master.” Men “mighty” in “valour” have been born among them and come to serve not only in three of the four major councils of the Church—First Presidency, Council of the Twelve, and First Council of the Seventy—but also several dozen other General Authorities trace their lineage to Scandinavia and Finland.
Furthermore, as was with Naaman, millions throughout the Church from 1850 to 1974 have been “given deliverance” because of the labors of the sons of Scandinavia and Finland, including the 57,000 converts baptized during the first 100 years of missionary work in Scandinavia and Finland. And in our time, the Saints residing in these four lands continue to be “mighty in valour.”
They have to be. There are 15,600 members of the Church in Scandinavia and Finland, less than one-half of one percent of the Church’s membership—a small band, isolated in some ways by geography.
In some respects, they are—or have been—Saints under siege. For over a century, emigration to Zion has reduced their numbers. Repeated wars have ravaged their soil. The temptations of Satan are both insidiously subtle and brutally direct in a variety of issues of contemporary society.
Thus, this small band heard the call of a prophet to “come now to me.” They came with the hope and faith of a Naaman coming to Elisha for a blessing and received a witness that “there is a prophet in Israel.”
They came to hear President Kimball preach a plan not only for the “healing” of all those in Scandinavia and Finland, but for Saints everywhere. President Kimball came to preach the message of the Lord for his administration—missionary work. (See pages 2–14 for President Kimball’s announcement of this missionary thrust.) Consequently, President Kimball is going out into the far reaches of the earth, into the cities and hamlets, preaching the gospel of blessing and warning our neighbors.
To Stockholm he came with the same general message—but with specific additional counsel:
—He preached of personal worthiness through keeping the commandments—“all the commandments”—and spent considerable time reviewing them, from personal prayer to morality, from attendance at meetings to holding family home evenings, from paying tithing to living the Word of Wisdom. (“These things are basic. Let no man nor woman rationalize or justify with loose interpretation of the world these important standards.”)
—He preached of missionary work. (“I call upon you to organize yourselves and your families and bring the gospel to your neighbors and your friends.”)
—He preached the “building up” of major branches within nations by encouraging isolated Saints to “gravitate” from isolated locales to the larger Church centers within the nation, so that both they and the branch may bless each other.
In this area of the Church where only one stake exists (Copenhagen Denmark Stake, created only two months before the conference), he preached the gospel of stakehood and spent considerable time raising their sights to this end. (“We hope that Copenhagen will pave the way and be a proper pattern.”) He reviewed the general guidelines: “It is generally felt that there should be six or more branches in a district” “and that those branches should have members averaging 300 to 400 or 500 or more people and that the people in those branches will have increased their activity.” He established a goal of “dotting the countryside” of these four lands with stakes.
—To the priesthood leaders, in a never-to-be-forgotten early-morning Sabbath session, President Kimball preached with great power and clarity that “from today on we have a new order of things in these lands.” “We are going to our neighbors.” “You can build up the Church.” “You can have stakes—many stakes.” “Is there any reason why you shouldn’t have a temple? Do you want a temple? Would you use it? You can have a temple! You can have a temple in each of your lands! But all of this is taken care of as we proselyte and bring converts into the Church.”
When the President was finished—he spoke five different times in two days, giving five major and powerful sermons—the Saints knew “that there is a prophet in Israel.”
At the conference’s end, at the saying of the last “amen” following the closing prayer, 4,500 Saints stood in Stockholm’s ultra-modern St. Erik’s Fair and Convention Center and tearfully sang “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,” followed immediately by “God be with You Till We Meet Again.” As the last “till we meet again” ended, there occurred one of those rare and exquisitely sacred moments when 4,500 persons stood looking in great love at their prophet, and he in turn gave of his emotions to them.
What had it meant to the Saints? Their comments capture both the conference’s message and impact:
—“From this moment on, we will demand more of ourselves. More than all else, we were taught obedience.”
—“We have new ideas, new goals, new visions for ourselves and our future.”
—“I have seen the need to change some things. Many of us youth feel the need to change our standards in music, dress, and in other things.”
—“Many of us here are the only members of our families. We learned how to set an example.”
—“We come from small branches—30 to 80 members. Do you know what it means to sit and look at 5,000 other members of the Church who are from your part of the world? Especially for the youth. After this, we won’t feel alone again. We have seen how strong we really are. We don’t need to be afraid.”
—“Yes, we knew the gospel was true before. But this has given another confirmation. You look around, you feel, you absorb the Spirit, you pray, you sing. You say to yourself, it’s true, isn’t it? It’s all true. It’s all true!”
—“I tried to get something, some meaning, some feeling from every word!”
—“As a parent, I was greatly influenced. I was reminded of what I should be doing. We know what to do in some things, but sometimes we forget.”
—“It was all that I hoped it would be. The Spirit has been strong.”
—“There is no way that I could ever forget this experience. I think it is going to change my life and the life of my family.”
To change lives, of course, was the purpose of the conference! For both the membership of the Church and the thousands more who will hear and believe their message, the plan began in the fall of 1973. Elder Reid H. Johnson, Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve to Sweden, still remembers the Friday night in September 1973 when a call came from Salt Lake City to Sweden, where he and the mission presidency were conducting regional meetings. The call informed them that the First Presidency proposed that an area general conference would be held in Scandinavia.
“Our first major assignment was to select a city for the conference,” said President L. Ronald Folkerson of the Sweden Stockholm Mission. “At first we selected another city, but then felt impressed to select Stockholm. A few leaders were assigned to look for Stockholm facilities that could hold four to five thousand persons and to have them identified by the next Monday. That Monday we reviewed several facilities, but when our group came to the Fair and Convention Center, warm feelings burned in all of our hearts. We knew where the conference was to be held. But bookings for the site had been made into 1977. Miraculously, the weekend selected for our conference broke open, and the facility was made available.”
The inspired selection was confirmed many times. Located on the outskirts south of Stockholm, the Fair and Convention Center is only four years old. It contained all the requirements for a conference: large parking areas, a major conference hall capable of seating 4,200, and an overflow room that would seat another 800. All the modern facilities for the press, translation booths, television relay, a nursery area that would care for 1,050 children on Saturday evening, food acquisition and rehearsal areas, and much more were available.
When the site was approved by the First Presidency, the next major step was to inform the Saints so that as many as possible could attend the August 16–18 conference. The Sweden Stockholm Mission sent a letter to all district and branch presidents to inform the Saints that on a selected Sunday an announcement of great importance would be made. Home teachers were asked to visit all members and urge their attendance. Considerable speculation spread among the members, wondering what the announcement could be.
On the selected Sunday, attendance figures at Church soared. One entire district jumped from an average Sunday attendance of 27 percent to 57 percent. Another that averaged 111 per meeting jumped to 192. Still another that averaged 500 per meeting rose to 718.
As expected, the announcement was tremendously well received. Saints throughout the four lands soon came to regard the Stockholm conference as the greatest single event to occur to them since the dedication of the Swiss temple in 1955. Somewhat off the more traveled pathways of the earth, these missions had seen less frequent visits from Church headquarters than other areas of the Church. As one Saint said, “We regarded the conference as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Thus, throughout the four lands, Saints began to save their money, take second jobs, cancel vacations, and sacrifice in a multitude of ways to make plans to attend the conference.
“Many Saints decided,” said President Grant R. Ipsen of the Denmark Copenhagen Mission, “that it was a time for preparation, but that the greatest preparation they could make would be spiritual preparation. ‘I want to be ready spiritually, to receive the message of the Prophet,’ was a comment I heard many times.”
This desire manifest itself in a surge of Saints going to the temple. Mission leaders had assumed that, due to the additional expense of attending the Stockholm conference, many Saints would select to attend that conference and not one of the regular temple excursions. “In fact, this understanding was preached—that if a choice was to be made, choose in favor of the conference,” said Norway Oslo Mission President Gösta Berling.
But much to their surprise, temple attendance was much higher than in years past: Copenhagen Stake—130 went on an excursion this year, against 100 in 1973; Sweden—150 attended the temple this year, against 40 who went on an excursion last year; Norway—142 attended against an average of 72 persons per previous excursions; and Finland sent 130 Saints in March, and another unexpected 140 in July.
And so it went. Saints throughout the lands were making preparations indeed—spiritual as well as financial.
By conference time, a great number of Saints had preregistered. In fact, more were coming than were expected—more than 30 percent of all the Saints in Scandinavia and Finland! The figures were startling. In many areas, more Saints were coming to conference than attended sacrament meeting. For example, Copenhagen Denmark Stake averages 500 at sacrament meeting, but 540 were coming to conference. Finland averages 36 percent at sacrament meeting, but 41 percent of the mission was coming to conference. Norway was bringing nearly a quarter of all her Saints.
And when they arrived—where would they stay? Such was one of the major questions assigned to the executive committee, working under the direction of Sweden Stockholm Mission President Folkersen. Serving as executive secretary was Brother Cai-Aage Johansson, overseeing 11 major subcommittees in charge of equipment and facilities, hostesses, information, production, travel and transportation, lodging, contracts, food, emergencies, music, and the Friday evening cultural program that opened the conference. Under what seemed like 10,000 details, Brother Johansson directed his committee. One of their goals was to see to it that “no person coming to conference comes without knowing where he shall sleep—the address and the directions on how to get there.”
The details involved in such an enterprise are staggering. But all persons who registered in time (over 75 percent of those who attended) enjoyed the fulfillment of the committee’s dream. All aspects of their precise planning were very apparent, including the appointment of 50 “pilots” who continuously led cars and buses to locales in and around Stockholm.
The masterminding of such details, however, was not new to Brother Johansson. Presently director-general of the Swedish National Air Academy, Brother Johansson is a major leader in Swedish aviation. He formerly directed the planning of all new airports in Sweden, headed the Swedish delegation to the United Nations Unit on Aviation, headed many joint Danish-Swedish aviation groups, and has been knighted in the Order of the North. “When people ask me how I achieved, I answer that I am a product of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was born in the Church; I was MIA superintendent in our branch at the age of 17. I learned in the Church how to organize, how to lead myself, and then how to lead others. The Church means everything to me. It has made me what I am because with the schooling, character growth, and other development that comes in the Church, we also learn to do our best in all situations. It is true, I am a product of the Church.”
By conference time, Brother Johansson’s committee had performed the labors of planning, and now awaited the unfolding of their efforts. As with the three previous area general conferences (Manchester, 1971; Mexico City, 1972; Munich, 1973), the conference outlined by the First Presidency called for a Friday evening cultural event followed by two days of conference sessions.
The Stockholm conference had the usual Saturday morning and afternoon general sessions, with simultaneous Saturday evening sessions—one for parents and those over 26, and one for youth. Sunday morning featured an early priesthood meeting—the first priesthood meeting held at any area general conference—and concluded with the usual morning and afternoon conference sessions.
But it was the Friday cultural event—Festspel—that served as a vehicle for giving a remarkable thrust to the conference and a seal of unity for the Saints of the four lands.
As in previous area conferences, the plan for the cultural event was simple—each nation was to provide a 15 minute program reflecting its cultural heritage. Thus, throughout the spring and summer, throughout the branches and districts of the four nations, on many evenings and usually every Saturday, little groups of youth and adults gathered to practice aspects of their program—folk songs, folk dances, minuets, symphonic arrangements, and mimic plays. Here, out in the branches, out in the hamlets, countless little miracles occurred as each nation sought to represent well their heritage.
One branch needed some highly technical orchestra music arranged for the use of their people, many of whom played by ear but had never read music, others of whom had played less than a year. They went to the Lord in prayer, then to a prominent non-Latter-day Saint musician. He arranged the music, not at his usual high fee, but gratis. Still another group needed a bass player. No one was available. They selected one from amongst them to learn to play the bass. He went to the city orchestra and met its bass players, several of whom “took me under their arm and taught me” how to play the bass. “They let me sit in the orchestra with them, playing their parts until I learned.” When conference time came, a player in the orchestra loaned him a bow worth hundreds of dollars.
Another branch needed a violinist. The only person they felt was acceptable was an inactive member. The violinist-to-be responded to the plea for his help, and soon found himself being activated.
Another branch had a similar experience with a guitarist. A youth leader said, “There is only one person in the whole mission that can do this. It is so-and-so.” But the guitarist-to-be lived hours away from where practices would occur. “We were fearful that not having recently sacrificed for the Church, he would not accept.” But he did accept—and gave greatly of himself as he in turn found renewed activity and gospel fellowship. It was not unusual to hear such stories of reactivation.
The Denmark Copenhagen Mission felt at first that they were unable to provide a cultural heritage program unique to Denmark: so much of their culture was from Germany, France, England, and other nations. Fearfully and prayerfully they made a second search of their heritage and found several generally unknown folk dances and folk songs unique to Denmark. And thus it went.
By the time Friday’s opening conference session—Festspel—arrived, well over 400 performers and hundreds of others behind the scenes had already felt the sustaining strength of many answered prayers in preparation for their performances.
As the program began, the largest gathering of Scandinavian and Finnish Saints in the history of the Church sat enthralled. Eighty-four flagbearers entered to the triumphant chords of national anthems; the anthems for all four nations were sung, and then joyful, haunting, beautiful music, lively dances, and the heritage of the lands unfolded. A giant screen served as backdrop for photographic glimpses of the fjords, harbors, mountains, seas, lakes, people, and monuments to greatness that symbolized the four nations.
But the program’s finale was the emotional and spiritual climax of the evening, a symbol of love and unity among the four nations of brothers and sisters. Like the rest of the conference, that finale had begun months before. “It was inspiring to me,” Reid H. Johnson, conference liaison and Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve assigned to Sweden, said, “that as I envisioned the cultural program when preparations began, I could see no other number being performed for the finale except Edvard Grieg’s Landkjenning (Discovery, often sung by the Tabernacle Choir Men’s Chorus). But I didn’t discuss it or try to influence the program planners. How inspiring it was when the outlined program came from Scandinavia and Finland to see Landkjenning listed as the finale, to be sung by all program participants in Norwegian.” Thus, throughout the summer, Swedes, Danes, and Finns struggled and practiced to learn a song in a tongue not native to them. But when they gathered Friday evening, it was as if they had sung all their lives together.
All 400 began to sing the stirring tale of Olav Trygvason, mighty Viking, “steering o’er the North sea cold; seeking afar for virgin kingdoms, while sailing forth so bold. Dimly, the land appearing, they crowded the sea, as storms were clearing …’til one of them astounded, saw snowy peaks with clouds surrounded.” All who have ever read the song’s words know the stirring story and remember the song’s conclusion: “Like Vikings we are praying, homage to the Highest paying. Spirits tremble, hearts are bounding, joyfully his praises sounding. That thy faith may strong be builded, pure as ice thy sunlight gilded, rise from nature’s best endeavor, seek thy God, seek Him forever. Seek thy God.”
At the anthem’s conclusion, the audience rose in unison, and clapping in the quick-rhythmed style of the Europeans, demanded an encore of the same number.
Ramm Arvesether, 73-year-old Norwegian conductor of the finale, shared the significance of this experience: “Those who have not lived among us will not understand what this singing together meant. You see, sometimes we have national jealousies, even in the Church. But this has brought us together, particularly our youth. I have heard many of them say how thrilled they are at the feeling of unity. There is now a real spirit of unity, a spirit of knowing that we can work together and accomplish whatever we want to. This is no small gift, this feeling of unity.”
Brother Arvesether has long been a leader of the Church in Norway. His parents joined the Church three years prior to his birth. He has served in the mission presidency and branch presidencies and for the past 10 years has been genealogical leader for the Norway Oslo Mission.
“It was a special good feeling for me to lead the chorus, to lead the symbol of unity that we needed to have.”
Saturday morning found the conference hall, where lay a wooden stage the night before, now in a “conference mood,” as one district leader put it. A special electric organ, donated for the occasion, had been flown from London and assembled. Flowers native to Scandinavia and Finland—chrysanthemums, daisies, begonias, and roses—lined the dais, and chairs built especially for the General Authorities added to the mood of the setting. Countless hours had been expended to set up and check lights, sound systems, television relays, and other details.
Once the sessions began, another complex system soon manifest itself—a simultaneous interpreting system like the one used at the Munich conference. Ten feet above the floor, spaced every 15 feet, were thin wires, over which came the messages of the speakers—translated in four tongues. Conference attenders were given small nickel cadmium powered receiving units with earplugs. Saints simply dialed the channel carrying their native tongue. While a Danish leader spoke, I listened to his message in English; a Swedish Saint behind me heard it translated into his tongue; a woman to my side heard it in Finnish; and the row in front of me was filled with listeners tuned in to Norwegian. The scripture, “every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language” (D&C 90:11) took on special meaning for all assembled.
During the conference, some 36 addresses were given in the seven sessions—all needing translation into four other tongues—the equivalent of 144 addresses. Thus, 60 different translators worked behind the scenes, serving as vehicle for the speaker and the Spirit. It was a joyful sight!
Before, between, and after the speakers came the music—beautiful choral music that Latter-day Saints have grown accustomed to expect from each other. And this conference was no exception. Each land came with a chorus averaging 100 singers, singing their inspiration, lifting the hearts of all present.
The story of one number is poignant. The Denmark Copenhagen Mission Choir sang at the opening Saturday session, and closed with “Hear, O Ye Heavens,” a favorite in the Copenhagen area since 1958. Three years earlier, when the Tabernacle Choir performed in Copenhagen, one piece of music was misplaced and left behind. Danish Saints found it after the choir left, but on it were written the words “Do Not Remove. Tabernacle Choir.” Thinking it was left for a purpose, the piece lay untouched for three years. The choir leader, Jorgen Ljungstrom, found it, played it, and liked it. He had it translated from English into Danish. “Our district choir sang it four times that year, at district conferences, much to the love of our Saints. We have sung it only at special occasions since then. We knew that we wanted to sing it at Stockholm.”
Throughout the day, through music and the spoken word, the conference spirit continued to build as speaker after speaker gave his inspired message. In addition to President Kimball, 11 other General Authorities were in attendance and addressed the Saints: President N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency (who spoke three times, giving great strength to the conference); President Ezra Taft Benson, president of the Council of the Twelve; three other members of the Twelve—Elder Howard W. Hunter, Elder Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Bruce R. McConkie; Assistants to the Council of the Twelve—Elder Bernard P. Brockbank, Elder James E. Faust, Elder J. Thomas Fyans, and Elder Neal A. Maxwell; Elder A. Theodore Tuttle, a member of the First Council of the Seventy; and Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Presiding Bishopric. Also speaking were the four Regional Representatives of the Council of the Twelve to the four lands—Don L. Christensen, Denmark; Phileon B. Robinson, Finland; Dean A. Peterson, Norway; and Reid H. Johnson, Sweden. In addition, counselors from the mission presidencies, as well as selected youth and parents spoke in conference sessions. Prayers were offered by district presidents.
One of the speakers at the Saturday evening parents’ meeting was Sister Ritva Muhonen of Finland. Living in a land where many mothers work, Sister Muhonen told of how she and her husband prayed that Sister Muhonen, then a mother of three and working temporarily, could find work at home. She was the 41st applicant to a newspaper advertisement, but she got the at-home job. Later she quit when her husband felt he could supply their needs.
She told of how one Finnish sister receives inspiration to go shopping at the right time when necessities are on sale. Sister Muhonen told of how in her youth she learned to sew, to make things, to paint, and to sing. “When I was married my mother cried because she and my father were not able to give their children suitable wedding presents. But if they had not been needy, I would not have learned to do so much.” Now, the mother of five, Sister Muhonen was formerly a radio and television journalist, and on occasion still writes scripts at home. Both she and her husband are 13-year converts. “When I received the letter inviting me to speak, I did not know what to do. The letter did not specify a subject. After praying earnestly, some of the experiences of my past concerning preparation for motherhood and being able to be with my children came strongly to my mind.” But thinking not to speak on personal things, she looked elsewhere.
“Finally, after praying more and more and getting no other answer, I knew what I was to speak about.” Typical of the lifestyle of many Saints in the smaller branches throughout the Church, Sister Muhonen is first counselor in the district Relief Society, spiritual living instructor in the branch Relief Society, gospel doctrine teacher in the Sunday School, and branch music director. Her husband is district elders quorum president and second counselor in the branch presidency. Six months ago he was released as branch president. Their branch numbers 63. For her, “the conference has meant more than words can say—it is air and sun, flowers and rain. It is life to my soul.”
The next day found over 400 brethren at an early priesthood meeting. It was indeed a special occasion as President Kimball departed from his prepared text and spoke about the oath and covenant of the priesthood: “You have promised!” he exclaimed. “Promised to the Lord! Your responsibility is tremendous! You are the elect of God, the sons of God. You have the capacity to become a god. But not if you do not fulfill your promise!” Those present were greatly moved to examine their priesthood responsibilities. He again discussed stakehood, commenting that the Copenhagen Denmark Stake was only the first of a long line, if the Saints would do their part.
Copenhagen Denmark Stake President Johan H. Benthin testifies to the strength that comes from stakehood: “It has been a great spiritual force. We definitely feel a spiritual uplift. Our number of investigators is up, our mood is stronger and more enthusiastic. I cannot explain it, but when you become a stake, you have a feeling that the Lord is driving a literal stake into the ground, that He is here to stay, that we are part of the main body, that the winds will not move us about. We all felt something was in the air several months prior to the formation of the stake, even though none of us knew anything about it. There was a special spirit that came over us.”
President Benthin is 38, and his wife Gerda, 37. They joined the Church less than eight years ago after missionaries rang their doorbell. Four months later they were ready for baptism.
“I still remember when the missionaries asked us to pray,” said President Benthin. “They taught us to kneel, to talk to God. I thought: I am very shy, I have never done this. But if there is no God, it doesn’t matter. If there is, it’s about time I met him.”
Several days before their scheduled baptism, the missionaries came to visit them, but President Benthin lay paralyzed from a slipped disk, a condition for which he had undergone previous operations. The missionaries asked if he wanted to be anointed. He said he knew nothing about it. They said, “Do you believe in it?” “I said, ‘If you say it is of God, I believe.’ They anointed me, and when they said amen, I arose.”
By Sunday afternoon, conference was rich in the Spirit of the Lord, spiritually sensitive. As President Kimball again stepped to the pulpit, a congregation who had been schooled for three days hungrily absorbed his every word: “We are the messengers, and we have the acceptable message,” he declared. “What a happy time we have had these three days with you. We have shaken your hands. We have seen your smiles. We have felt your warm, sweet spirits. We have felt of your faith, your courage, your righteous determinations. We love you and pray our Heavenly Father to give you joy and peace and happiness.”
Then, ever the loving teacher, the President reviewed the individual messages given by each of the General Authorities, giving them his sanction and approving of their counsel. It was an act of great repetitive strength—and endearing to all present.
In closing, the President issued a special challenge: “Everyone here should make a firm resolve to provide the names of two individuals whom you know to the missionaries just as soon as you return to your place of residence.”
As 4,500 people filed out of the conference site a few minutes later, wet-eyed and filled with emotion, there was a common determination:
—“I have new resolve. I am going to go back and help the missionaries.”
—“I realize that I must work with my sons so that they will want to go on missions.”
—“The experience has been more than I thought it could be.”
—“We are going to be stricter with ourselves.”
—“We have work to do, don’t we? The Lord will surely bless us as we get to it.”
And so He will. He will bless all of us as we individually and collectively implement the call given through His servant. President Kimball’s call-to-action was spoken to 4,500 listening hearts in Stockholm, but it is not limited to them. He has spoken to every brother and sister with a testimony of the gospel, calling upon us to share it. “We are the messengers, and we have the acceptable message,” he has said.
In a worldwide Church, surely President Kimball will be unable to visit every Saint, every stake, every portion of the Church. Thus the question becomes: if hearing and seeing are the vital vehicles for changing lives and families, branches and wards, will reading the message be an “acceptable messenger” also?
This is our challenge: to feel and accept the call as did the Saints in Stockholm.
President N. Eldon Tanner, special priesthood meeting:
This morning I wish to talk about interviewing and the responsibility of dealing with the transgressor. Our chief business is to save souls. It is most important that we, as leaders, as mission presidents, district presidents, branch presidents, stake presidents, and bishops of wards, and all leaders of youth, let the members know beyond any question of doubt that we are interested in them and their welfare, that we love them, and that we are prepared to help them in any way we can with the problems they might have by giving them courage, strength, desire, and determination to live according to the teachings of the gospel.
They must realize and know that … they will be happier, more loved and respected, and in every way more successful if they will just live worthy of their membership in the Church and magnify their priesthood and their callings. This applies to everyone here as well as those over whom we are called to preside.
It is most important that we show a keen interest in and know our youth—boys and girls—each and every one of them. Know their first names, make opportunities to talk to them often, and acknowledge any accomplishments. Be especially mindful of the wayward. They must know that we love them, even though we cannot look upon their sins with any degree of allowance.
President Ezra Taft Benson, youth session:
We live in a difficult time. Satan is mindful of you, my young brethren and sisters. He is committed to your corruption. His hooks and snares would seduce you pleasantly. He’ll not discipline you with commandments, but give you the freedom of your “own thing” … the freedom to smoke, to drink, to misuse drugs, or to debauch your way to the slavery of addiction. Satan knows that you are young, at the peak of physical vigor, excited by the world, and consumed by new emotions. I think there has never been a time, at least in my memory, when the devil has been so well organized and when he’s had so many emissaries working for him. It is my conviction that his thrust today is primarily at the youth, and at our basic institutions of the home and the family. You see evidence of it on every side. The temptations are so insidious, so devious, so numerous, and so unexpected. Temptations that your parents never dreamed about are on almost every side from day to day in the time in which we live.
Elder Howard W. Hunter, Saturday afternoon session:
One of the most esteemed spiritual attributes we can acquire in life is sincere gratitude. It enriches our lives as we, through this attribute, enrich the lives of others. If we have a thankful heart we will have the blessings that come from constant appreciation for the things done for us and the Lord’s goodness. How can we really pay the debt of gratitude we owe to our parents, brothers and sisters, teachers, and those who have served us in so many ways? How can we show appreciation for good homes, husbands and wives who are true and faithful, and children who have the desire to live righteously and serve the Lord? How do we express thankfulness for our baptisms, for the privilege of partaking of the sacrament and renewing our covenants, for the priesthood we bear, for the light of the restored gospel, and for the program of the Church devised to help us make progress toward exaltation and eternal life?
We pay our debt of gratitude by living in such a way as to bring credit to our parents and the name we bear, by doing good to others, by being of service, by being willing to share the light and knowledge we have received so that others will also have joy and happiness, and by living the principles of the gospel in their fulness.
Elder Boyd K. Packer, Saturday morning session:
Following baptism each of us was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We were blessed to receive the Holy Ghost to be a gift and a blessing to us in our lives.
Through the Holy Ghost we may always have a very clear signal to follow. If we are living worthily, that signal will be a constant guide to us.
It is a quiet gift. It is unknown in the world. To Latter-day Saints it is a great blessing. It can guide us in all we do in life. All of us, particularly our young people, must learn to trust in that Spirit. We must learn to be spiritually minded.
The prophet said, “… to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.” (2 Ne. 9:39.)
That voice of inspiration is so quiet and still, that it can be explained away. It is easy to be disobedient to that voice. It often takes great courage to follow it. It is a clear signal to Latter-day Saints.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Sunday priesthood leadership meeting:
In our day we are called to accept the gospel, to join with the saints of God, and to remain in the nation of our natural inheritance. In our day we are called to build up the kingdom at the ends of the earth, so that the revelation shall be fulfilled which says that when the Lord comes he will find “the Church of the Lamb of God … upon all the face of the earth. …” (1 Ne. 14:12.) In that day the number of the saints will be “few” as compared to the forces of evil, but they will nonetheless be established “among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.” (1 Ne. 14:11.)
And you may rest assured that when these Saints are well established, as they will be, in all parts of the earth, they will be organized into stakes of Zion. These stakes will then be the gathering places for the righteous in the various nations.
Remember it was the Lord who put us here. He sent us from his presence to be Germans and Japanese, to be Koreans and Turks, to be Russians and Brazilians. He is the one who scattered Israel and decreed that “the covenant people of the Lord” would be “upon all the face of the earth” at the day of his Second Coming. (1 Ne. 14:14.) He knows the probationary experiences we need while here in mortality. He knows who he needs to labor in all the various parts of his vineyard. What a blessed privilege it is for us to have the call that is ours and to labor in the field of our present assignment!
Elder Bernard P. Brockbank, Saturday afternoon session:
The first great commandment is to love God. The second great commandment is to love neighbor as self. We must be careful, for it is very easy to reverse the order of these two great commandments. Some love man first. Some love the creature more than the Creator. Some forget God and love his creations. Some love power, money, and worldly possessions more than the Creator. God condemned the people that loved the creature more than the Creator.
Elder James E. Faust, Sunday morning session:
What is the cost of discipleship? It is primarily obedience. It is the forsaking of many things. But since everything in life has a price, it is a price worth paying, considering that the great promise of the Savior is for peace in this life and eternal life in the life to come. It is a price we cannot afford not to pay. In contrast to what is offered, it is by measure much, much less than is required of us.
Elder J. Thomas Fyans, Saturday afternoon session:
Today we stand among the many who have been called to warn our neighbor. The question is: will we? You will recall that it was the Lord who said “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world. …” (D&C 121:34–35.)
The question and challenge of the Lord to us in our time is to lift our vision above the world to see the expanse of the eternities—and to warn and bless and give joy to our neighbors so that they too may receive peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. Each of us needs to ask himself: Based upon my recent missionary efforts, would I be chosen? In part, I suspect that answers will be determined by how we respond to the call of President Spencer W. Kimball, the Lord’s prophet, seer, and revelator, who has asked us to move out, lengthen our stride, and share with others this heavenly knowledge that we possess.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Saturday morning session:
As we serve in the Church we must remember that the genius of the gospel includes not merely helping those who are already friends to love each other more. The gospel also helps those who might not naturally like each other to appreciate each other; those who are strangers, even enemies, can become friends.
In living together as Saints, we will surely see each other’s faults, but when we look at each other through the lens of the gospel and by the light of heaven, we also see in others attributes and qualities that we little imagined were there! The gospel does not ask us to close our eyes to any reality; rather it helps us open our eyes more widely and more appreciatively! Where others see disarray, the disciple can, with patience, see purpose. Where others feel hopelessness, the disciple does not despair, for he has “a perfect brightness of hope.”
Elder A. Theodore Tuttle, Saturday afternoon session:
Brethren and sisters, study the scriptures. They contain great life-lessons. They are the repository of the Lord’s message in our day. You will develop a deep and abiding spirituality by communing with the Lord through them. We know much about our Heavenly Father because he has revealed much about himself to us. These revelations are recorded in the standard works. Make it a daily habit to study each day. Set goals. In a short time you can read the standard works of the Church. The Church is trying to help. Reading of certain scriptures accompanies prescribed study courses.
Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone, youth session:
I’m grateful for the Church because it still calls sin by its real name. Outside the Church, in your country and mine, they refer to free love, experimentation, normal sexual behavior, etc. They suggest that premarital sex relations are okay, that homosexuality is acceptable, that social drinking, smoking, gambling, reading pornographic materials, etc., are all normal behavior. How ridiculous. The church of Jesus Christ still calls it adultery. We still call it homosexuality and reaffirm that it is a major transgression. We know that fornication is a major transgression. The use of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, etc., shows major flaws in the fabric of our character.