Area Conference in Historic St. Louis

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“Area Conference in Historic St. Louis,” Ensign, Aug. 1980, 75–76

Area Conference in Historic St. Louis

St. Louis has a spirit that is genuine, tangible, and real—a kind of electricity that gives the city an energy all its own.

We sensed this spirit in the places we visited, in the people we met, in the things we saw, in the early morning sunlight across a city skyline dominated by the Gateway Arch.

And we felt that same spirit as hundreds of members of the St. Louis Stake cheerfully made St. Louis “a gathering place” on 7–8 June for over 10,000 members from 120 different wards and branches in twelve stakes in Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, and Arkansas. They gathered at the Checkerdome to hear President Spencer W. Kimball, his second counselor President Marion G. Romney, Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Ronald E. Poelman of the First Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Jack H Goaslind, Jr., of the First Quorum of the Seventy, Sister Marian R. Boyer, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, and Sister Arlene B. Darger, first counselor in the Young Women’s general presidency.

A special mother-daughter session opened the conference.

Elder Ashton urged all women in the Church to become “quality ladies in whom God is well pleased.” A “quality lady” is someone who is not offended and “has no time to be petty,” has the capacity “to love more than to be loved,” and is “the first to emphasize the good qualities in others and the last to find fault.”

Also, “quality ladies exhibit real faith.” They know the power of prayer, maintain a close, personal relationship with their Heavenly Father, and take the time to report to him every day. He urged women of the Church to oppose any social or legislative action that could adversely affect the home and the family.

Sister Boyer reminded the sisters that “loud voices” were telling women what they should be and do. “The time has come for the women in the Church to raise their voices” because “being a women is truly a calling from God.”

Sister Darger said a woman “being committed means there will be times when we’ll have to stand alone—when those we care about most may turn their backs on us. It is during these times when we must stand firm and call on our Heavenly Father for strength, for courage, for faith, and perseverance.”

Elder Poelman reminded the sisters that “the purpose of all that we do and all that we say is to gain eternal life with God the Father and his son Jesus Christ.”

Doing this depends on “a long series of individual choices. Some are large, but most are small,” infinite in number and character. But each leaves its own imprint on our immortal souls. “Too many of us,” he warned, “willingly expose ourselves to evil influences” in order to appear broad-minded or progressive, yet “righteous self-control isn’t a big price to pay for the things we really want.”

President Romney urged all young women to avoid doing anything that could bring regrets later on and added that every LDS woman should desire to marry and raise a family and to establish and maintain “an LDS home for her children.”

During the priesthood session Saturday night, Elder Packer emphasized that leaders in each priesthood group have the right to divine inspiration and the obligation “to provide each member with guidance.”

He urged all priesthood holders to “obey their parents” and to understand that they, too, are “often guided by inspiration” and cannot always explain why they feel as they do.

Elder Goaslind urged young men to think of going on a mission “not just as a duty, but as a sacred obligation.

“Jesus Christ used his early years to prepare for his mission,” he emphasized. By age twelve, he astonished the temple workers with his “knowledge.” He also developed the ability to get along with others. “When the time came, Jesus Christ was physically, mentally, and spiritually prepared.”

After extending his love and personal greetings, President Spencer W. Kimball told priesthood holders that it wasn’t important “what position they held in the priesthood as long as each priesthood holder honored his priesthood. The priesthood is something that every man in the world would want if he understood what it meant.” All the money in the world cannot buy it.

When President Kimball addressed the first general session on Sunday morning, he reminisced about his mission in the St. Louis area and pointed out St. Louis’s prominent role in early Church history. “Thousands of converts from Europe and Great Britain arrived in New Orleans by sailing ship and traveled up the Mississippi by paddleboat to St. Louis, where they found temporary employment to earn the means necessary to continue their journey. St. Louis also served as a sanctuary for hundreds of families driven from their homes in Nauvoo.”

He urged every member to “lengthen your stride” so the work of the Lord can go forward at a more rapid pace. He challenged every family to bring in one additional family some time during the coming year. “The Lord has commanded that this work be done—and not at our convenience,” he warned. “Those who fail to do so must understand that they are not doing what the Lord has commanded.”

President Edwin B. Jones, former Regional Representative of the St. Louis/Champlain, Illinois Region, assured members that if they kept the covenants they have made with God, they will find the means to meet the challenges they face.

Elder Poelman told those attending the general sessions that when we read the scriptures regularly and ponder and pray about them, we will receive the divine messages contained in them and be able to cope with the complexities of modern life.

Elder Packer counseled, “the scriptures make it clear where we should stand on every issue.” He added, “What is the greatest thing parents can do for their children? To teach them to read the scriptures.”

President Romney reminded parents that “nothing will ever replace the home or its ability to teach family members righteous principles. For a home to be successful, it must be filled with love, respect, and understanding.”

Dr. Ernest L. Wilkinson, who accompanied the official party, testified of the blessings of his association with President Kimball “both as an individual and as the Lord’s chosen representative for his church here on earth.” A typical day for President Kimball begins at 4:30 A.M. and continues far into the night. On one rare occasion, when he advised President Kimball to get more rest, President Kimball replied, “Your job is to help me keep going at the pace I want to go.”

He told of an experience in Bolivia. After an exhausting trip and an equally exhausting day, President Kimball decided he wanted to shake the hand of every one of the 2,900 Lamanite people in attendance. When advised of the possible medical consequences, President Kimball replied, “I don’t think you understand. I don’t want to be saved in this world. But by good deeds and hard work, I want to be exalted in the life to come.”

Elder Ashton said, “A home should be a safe harbor in difficult times. It should be a place where we can be our best, a happy place where we can love and be loved, a place where our best friends are, a place where problems can be solved. Thank God for mothers who listen, believe, and have time for their children.”

After the closing prayer, a gentle hush fell over the giant Checkerdome. It was strangely quiet. No one moved. It was obvious no one really wanted to leave.

As President Kimball rose from his chair, everyone in the Checkerdome rose in respect. Somewhere in that huge crowd, a single voice began to sing “God be with you ’til we meet again.”

President Kimball stopped and turned. Thousands of voices joined in. President Kimball looked at the congregation for a few moments and then began to wave his handkerchief slowly in all directions. Tears began to fill the eyes of those on the speakers’ stand as well as those in the audience.

Sister Arlene B. Darger, first counselor in the Young Women’s general presidency, addresses a St. Louis area conference general session.