“President Hinckley Continues Focus on Pioneering, Obedience,” Ensign, May 1997, 110–12
President Gordon B. Hinckley continued a busy pace in February and March preceding general conference, frequently focusing in his public remarks on the sacrifices made by the early Church members and the importance of Church members’ today following their example.
On 2 February, he spoke to more than 23,000 young adults gathered for a Church Educational System satellite fireside broadcast at Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center. Thousands more watched in meetinghouses throughout the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.
He spoke of the legacy of the pioneers, pointing out that whether those in attendance had pioneer ancestry or joined the Church only yesterday, they were part of the grand picture the pioneers dreamed of.
“Theirs was a tremendous undertaking,” he said. “Ours is a great continuing responsibility. They laid the foundation. Ours is the duty to build on it. They marked the path and led the way. Ours is the obligation to enlarge and broaden and strengthen that path until it encompasses the whole earth.”
Palm Springs, California
More than 12,000 members from eight stakes in the San Bernardino/Palm Springs, California, area gathered on 9 February to hear President Hinckley speak during two sessions of a regional conference.
“We don’t have to do anything heroic,” he said. “We just need to live the gospel, that’s all we have to do.” The Church president specifically mentioned the importance of the Word of Wisdom, tithing, family home evening, and honoring and loving spouses and parents.
He also spoke of the Book of Mormon, encouraging members to read and reread it. “How thankful I am for the Book of Mormon, this added witness of the divinity of the Son of God. God be thanked for this marvelous thing which has come forth as a testimony to the nations of the divine reality of the Son of God.”
Cedar City, Utah
On 11 February, he spoke to some 3,500 Southern Utah University institute students. Calling them the “best generation this Church has ever had,” the Church leader answered questions that had been submitted earlier for his consideration.
“University students aren’t concerned with the great theological questions,” he observed, as he began answering the questions. “They are concerned with marriage. They are concerned with going on a mission. They are concerned with their future lives. They are thinking about themselves in very serious ways.”
Responding to a question about the influence of the Holy Ghost, President Hinckley pointed out that “when all is said and done, it is the feeling we have in our heart. That is the test.”
In answer to a question about young women serving missions, the Church President said that if it is the desire of their hearts, “then go. But you do not have to go to live an honorable life in this Church. … If you have an opportunity for marriage,” he continued, “if you desire to be married, you better get married.”
He told those in attendance to talk to their bishop if they’d done something grievous, and then go on with life. “Our Father in Heaven … has great concern for you. Put it behind you. If you do what is right, things will work out for you.”
He also strongly counseled the young people to stay away from pornography, saying it could destroy them. “You live in a world of the greatest filth that has ever been known. Stand tall. Live the gospel.”
Salt Lake City
Speaking at a 19 February dinner sponsored by the Utah Pioneer Sesquicentennial Celebration Coordination Council and the Church Sesquicentennial Committee, President Hinckley used the example of the pioneers to urge people today to move forward and meet their problems.
“The places of their greatest sufferings have become hallowed shrines now,” he said. “Some might wish for a return to the simpler times of the past, rather than face the problems of the future. This cannot be. We will face up to whatever challenges the future may bring.”
Also in attendance at the dinner were his wife, Marjorie; President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Frances; President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Ruth; and several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
There is “a great and sacred obligation to live the gospel, to let it shine through our lives, to be the kind of people we ought to be as members of the Church, the kind of people who are a covenant people,” said President Hinckley on 23 February as he spoke to 12,000 members of six stakes from the Brigham City, Utah, area. One week later, President Hinckley addressed a similar gathering during the Jordan Utah South regional conference.
National Prayer Breakfast
During his 25 February remarks given at a National Prayer Breakfast gathering sponsored by the 96th Regional Support Command, U.S. Army Reserve at Fort Douglas, Utah, he talked of the motto inscribed on U.S. coins and currency: In God We Trust. “When that statement was adopted, it was believed in,” he said. “It came of our great Judeo-Christian inheritance. I think we were then a humbler people than perhaps we are today. The recognition of God, seeking His help in prayer, and giving honor and glory to Him have been characteristic of our nation’s history.”
He noted that the practice of family prayer is disappearing in society and said, “When we fail to acknowledge Deity, when we fail to recognize the Almighty as the ruling power of the universe, the all-important element of personal and national accountability shrivels and dies. I am confident that this is one of the reasons for the great host of social problems with which we deal these days. …
“We are closing the door on the Almighty,” he said in conclusion. “I plead with each of you to add your strength to the enhancement of our trust in God.”
Los Angeles, California
On 6 March, he addressed the largest gathering ever of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. He discussed the Church’s growth, humanitarian efforts, missionary force, unpaid ministry, and Relief Society and spoke of the benefits of obeying the Word of Wisdom. He also talked of the contributions made to California by early Church members who traveled to the area. Later, on 19 March, President Hinckley gave a similar address at the World Forum of Silicon Valley, held in Santa Clara, California.
While in Los Angeles, President Hinckley also spoke to about 1,100 missionaries serving in five California missions. He told the missionaries they had a responsibility to make certain the people they baptized were truly converted.
“My brothers and sisters, please, I plead with you, do all you can to see that those who you baptize are not baptisms only but solid, true converts to this Church who will remain so.”
On 15–16 March President Hinckley met with more than 6,500 members from four stakes in a regional conference in Tennessee.
“I hope that everyone here has a living, vibrant testimony of the truthfulness of this great work,” he said. “I hope that every man, woman, boy, and girl in this congregation can stand and say, ‘I know that God, my Eternal Father, lives and that I am His child.’”
Don Baskett of Hemet, California, contributed information to this story.