How glorious it is, brothers and sisters, to welcome you to this world conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to envision the great throngs gathered here in Salt Lake City and elsewhere, making this in very deed an international gathering of the faithful Saints.
I rejoice with you in the progress and expansion of the Lord’s earthly kingdom in almost all parts of the free world. We are constantly opening up new areas, and we are continually establishing new missions and dividing others to give more effective leadership to the ever-increasing numbers of our young men and women engaged in full-time missionary service. Since our last conference six months ago, we have added ten new missions, for a total of 166 throughout the world. We now have 26,606 missionaries carrying the gospel to almost every nation, kindred, tongue and people under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, whose divine calling it is “to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations” (D&C 107:33).
Before the end of the year, we will have over 1,000 stakes. This seems incredible when I recall that there were but 145 stakes in the whole world when I became an Apostle in 1943.
This growth is cause for thanksgiving and praise to the Lord for divine direction of this program of saving souls and bringing them into the fold of Christ. While much has been done and accomplished, much more remains to be done. We must go forward in courage and great boldness to proclaim Jesus Christ as the resurrected Lord and the Redeemer of mankind.
We have asked everyone wherever possible to assist with a home garden for the production of food so you may enjoy the efforts of your labors and help provide for your needs. We urge parents not only to engage in this activity, but to let their boys and girls share in helping with the garden. They will not only learn the value and joy of work, but it will help them develop a sense of responsibility as they participate in such family projects.
We should make not only our fields and dooryards attractive, but our homes, barns, outbuildings, and fences should be kept in good repair and painted. We realize, too, that such projects are never ending and need continuing attention and planning.
We renew our appeal for the keeping of individual journals and records and compiling family histories. Any Latter-day Saint family that has searched genealogical and historical records has fervently wished their ancestors had kept better and more complete records. On the other hand, some families possess some spiritual treasures because ancestors have recorded the events surrounding their conversion to the gospel and other happenings of interest, including many miraculous blessings and spiritual experiences. People often use the excuse that their lives are uneventful and nobody would be interested in what they have done. But I promise you that if you will keep your journals and records they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to your families, to your children, your grandchildren, and others, on through the generations.
Family home evenings are a most appropriate time and place to engage in such activities and especially to train young children in the art of writing about their lives. If you haven’t already done so, make up your minds that today you will start your journals.
There is an urgency to engage more fully in the redeeming of our kindred dead through more frequent temple attendance. All those who possess temple recommends should use them as often as possible to engage in baptisms, endowments, and sealings for the dead. Other members of the Church should concern themselves seriously with preparations to qualify for temple recommends that they, too, might enjoy these eternal blessings and also act as saviors on Mount Zion. There is an ever-increasing burden of temple work to be done by the Saints, and we should rise to meet this challenge.
I again would urge upon all Saints everywhere a more strict observance of the Sabbath day. The Lord’s holy day is fast losing its sacred significance throughout the world, at least our world. More and more, man destroys the Sabbath’s sacred purposes in pursuit of wealth, pleasure, recreation, and the worship of false and material gods. We continue to urge all Saints and God-fearing people everywhere to observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Businesses will not be open on the Sabbath if they are not patronized on that holy day. The same is true of resorts, sporting events, and recreation areas of all kinds. Pursuit of the almighty dollar is winning, it seems, over the Lord’s commandment, “Keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary” (Lev. 19:30).
“Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46; emphasis added).
Violating the purpose of the Sabbath is not the only matter in these days which calls forth our cry of protest. We are greatly concerned about the world in which we live. The mass media of communications daily presents us with so much that is evil, that is ugly and sordid, and so much that is destructive of righteousness. Godlessness seems to reign everywhere. Satan is unfettered apparently. We have previously said that the growing permissiveness in modern society gravely concerns us.
We see about us constant change. Even the pace of life itself has speeded up. Sometimes it seems that the world is undergoing such throes of change that people are disoriented, not knowing what is of value. Right and wrong, however, are as they always were. The principles of the gospel are unaltered. All of men’s evil speaking and all of men’s evil acting cannot alter one jot or tittle of the commandments of God.
The forces of good are clearly and continually under attack. There are times when it seems the world is almost drowning in a flood of filth and degradation. And I want to cry out, “Hold on! Hold on to what is right and true. Therein is safety. Don’t let yourself be swept away.”
In 1946 I visited Hawaii shortly after a huge tidal wave, where walls of water some forty feet high struck Hilo and the Hamakua coast, and I saw the devastation that resulted. Homes had been overturned and shredded, crushed into splinters like toothpicks; fences and gardens were obliterated; bridges and roads were washed away. Bathtubs, refrigerators, mangled autos lay strewn all about the streets. Where one of our little chapels had stood, nothing remained but the foundation. More than a hundred people lost their lives; as many more were injured; thousands were left homeless. I heard many stories while there of suffering, of heroism, of salvation.
One woman told how she received a telephone message from friends to get out and to leave—that a tidal wave was coming. She looked out to sea and saw the monstrous wave approaching, like a mountain. She and her husband picked up the baby and ran for their lives up the hill. However, two of their little girls were away from home playing near a clump of lauhala trees. They saw the wave coming, ran into the trees, and held tightly with their arms around the tree trunks. The first gigantic wave washed entirely over them, but they held their breath and clung with all their might until the water receded and their heads were again above the water. When the wave receded, they quickly ran up the hill before the succeeding waves came. Together, the family watched from the safety of the hill as their home below disappeared under the pounding of the waves.
We, too, are faced with powerful, destructive forces unleashed by the adversary. Waves of sin, wickedness, immorality, degradation, tyranny, deceitfulness, conspiracy, and dishonesty threaten all of us. They come with great power and speed and will destroy us if we are not watchful.
But a warning is sounded for us. It behooves us to be alert and to listen and flee from the evil for our eternal lives. Without help we cannot stand against it. We must flee to high ground or cling fast to that which can keep us from being swept away. That to which we must cling for safety is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is our protection from whatever force the evil one can muster. An inspired Book of Mormon prophet counseled his people: “Remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo” (Hel. 5:12).
I would emphasize that the teachings of Christ that we should become perfect were not mere rhetoric. He meant literally that it is the right of mankind to become like the Father and like the Son, having overcome human weaknesses and developed attributes of divinity.
Because many individuals do not fully use the capacity that is in them does nothing to negate the truth that they have the power to become Christlike. It is the man and woman who use the power who prove its existence; neglect cannot prove its absence.
Working toward perfection is not a one-time decision but a process to be pursued throughout one’s lifetime.
Through Moses the word of the Lord came down from the mountain. The commandments which the Lord gave to the children of Israel set minimum standards of conduct. These commandments, said Paul, are “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).
But living by the letter of the Ten Commandments is only the beginning of perfection. Jesus taught the sanctity of the Ten Commandments, but emphasized repeatedly that there was more.
It is not enough to acknowledge the Lord as supreme and refrain from worshiping idols; we should love the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, realizing the great joy he has in the righteousness of his children.
It is not enough to refrain from profanity or blasphemy. We need to make important in our lives the name of the Lord. While we do not use the Lord’s name lightly, we should not leave our friends or our neighbors or our children in any doubt as to where we stand. Let there be no doubt about our being followers of Jesus Christ.
It is not enough to refrain from moviegoing, hunting, fishing, sports, and unnecessary labor on the Sabbath. Constructive use of the Sabbath day includes studying the scriptures, attending church meetings to learn and to worship, writing letters to absent loved ones, comforting the sorrowing, visiting the sick, and, in general, doing what the Lord would have us do on this, his holy day.
If we truly honor our parents as we are commanded to do, we will seek to emulate their best characteristics and to fulfill their highest aspirations for us. Nothing we could give them materially would be more prized than our righteous living.
It is not enough to refrain from killing. We are rather under solemn obligation to respect life and to foster it. Far from taking a life, we must be generous in helping others to enjoy the necessities of life. And when this has been accomplished, we seek to improve the mind and the spirit.
We refrain from taking harmful substances into our body. Through wisdom and moderation in all things, we seek good health and a sense of physical well-being.
It is not enough to refrain from adultery. We need to make the marriage relationship sacred, to sacrifice and work to maintain the warmth and respect which we enjoyed during courtship. God intended marriage to be eternal, sealed by the power of the priesthood, to last beyond the grave. Daily acts of courtesy and kindness, conscientiously and lovingly carried out, are part of what the Lord expects.
It is for us to keep our hearts and minds pure, as well as our actions.
“Thou shalt not steal,” the Lord said on Sinai (Ex. 20:15). Thus it is for us to be honest in every way. We must be generous, the very opposite of selfishness. When money is needed, we give money. But often what is needed more is love and time and caring, which money cannot buy. When that is true, even being generous with our money is not enough.
Bearing false witness and coveting the belongings of others are further evidences of selfishness. “Love thy neighbour as thyself,” Jesus taught. On this and on the love of God “hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:39–40).
Kindness, helpfulness, love, concern, generosity—we could go on for the list of virtues is endless. The development of these traits is what the Lord asks of us.
“If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (A of F 1:13).
The gospel of Jesus Christ is true. Any earnest seeker can know for himself that it is true by studying and living its principles and seeking the companionship and help of the Holy Ghost. But how much easier it is to understand and accept if the seeker after the truth can also see the principles of the gospel at work in the lives of others. No greater service can be given to the missionary calling of the Church than to exemplify positive Christian virtues in our lives.
The Lord holds forth a glorious promise to those who love him and demonstrate this love by faithful, devoted service and the living of his eternal principles. When the winds of change blow fiercely and the waves sweep over us, we have a tree or rod of principle to which we can cling for safety. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ which has been restored to the earth in its fulness.
May the Lord bless us, each one, to hold fast to the iron rod, I humbly pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.