This has been a wonderful conference. The Spirit of the Lord has been with us. We have heard much of wisdom and inspiration. Our testimonies of this divine work have been strengthened. Many of us, I hope, have resolved within our hearts to live more fully the principles of the gospel.
Surely we have been blessed in the talks that have been given. The prayers have been inspiring and the music has been wonderful. We are so greatly blessed with dedicated musicians in the Church. They add so substantially to the spirit of the conference. Every choir and chorus has performed exceptionally well.
I wish to say a particular word about this Tabernacle Choir, who have sung to us today. I came across a letter written by Wilford W. Woodruff and his counselors, George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith, under date of 11 February 1895, 101 years ago. It was addressed to the choir at that time. It reads:
“We desire to see this choir not only maintain the high reputation it has earned at home and abroad, but become the highest exponent of the ‘Divine Art’ in all the land; and the worthy head, example and leader of all other choirs and musical bodies in the Church, inspiring musicians and poets with purest sentiment and song and harmony, until its light shall shine forth to the world undimmed, and nations shall be charmed by its music.”
The letter goes on: “This choir is and should be a great auxiliary to the cause of Zion. By means of its perfection in the glorious realm of song, it may unstop the ears of thousands now deaf to the truth, soften their stony hearts, and inspire precious souls with a love for that which is divine. Thus removing prejudice, dispelling ignorance and shedding forth the precious light of heaven to tens of thousands who have been, and are still, misled concerning us” (in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [1965–75], 3:267–68).
Such has been the responsibility resting upon this choir for more than a century. Personnel changes have occurred through the years, but the quality of performance has only improved. This choir is one of the great treasures of the Church. I think it is one of the great treasures of America. I regard it as the outstanding choir in all the world. May it continue its great mission of providing lofty and inspiring music at home and abroad. I thank, in behalf of the entire Church, the officers, directors, organists, and members of this dedicated body of talented and gifted musicians who give so generously of their time.
Now I think I might venture to mention another matter. Months ago I was invited to be interviewed by Mike Wallace, a tough senior reporter for the CBS 60 Minutes program, which is broadcast across America to more than 20 million listeners each week.
I recognized that if I were to appear, critics and detractors of the Church would also be invited to participate. I knew we could not expect that the program would be entirely positive for us.
On the other hand, I felt that it offered the opportunity to present some affirmative aspects of our culture and message to many millions of people. I concluded that it was better to lean into the stiff wind of opportunity than to simply hunker down and do nothing. It has been an interesting experience. The program’s crews have photographed hours of eyeball-to-eyeball interview if you’ll pardon that expression, dialogue, and formal talks in various settings. They have interviewed other members of the Church, as well as our critics. From all of this I assume they have distilled a presentation of about a quarter of an hour.
We have no idea what the outcome will be—that is, I don’t. We will discover this this evening when it is aired in this valley. If it turns out to be favorable, I will be grateful. Otherwise, I pledge I’ll never get my foot in that kind of trap again. In the Salt Lake City area it will be released at 6:00 p.m., and in many other areas across the nation at 7:00 p.m. local time.
In the prayer of dedication at the Kirtland Temple, which prayer was received by revelation according to the Prophet, he petitioned the Lord in these words:
“Remember all thy church, O Lord … that the kingdom, which thou hast set up without hands, may become a great mountain and fill the whole earth;
“That thy church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners” (D&C 109:72–73).
We are witnessing the answer to that remarkable pleading. Increasingly the Church is being recognized at home and abroad for what it truly is. There are still those, not a few, who criticize and rebel, who apostatize and lift their voices against this work. We have always had them. They speak their piece as they walk across the stage of life, and then they are soon forgotten. I suppose we always will have them as long as we are trying to do the work of the Lord. The honest in heart will detect that which is true and that which is false. We go forward, marching as an army with banners emblazoned with the everlasting truth. We are a cause that is militant for truth and goodness. We are a body of Christian soldiers “marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before” (“Onward, Christian Soldiers,” Hymns, no. 246).
Everywhere we go we see great vitality in this work. There is enthusiasm wherever it is organized. It is the work of the Redeemer. It is the gospel of good news. It is something to be happy and excited about.
Brothers and sisters, let us now return to our homes with increased resolution in our hearts to live the gospel more fully, to serve with greater diligence, and to stand for truth with enthusiasm and without fear. As a servant of the Lord, I leave my blessing upon you. May you be happy as you walk with faith, I humbly pray, in the name of Him whom we all love and serve, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.