Tuesday, August 12, 2014

General Conference Highlights: April 1947

Next in my highlights of random General Conferences through the decades, we go to a period of prosperity for the church, and the world. George Albert Smith was son of Apostle John Henry Smith, grandson of Apostle George A. Smith, first cousin to Joseph Smith. This also marked the 100th anniversary of the Saints trekking to Utah.

APRIL 1947

First Presidency
-J. Reuben Clark Jr. -76

Quorum of the 12 Apostles
-George F. Richards -74
-Stephen L. Richards -68
-John A. Widtsoe -75
-Joseph F. Merrill -78
-Albert E. Bowen -71
-Mark E. Petersen -46
-Matthew Cowley -49
-Henry D. Moyle -57

Pres. GEORGE ALBERT SMITH - "Opening Remarks"

It is a beautiful picture to see this great tabernacle filled, the seats occupied and people standing, at the beginning of the one hundred seventeenth annual conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church was organized under great difficulties and unpleasantness to those who became its members. People who accepted the gospel did so- because they knew it was the Lord's will, and the result was that they were able to endure the persecutions and difficulties and sorrows that followed them until they finally were driven from the East and came here to these desert lands to make their homes with the wild animals, and at that time, the still more savage red men...

When our people abandoned their comfortable homes in the East because of force, also in different parts of the world, and began to trek their way across the plains to this then-wilderness, they had to have faith to believe that they could enjoy in this deseret land the blessings that people enjoy elsewhere. The Lord never fails to fulfil his promise, and I stand here today a witness to the fact that in this promised land, are some of the happiest people that can be found on the earth, and the advantages and opportunities here are unsurpassed. Not only do we have the blessings that our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon us as individuals, but people also come from all parts of the world to see what has been accomplished.

GS - "Aside"

There is one item that I should like to read to you in the quiet of the Conference before we start this morning. Sister Julia Caroline Beal Burr is celebrating her eighty-ninth year. She has 243 descendants, 225 of them living. These include 13 children, 75 grandchildren, 152 great-grandchildren, and 3 great great-grandchildren. Her people are visiting with her today at Orem. I simply mention this that the strangers who are here and those who come from California and other places will know what we do here in Utah. (Laughter)  We will now listen to the Taberncle Choir sing, "Let the Mountains Shout for Joy."

GS - "Parting Thoughts"

The Lord says that he is a slothful servant who waits to be commanded in all things. (See D. & C. 58: 26.) When we see all around us the need for living as well as teaching the gospel, it is our duty to set the example. We ought not to be waiting for other people to take the initiative; it should be our responsibility to go forward. Everything that is praiseworthy, everything in civil life, or in religious life that is necessary to make the people happy will come to us as a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ, our Lord. This is his Church; we are his people if we are faithful. I want to say that this Church will continue to grow and expand, and instead of approximately a million souls as we have now, if we shall do our duty, the membership of this Church will continue to increase, and the good men and women, those who are seeking God, will get the inspiration and accept the truth as some of your forebears did...

This is God's work. This is the Church of the Lamb of God. He has offered us eternal membership in it, and O my brethren and sisters, I plead with everyone of you to prize that membership and retain it by reason of righteousness, and that there will never come a time when you will find yourselves in the dark and groping your way, uncertain as to what it all means. I would like to say to you before closing that this work is a joyous work. It will bring peace and happiness that nothing else can bring if we will do our part. We will be loved by our neighbors and our friends, many of them not associated with us, if they see our virtues, and if we will develop those virtues as the Lord intends we should...

There are so many things that we might talk about if there were time. I want to say to you that every blessing we enjoy is the result of keeping the commandments of God. Every blessing we desire we must obtain on those same terms. So today I witness to you that we have a Heavenly Father — I know that he lives. I know that Jesus was the Christ, his Beloved Son, who gave his mortal life that we might have eternal life. He came to this country twice, once to the Nephites, and later in the days of Joseph Smith. The Father and the Son came in that latter instance to see that the way was opened for the dissemination of his gospel. He has called us to bear the priesthood and carry the gospel message as missionaries to the various parts of the world, and in return for that he has promised us eternal life in his celestial kingdom. Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith gave their lives as a testimony to the world of the truthfulness of this work.

(Below is a sample of what Pres. Smith's speaking style was like.)

DAVID O. McKAY - 'Industry of the Pioneers"

Among the outstanding virtues of the pioneers were industry and thrift. They condemned idleness and wastefulness as not being in accordance with the rules of heaven. Said President Young:

My experience has taught me, and it has become a principle with me, that it is never any benefit to give out and out to men or women, money, food, clothing, or anything else if they are able-bodied, and can work and earn what they need when there is anything on earth for them to do. This is my principle, and I try to act upon it...

If any are in the habit of taking the name of God in vain, cease doing so today, tomorrow, and throughout the coming week, and so continue, and you will soon gain strength to overcome the habit entirely; you will gain power over your words.

So taught the father of our country, George Washington, who said to his soldiers on one occasion:

The general is sorry to be informed that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice heretofore little known in an American army, is growing in fashion. He hopes the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavor to check it and that both they and the men will reflect that we can have little hope of the blessings of heaven on our arms if we insult it by our impiety and folly. Added to this, profanity is a vice so mean and low, without any temptation, that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.

JOSEPH FIELDING SMITH - "Suffering of the Early Saints"

We are living one hundred years from the time the Pioneers commenced their journey and came into this valley. It is only natural that the brethren should call attention to the Pioneers and the great work they performed. I have visited most of the scenes of early Church history. I have gone over a good part of the trail which they followed when they came to these valleys. I have reflected a good deal upon these scenes, the travels, the hardships, the travails, and suffering and persecutions of these early days, and as I have stood in these hallowed spots and have traversed some of the territory which they passed over, my heart has been touched, but I have realized that it is beyond my power to understand and perhaps to feel all that these good faithful souls endured, and all for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ...

Now I have been thinking, as I have thought many times in the past, of this great legacy which is ours, the great blessings which have come to us, built upon the foundation of persecution, death, hardships, men and women laying down their lives that we might dwell in this land in peace and safety; and how do we feel today about it? Do we keep the Sabbath day holy? Do we pray? Are we grateful in our souls for all that has been done for us by these sturdy people who loved the truth and came here that they might worship God according to the dictates of their consciences? How do we feel? When I see reports of conditions in this state and surrounding states where Latter-day Saints dwell, the amount of liquor that is consumed and tobacco that is consumed, and tea and coffee and other things destructive of health, and contrary to the commandments of the Lord, when I see the people violating the Sabbath day and committing all other kinds of sins contrary to that which they have been taught, I wonder if the Lord is pleased with us...

If we don't keep the Sabbath day holy, he may still be our God, but we may not be his people, for all the people of the earth are his, but we are a peculiar people, and by that we mean that we are different and should be different from the rest of the world because we are not of the world. We are in it. We are not of it.

HAROLD B. LEE - "Celestial Living"

We are our own judges of the place we shall have in the eternal world. Here and now in mortality, each one of us is having the opportunity of choosing the kind of laws we elect to obey. We are now living and obeying celestial laws that will make us candidates for celestial glory, or we are living terrestrial laws that will make us candidates for either terrestrial glory, or telestial law. The place we shall occupy in the eternal worlds will be determined by the obedience we yield to the laws of these various kingdoms during the time we have here in mortality upon the earth.

The Lord characterized himself as, "the light of the world." And in that testimony he declared further that those who would follow him would not walk in darkness but should have the light of life in the celestial world in the presence of the Lord.

SPENCER W. KIMBALL - "Lehi's Family"

I do not know when I began to love the children of Lehi. It may have come to me at birth, because those years preceding and after I was born, were spent by my father on missions among the Indians in Indian territory. He was president of the mission. This love may have come in those first years of my childhood, when my father used to sing the Indian chants to us children and show us souvenirs from and pictures of his Indian friends. It may have come from my patriarchal blessing which was given to me by Patriarch Samuel Claridge, when I was nine years of age. One line of the blessing reads:

You will preach the gospel to many people, but more especially to the Lamanites, for the Lord will bless you with the gift of language and power to portray before that people, the gospel in great plainness. You will see them organized and be prepared to stand as the bulwark "round this people."...

When I was called to the mission field in 1914, my assignment was to the Swiss-German Mission, and then the war broke out and prevented my going there, and I was sent to the Central States Mission. I knew there were no Indians in Switzerland and Germany. I knew also there were Indians in the Central States Mission, but in all my two years' mission, I had not seen an Indian. I wondered, "Can I have failed, or did the patriarch err," and now, forty-two years after the promise, President George Albert Smith called me to this mission, and my blessing was fulfilled.

I love those downtrodden and deprived people. Brother Cowley and I spent some time on the Hawaiian Islands last summer, and those good people found their way into my heart. We have about a half-million children of Lehi in the islands of the sea, and about sixty million of them in North and South America, about a third of them perhaps, being pure-blood Indians, and about two-thirds are mixtures, but they have the blood of Jacob in their veins.

Someone said:

If my pen might have the gift of tears I would write a book and call it "The Indian," and I would make the whole world weep.

I hope I may help to make the whole world weep for the children of Lehi. Can one refrain from tears as he contemplates the fall of these people who have been brought down from culture and achievement to illiteracy and degradation; from kings and emperors, to slavery and serfdom; from landowners of vast continents, to indigent wards of governments and peons — from sons of God with a knowledge of God, to rude savages, victims of superstition, and from builders of temples to dwellers in dirt hogans...

The conquerors came and robbed and despoiled and destroyed. The battle of America, a four-hundred-year struggle began with the discovery of America and ended not until the owners were dispossessed of nearly everything they had owned. Cortez with a handful of soldiers came into Mexico and through deceit and misrepresentation was able to conquer thirty million people. Preying upon their superstitions and beliefs in the return of the Fair God, he gained access to their beautiful city, took their lives, carried off their treasures and desecrated their homes and temples...

The world should weep also at the treatment of the real Americans in our own states. As the colonists came from Europe and settled along the Eastern seaboard, the great "push" continued. Mile by mile we crowded them back. When the Indians resisted our encroachments, we called them "murderous redskins" and continued our relentless aggression. When they killed us "whites," we called it a massacre, but when we took their lives, we termed it a necessary riddance of a menace. We were fighting for their lands and rivers and forests and minerals, but they were fighting for their rights, their homeland, their families, their very lives.

I would not justify any evil that the Indians ever did, but can we not see that they were on the defensive, fighting for their liberty, for independence and to perpetuate their rights to the promised land to which they had title from the Creator?...

How I wish you could go with me through the Indian reservations and particularly Navajo Land and see the poverty, want, and wretchedness, and realize again that these are sons and daughters of God; that their miserable state is the result, not only of their centuries of wars and sins and godlessness, but is also attributable to us, their conquerors, who placed them on reservations with such limited resources and facilities, to starve and die of malnutrition and unsanitary conditions, while we become fat in the prosperity from the assets we took from them. Think of these things, my people, and then weep for the Indian, and with your tears, pray; then work for him.

EZRA TAFT BENSON - "The Welfare Program in Europe"

Now, just a word about the welfare program. I bring to you, my brothers and sisters, the deep gratitude and thanksgiving of the Saints in Europe. The spirit of the welfare program was there long before we arrived. The Saints in various countries had sent help to their less fortunate brothers and sisters in other nations. Welfare gardens had been planted. We found them among the bombed-out buildings. We ran on to many instances where following bombings, branches had joined together and pooled all their remaining supplies, food, clothing, and household articles, and turned them over to the priesthood for distribution according to need.

It was a great joy when the welfare supplies came through. It was also a great surprise to the military authorities and others to learn with what dispatch the supplies arrived from Zion, after arrangements were made, and the cable sent back to Zion, March 14, 1946, to start shipments. They could hardly believe that there was a Church in existence with a hundred storehouses well stocked, ready to dispatch supplies to the suffering people in Europe...

A large part of the world is cold, hungry, and desperate. Millions without the gospel are without hope. Europe today is in the midst of one of the greatest ideological conflicts in recorded human history — whether government exists for the individual or the individual for the government. We feel it only vaguely here, but it is real. To me the threat of Godless communism is a stern reality, not only in Europe but also in blessed America.

The outlook for the world is not encouraging, but we know what the answer is. There is only one answer, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peace must come from the heart. Men's hearts must change, and righteousness must rule in the lives of the people of the world before peace can come. May God hasten the day.

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