Monday, August 25, 2014

General Conference Highlights: April 1995

This is the first General Conference presided over by Gordon B. Hinckley. Since he'd been made a counselor in Spencer W. Kimball's presidency in 1981, he'd always been in the First Presidency. The transition of power felt more natural than perhaps any other.It would also begin the longest period in church history where the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve stayed the same, from April 6, 1995, until Neal A. Maxwell's death on July 21, 2004.

April 1995

First Presidency
-James E. Faust -74

Quorum of the 12 Apostles
-Boyd K. Packer -70
-L. Tom Perry -72
-David B. Haight -88
-Neal A. Maxwell -69
-Russell M. Nelson -70
-Dallin H. Oaks -62
-M. Russell Ballard -66
-Joseph B. Wirthlin -77
-Richard G. Scott -66
-Robert D. Hales -63
-Jeffrey R. Holland -54
-Henry B. Eyring -61

Young Women's General Presidency
Janette C. Hales
-Virginia H. Pearce
-Bonnie D. Parkin

Pres. GORDON B. HINCKLEY - "The Light Within You" (from Young Women's session)

When Sister Hinckley and I were much younger and less stiff and brittle, we would go to dances. She would tell you that this stopped right after we were married. I must confess that I enjoyed her company more than I enjoyed the dancing.

Back in those days there was a popular song, the opening lines of which were:

Somebody loves you, I want you to know,
Longs to be near you, wherever you go.

I have interpreted those words differently from the meaning given by the author. I wish you—each of you, wherever you are—to know that you are loved. You are loved by your Father in Heaven, of whose divine nature you have partaken. And He desires that His Holy Spirit will be near you wherever you go if you will invite it and cultivate it.

There is something of divinity within each of you. You have such tremendous potential with that quality as a part of your inherited nature. Every one of you was endowed by your Father in Heaven with a tremendous capacity to do good in the world. Train your minds and your hands that you may be equipped to serve well in the society of which you are a part. Cultivate the art of being kind, of being thoughtful, of being helpful. Refine within you the quality of mercy which comes as a part of the divine attributes you have inherited.

GBH - "This Work Is Concerned with People" (from Priesthood session)

Concerning the First Presidency the Lord has said, “Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church” (D&C 107:22).

I emphasize those words, “upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church.”

Your uplifted hands in the solemn assembly this morning became an expression of your willingness and desire to uphold us, your brethren and your servants, with your confidence, faith, and prayer. I am deeply grateful for that expression. I thank you, each of you. I assure you, as you already know, that in the processes of the Lord, there is no aspiring for office. As the Lord said to his disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (John 15:16). This office is not one to be sought after. The right to select rests with the Lord. He is the master of life and death. His is the power to call. His is the power to take away. His is the power to retain. It is all in His hands.

I do not know why in His grand scheme one such as I would find a place. But having this mantle come upon me, I now rededicate whatever I have of strength or time or talent or life to the work of my Master in the service of my brethren and sisters. Again, I thank you, my beloved brethren, for your actions this day. The burden of my prayer is that I will be worthy. I hope that I may be remembered in your prayers...

The Church is becoming a very large and complex organization. We now have members in more than 150 nations. There are nine million of us, and we are growing at the approximate rate of a million each three and a half years. In addition to such regular programs as sacrament meeting, home teaching, and meetings of the priesthood quorums and auxiliaries, all of which are designed to meet the needs of the living membership of the Church, we are carrying forward an enormous program involving such undertakings as the world’s largest archive of genealogical and family history data; the operation of the largest private university in the nation, if not in the world, with a related seminary and institute program embracing hundreds of thousands of students; the staffing and management of the largest missionary organization of which I am aware with the number now approaching fifty thousand; the carrying forward of a building program of unprecedented proportions; the operation of a very large and efficient publishing facility; and the training and motivation of the largest organization of noncompensated ecclesiastical officers to be found in any institution of which I know. I hesitate to use superlatives, but I think they fit in this case.

We are becoming a great global society. But our interest and concern must always be with the individual. Every member of this church is an individual man or woman, boy or girl. Our great responsibility is to see that each is “remembered and nourished by the good word of God” (Moro. 6:4), that each has opportunity for growth and expression and training in the work and ways of the Lord, that none lacks the necessities of life, that the needs of the poor are met, that each member shall have encouragement, training, and opportunity to move forward on the road of immortality and eternal life. This, I submit, is the inspired genius of this the Lord’s work...

The gaining of a strong and secure testimony is the privilege and opportunity of every individual member of the Church. The Master said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

Service in behalf of others, study, and prayer lead to faith in this work and then to knowledge of its truth. This has always been a personal pursuit, as it must always be in the future.

We speak frequently of Wilford Woodruff’s conversion of the United Brethren in England when some eighteen hundred were baptized into the Church. But let us not forget that each of them had to walk the lonely road of repentance, of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and of acceptance of the fact that the ancient gospel had come again to earth in this the promised dispensation of the fulness of times. The decisions we make, individually and personally, become the fabric of our lives.

GBH - "This Is the Work of the Master"

I am fully aware that I am not a young man as I shoulder the responsibilities of this sacred office. Sister Hinckley and I are learning that the so-called golden years are laced with lead. But I think I can honestly say that I do not feel old. I cannot repudiate my birth certificate, but I can still experience a great, almost youthful exuberance in my enthusiasm for this precious work of the Almighty.

I love the people of this church, of all ages, of all races, and of many nations.

I love the children. They are very much the same the world over. Regardless of the color of their skin and of the circumstances in which they live, they carry with them a beauty that comes of innocence and of the fact that it was not long ago that they lived with their Father in Heaven. How lovely you are, wherever you are, you precious children.

I love the youth of the Church. I have said again and again that I think we have never had a better generation than this. How grateful I am for your integrity, for your ambition to train your minds and your hands to do good work, for your love for the word of the Lord, and for your desire to walk in paths of virtue and truth and goodness.

I have tremendous respect for fathers and mothers who are nurturing their children in light and truth, who have prayer in their homes, who spare the rod and govern with love, who look upon their little ones as their most valued assets to be protected, trained, and blessed.

I love the elderly who have faced into the storms of life and who, regardless of the force of the tempest, have gone forward and kept the faith. May your older years be filled with happiness and with satisfying remembrance of lives well lived...

Now, my brethren and sisters, the time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission. It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow. It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike.

We have nothing to fear. God is at the helm. He will overrule for the good of this work. He will shower down blessings upon those who walk in obedience to His commandments. Such has been His promise. Of His ability to keep that promise none of us can doubt.

GBH - "We Have a Work to Do"

I look back to my own youth. Neither young men nor young women were doing much scripture reading at that time. What a marvelous change has been wrought. A new generation is arising who are familiar with the word of the Lord. Growing up in a worldly environment that is laden with immorality and filth of every kind, our youth, for the most part, are meeting the challenge of living in the world without partaking of the evils of the world. It is with the young men as it is with the young women. Last evening this tabernacle was filled with fathers and sons, and hundreds of thousands were gathered in other halls across the Church. It is wonderful to feel the pulse of this generation of young people. Of course, there are some who do not measure up. That has been the case since the time of the great war in heaven described by John the Revelator. The issue then was free agency as it is today. Then, as now, choices had to be made.

“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

“And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev. 12:7–9).

That ancient struggle continues, the unrelenting battle that comes of free agency. Some, unfortunately, choose the wrong. But many, so many, choose the right, including so very many of our choice young men and young women. They deserve and need our gratitude. They need our encouragement. They need the kind of examples that we can become before them. May they be blessed as they pursue lives of virtue, of learning, of growing with faith and purpose, all the time remaining “True to the faith that [their] parents have cherished, True to the truth for which martyrs have perished” (Hymns, 1985, no. 254).

THOMAS S. MONSON - "A Time to Choose" (from Young Womens session)

Some youth are drifting on a sea of chance, with waves of temptation threatening to engulf them. A nationally prominent journalist described situations in our country by saying, “They are indicative of the days in which we are living: … days of compromise and diluting of principles; days when sin is labeled as error, when morality is relative and when materialism emphasizes the value of expedience and the shirking of responsibility.”

You young women ask silently, “What can I do to insure my eternal joy? Can you help me?” I offer four suggestions:

1. Study diligently.
2. Choose carefully.
3. Pray fervently.
4. Act wisely.

TSM - "That All May Hear"

Long years ago a divine command was given by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as He said to His beloved eleven disciples: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Mark records that “they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them.”

This sacred charge has not been rescinded. Rather, it has been reemphasized. The Prophet Joseph Smith set forth the purpose of the Church when he declared: “It is the bringing of men and women to a knowledge of the eternal truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of the world, and that only through belief in Him, and faith which manifests itself in good works, can men and nations enjoy peace.”

Does the world in which we live stand in need of the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Almost everywhere one looks there appears an erosion not only of the environment but, even more seriously, an erosion of spirituality and of compliance with eternal commandments. One sees a blatant disregard for the precious souls of mankind.

It is almost as though the faces of many have been turned away from Him—even the Lord—who solemnly declared: “The worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” The gentle words “Come, follow me,” fall on many with stopped ears and closed hearts. Such seem to be attuned to another voice.

TSM - "Mercy, The Divine Gift"

There are those among us who torture themselves through their inability to show mercy and to forgive others some supposed offense or slight, however small it may be. At times the statement is made, “I never can forgive [this person or that person].” Such an attitude is destructive to an individual’s well-being. It can canker the soul and ruin one’s life. In other instances, an individual can forgive another but cannot forgive himself. Such a situation is even more destructive.

Early in my ministry as a member of the Council of the Twelve, I took to President Hugh B. Brown the experience of a fine person who could not serve in a ward position because he could not show mercy to himself. He could forgive others but not himself; mercy was seemingly beyond his grasp. President Brown suggested that I visit with that individual and counsel him along these lines: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” Then, from Isaiah and the Doctrine and Covenants: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”

With a pensive expression on his face, President Brown added: “Tell that man that he should not persist in remembering that which the Lord has said He is willing to forget.” Such counsel will help to cleanse the soul and renew the spirit of any who applies it.

The Prophet Joseph urged, “Be merciful and you shall find mercy. Seek to help save souls, not to destroy them: for verily you know, that ‘there is more joy in heaven, over one sinner that repents, than there is over ninety and nine just persons [who] need no repentance.’"

James E. Faust - "Heirs to the Kingdom of God"

Today I would like to speak to the members of the Church worldwide. I hope we can all overcome any differences of culture, race, and language. Since the early days of the Church, the General Authorities and missionaries have traveled over much of the earth to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, as restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and to establish the Church with keys and authority in many lands. An impressive and enjoyable part of our ministry has been to worship with the wonderful people of many cultures and ethnic groups. It has been soul satisfying to feel of their spiritual strength and their love and to love them in return.

Now the curtains are opening up to more and more of the nonindustrialized nations. In some of these countries a large percentage of the population is poor. Many of them have much less opportunity than others to acquire the comforts of life and even some of the necessities. We have seen men and women working to exhaustion from sunrise to sundown for a pittance. Yet their ready smiles and cheerful countenances indicated that they had found some happiness with their lot in life...

In the great diversity of peoples, cultures, and circumstances, we remember that all are equal before the Lord, for as Paul taught,

“Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
“And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

We do not lose our identity in becoming members of this church. We become heirs to the kingdom of God, having joined the body of Christ and spiritually set aside some of our personal differences to unite in a greater spiritual cause. We say to all who have joined the Church, keep all that is noble, good, and uplifting in your culture and personal identity. However, under the authority and power of the keys of the priesthood, all differences yield as we seek to become heirs to the kingdom of God, unite in following those who have the keys of the priesthood, and seek the divinity within us. All are welcomed and appreciated. But there is only one celestial kingdom of God.

Virginia H. Pearce - "Trying the Word of God" (from Young Women's session)

Alma used a seed to stand for the word. He taught the discouraged Zoramites that if they would “give place, that a seed may be planted in [their] heart[s]” (Alma 32:28), and then notice if good feelings went with it, they would begin to understand and life would be different for them.

Could that be a way of saying: “Decide, just for yourself, that you will make a place for scripture reading. And then, as you begin to do that, notice what feelings go with it”?

Alma then taught that “as the tree beginneth to grow” (Alma 32:37), it would need to be nourished with great care.

Could that be a way of saying: “Nourish the desire to read. Do some things that will keep you reading and help you to understand in new ways. Let others keep you excited and help you learn more from the scriptures so that the word will continue to grow”?

Alma taught that if this nourishing continued for a long time, there would be wonderful fruit. Please turn to Alma, chapter 32, verse 42:

“And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.”

Could that be a way of saying: “When you continue reading, and doing the things that you read about, eventually life will change in a way that is difficult to even imagine. Your daily discouragements will be replaced with a knowledge of how much God loves you. You will feast and be filled”?

Every song, every scripture read, every story told, and all counsel given tonight is meant to encourage each of us to (1) make an individual decision to read the words of God, to understand more ways to (2) nourish and enjoy scripture reading, and to (3) recognize the good feelings and changes that eventually come with regular scripture reading. In Alma’s words, to (1) give place, (2) nourish, (3) feast.

[Trivia note: Pearce is Gordon B. Hinckley's daughter.]

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