Now we're into 2005. In the previous year, Apostles Neal A. Maxwell and David B. Haight passed away.
GORDON B. HINCKLEY -94
THOMAS S. MONSON -77
-James E. Faust -84
Quorum of the 12 Apostles
-Boyd K. Packer -80
-L. Tom Perry -82
-Russell M. Nelson -80
-Dallin H. Oaks -72
-M. Russell Ballard -76
-Joseph B. Wirthlin -87
-Richard G. Scott -76
-Robert D. Hales -73
-Jeffrey R. Holland -64
-Henry B. Eyring -71
-Dieter F. Uchtdorf -64
-David A. Bednar -52
Relief Society General Presidency
Bonnie D. Parkin
Kathleen H. Hughes
Anne C. Pingree
My beloved brothers and sisters, on behalf of the worldwide membership of this Church, I extend to our Catholic neighbors and friends our heartfelt sympathy at this time of great sorrow. Pope John Paul II has worked tirelessly to advance the cause of Christianity, to lift the burdens of the poor, and to speak fearlessly in behalf of moral values and human dignity. He will be greatly missed, particularly by the very many who have looked to him for leadership...
To each of you, wherever you may be, I express the feelings of my heart and thank you for your great and dedicated service. What wonderful people you are.
The majesty and the wonder of the gospel of Jesus Christ restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith shines today with resplendent luster. As we stand on the summit of these years and look back, we must never feel arrogant or proud, but we can feel humbly grateful for what has been accomplished in a variety of undertakings.
GBH - "Gambling" (from Priesthood session)
The story is told that one Sunday Calvin Coolidge, onetime president of the United States and a man noted for few words, returned from church. His wife asked him what the preacher spoke about. He replied, “Sin.” “What did he say?” she asked. “He was against it,” was his reply.
I think I could answer the question concerning gambling just that briefly. We are against it.
Gambling is to be found almost everywhere and is growing. People play poker. They bet on horse races and dog races. They play roulette and work the slot machines. They gather to play in bars, saloons, and casinos, and, all too often, in their own homes. Many cannot leave it alone. It becomes addictive. In so many cases it leads to other destructive habits and practices...
Some American states have imposed heavy taxes on casinos as a source of revenue. The operating company also must have its profit. Then comes the winning ticket holder. All others who bought tickets are left empty-handed.
I am so grateful that when the Lord established this Church He gave us the law of tithing. I talked at one time with an officer of another church which, I understand, relies on the playing of bingo for a substantial part of its income. I said to this man, “Have you ever considered tithing to finance your church?” He replied, “Yes, and oh, how I wish that we might follow this practice instead of playing bingo. But I do not expect this change in my lifetime.”...
Presidents of the Church and counselors in the Presidency have repeatedly spoken concerning this evil. George Q. Cannon, counselor to three Presidents of the Church, said: “There are many evils in the world which young folks need to be guarded against. One of these is gambling. There are various forms of this evil but they are all bad and should not be indulged in” (Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, sel. Jerreld L. Newquist, 2 vols. , 2:223).
President Joseph F. Smith stated, “The Church does not approve of gambling but strongly condemns it as morally wrong, and classes also with this gambling, games of chance and lottery, of all kinds, and earnestly disapproves of any of its members engaging therein” (“Editor’s Table,” Improvement Era, Aug. 1908, 807).
President Heber J. Grant counseled: “The Church has been and now is unalterably opposed to gambling in any form whatever. It is opposed to any game of chance, occupation, or so-called business, which takes money from the person who may be possessed of it without giving value received in return. It is opposed to all practices the tendency of which is to … degrade or weaken the high moral standard which the members of the Church, and our community at large, have always maintained” (in Messages of the First Presidency, 5:245).
GBH - "The Great Things Which God Has Revealed"
For centuries men gathered and argued concerning the nature of Deity. Constantine assembled scholars of various factions at Nicaea in the year 325. After two months of bitter debate, they compromised on a definition which for generations has been the doctrinal statement among Christians concerning the Godhead.
I invite you to read that definition and compare it with the statement of the boy Joseph. He simply says that God stood before him and spoke to him. Joseph could see Him and could hear Him. He was in form like a man, a being of substance. Beside Him was the resurrected Lord, a separate being, whom He introduced as His Beloved Son and with whom Joseph also spoke.
I submit that in the short time of that remarkable vision Joseph learned more concerning Deity than all of the scholars and clerics of the past.
In this divine revelation there was reaffirmed beyond doubt the reality of the literal Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This knowledge of Deity, hidden from the world for centuries, was the first and great thing which God revealed to His chosen servant....
As the Bible is the testament of the Old World, the Book of Mormon is the testament of the New. They go hand in hand in declaration of Jesus as the Son of the Father.
In the past 10 years alone, 51 million copies have been distributed. It is now available in 106 languages.
This sacred book, which came forth as a revelation of the Almighty, is indeed another testament of the divinity of our Lord.
I would think that the whole Christian world would reach out and welcome it and embrace it as a vibrant testimony. It represents another great and basic contribution which came as a revelation to the Prophet.
GBH - "Closing Remarks"
It has been a time for the renewal of our faith in the great eternal verities which have come to us through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph. How blessed we are. How fortunate we are in our knowledge of these transcendent truths.
But may I say, as I have said in the past, our membership in this Church, with eligibility for all of the blessings that flow therefrom, should never be any cause for self-righteousness, for arrogance, for denigration of others, for looking down upon others. All mankind is our neighbor. When asked which was the greatest commandment of the law, the Lord said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. … [And] thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37, 39).
Regardless of the color of our skin, of the shape of our eyes, of the language we speak, we all are sons and daughters of God and must reach out to one another with love and concern.
Wherever we may live we can be friendly neighbors. Our children can mingle with the children of those not of this Church and remain steadfast if they are properly taught. They can even become missionaries to their associates.
I begin by expressing commendation to all of you. In this challenging world, the youth of the Church are the very best ever. The faith, the service, and the actions of our members are praiseworthy. We are a prayerful and faith-filled people, ever striving to be decent and honest. We take care of each other. We try to show love to our neighbors.
However, lest we become complacent, may I quote from 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon:
“At that day shall [the devil] … lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls.” 1
Someone has said that our complacency tree has many branches, and each spring more buds come into bloom.
We cannot afford to be complacent. We live in perilous times; the signs are all around us. We are acutely aware of the negative influences in our society that stalk traditional families. At times television and movies portray worldly and immoral heroes and heroines and attempt to hold up as role models some actors and actresses whose lives are anything but exemplary. Why should we follow a blind guide? Radios blare forth much denigrating music with blatant lyrics, dangerous invitations, and descriptions of almost every type of evil imaginable...
I like this thought: “Your mind is a cupboard, and you stock the shelves.” Let us make certain that our cupboard shelves, and those of our family members, are stocked with the things which will provide safety to our souls and enable us to return to our Father in Heaven. Such shelves could well be stocked with gospel scholarship, faith, prayer, love, service, obedience, example, and kindness.
TSM - "Be Thou An Example" (from Young Womens session)
Precious young women, and you mothers, Young Women leaders, and advisers, may I leave with you a code of conduct to guide your footsteps safely through mortality and to the celestial kingdom of our Heavenly Father. I have divided my code of conduct into four parts:
• You have a heritage; honor it.
• You will meet temptation; withstand it.
• You know the truth; live it.
• You possess a testimony; share it.
First, you have a heritage; honor it. There come thundering to our ears the words from Mount Sinai: “Honour thy father and thy mother.” My, how your parents love you, how they pray for you. Honor them.
How do you honor your parents? I like the words of William Shakespeare: “They do not love that do not show their love.” There are countless ways in which you can show true love to your mothers and your fathers. You can obey them and follow their teachings, for they will never lead you astray. You can treat them with respect. They have sacrificed much and continue to sacrifice in your behalf...
Next in our code of conduct: You will meet temptation; withstand it.
The Prophet Joseph Smith faced temptation. Can you imagine the ridicule, the scorn, the mocking that must have been heaped upon him as he declared that he had seen a vision? I suppose it became almost unbearable for the boy. He no doubt knew that it would be easier to retract his statements concerning the vision and just get on with a normal life. He did not, however, give in. These are his words: “I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true. … I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it.” Joseph Smith taught courage by example. He faced temptation and withstood it...
Next in our code of conduct: You know the truth; live it.
After Joseph Smith’s vision in the Sacred Grove, he received no additional communication for three years. Can you imagine how you would feel if you had seen God the Father and Jesus Christ, His Son, if Christ had spoken to you, and then you had no additional word or communication for three years? Would you begin to doubt? Would you wonder or question why? The Prophet Joseph Smith did not wonder; he did not question; he did not doubt the Lord. He had received the truth, and he lived it...
Finally, you possess a testimony; share it. Never underestimate the far-reaching influence of your testimony. You can strengthen one another; you have the capacity to notice the unnoticed. When you have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to feel, you can reach out and rescue others of your age.
TSM - "The Sacred Call of Service" (from Priesthood session)
President Joseph F. Smith made the following statement concerning the priesthood. Said he: “The Holy Priesthood is that authority which God has delegated to man, by which he may speak the will of God. … It is sacred, and it must be held sacred by the people. It should be honored and respected by them, in whomsoever it is held.”
The oath and covenant of the priesthood pertains to all of us. To those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, it is a declaration of our requirement to be faithful and obedient to the laws of God and to magnify the callings which come to us. To those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood, it is a pronouncement concerning future duty and responsibility, that they may prepare themselves here and now.
Said President Marion G. Romney, a former member of the First Presidency: “Every bearer of the Melchizedek Priesthood should give diligent and solemn heed to the implications of this oath and covenant which he has received. Failure to observe the obligations imposed by it is sure to bring disappointment, sorrow, and suffering.”...
The call of duty can come quietly as we who hold the priesthood respond to the assignments we receive. President George Albert Smith, that modest yet effective leader, declared, “It is your duty first of all to learn what the Lord wants and then by the power and strength of [your] holy Priesthood to [so] magnify your calling in the presence of your fellows … that the people will be glad to follow you.”...
President Stephen L Richards, who served as a counselor to President David O. McKay, declared, “The Priesthood is usually simply defined as ‘the power of God delegated to man.’” He continues: “This definition, I think, is accurate. But for practical purposes I like to define the Priesthood in terms of service, and I frequently call it ‘the perfect plan of service.’ … It is an instrument of service … and the man who fails to use it is apt to lose it, for we are plainly told by revelation that he who neglects it ‘shall not be counted worthy to stand.’”
Looking back, I am grateful for so many friends who helped me in my youth to gain a testimony of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. First I exercised simple faith in their testimonies, and then I received the divine witness of the Spirit to my mind and to my heart. I count Joseph Smith among those whose testimony of Christ helped me to develop my own testimony of the Savior. Before I recognized the tutoring of the Spirit testifying to me that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, my youthful heart felt that he was a friend of God and would therefore, quite naturally, also be a friend of mine. I knew I could trust Joseph Smith.
The scriptures teach us that spiritual gifts are given to those who ask of God, who love Him, and who keep His commandments (see D&C 46:9). “All have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
“To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby” (D&C 46:11–12).
Today I know that my young testimony benefited greatly from the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and many friends in the Church who knew “by the Holy Ghost … that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world” (D&C 46:13). Their good examples, caring love, and helping hands blessed me to receive another special gift of the Spirit described in the scriptures as I was yearning for more light and truth: “To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue [faithfully]” (D&C 46:14). What a wonderful and precious gift this is!...
As we remember and honor the Prophet Joseph Smith, my heart reaches out to him in gratitude. He was a good, honest, humble, intelligent, and courageous young man with a heart of gold and an unshaken faith in God. He had integrity. In response to his humble prayer, the heavens opened again. Joseph Smith had actually seen a vision. He knew it, and he knew that God knew it, and he could not deny it. (See JS—H 1:25.)
Through his work and sacrifice, I now have a true understanding of our Heavenly Father and His Son, our Redeemer and Savior, Jesus Christ, and I can feel the power of the Holy Ghost and know of Heavenly Father’s plan for us, His children. For me, these are truly the fruits of the First Vision.
Kathleen H. Hughes - "What Greater Goodness Can We Know: Christlike Friends"
As a Relief Society presidency, we sometimes hear women say that they don’t feel the love of the Lord. But perhaps they would feel more of His love if they looked for His hand in the actions of those who care for them. It may be a member of their branch or ward, a neighbor, or even a stranger who blesses them and manifests Christ’s love. Elder Henry B. Eyring instructed us: “You are called to represent the Savior. Your voice to testify becomes the same as His voice, your hands to lift the same as His hands” (“Rise to Your Call,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2002, 76). If we can lift others in Christ’s name, surely we can also be lifted.
One home teacher I know faithfully made monthly visits to an elderly widow. More than just visit, however, each fall he winterized the sister’s air conditioner and checked the filter on her furnace. Was that God’s love or the love of the home teacher? The answer, of course, is both.
What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.
I have been blessed throughout my life with Christlike friends—from friends of my youth to the many people who have blessed our family in all the wards we have lived in. Their faith and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ, their service, their wise and gentle instruction have enriched our lives. Some of my friends are very different from me. We disagree about things, and we can even irritate each other. But friendship allows for differences—in fact, it embraces them. I love to visit stakes made up of people from a variety of backgrounds, ages, and ethnic origins...
It should be obvious to each of us that our ultimate friendship should be with our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. The Savior has affectionately said to us, “I will call you friends, for you are my friends” (D&C 93:45). His greatest desire for us, His brothers and sisters, is to bring us back to our Father. And the way for us is clear: develop in our lives, to the degree that we can, the qualities and attributes of Christ. Obey His commandments and do His work and His will.