Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thomas S. Monson General Conference Highlights: October 1995 - October 1998

More Thomas S. Monson highlights.

OCTOBER 1995 - "Who Honors God, God Honors" (from Priesthood session)

It seems like yesterday that I was secretary of the deacons quorum in my ward. We were tutored by wise and patient men who taught us from the holy scriptures, even men who knew us well. These men who took time to listen and to laugh, to build and to inspire, emphasized that we, like the Lord, could increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. They were examples to us. Their lives were a reflection of their testimonies.

Youth is a time for growth. Our minds during these formative years are receptive to truth, but they are also receptive to error. The responsibility to choose rests with each deacon, teacher, and priest. As the years go by, the choices become increasingly complex, and at times we may be tempted to waver. The need for a personal code of honor is demanded not only on a daily basis, but frequently many times in a given day...

An anxious mother of a prospective missionary once asked me what I would recommend her son learn before the arrival of his missionary call. I am certain she anticipated a profound response which would contain the more familiar requirements for service of which we are all aware. However, I said, “Teach your son how to cook, but more particularly, teach him how to get along with others. He will be happier and more productive if he learns these two vital skills.”

Young men, you are preparing for your missions when you learn your duties as deacons, teachers, and priests and then perform those duties with determination and love, knowing you are on the Lord’s errand.

OCT95 - "Patience - A Heavenly Virtue"

Life is full of difficulties, some minor and others of a more serious nature. There seems to be an unending supply of challenges for one and all. Our problem is that we often expect instantaneous solutions to such challenges, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required.

The counsel heard in our youth is still applicable today and should be heeded. “Hold your horses,” “Keep your shirt on,” “Slow down,” “Don’t be in such a hurry,” “Follow the rules,” “Be careful” are more than trite expressions. They describe sincere counsel and speak the wisdom of experience.

The mindless and reckless speeding of a youth-filled car down a winding and hazardous canyon road can bring a sudden loss of control, the careening of the car with its precious cargo over the precipice, and the downward plunge that ofttimes brings permanent incapacity, perhaps premature death, and grieving hearts of loved ones. The glee-filled moment can turn in an instant to a lifetime of regret.

Oh, precious youth, please give life a chance. Apply the virtue of patience.

In sickness, with its attendant pain, patience is required. If the only perfect man who ever lived—even Jesus of Nazareth—was called upon to endure great suffering, how can we, who are less than perfect, expect to be free of such challenges?

Who can count the vast throngs of the lonely, the aged, the helpless—those who feel abandoned by the caravan of life as it moves relentlessly onward and then disappears beyond the sight of those who ponder, who wonder, and who sometimes question as they are left alone with their thoughts. Patience can be a helpful companion during such stressful times...

Today, some are out of work, out of money, out of self-confidence. Hunger haunts their lives, and discouragement dogs their paths. But help is here—even food for the hungry, clothing for the naked, and shelter for the homeless.

Thousands of tons move outward from our Church storehouses weekly—even food, clothing, medical equipment and supplies to the far corners of the earth and to empty cupboards and needy people closer to home.

I witness the motivation which prompts busy and talented dentists and doctors on a regular basis to leave their practices and donate their skills to those who need such help. They travel to faraway places to repair cleft palates, correct malformed bones, and restore crippled bodies—all for the love of God’s children. The afflicted who have patiently waited for corrective help are blessed by these “angels in disguise.”

APRIL 1996 - "Duty Calls" (from Priesthood session)

You may well ask, “Where does the path of duty lie?” Brethren, I believe with all my heart that two markers define the path: the Duty to Prepare and the Duty to Serve. Let us elaborate on these two markers.

First is the Duty to Prepare. The Lord counseled us, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”

Preparation for life’s opportunities and responsibilities has never been more vital. We live in a changing society. Intense competition is a part of life. The role of husband, father, grandfather, provider, and protector is vastly different from what it was a generation ago. Preparation is not a matter of perhaps or maybe. It is a mandate. The old phrase “Ignorance is bliss” is forever gone. Preparation precedes performance.

APR96 - "The Way of the Master"

Two questions, spoken at an earlier time, roll as thunder to the ears of each of us: “What think ye of Christ?” and “What shall [we] do … with Jesus?” I proffer these three suggestions:

1. Learn of Him. “Learn of me,” He pleaded, “for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
2. Believe in Him. The writer of the proverb urged: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” His is the only name under heaven whereby we might be saved.
3. Follow Him. He brought reality to the word compassion. He showed us the way. He marked the path we should follow. Selfless service characterized His life.

By learning of Him, by believing in Him, by following Him, there is the capacity to become like Him. The countenance can change, the heart can be softened, the step can be quickened, the outlook enhanced. Life becomes what it should become. Change is at times imperceptible, but it does take place.

OCTOBER 1996 - "Christ at Bethesda's Pool"

Do we remember the question posed by one Pontius Pilate as he spoke to those who would shed the blood of Jesus and thus end His mortal life? “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.” And so He was.

The question each of us must answer is the same: What shall I do with Jesus? He Himself has provided us the answer: “Follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.”

The mortal mission of our Lord was foretold by the holy prophets, as was His birth. For generations, enlightened mankind in the old and the new world anxiously sought the fulfillment of prophecies uttered by righteous men inspired of Almighty God.

Then came that heavenly pronouncement to the “shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. … For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, He came forth from heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the kingdom of God. His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world. He blessed the sick; He caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear. He even raised the dead to life. He provided for you and for me the greatest gift we shall ever receive: the Atonement and all that it conveys. He willingly died that we might forever live.

From time to time the question has been posed, “If Jesus appeared to you today, what questions would you ask of Him?”

My answer has always been, “I would not utter a word. I would listen to Him.”

OCT96 - "Be Thou an Example"

From Malachi we read: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. … Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

All of us can afford to pay tithing. In reality, none of us can afford not to pay tithing. The Lord will strengthen our resolve. He will open a way to comply...

I recognize that there are thousands of missionaries attending this priesthood meeting tonight. I wish to share a word or two especially with you. During the time I served as a mission president, and then in thousands of missionary interviews as a member of the Twelve, I said to the missionaries I interviewed, “When you return to your home, I ask that you make three commitments.” Eagerly, without knowing what the commitments were, they would nod their approval. I then shared with them this counsel:

1. Prepare well for your vocation, profession, or trade, and be the very best you can be at what you choose to do.
2. Quoting Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “Marry the right person [at the right time], in the right place, [and] by the right authority.” Thus far, their responses were spontaneous and enthusiastic. Then I would counsel:
3. Always be active in the Church. Some of the missionaries would look a little quizzical before responding, and I would say, “Let me put the matter another way. Three words provide the formula: Pay your tithing.” Each would affirm determination to do so. I truly believe that the payment of an honest tithing will go a long way to ensure continued activity in the Church.

APRIL 1997 - "They Will Come" (from Priesthood session)

Last year was the centennial of Utah statehood, and many ambassadors from other countries made a visit to our state capitol and also to the Church Administration Building. Many also toured the Missionary Training Center at Provo, Utah. They visited the classes of learning; they heard the testimonies of those going to their respective fields of labor. They marveled at the language proficiency, faith, and love exhibited by the missionaries. One ambassador stated, “I observed a sense of purpose, a commitment to prepare and to serve, and a joyful heart in each missionary.”

These missionaries go forward with faith. They know their duty. They understand that they are a vital link for the persons they will meet as missionaries and in the teaching and testifying they will experience as they bring others to the truth of the gospel.

They yearn for more persons to teach. They pray for the essential help each member can give to the conversion process.

The decision to change one’s life and come unto Christ is, perhaps, the most important decision of mortality. Such a dramatic change is taking place daily throughout the world...

Our studies reveal that most of those who embrace the message of the missionaries have had other exposures to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—perhaps hearing the magnificent Tabernacle Choir perform, maybe reading and viewing press reports of our well-traveled President Gordon B. Hinckley and his skillful participation in broad-ranging interviews, or just knowing another person who is a member and for whom respect exists. We, as members, should be at our best. Our lives should reflect the teachings of the gospel, and our hearts and voices ever be ready to share the truth.

Fellowshipping of the investigator should begin well before baptism. The teachings of the missionaries often need the second witness of a new convert to the Church. It has been my experience that such a witness, borne from the heart of one who has undergone this mighty change himself, brings resolve and commitment. When I served as mission president in eastern Canada, we found that in Toronto, as well as in most of the cities of Ontario and Quebec, there was no dearth of willing helpers to accompany the missionaries and to fellowship the investigators, welcome them to meetings, and introduce them to the ward or branch officers and members. Fellowshipping, friendshipping, and reactivating are ongoing in the daily life of a Latter-day Saint.

APR97 - "They Showed the Way"

We remember John the Baptist. His clothing was simple, his life spartan, his message brief: faith, repentance, baptism by immersion, and the bestowal of the Holy Ghost by an authority greater than that possessed by himself. He declared, “I am not the Christ, but … I am sent before him.” “I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh … : he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”

The river Jordan marked the historic meeting place when Jesus came down from Galilee to be baptized of John. At first John pleaded with the Master: “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” Came the response: “It becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. … And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

John freely declared and taught, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

Of John the Lord declared, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” Like so many other pioneers through the annals of history, John wore the martyr’s crown...

With the birth of the babe in Bethlehem, there emerged a great endowment, a power stronger than weapons, a wealth more lasting than the coins of Caesar. This child was to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Promised Messiah, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, He came forth from heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the kingdom of God. During His earthly ministry, He taught men the higher law. His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world. He blessed the sick. He caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear. He even raised the dead to life.

One sentence from the book of Acts speaks volumes: Jesus “went about doing good … for God was with him.”

He taught us to pray: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”

In the garden known as Gethsemane, where His suffering was so great that blood came from His pores, He pleaded as He prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

He taught us to serve: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

He taught us to forgive: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”

He taught us to love: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Like the true pioneer He was, He invited, “Come, follow me.”

APR97 - "Pioneers All" (from Young Womens session)

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.

From Proverbs comes the counsel “Ponder the path of thy feet.”

I hope that you young people recognize the strength and the power of your testimonies. Several years ago I was in the nation of Czechoslovakia. There, in an inspiring meeting held in Prague under dangerous circumstances and when freedom was curtailed, I met a young woman whose name is Olga. She was about 25 years of age at the time and had, in the previous two years, brought to membership in the Church 16 young men and young women her own age. As I met with them, I knew they were truly converted to the gospel. I felt they would be the foundation of the Church in Czechoslovakia. They learned the truth of the gospel and felt the strength of testimony—all from Olga. When I complimented Olga and thanked her for having a testimony she is willing to share, she said, “Oh, Brother Monson, I have 14 others with whom I am working!” Later I learned that almost all of those 14 became members of the Church. The light of Christ shone in Olga’s eyes as she encouraged others to “come unto him.”

My young sisters, we really don’t know how much good we can do until we put forth the effort. Our testimonies can penetrate the hearts of others and can bring to them the blessings which will prevail in this troubled world and which will guide them to exaltation.

OCTOBER 1997 - "The Mighty Strength of Relief Society" (from Relief Society session)

Relief Society has always been comprised of those who put others first and self last. I remember that when I was a small boy during the Depression, my mother was the secretary-treasurer of the ward Relief Society. Back then dues were paid to assist those in need. Mother was not really a bookkeeper, so Dad would help her. The individual contributions were never so much as a dollar, but rather would be a quarter, a dime, a nickel, a few pennies.

I learned many lessons from my mother. I must have been a very active boy, for Mother was always telling me, “Slow down, Tommy, slow down. You’re on the verge of Saint Vitus’ dance!” You know, I never did know what Saint Vitus’ dance was. All I knew was that Mother said I was on the verge of it—and the way she spoke the words, I assumed it was a drastic ailment.

Since we lived just a block or two from the railroad tracks, frequently men, unemployed, without funds for food, would leave the train and come to our house for something to eat. Such men were always polite. They offered to do some work for the food. Indelibly imprinted on my mind is the picture of a gaunt and hungry man standing at our kitchen door, hat in hand, pleading for food. Mother would welcome such a visitor and would direct him to the kitchen sink to wash up while she prepared food for him to eat. She never skimped on quality or quantity; the visitor ate exactly the same lunch as did my father. As he wolfed down the food, Mother took the opportunity to counsel him to return to his home and his family. When he left the table, he had been nourished physically and spiritually. These men never failed to say thank you. Tears in their eyes revealed ever so silently the gratitude of their hearts.

But what of today? Are there not hungry souls to feed? Are there not greetings to share? Are there not visits to be made? As I contemplate the Relief Society of today, humbled by my privilege to speak to you, I turn to our Heavenly Father for His divine guidance.

OCT97 - "Teach the Children"

Children are born each day—even each hour—to mothers who have, with their hand in God’s hand, entered the valley of the shadow of death, that they might bring forth a son, a daughter, to grace a family, a home, and in a way a portion of the earth.

Those precious days of infancy bond mother and father to son or daughter. Every smile is noted, every fear comforted, every hunger abated. Step by step the child grows. The poet wrote that each child is “a sweet new blossom of Humanity, / Fresh fallen from God’s own home to flower on earth.”

The child grows in wisdom and also in stature. Learning and doing become priorities to be addressed.

There are those who dismiss these responsibilities, feeling they can be deferred until the child grows up. Not so, the evidence reveals. Prime time for teaching is fleeting. Opportunities are perishable. The parent who procrastinates the pursuit of his responsibility as a teacher may, in years to come, gain bitter insight into Whittier’s expression: “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, / The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’ ”

Dr. Glenn Doman, a prominent author and renowned scientist, reported a lifetime of research in the statement: “The newborn child is almost an exact duplicate of an empty computer, although superior to such a computer in almost every way. … What is placed in the child’s brain during the first eight years of his life is probably there to stay. If you put misinformation into his brain during this period, it is extremely difficult to erase it.”

OCT97 - "Home Teaching - A Divine Service" (from Priesthood session)

The bishop of each ward in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assigns priesthood holders as home teachers to visit the homes of members every month. They go in pairs; often a youth holding the Aaronic Priesthood accompanies an adult holding the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The home teaching program is a response to modern revelation commissioning those ordained to the priesthood to “teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church … and visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties; … to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them; and see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking.”

President David O. McKay admonished: “Home teaching is one of our most urgent and most rewarding opportunities to nurture and inspire, to counsel and direct our Father’s children. … It is a divine service, a divine call. It is our duty as home teachers to carry the divine spirit into every home and heart. To love the work and do our best will bring unbounded peace, joy, and satisfaction to a noble, dedicated teacher of God’s children.”

From the Book of Mormon, Alma “consecrated all their priests and all their teachers; and none were consecrated except they were just men. Therefore they did watch over their people, and did nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness.”...

As years come and then go and life’s challenges become more difficult, the visits of home teachers to those who have absented themselves from Church activity can be the key which will eventually open the doors to their return.

With this thought in mind, can we brethren not reach out to those for whom we are responsible and bring them to the table of the Lord to feast on His word and to enjoy the companionship of His Spirit, and be “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God”?

APRIL 1998 - "In Harm's Way" (from Priesthood session)

May I offer to you tonight six road signs which, when observed and followed, will guide you to safety...

1. Choose good friends. Friends help to determine your future. You will tend to be like them and to be found where they choose to go. Remember, the path we follow in this life leads to the path we follow in the next...
2. Seek parental guidance. Your mother, your father, your family all love you and pray for your eternal happiness. Fathers, be an example to your sons. Show them the way to go. Walk with them in righteousness and faith...
3. Study the gospel. Jesus invites: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”...
4. Obey the commandments. Make up your mind to serve God. Learn His word and follow it.
A young holder of the Aaronic Priesthood, active in Scouting, summed up the truth of choosing, when at a board of review for his rank advancement to Star Scout, he answered the question of what Scouting was doing for him by saying, “It keeps me doing things I should and keeps me from doing things I shouldn’t.” He passed...
5. Serve with love. From “The Spoken Word” comes this counsel: “We owe it to ourselves to discover our talents and to find opportunities to share them. And we owe it to our family, friends, and neighbors to use our abilities in helpful ways. Even when we feel discouraged, lonely, or sometimes useless, we need to remember that God has given each of us great potential. We all have a place in life and in the lives of those we love.”...
6. Pray with purpose. With God, all things are possible. Men of the Aaronic Priesthood, men of the Melchizedek Priesthood, remember the prayer of the Prophet Joseph, offered in that grove called sacred. Look around you and see the result of that answered prayer. Prayer is the provider of spiritual strength. Prayer is the passport to peace.
Unlike the cruiser Indianapolis, should we find ourselves in harm’s way, our power line is unbroken and undamaged—even to God, our Heavenly Father. He will help us if we will but give Him in our lives an opportunity to do so.

APR98 - "Look to God and Live"

As we ponder the events that can befall all of us—even sickness, accident, death, and a host of other challenges—we can say with Job of old: “Man is born unto trouble.” Job was a “perfect and upright” man who “feared God, and eschewed evil.” Pious in his conduct, prosperous in his fortune, Job was to face a test which could have destroyed anyone. Shorn of his possessions, scorned by his friends, afflicted by his suffering, shattered by the loss of his family, he was urged to “curse God, and die.” He resisted this temptation and declared from the depths of his noble soul: “Behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.”

“I know that my redeemer liveth.” Job kept the faith.

It may safely be assumed that no person has ever lived entirely free of suffering and tribulation, nor has there ever been a period in human history that did not have its full share of turmoil, ruin, and misery.

When the pathway of life takes a cruel turn, there is the temptation to ask the question “Why me?” Self-incrimination is a common practice, even when we may have had no control over our difficulty. At times there appears to be no light at the tunnel’s end, no dawn to break the night’s darkness. We feel surrounded by the pain of broken hearts, the disappointment of shattered dreams, and the despair of vanished hopes. We join in uttering the biblical plea “Is there no balm in Gilead?” We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone.

To all who so despair, may I offer the assurance found in the psalm “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

OCTOBER 1998 - "Think to Thank"

The Prophet Joseph Smith spoke inspired words of revelation and comfort:

“All children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.”
“The mother [and father] who laid down [their] little child[ren], being deprived of the privilege, the joy, and the satisfaction of bringing [them] up to manhood or womanhood in this world, would, after the resurrection, have all the joy, satisfaction and pleasure, and even more than it would have been possible to have had in mortality, in seeing [their] child[ren] grow to the full measure of the stature of [their] spirit[s].” This is as the balm of Gilead to those who grieve, to those who have loved and lost precious children.

The Psalmist provided this assurance: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Said the Lord: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. … In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you … that where I am, there ye may be also.”

I express my profound thanks to a loving Heavenly Father who gives to you, to me, and to all who sincerely seek, the knowledge that death is not the end, that His Son—even our Savior, Jesus Christ—died that we might live. Temples of the Lord dot the lands of many countries. Sacred covenants are made. Celestial glory awaits the obedient. Families can be together—forever.

OCT98 - "Today Determines Tomorrow" (from Priesthood session)

In analyzing the statistical performance of those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood as deacons, teachers, and priests, we become concerned when significant numbers of deacons slip into inactivity and fail to be ordained teachers at the proper time. The same is true with some who are teachers but not ordained priests—and particularly priests who never receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Brethren, this should never be. We have an awesome responsibility to guide and inspire these young men on the priesthood trail, that no avalanche of sin or error will deter their progress or sweep them away from their eternal goals.

Bishops and bishops’ counselors, will you undertake a study of the activity levels of each Aaronic Priesthood young man and outline your own plan to ensure the progress and activity of each one?

One newly called bishop, in his first meeting with his counselors, declared, “The Aaronic Priesthood is a prime responsibility of ours.” To the second counselor, he directed, “I ask you to be personally responsible to ensure that every deacon, at the appropriate age, be worthy and be ordained a teacher.” To the other counselor, he said, “Will you please do the same as pertains to the teachers, that they may, on schedule, be worthy and be ordained priests.” Then the bishop continued: “I will take the same responsibility for the priests to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and be ordained elders. Together, and with God’s help, we can do it.” And they did.

Our youth need less criticism and more models to follow. You advisers to the Aaronic Priesthood quorums are teachers and models for the young men. Do you know the gospel? Have you prepared the lesson? Do you know each boy and prayerfully determine how you might reach his mind, his heart, and help fashion his future?..

Young men between the ages of 12 and 17 are in a time of preparation and personal spiritual growth. Accordingly, the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood are to help each person who is ordained:

1. To become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live by its teachings.
2. To magnify priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of his priesthood office.
3. To give meaningful service.
4. To prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances.
5. To commit to, prepare for, and serve an honorable full-time mission.
6. To prepare to become a worthy husband and father.

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