Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thomas S. Monson General Conference Highlights: October 1986 - October 1988

As Thomas S. Monson was Second Counselor at this point, it meant he spoke twice at every General Conference. Sidenote: Today is his 87th birthday.

OCTOBER 1986 - "Courage Counts"

 Joseph, son of Jacob, the same who was sold into Egypt, demonstrated the firm resolve of courage when to Potiphar’s wife, who attempted to seduce him, he declared: “How … can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? And … he hearkened not unto her” and got out (Gen. 39:9–10).

In our day, a father applied this example of courage to the lives of his children by declaring: “If you ever find yourself where you shouldn’t ought to be, get out!”

The prophet Daniel demonstrated supreme courage by standing up for what he knew to be right and by demonstrating the courage to pray, though threatened by death were he to do so (see Dan. 6).

Courage characterized the life of Abinadi, as shown in the Book of Mormon by his willingness to offer his life rather than to deny the truth (See Mosiah 11:20, Mosiah 17:20)...

Entering the United States Navy in the closing months of World War II was a challenging experience for me. I learned of brave deeds, acts of valor, and examples of courage. One best remembered was the quiet courage of an eighteen-year-old seaman—not of our faith—who was not too proud to pray. Of 250 men in the company, he was the only one who each night knelt down by the side of his bunk, at times amidst the jeers of the curious and the jests of unbelievers, and, with bowed head, prayed to God. He never wavered. He never faltered. He had courage.

OCT86 - "Your Patriarchal Blessing: A Liahona of Light"

“Patriarchal blessings,” wrote the First Presidency in a letter to stake presidents, “contemplate an inspired declaration of the lineage of the recipient and, when so moved upon by the Spirit, an inspired and prophetic statement of the life mission of the recipient, together with such blessings, cautions and admonitions as the patriarch may be prompted to give for the accomplishment of such life’s mission, it being always made clear that the realization of all promised blessings is conditioned upon faithfulness to the gospel of our Lord, whose servant the patriarch is” (First Presidency Letter to stake presidents, 28 June 1958).

Who is this man, this patriarch, through whom such seership and priesthood power flow? How is he called? The Council of the Twelve Apostles has special responsibility pertaining to the calling of such men. From my own experience I testify that patriarchs are called of God by prophecy. How else could our Heavenly Father reveal those to whom such prophetic powers are to be given? A patriarch holds an ordained office in the Melchizedek Priesthood. The patriarchal office, however, is one of blessing—not of administration. I have never called a man to this sacred office but what I have felt the Lord’s guiding influence in the decision...

A patriarchal blessing is a revelation to the recipient, even a white line down the middle of the road, to protect, inspire, and motivate activity and righteousness. A patriarchal blessing literally contains chapters from your book of eternal possibilities. I say eternal, for just as life is eternal, so is a patriarchal blessing. What may not come to fulfillment in this life may occur in the next. We do not govern God’s timetable. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8–9).

APRIL 1987 - "Tears, Trials, Trust, Testimony" (from Priesthood session)

To reach, to teach, to touch the precious souls whom our Father has prepared for His message is a monumental task. Success is rarely simple. Generally it is preceded by tears, trials, trust, and testimony.

Think of the magnitude of the Savior’s instruction to His Apostles:

“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” (Matt. 28:19–20).

The men to whom he gave this instruction were not owners of land, nor did they have the education of the learned. They were simple men—men of faith, men of devotion, men “called of God.”

Paul testified to the Corinthians: “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:26–27)...

The call to serve has ever characterized the work of the Lord. It rarely comes at a convenient time. It brings humility, it provokes prayer, it inspires commitment. The call came—to Kirtland. Revelations followed. The call came—to Missouri. Persecution prevailed. The call came—to Nauvoo. Prophets died. The call came—to the basin of the Great Salt Lake. Hardship beckoned.

That long journey, made under such difficult circumstances, was a trial of faith. But faith forged in the furnace of trials and tears is marked by trust and testimony. Only God can count the sacrifice; only God can measure the sorrow; only God can know the hearts of those who serve Him—then and now.

APR87 - "The Will Within"

My thoughts turned to others striving to become master craftsmen through apprenticeship and experience. Then I reflected on that vast throng who had abandoned preparation, formed undesirable friendships, and adopted habits and practices which diverted them from that pathway which leads to perfection and enticed them along one of the many detours where sorrow, discouragement, and destruction await.

The wayward son, the willful daughter, the pouting husband, the nagging wife—all can change. There can occur a parting of the clouds, a break in the storm. Maturity comes, friendships alter, circumstances vary. “Cast in concrete” need not describe human behavior.

From the perspective of eternity, our sojourn in this life is ever so brief. Detours are costly; they must be shunned. The spiritual nature within us should not be dominated by the physical. It behooves each of us to remember who he or she is and what God expects him or her to become.

OCTOBER 1987 - "Missionary Memories" (from Priesthood session)

We are a missionary-minded people. We have a divine mandate to proclaim the message of the Restoration. You young men here this night are on the threshold of your missionary opportunity. That energetic missionary from the Book of Mormon, even Alma, provides for us a blueprint for missionary conduct: “This is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy” (Alma 29:9).

I add my personal witness: Our missionaries are not salesmen with wares to peddle; rather, they are servants of the Most High God, with testimonies to bear, truths to teach, and souls to save.

Each missionary who goes forth in response to a sacred call becomes a servant of the Lord whose work this truly is. Do not fear, young men, for He will be with you. He never fails. He has promised: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).

“And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two, in my name, lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, declaring my word like unto angels of God” (D&C 42:6).

Fathers, bishops, quorum advisers, yours is the responsibility to prepare this generation of missionaries, to quicken in the hearts of these deacons, teachers, and priests not only an awareness of their obligation to serve, but also a vision of the opportunities and blessings which await them through a missionary call. The work is demanding, the impact everlasting. This is no time for “summer soldiers” in the army of the Lord.

OCT87 - "A Doorway Called Love"

Love is the catalyst that causes change. Love is the balm that brings healing to the soul. But love doesn’t grow like weeds or fall like rain. Love has its price. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). That Son, even the Lord Jesus Christ, gave His life that we might have eternal life, so great was His love for His Father and for us.

This same Jesus was approached by a lawyer who asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
“Jesus said unto him, 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.
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:36–40).

In that tender and touching farewell, as He counseled His beloved disciples, Jesus taught: “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (John 14:21). Particularly far-reaching was the instruction, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

APRIL 1988 - "You Make A Difference" (from Priesthood session)

As bearers of the priesthood, we have been placed on earth in troubled times. We live in a complex world with currents of conflict everywhere to be found. Political machinations ruin the stability of nations, despots grasp for power, and segments of society seem forever downtrodden, deprived of opportunity and left with a feeling of failure.

We who have been ordained to the priesthood of God can make a difference. When we qualify for the help of the Lord, we can build boys, we can mend men, we can accomplish miracles in His holy service. Our opportunities are without limit.

Though the task looms large, we are strengthened by the truth: “The greatest force in this world today is the power of God as it works through man.” If we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. That divine help, however, is predicated upon our worthiness. To sail safely the seas of mortality, to perform a human rescue mission, we need the guidance of that eternal mariner—even the great Jehovah. We reach out, we reach up, to obtain heavenly help...

We do not have a monopoly on goodness. There are God-fearing men and women in all nations who influence for good those with whom they associate. I think of the founder of Scouting, even Lord Baden-Powell, and those who teach and live the principles he advocated. Who can measure the far-reaching effect on human lives of the Scout oath:

“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

Impossible of calculation is the result for good when men and boys observe the Scout law: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

The influence of your personal testimonies is ever so far-reaching. The Lord instructed: “The testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you” (D&C 62:3).

APR88 - "An Invitation to Exaltation"

Where did we come from? This query is inevitably thought, if not spoken, by every parent or grandparent when a tiny infant utters its first cry. One marvels at the perfectly formed child. The tiny toes, the delicate fingers, the beautiful head, to say nothing of the hidden but marvelous circulatory, digestive, and nervous systems all testify to the truth of a divine Creator.

The Apostle Paul told the Athenians on Mars’ Hill that we are “the offspring of God” (Acts 17:29). Since we know that our physical bodies are the offspring of our mortal parents, we must probe for the meaning of Paul’s statement. The Lord has declared that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15). It is the spirit which is the offspring of God. The writer of Hebrews refers to Him as “the Father of spirits” (Heb. 12:9). The spirits of all men are literally His “begotten sons and daughters” (D&C 76:24)...

Parents, gazing down at a tiny infant or taking the hand of a growing child, ponder their responsibility to teach, to inspire, and to provide direction. While parents ponder, children and, particularly, youth ask the penetrating question: “Why are we here?” Usually, it is spoken silently to the soul and phrased: “Why am I here?”

How grateful we should be that a wise Creator fashioned an earth and placed us here, with a veil of forgetfulness of our previous existence, so that we might experience a time of testing, an opportunity to prove ourselves, and qualify for all that God has prepared for us to receive.

Clearly, one primary purpose of our existence upon the earth is to obtain a body of flesh and bones. In a thousand ways, we are privileged to choose for ourselves. Here we learn from the hard taskmaster of experience. We discern between good and evil. We differentiate as to the bitter and the sweet. We discover that decisions determine destiny.

While Paul taught the Philippians that man is called upon to “work out [his] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philip. 2:12), the Master provided a guide we know as the Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12)...

But what of an existence beyond death? Is death the end of all? Such a question was asked of me by a young husband and father who lay dying. I turned to the Book of Mormon and, from the book of Alma, read to him these words:

“Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow” (Alma 40:11–12).

My young friend through moist eyes and with an expression of profound gratitude whispered a silent, but eloquent, “Thank you.”

OCTOBER 1988 - "Goal Beyond Victory" (from Priesthood session)

The generous response of the Latter-day Saints in times of crisis is legendary. Many will remember the emergency aid provided our needy Saints in Europe following World War II. President Ezra Taft Benson directed this effort.

More recently, this generosity helped to avert starvation in Africa. Irrigation projects, producing wells, and improved agricultural methods are all part of a dream come true. Similarly, at the time of the Teton Dam disaster in Idaho, the response of the members to the call of need was overwhelming.

Today, in lands far away and right here in Salt Lake City, there are those who suffer hunger, who know want and are acquainted with poverty. Ours is the opportunity and the sacred privilege to relieve this hunger, to meet this want, to eliminate this poverty.

The Lord provided the way when He declared, “And the storehouse shall be kept by the consecrations of the church; and widows and orphans shall be provided for, as also the poor.” (D&C 83:6.) Then the reminder, “But it must needs be done in mine own way.” (D&C 104:16.)

OCT88 - "Hallmarks of a Happy Home"

Happy homes come in a variety of appearances. Some feature large families with father, mother, brothers, and sisters living together in a spirit of love. Others consist of a single parent with one or two children, while other homes have but one occupant. There are, however, identifying features which are to be found in a happy home, whatever the number or description of its family members. I refer to these as “Hallmarks of a Happy Home.” They consist of:

1. A pattern of prayer.
2. A library of learning.
3. A legacy of love.
4. A treasury of testimony.

“Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, Uttered or unexpressed.” (Hymns, 1985, no. 145.) So universal is its application, so beneficial its result, that prayer qualifies as the number-one hallmark of a happy home. As parents listen to the prayer of a child, they too draw close to God. These little ones, who so recently have been with their Heavenly Father, have no inhibitions in expressing to Him their feelings, their wishes, their thanks.

Family prayer is the greatest deterrent to sin, and hence the most beneficent provider of joy and happiness. The old saying is yet true: “The family that prays together stays together.”...

Reading is one of the true pleasures of life. In our age of mass culture, when so much that we encounter is abridged, adapted, adulterated, shredded, and boiled down, it is mind-easing and mind-inspiring to sit down privately with a congenial book.

James A. Michener, prominent author, suggests, “A nation becomes what its young people read in their youth. Its ideals are fashioned then, its goals strongly determined.”

The Lord counseled, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118.)

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