The Tabernacle Choir has sung “The Morning Breaks.” I think I should like to use those marvelous words written by Parley P. Pratt as something of a theme:
I greet you with appreciation for your love for the Lord and for your loyalty to his great cause.
I see the fruits of your faith, and I am grateful. I thank you for the energy you put into this work. I know that at times it feels burdensome. Some of it may appear unnecessary. But out of effort and labor comes strength, and out of service comes gladness.
I thank you for your faith in the payment of your tithes and offerings. You are making possible the growth and strengthening of this work across the world. But you do not need thanks. Every man and woman who pays his or her honest tithing has a testimony of the blessings that come therefrom. He or she can bear witness that the Lord opens the windows of heaven and pours out blessings as he has promised. (See Mal. 3:10.)
I give you the assurance, my brothers and sisters, that the work is moving forward. Wherever it is established in more than eighty nations, it is growing in strength. The faith of the people is increasing, as reflected in their increased activity. The missionary work continues to flourish. Our young men and women continue to leave their homes to go into the world to bear witness of the Savior and of the restoration of his eternal gospel in this the dispensation of the fulness of times. (See D&C 124:41.) The work of salvation for the dead, through the vast genealogical program of the Church and the selfless labor of love that goes on in the temples, is moving at a pace never previously known.
Our people are more faithful in attendance at their meetings, and since our last conference a very substantial number of them have had opportunity to demonstrate their love for neighbor as well as for God. In the floods which we have experienced in this area, there has been an unexcelled expression of neighborliness and Christian service. A woman who was not a member of the Church was interviewed on television and said, “I am not a Mormon, but I have come to know who my bishop is.” She went on to speak with unrestrained appreciation for her neighbors, who, almost entirely Latter-day Saints, had been as generous in their help toward her as they had been in their help toward one another. There is a stake not far from here where the members of each ward undertook the repair or replacement of a home damaged or lost in the flood. Hundreds of thousands of sandbags were filled and put in place. There were, of course, those not of the Church doing likewise, but all concerned have spoken with high praise for the Church organization which was able to muster forces so rapidly and so effectively.
Help in very substantial quantities was sent to the people of Tonga, following a wild typhoon that ripped apart homes and farms. Both members and nonmembers were blessed by that assistance.
Latter-day Saints in Brazil came to the aid of their countrymen, both Mormon and non-Mormon, who suffered the loss of homes and crops when terrible floods ravaged the vast southern area of that nation.
Again through the Welfare Program, and the cooperation of the Kaiser Aluminum Company, who furnished transportation, we were able to send substantial supplies of food and medicine to rescue many of the starving people of Ghana in Africa. Lives, not a few, were literally saved by this assistance.
I do not mention these efforts in a spirit of boasting, but only to express gratitude to the Lord for the means and the resources and the will of our people to be helpful in times of crisis.
Funds for these works of mercy have come largely from fast offerings. Despite the increased needs to meet such disasters, as well as aggravated problems incident to the present economy, fastoffering contributions have kept pace. Thank you for this marvelous expression of faith as you have gone without meals yourselves to help those in distress.
I report also the dedication of four new temples since June of this year. For the benefit of any listening who may not be members of the Church, I should explain that a temple occupies a unique and peculiar place in our theology. It is not a house of public worship, of which we now have many thousands across the world. Temples, on the other hand, are dedicated as special houses of God, in which are performed some of the most sacred and elevating ordinances associated with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In June we dedicated a new temple in Atlanta, Georgia. This was the culmination of a dream that began a century and more ago when, in the days of the poverty of our people, missionaries were first sent to the southern states. A few accepted their testimony, but many more rose in bitterness against them. These early missionaries endured much persecution. Some were stripped and beaten; some were murdered by hateful enemies. But with faith they persevered. Eventually, thousands upon thousands joined the Church, and today the work is strong and growing in that beautiful part of the nation where we now have hundreds of faithful congregations of Latter-day Saints.
On the occasion of the Atlanta Temple dedication, the testimonies of the people—those spoken and those expressed in tears of gratitude—together with their songs of thanksgiving, all bore witness to the strength of their faith and their love for God.
In August we were in Samoa and Tonga for temple dedications. Again our hearts were lifted by the outpouring of the Christlike love we experienced and witnessed among the wonderful Saints of Polynesia. Through ancient prophets the Lord promised that in the latter days he would remember his people upon the isles of the sea. We have witnessed a marvelous fulfillment of these promises where today, among these loving and gracious people, we have scores of congregations, strong and flourishing schools to bless them with the benefits of education, and now beautiful temples of the Lord in which they may receive blessings to be found nowhere else.
Only a fortnight ago we were in Santiago, Chile, for the dedication of another beautiful temple. For me it was a miracle to be with more than 15,000 Latter-day Saints who assembled for these dedicatory services which extended over a period of three days. The nation of Chile is 2,700 miles long, and our faithful people gathered from such distant cities as Arica in the far north and Punta Arenas in the far south to rejoice over the marvelous blessing that had come to them in the erection and dedication of this sacred house of God.
Among them were Brother and Sister Ricardo Garcia, the first to be baptized when missionaries were sent to Chile in 1956. Only twenty-seven years later, there are more than 140,000 members of the Church in that nation.
For those of us favored to attend these dedicatory services, there has come a great refreshing of our faith and an increased affection for our brethren and sisters who love the Lord and walk with loyalty to him and his commandments.
I recently had the opportunity of meeting with 14,000 seminary and institute students assembled in the Long Beach Convention Center. They had gathered from various areas of Southern California, handsome young men and beautiful young women. Most are high school students who meet five days each week for a seminary class at 6:15 in the morning, which is held in a Church building near the school under the direction of a dedicated and able teacher. On my way home from Chile, I met in Detroit with another group of these students at 6:15 in the morning.
These are bright and gifted and attractive youth. One cannot look into their faces and have any doubt concerning the future of this work. They are part of a marvelous generation whose numbers are constantly growing and whose faith is infectious.
They are to be found not only in the areas I have mentioned but wherever our work is established. They are the certain promise of the future of the Church and of its growing strength and the fulfilling of its mission. Furthermore, they will bless the nations and the lands of which they are a part, for they are young men and women with ambition for education. They believe in the cultivation of the mind, of the development of their skills, of the need to master new technologies, to serve in the world of work into which they will move.
They are young men and women of virtue and sobriety who have been reared to believe that our bodies are the temples of the Spirit of God and that we cannot defile these bodies without affronting him who is our creator.
They are the young men and women of faith who have been schooled in the scriptures. They know the Old Testament and the great characters who march through its pages. They are familiar with the New Testament and have developed a love for the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Their faith in him has been reaffirmed and strengthened as they have studied that marvelous testament of the New World, the Book of Mormon. They are familiar with the word of God as it has come through modern revelation. They are students who are acquiring both secular and religious education, learning by study and also by faith. They are examples of the power of that first great principle, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The history of this Church is a history of the expression of such faith. It began with a farm boy in the year 1820 when he read that great promise set forth in the Epistle of James:
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” (James 1:5–6.)
It was faith, the simple faith of a fourteen-year-old boy, that took him into the woods that spring morning. It was faith that took him to his knees in pleading for understanding. The marvelous fruit of that faith was a vision glorious and beautiful, of which this great work is but the extended shadow.
It was by faith that he kept himself worthy of the remarkable manifestations which followed in bringing to the earth the keys, the authority, the power to reestablish the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days. It was by faith that this marvelous record of ancient peoples, this testament which we call the Book of Mormon, was brought forth by the gift and power of God “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.” It was by faith that a small band of early converts, notwithstanding the very powers of hell brought against them, strengthened and sustained one another, left home and family to spread the word, moved from New York to Ohio and from Ohio to Missouri and from Missouri to Illinois in their search for peace and freedom to worship God according to the dictates of conscience.
It was through the eyes of faith that they saw a city beautiful when first they walked across the swamps of Commerce, Illinois. With the conviction that faith without works is dead, they drained that swampland, they platted a city, they built substantial homes and houses for worship and education and, crowning all, a magnificent temple, then the finest building in all of Illinois.
Again came persecution, with profane and murderous mobs. Their prophet was killed. Their dreams were shattered. Again it was by faith that they pulled themselves together under the pattern he had previously drawn and organized themselves for another exodus.
With tears and aching hearts they left their comfortable homes and their workshops. They looked back upon their sacred temple, and then with faith turned their eyes to the West, to the unknown and to the uncharted, and while the snows of winter fell upon them, they crossed the Mississippi that February of 1846 and plowed their muddy way over the Iowa prairie.
With faith they established Winter Quarters on the Missouri. Hundreds died as plague and dysentery and black canker cut them down. But faith sustained those who survived. They buried their loved ones there on a bluff above the river, and in the spring of 1847 they started west, moving by faith up the Elkhorn and beside the Platte toward the mountains of the West.
It was by faith that Brigham Young looked over this valley, then hot and barren, and declared, “This is the place.” Again by faith, four days later, he touched his cane to the ground a few hundred feet east of where I stand and said, “Here will be the temple of our God.” The magnificent and sacred house of the Lord to the east of this Tabernacle is a testimony of faith, not only of the faith of those who built it but of the faith of those who now use it in a great selfless labor of love.
Wrote Paul to the Hebrews, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1.) All of the great accomplishments of which I have spoken were once only “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” But with vision, with labor, and with confidence in the power of God working through them, they brought their faith to reality.
Behind us is a glorious history. It is bespangled with heroism, tenacity to principle, and unflagging fidelity. It is the product of faith. Before us is a great future. It begins today. We cannot pause. We cannot slow down. We cannot slacken our pace or shorten our stride.
In a dark period of our history, when enemies were throwing accusations against the Church, the First Presidency issued a proclamation to the world in which they set forth the dimensions of this work. Said they: “Our motives are not selfish; our purposes not petty and earth-bound; we contemplate the human race—past, present, and yet to come—as immortal beings, for whose salvation it is our mission to labor; and to this work, broad as eternity and deep as the love of God, we devote ourselves, now, and forever.” (The First Presidency, 26 March 1907.)
With faith we must go forward toward the fulfillment of that commitment. We must ever keep before us the big picture, while not neglecting the details. That large picture is a portrayal of the whole broad mission of the Church; but it is painted one brush stroke at a time through the lives of all members, the composite of whose activities becomes the Church at work.
Each of us, therefore, is important. Each is a brush stroke, as it were, on the mural of this vast panorama of the kingdom of God. If there are blanks, if there are distortions, if there are off-color areas, then the picture is defective to all who look upon it.
Shall any of us say that with faith we cannot do better than we are now doing?
There is no obstacle too great, no challenge too difficult, that we cannot meet with faith. We live in a world where the standards of the gospel are challenged, where they are ridiculed, where sacred things are mocked. Shall we compromise? Shall we revile those who speak ungraciously of us?
In a more troubled day, the Lord said to Thomas B. Marsh:
“Be patient in afflictions, revile not against those that revile. Govern your house in meekness, and be steadfast. …
“Go your way whithersoever I will, and it shall be given you by the Comforter what you shall do and whither you shall go. …
“Be faithful unto the end, and lo, I am with you. These words are not of man nor of men, but of me, even Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, by the will of the Father.” (D&C 31:9, 11, 13.)
Said the Savior to his disciples, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48.)
This is the commandment which is before us. Regrettably we have not reached perfection. We have a great distance to go. We must cultivate the faith to reform our lives, commencing where we are weak and moving on from there in our work of self-correction, thus gradually and consistently growing in strength to live more nearly as we should.
With faith we can rise above those negative elements in our lives which constantly pull us down. With effort we can develop the capacity to subdue those impulses which lead to degrading and evil actions.
With faith we can school our appetites.
We can reach out to those whose faith has grown cold and warm them by our own faith.
Let us never forget, my brethren and sisters, that each of us is a part of the whole and that what we do mars or beautifies the magnificent panorama of the kingdom of God.
As our fathers labored in faith with a moving vision of the destiny of this work, even so can we. There is so much to be done, so much improvement to be made, but we can do it, walking in faith.
“If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matt. 17:20; italics added.)
So declared the Lord.
God grant us faith, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.