Conference Moment: Prophet’s “Spokesman” Delivers Words of Peace
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
“There shall be no peace until individuals nurture in their souls principles of purity, integrity, and character which foster the development of peace.” —President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994)
Twenty-five years ago, members of the Church worldwide gathered for the 161st Annual General Conference.
Folks seated at the Salt Lake Tabernacle, along with those tuning in on television, were anxious to see and perhaps hear the words of the prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson. The Church’s 13th President was in his 90s and enduring the effects of age.
Still, on April 6, 1991, President Benson took his seat in between a pair of seasoned and devoted First Presidency counselors—President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson. During the congregational hymns, the two counselors stood at the side of their beloved priesthood leader, their arms locked in support. President Benson sang with joy and vigor.
The prophet, as hoped, also shared his counsel and testimony at the beginning of general conference. But his words that day were delivered by his requested “spokesman,” President Monson.
“With all his noble heart, President Benson would desire to stand at this pulpit and bear to you his witness concerning the truth of this work, the gratitude he feels for your prayers, and his fervent hope that all may so live as to merit and receive the abundant blessings a loving Heavenly Father desires to bestow,” said President Monson (“The Power of Prayer”).
Latter-day Saints found comfort in the words of the living prophet. It was a difficult time in the world. Many members who wore their nations’ uniforms had been deployed to fight a war in the Middle East.
Speaking on President Benson’s behalf, President Monson uttered words that would remain relevant a quarter-century later during another period of war and a historic refugee crisis.
“It is our fervent hope and prayer that all nations involved will work in concert for a lasting peace,” he said. “The collective prayers of the nation and the world should focus not only on a lasting peace but also on the needs of the many on both sides who lost loved ones and endured suffering in the conflict.”
President Monson then added this timeless quote from President Benson:
“Men and nations may loudly proclaim, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there shall be no peace until individuals nurture in their souls principles of purity, integrity, and character which foster the development of peace.”
President Benson may not have spoken at the pulpit at the 1991 April general conference—but his presiding presence lifted hearts in a time of trouble.