First Presidency Message

“We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet to Guide Us in These Latter Days”

By President N. Eldon Tanner

First Counselor in the First Presidency

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    Probably never before in our history have these words been so appreciated, and the message in them more needed than they are today. Men are stumbling and groping for answers to their own and world problems, and finding their attempts at solution to be totally inadequate, and indeed they are only getting more and more deeply into situations from which they are unable to extricate themselves.

    If only all men would turn to the prophet of God for guidance in these latter days. What a glorious thing it would be to see us living in a world at peace, with every man contributing to the betterment of his fellow man, with no one seeking self-aggrandizement, but each engaged in the righteous pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. We have repeatedly emphasized that this is what God wants for us, his spirit children, and that there is no other way to return to him from whence we came than through obedience to his word which comes to us through his prophets.

    This month marks the birthday anniversary of our present-day prophet and leader, President Spencer W. Kimball. How blessed we are, and how thankful, for the greatness of his life, for his goodness, for his humility, for his dedication and devotion to the cause of the Master, whose servant he is. Surely he exemplifies what King Benjamin taught: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17.)

    As we review his life and accomplishments we are keenly aware of the great influence he has had on countless thousands as he has traveled throughout the world and left his messages in their hearts and on the printed pages of newspapers, magazines, tracts, and pamphlets. His words have been carried into every segment of society—the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the scholarly and the unscholarly—and I am sure that where they have found root and been nourished, those so subscribing to his counsel are happier, more prosperous, more loved and respected, and more ready for the great goal of eternal life.

    It seems fitting at this time to repeat some of the great messages that have been given by our beloved president. In 1955 at a devotional assembly at Brigham Young University, Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, spoke on a subject he titled “Tragedy or Destiny.” He cited a number of tragic accidents, with victims seemingly dying before their time and survivors asking why the Lord would allow such terrible things to happen. He asked some thought-provoking questions, and then said:

    “If we say that early death is a calamity, disaster, or tragedy, would it not be saying that mortality is preferable to earlier entrance into the spirit world and to eventual salvation and exaltation? If mortality be the perfect state, then death would be a frustration, but the gospel teaches us there is no tragedy in death, but only in sin.

    “We know so little. Our judgment is so limited. We judge the Lord often with less wisdom than does our youngest child weigh our decisions. …

    “God controls our lives, guides and blesses us, but gives us our agency. We may live our lives in accordance with His plan for us or we may foolishly shorten or terminate them. I am positive in my mind that the Lord has planned our destiny. We can shorten our lives but I think we cannot lengthen them very much. Sometime we’ll understand fully, and when we see back from the vantage point of the future we shall be satisfied with many of the happenings of this life which seemed so difficult for us to comprehend.”

    Hearken to this counsel given to a group of young adults in the central Utah stakes at Manti, Utah, on July 10, 1974:

    “Numerous disasters have occurred in mid-ocean by collisions of ships and sometimes with icebergs, and numerous people have gone to their watery graves.

    “Soon such a thing will not be possible, for ships will be equipped with radar equipment which will alert ship’s officers should a collision be imminent. A tape will be played automatically, booming from the darkened bridge: ‘This is an alert. This ship is approaching an object. This is an alert. This ship is approaching an object.’ And the voice will not be stilled until the mate comes to the radarscope and turns the recorder off. This will enable ships to alter their courses and save lives.

    “I believe our young people are wholesome and basically good and sound; but they, too, are traveling oceans which to them are at least partially uncharted, where there are shoals and rocks and icebergs and other vessels, and where great disasters can come unless warnings are heeded.

    “And, as a leader of the Church and in a measure being responsible for youth and their well-being, I raise my voice loud and strong to say to the youth: ‘You are in a hazardous area and perhaps in a period of your lives where there are some dangers. Tighten your belts, hold on, and you can survive this turbulence.’

    “Let me quote here the Lord, saying,

    “‘If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin’ (John 15:22), reminding us again that when we have been warned, we should listen and put it into our lives and be sure that we avoid the shoals and the rocks and the danger points.”

    Now I should like to remind us all of some of President Kimball’s inspired utterances as he has addressed the general conference sessions since becoming president of the Church. On Friday, April 5, 1974, at the opening meeting he said, after commenting on the death of President Harold B. Lee, and paying tribute to him:

    “In the press conferences an ever-recurring question has been asked us: ‘Mr. President, what are you going to do now that you have the leadership of the Church in your hands?’

    “My answer has been that for the past 30 years, as a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, I have had a little to do with the making of policies and the formation of the present extensive, full, and comprehensive program. I anticipate no major changes in the immediate future, but do hope to give increased emphasis to some of the programs already established. This is a day of consolidating our efforts, and firming up our programs, and reaffirming our policies.

    “We recognize our greatest problem is our rapid growth. Our increase in numbers is phenomenal, for the population has doubled in these past few years. … We are interested in numbers only incidentally. We are obsessed first to see that all men obtain eternal life.”

    He then went on to discuss vital matters concerning us, which included our civil obligations, overcoming the world, submitting ourselves to God, family solidarity and leadership in the home, divorce, abortion, drug addiction, improper use of the body, and the sacred role of mothers; and he concluded with this challenge:

    “This, then, is our program: to reaffirm and boldly carry forward the work of God in cleanliness, uprightness, and to take that gospel of truth to that world that needs so much that godly life. Eternal life is our goal. It can be reached only by following the path our Lord has marked out for us.”

    On this same theme President Kimball gave the following stirring message to the Regional and Mission Representatives when he addressed them on April 4, 1974:

    “In our stake missionary work at home, we have hardly scratched the surface. …

    “We can change that image and approach the ideals set out by President McKay, ‘Every member a missionary.’ That was inspired!

    “I know this message is not new, and we have talked about it before, but I believe the time has come when we must shoulder arms. I think we must change our sights and raise our goals.

    “When we have increased the missionaries from the organized areas of the Church to a number close to their potential, that is, every able and worthy boy in the Church on a mission; when every stake and mission abroad is furnishing enough missionaries for that country; when we have used our qualified men to help the Apostles to open these new fields of labor; when we have used the satellite and related discoveries to their greatest potential and all of the media—the papers, magazines, television, radio—in their greatest power; when we have organized numerous other stakes which will be springboards; when we have recovered from inactivity the numerous young men who are now unordained and unmissioned and unmarried; then, and not until then, shall we approach the insistence of our Lord and Master to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

    “Brethren, I am positive that the blessings of the Lord will attend every country which opens its gates to the gospel of Christ. Their blessings will flow in education, and culture, and faith, and love, like Enoch’s City of Zion, which was translated, and also will become like the 200 years of peaceful habitation in this country in Nephite days. There will come prosperity to the nations, comfort and luxuries to the people, joy and peace to all recipients, and eternal life to those who accept and magnify it.”

    Always considerate and kind, and greatly supportive of his Brethren, the General Authorities, he made this statement at the concluding session of the April general conference on Sunday, April 7, 1974:

    “Brethren and sisters, we come now to the close of this great conference. You have heard from most of the Brethren, as I have said, and their testimonies have been inspiring. What they have told you is true. It has come from their hearts. They have this same testimony, and they know it is true. They are true servants sent to you from our Heavenly Father. I pray that you will be listening, that you will be remembering, that you will take these many truths with you to your homes and in your lives and to your families.

    “Brethren and sisters, I want to add to these testimonies of these prophets my testimony that I know that He lives. And I know that we may see Him, and that we may be with Him, and that we may enjoy His presence always if we will live the commandments of the Lord and do the things which we have been commanded by Him to do and reminded by the Brethren to do.”

    At our last general conference in October, 1974, President Kimball gave a particularly stirring address as he enlisted the support of all Church members in a cleanup campaign, that our homes and edifices and surroundings might be maintained in cleanliness and beauty. Then, after enumerating the pitfalls and dangers of which we should beware, he said:

    “Remember, God is in his heavens. He knew what he was doing when he organized the earth. He knows what he is doing now. Those of us who break his commandments will regret and suffer in remorse and pain. God will not be mocked. Man has his free agency, it is sure, but remember, GOD WILL NOT BE MOCKED. (See D&C 63:58.)

    “Our counsel then to you is to live strictly the laws of your Heavenly Father.”

    This comes from his parting message Sunday afternoon, October 6, 1974, and seems to be the culmination of the many talks given during the conference on the theme of home and family:

    “The home should be a place where reliance on the Lord is a matter of common experience, not reserved for special occasions. One way of establishing that is by regular, earnest prayer. It is not enough just to pray. It is essential that we really speak to the Lord, having faith that he will reveal to us as parents what we need to know and do for the welfare of our families. It has been said of some men that when they prayed, a child was likely to open his eyes to see if the Lord were really there, so personal and direct was the petition. …

    “My brothers and sisters, the home is our peculiarity—the home, the family, is our base. And this we’ve heard much about through this conference—that is, family life, home life, children and parents loving each other and dependent upon each other. That’s the way the Lord has planned for us to live. …

    “I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I know that. I know that the gospel which we teach is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the church to which we belong is the church of Jesus Christ; it teaches his doctrines and his policies and his programs. I know that if all of us will live the program as he has given it and will continue to give it, that all the blessings promised will be ours.”

    I, too, know these things are true, and that Spencer W. Kimball is God’s prophet on the earth today. May we all respond to the invitation to “Come, listen to the Prophet’s voice,” and give thanks that he is in our midst.