First Presidency Message

Remember Who You Are


This message was prepared by President Tanner a month prior to his death, 27 November 1982.

Remember Who You Are

I remember a powerful message which President David O. McKay asked me to convey to the members of the Church. During the years when he was not able to travel or visit away from Church headquarters, he would say to me as I would seek his counsel before going out on an assignment, “President Tanner, as you go among the people, I would ask you to remind them to remember who they are and to act accordingly, and that each has an individual responsibility.”

This was indelibly impressed upon my mind, and I think I can safely say that I did deliver that message scores of times as I traveled throughout the Church. I have emphasized it to my own family and to visitors in my office. I have tried to practice it in my own life and to be worthy of the trust placed in me.

Who are we? First of all, we are spirit children of God; and secondly, we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What a great blessing, and what a tremendous responsibility! Because of the restoration of the gospel, and because of the revelations which God has given to his prophets and the fact that we are led by a prophet who shares with us the information he receives from God for the guidance of His Church, we are most blessed and fortunate to have the knowledge and priesthood power which can save us and our families and help us return to the presence of God.

Because of the Apostasy and because some have hardened their hearts against hearing and believing and accepting the word of God, many in the world are in darkness as pertaining to their salvation and eternal life. Therefore, it is our privilege, our duty, and our obligation to “let [our] light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16.)

It is important for us to remember this, and if we can constantly remind ourselves that God has given us this responsibility, it should help us to conform our actions to His commandments.

I have always felt that those of our youth who find themselves in difficulty with the law, with drug- and alcohol-related problems, and often with financial irresponsibility, are often there because of adult example. For the most part, they only do what they see others do. There is far too much immorality, dishonesty, and lack of integrity in the lives of those who are leading and guiding the affairs of our nations, our schools, and our communities. Somehow we must get back to the lofty ideals and high-minded principles which characterized the lives of those who fought and died for truth, religion, and freedom.

Although our numbers are increasing rapidly, each of us must labor continually at missionary work, whether by our example of Christlike living or by actually proselyting and teaching the principles of the gospel.

I am reminded of an experience I had while I was in Canada. I worked side by side for a number of years with a man who was not a member of the Church. I had been reluctant to approach the subject of religion for fear of putting a strain on our friendly relationship. But finally I felt impressed to see if he were interested in learning about Mormonism and the gospel of Jesus Christ. He expressed interest and immediately thereafter he and his wife attended Sunday services with us. They, with their children, soon joined the Church, and they have indeed made a great contribution in time and talent. The parents have just returned from presiding over a mission, and the children have made contributions in various areas of service, and some have filled missions. What a loss to the Church if I had neglected my responsibility to tell them the good news of the gospel message!

On one occasion when he chastised me for waiting so long before telling him about the Church and thus keeping his family from enjoying the blessings of the gospel, I determined that would not happen again and that I would be more aware of who I was and act accordingly.

While I was serving as president of the West European Mission I had the opportunity of association with some of the servicemen stationed there. The president of the servicemen’s stake told me an interesting story.

He said that while he was executive secretary in the stake, the general of his army unit called him and told him he would like to have him serve as his assistant, which would require him to accompany the general wherever he went. Recognizing how this would affect his Church position and his responsibilities to his family, the brother told the general he would have to forego this assignment.

The general said, “Do you mean you would turn your back on this promotion for your family and the Church?”

The brother said, “Yes, that is what I mean.”

The general said, “Well, then, forget it.” But he called back in a few days and said that he still wanted him for the job, that he would make the necessary adjustments for the man to carry out his responsibilities to the Church and to his family.

Another of the servicemen who had served a full-time mission told me he had baptized more converts during a year in the service than he had in two and one-half years on his mission in France. This is how we remember who we are and act accordingly.

To show how this theme ran through the messages of President McKay, I quote from a talk he gave at the general conference in which I was first sustained as a counselor in the First Presidency:

“The Church teaches that life here is probationary. It is man’s duty to become the master, not the slave of nature. His appetites are to be controlled and used for the benefit of his health and the prolongation of his life—his passions mastered and controlled for the happiness and blessing of others.

“Man’s greatest happiness comes from losing himself for the good of others. The advancement of science and the new discoveries from the dawn of history to the present are the results of the efforts of men who have been willing to sacrifice themselves if necessary for the cause of truth. …

“If you have lived true to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and continue to do so, happiness will fill your soul. If you vary from it and become conscious that you have fallen short of what you know is right, you are going to be unhappy even though you have the wealth of the world.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1963, p. 8.)

The last message which President McKay personally delivered was given Sunday, October 2, 1966. (He prepared other messages which were read by his sons.) I quote from the last one he gave:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bears testimony to the world that this will of God has been made manifest in this dispensation, that the principles of the gospel, the principles of life, have been revealed. They are in harmony with the principles that Christ taught in the meridian of time. It is impossible to give here all the principles that constitute that will, but they are so simple that, as the scriptures say, ‘the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.’ (Isa. 35:8.)

“After obeying the principles and ordinances of the gospel, ‘the will’ of God is to serve your fellowmen, benefiting them, making this world better for your having lived in it. Christ gave his all to teach us that principle. And he made the statement ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ (Matt. 25:40.) This is the message God has given to us. This Church is God’s Church, which is so perfectly organized that every man and every woman, every child, may have an opportunity to do something good for somebody else. It is the obligation of our priesthood members, it is the responsibility of the auxiliary organizations and of every member to serve and do God’s will. If we do, and the more we do it, the more we shall become convinced that it is the work of God, because we are testing it. Then, by doing the will of God, we get to know God and get close to him and to feel that life eternal is ours. We shall feel to love humanity everywhere, and we can cry out with the apostles of old, ‘We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.’ (1 John 3:14.)” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1966, p. 137; italics added.)

Our Prophet today, President Spencer W. Kimball, makes this same declaration. This was abundantly clear as I listened to his concluding message at the general conference where I was first sustained as his counselor. He said:

“As you return to your homes and your businesses and your professions and your spiritual jurisdictions, we hope that you have stored up much that will be of value to you and your families. The ways of doing the work are important indeed, but the purpose for doing it is of the greatest consequence.

“We have a commitment to serve our Lord. We have an assurance that the cause is just and worthy. But, above all, we have a knowledge that God lives and is in his heavens and that his Son Jesus Christ has laid out a plan for us which will bring us and our loved ones eternal life if we are faithful. That life will be a busy, purposeful life with accomplishments and joys and development.

“If you can think of the greatest real joys that have ever come to you in this life, then think of the next life as a projection of this one with all the purposeful things multiplied, enlarged, and even more desirable. All in these associations of our lives here have brought to you development and joy and growth and happiness. Now when life ends, we shall return to a situation patterned after our life here, only less limited, more glorious, [and with] more increased joy.” (Ensign, May 1974, p. 118.)

I plead with all of us today, in the Saturday evening of time, to make it a priority to remember who we are. Let us give thanks to God for his gift of life and love, for our membership in his Church, for our families, our friends, and our neighbors. Let us be kind and considerate. Let us give of ourselves and show love and compassion. Let us be examples of Christlike living and service. Then all will know by our fruits and by our actions that we are sons and daughters of God and members of his Church.

Ideas for Home Teachers

Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:

1. We should remember who we are and act accordingly. Each of us has an individual responsibility.

2. Because of the Restoration and the revelations given to modern prophets, we are blessed to have the knowledge and priesthood power which can save us and our families and help us return to the presence of God.

3. Each of us must labor continually at missionary work, whether by our example of Christlike living or by actually proselyting and teaching the principles of the gospel.

4. President David O. McKay has said: “The ‘will’ of God is to serve your fellowmen, benefiting them, making this world better for your having lived in it.”

Discussion Helps

1. Relate your personal feelings and experiences about remembering who we are and acting accordingly. Ask family members to share their feelings.

2. Are there scriptural verses or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?

3. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop to the household head?

[photo] Photography by Eldon K. Linschoten