“Watchmen, what of the night?” asked President Ezra Taft Benson of Church members in referring to the latter-day premillennial conditions in which we live today. He was addressing Church membership in the Saturday morning, April 5, opening session of the Church’s 156th Annual General Conference.
“We must respond,” he said, “by saying that all is not well in Zion. As Moroni counseled, we must cleanse the inner vessel, beginning first with ourselves, then with our families, and finally with the Church. …
“The plaguing sin of this generation is sexual immorality. This, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, would be the source of more temptation, more buffetings, and more difficulties for the elders of Israel than any other.
“President Joseph F. Smith said that sexual impurity would be one of the three dangers that would threaten the Church within—and so it does. It permeates our society. …
“Now we not only need to say more about the Book of Mormon, but we need to do more with it. … The Book of Mormon has not been, nor is it yet, the center of our personal study, family teaching, preaching, and missionary work. Of this we must repent.”
President Benson then went on to discuss the subject of pride.
“Essentially, pride is a ‘my will’ rather than ‘thy will’ approach to life,” … he said. “We have made some wonderful strides in the past. We will be lengthening our stride in the future. To do so, we must first cleanse the inner vessel by awaking and arising, being morally clean, using the Book of Mormon in a manner so that God will lift the condemnation, and finally conquering pride by humbling ourselves,” said President Benson in his stirring remarks in the opening session of conference.
President Benson presided at the two-day general conference, which culminated in the Solemn Assembly during which President Benson was sustained by the Church membership as “prophet, seer, and revelator and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” The Solemn Assembly was held during the Sunday afternoon general session of conference.
Following the sustaining, President Benson spoke movingly, saying, “Christ is our ideal. He is our exemplar. What manner of men and women should we be? Even as He is. The best measure of true greatness is how Christlike we are. The Book of Mormon declares that ‘every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.’ And ‘whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil.’ (Moro. 7:13, 17.) Let us use that standard to judge what we read, the music we hear, the entertainment we watch, the thoughts we think. Let us be more Christlike,” President Benson pleaded.
Also sustained were four new members of the First Quorum of the Seventy—“for periods of approximately three years,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley in conducting the sustaining. The new General Authorities are Elder H. Verlan Anderson, Elder George I. Cannon, and Elder Francis M. Gibbons, all of Utah, and Elder Gardner H. Russell of Florida. (See pages 101–4 for articles.)
Also sustained was a new counselor in the General Presidency of the Young Women. Sister Jayne B. Malan joined Sister Ardeth G. Kapp and Sister Maurine J. Turley in the Young Women presidency following the release of Sister Patricia T. Holland from the presidency. (See page 106 for article.)
Conference proceedings were televised via satellite to more than one thousand gatherings of Church members in ward and stake centers throughout the United States and Canada. Videotapes of conference will be made available to members in most parts of the world.
On Friday, April 4, a Regional Representatives’ Seminar was held during the day and a leadership meeting was held in the evening. The text of the talk President Benson prepared for the leadership meeting begins on page 79.—The Editors