President Benson Addresses Finnish Saints

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    Forty-one years after he had rededicated Finland for the teaching of the gospel, President Ezra Taft Benson returned May 16 and 17 to address a conference of Finnish Saints.

    He recalled that there were fifteen members present when he rededicated the country for missionary work during that visit in 1946. (Finland was originally dedicated by Apostle Francis M. Lyman in 1903.) Now there are more than four thousand members organized into stakes and districts.

    President Benson met with priesthood leaders Saturday evening in Helsinki’s Haga chapel, then addressed more than two thousand Finnish members who gathered at the Messu Keskus convention center on Sunday. He also spoke at a missionary meeting. On Monday, May 18, during his return trip, he stopped briefly at the Stockholm Sweden Temple to address temple workers.

    President Benson was accompanied by his wife, Flora, who spoke during the missionary meeting. During the conference, President Benson took his wife to the stand and told the gathering, “We have had sixty years of glorious marriage. I wholeheartedly recommend it to you.

    “It is a great joy to be back in Finland. You are a great people; may it ever be so. We hope missionary work will go forward because of you.”

    President Benson helped open the Finnish Mission on 16 May 1947, and created the country’s first stake on 16 October 1977.

    During the meeting with priesthood leaders, President Benson was presented with a photo of himself and the group of fifteen members present at the 1946 dedication. The presentation provided one of several emotional moments he experienced during the two-day visit.

    “My spirit is subdued, my soul is tender,” President Benson said. “You are a choice people. … We love you for what you are: real Latter-day Saints dedicated to the gospel.

    “May every wish of your hearts be realized,” he added.

    Elder Carlos E. Asay, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and President of the Europe Area, and his wife, Colleen, also spoke during the conference.

    Elder Asay referred to the blessing President Benson originally pronounced on the people of Finland, and on the blessings he pronounced during this visit forty-one years later. “How we thank God you have the freedom to assemble,” Elder Asay said. “We thank God for your rich heritage. But if it is to continue, it will come through listening to the voice of a prophet.”

    During the recent conference in Finland, President and Sister Benson, at left, were given a photo of President Benson and members present when he rededicated the country for missionary work in 1946. (Photo by John L. Hart, Church News.)