It has been customary for the President of the Church to welcome you and deliver a message at the commencement of conference,” said President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, at the Saturday opening session of the Church’s 161st Annual General Conference.
“President Benson has suggested that I begin this conference with a brief message in his behalf,” he said.
“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. (See page 4.)
Though President Benson did not feel strong enough to speak at conference, those in attendance were thrilled to see him at the Saturday and Sunday morning sessions. He watched the other conference proceedings on television at his residence.
Conducting conference sessions were President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and President Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency.
Conference administrative action also occurred in the Saturday morning session (see page 6):
Five members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy were sustained as members of the First Quorum of the Seventy: Elders Alexander B. Morrison, L. Aldin Porter, L. Lionel Kendrick, Monte J. Brough, and Harold G. Hillam.
Also, six new members were added to the Second Quorum of the Seventy: Elders Dennis B. Neuenschwander of Centerville, Utah, and current president of the Austria Vienna East Mission; Cree-L Kofford of Arcadia, California, and current president of the New York New York Mission; Joseph C. Muren of Richmond, California, on working assignment in Solihull, England; Graham W. Doxey of Salt Lake City; Jorge A. Rojas of Chihuahua City, Mexico; and Julio E. Dávila of Bogotá, Colombia. (See page 6 and pages 96 to 102.)
On January 1, Elders Derek A. Cuthbert and H. Verlan Andersen were released as First and Second Counselors, respectively, in the Sunday School General Presidency. Sustained at conference as new counselors were Elders H. Verlan Andersen, First Counselor, and Rulon G. Craven, Second Counselor. Elder Cuthbert had been gravely ill for some time, and although he was unable to attend conference, his condition and well-being were noted in prayers at conference sessions. Thus, it was a poignant moment when President Hinckley began his closing remarks at the end of Sunday’s afternoon session with the announcement: “We have received a telephone call that Elder Derek Cuthbert has just passed away. We have been praying for him. He has served faithfully and diligently and well as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy—called as a General Authority some years ago.” (See pages 91 and 103.)
Sessions of conference were broadcast throughout the Northern Hemisphere in English and fifteen other languages. Videotapes of conference are sent to Church units where live or delayed transmission of conference is not available.—The Editors