A few years ago, I was sitting in the room of the Salt Lake Temple where the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meet once a week. I gazed up at the wall which faces the First Presidency, and there I observed portraits of each of the Presidents of the Church.
As I gazed at them, my predecessors—from the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) to President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008)—I thought, “How grateful I am for the guidance of each one.”
These are great men who never wavered, never faltered, and never failed. These are men of God. As I think of the modern-day prophets I have known and loved, I recall their lives, their attributes, and their inspired teachings.
President Heber J. Grant (1856–1945) was President of the Church when I was born. As I contemplate his life and teachings, I believe a trait President Grant always exemplified was that of persistence—persistence in those things which are good and noble.
President George Albert Smith (1870–1951) was President of the Church during the time I served as bishop of my ward in Salt Lake City. He observed that there is a great tug-of-war going on between the Lord and the adversary. “If you will stay on the Lord’s side of the line,” he taught, “you will be under his influence and will have no desire to do wrong.”1
I was called to serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1963 by President David O. McKay (1873–1970). He taught consideration for others by the way he lived his life. “True Christianity,” he said, “is love in action.”2
President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972), one of the Church’s most prolific writers, had as a guiding principle in his life gospel scholarship. He read the scriptures unceasingly and was as familiar with the teachings and doctrines found within their pages as anyone I have ever known.
President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) served as my stake president when I was a boy. A favorite quotation of his was “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved.”3 He encouraged the Saints to be in tune with, and responsive to, the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.
I believe a guiding principle in the life of President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) would be dedication. He was completely, unequivocally dedicated to the Lord. He was also dedicated to living the gospel.
When President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) became President of the Church, he called me to serve as his Second Counselor in the First Presidency. Love was his guiding principle, which is embodied in his favorite quotation, spoken by the Savior: “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.”4
President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) was one who always looked for the best in others. Ever was he courteous; ever was he humble. It was my privilege to serve as his Second Counselor.
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught us to do our best. He bore powerful testimony of the Savior and His mission. He taught us with love. Serving as his First Counselor was an honor and a blessing for me.
The Savior sends prophets because He loves us. During general conference this October, the General Authorities of the Church will again have the privilege of sharing His word. We approach this responsibility with great solemnity and humility.
How blessed we are that the restored Church of Jesus Christ is upon the earth and that the Church is founded upon the rock of revelation. Continuous revelation is the very lifeblood of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
May we prepare to receive the personal revelation that comes in abundance during general conference. May our hearts be filled with deep determination as we raise our hands to sustain living prophets and apostles. May we be enlightened, uplifted, comforted, and strengthened as we listen to their messages. And may we be ready to recommit ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ—His gospel and His work—and to live with renewed resolve in keeping His commandments and carrying out His will.