I am deeply honored, my beloved brothers and sisters, to occupy this pulpit again and to add my testimony to those that have been borne so strongly and adequately. I want President [Hugh B.] Brown to know the great feeling of love and appreciation we have for him and how much we have missed his presence during this conference. Our thoughts and prayers are ever with him.
Yesterday as I came over to one of the sessions, one of my returned missionaries was kind enough to introduce me to an investigator. We had a wonderful chat and in the course of the conversation the investigator said, “I finally think I have found out the secret to your success as wonderful, righteous people.” I said, “What’s that?” She said, “You attend so many meetings you don’t have time to commit a sin.”
I have thought about that, and it prompted me to turn to this little verse. It goes:
“One day for church
Six days for fun.
The odds of going to heaven,
Six to one.”
I suppose as a church we have reduced those odds considerably. I can’t resist one other. My father said on one occasion:
“Whenever I pass our little ward,
I like to linger for a visit,
So that when I am carried in
The Lord won’t say, Who is it?”
Now I would like to address a few remarks to our wonderful young people, particularly those twenty years of age and under, and I would like to include my new adopted son, Loren [Dunn].
Sometimes we are asked by our young people why we stress so much the commandments of God. As one little person put it to me just the other day, “Why do you have to be so churchy?” I would like to share a feeling or two concerning that inquiry. It is because, young people, we love you, are concerned about you, your well-being, and your ultimate welfare. It is important to know that we as parents have taken upon ourselves a very sacred oath and covenant to bring you up in the ways of the Lord, and that is very, very important to us, as it is to him.
One of the scriptures many of your moms and dads take literally is the one recorded in the sixty-eighth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, which says: “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.” (D&C 68:25.)
Now that is rather serious to those of us who sit in such a responsible position. I once asked my mother, “How does it feel, Mom, to have all my sins placed upon your head?” She said, “Oh, but you forgot one thing, Paul. I have transferred them back to you because I have taught you the doctrines of the kingdom.” In a sense that is what we are trying to do, young people: to prepare you to live a happy and full life both now and in the future, and true joy and happiness comes in knowing and living the commandments of our Father in heaven.
Would you listen to the words of Alma, that great Book of Mormon prophet. They ring true and clear. He said, “O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep [all] the commandments of God.” (Alma 37:35.) That is why we as parents are concerned. We want to teach you how to get back into the presence of our Heavenly Father by keeping all of the commandments. You can’t keep what you don’t know or understand.
Someone once said, “You know we want to help you young people in the worst way,” and I suppose some of us are guilty of doing it in just about that way.
A young mother recently shared with me a story called “The World’s Meanest Mom,” and I would like to share it with you here. She said:
“I had the meanest mother in the whole world. While other kids had no breakfast, I had to have cereal, eggs, and toast. When others had pop and candy for lunch, I had to eat a sandwich. My mother insisted on knowing where we were at all times. You’d think we were on a chain gang. She had to know who our friends were and what we were doing. She insisted that if we said we’d be gone for an hour, that we would be gone for one hour or less.
“I am ashamed to admit it, but she actually had the nerve to break the child labor law. She made us wash the dishes, make beds, learn to cook, and all sorts of cruel things. I believe she lay awake nights thinking up mean things for us to do. She always insisted that we tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
“By the time we were teenagers she was much wiser, and our lives became even more miserable. None of this tooting the horn of a car for us to come running. She embarrassed us to no end by making our dates and friends come to the door to get us.
“My mother was a complete failure as a mother. None of us have ever been arrested or beaten a rap. Each of my brothers has served a mission, and his country. And whom do we have to blame for this terrible way we turned out? You’re right—our mean mother. Look at all the things we have missed. We never got to take part in a riot, burn draft cards, and a million and one other things that our friends did. She made us grow up into educated, honest adults. Using this as a background, I am trying to raise my children. I stand a little taller and I am filled with pride when my children call me mean. You see, I thank God that he gave me the meanest mother in the whole world.” (Orien Fifer, Phoenix Gazette)
How truly blessed is a person who has a mother who cared. I too am grateful for my parents, who applied the gospel of love in such a wonderful way. And although I often remind my mother of our round-table discussions, in which she chased me around the table, I learned the truths of the gospel by example from her and from my father.
As with the bud, so with the blossom. A boy is the only thing known from which a man can be made. I hope that we as parents are teaching our children that they are the sons and daughters of God, and that they have the capacity to become like him. It was the old Edinburgh weaver who prayed, “O God, help me to hold a high opinion of myself.” Likewise I would counsel young people to hold a high opinion of themselves, to remember who they really are, and to put their faith in their Heavenly Father.
In today’s fast-moving, materialistic world, unfortunately many fathers place their business affairs ahead of their children. I am appalled as I look around me, as was Eddie Cantor some years ago, when he said that a man will spend a whole week figuring out what stocks to buy with $1,000—but he won’t spend an hour with his child, in whom he has a greater investment.
Is it any wonder that many of our young people are troubled with identity problems? We who are older speak of building a better world, but our progress is slow. Real generosity to the future lies, then, in giving all that we have to the present.
Now, you young people, listen to the counsel of your parents. They love you. We are not perfect. One day you will stand where we stand, and you will have a similar challenge of rearing your young. Will you go with us the extra mile in trying to understand our true nature and purpose?
Depend on and trust in the great counsel of wise parents. I would also remind you that the Lord has not left you or them unattended in our challenging world. Since the beginning of time the Lord has revealed his mind and will and has counseled us through his prophets on how to find true happiness.
For just a moment, I would like to invite you to come with me into the scriptures, wherein you might become a little more excited about the gospel as it is related to us by great prophets. And I would hope that on your own and in family home evening, church study classes, you could become more excited about our wonderful scriptures. We tend to support and want to do those things we understand. For instance:
Not long ago when I was residing in Southern California, I made a trip from our home in Downey to the University of Southern California, where I was working. One morning as I traveled down a street in order to find a new route to work, I took a road where a beautiful house was under construction, and it caught my eye because it was quite similar to one my wife hoped we would build one day, although it was somewhat out of our financial reach. I took great personal interest in this house because of its familiar floor plan and style, but I noticed several weeks later that the workmen had ceased their labor, and I wondered about it. I thought for a minute maybe there was a strike, or perhaps they had run short of finances, and other possibilities entered my mind. Several months came and went, and that once shiny new lumber seemed to deteriorate. The wood gradually changed to yellow, then brown, and finally commenced to rot.
As I viewed this scene, young people, and this is so typical of the scriptures, I thought of the great truths that our Savior taught in the New Testament, and my mind was immediately attracted by that house to the fourteenth chapter of Luke. Now if you can, picture in your mind for a moment the Savior teaching the Pharisees and Sadducees, some sinners, publicans, and others who even sought his life. They had asked questions and he turned and made this observation. He said, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost [Can you see why I had caught the message of the unfinished house?], whether he have sufficient to finish it?
“Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
“Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
“Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?
“Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.” (Luke 14:28–32.)
Could I just translate that scripture into 1971 language for you young people? The Lord might say, if he were here today, and he does through his leaders, “For which of you, intending to build an eternal life, sitteth not down first to consider what it is going to cost, lest haply some of you will commence to build and will not finish.” And you and I know you don’t have to look very far at your school to see some lives that are standing idle because they didn’t count the cost. The cost of a wonderful home, the cost of getting an education, the cost of properly marrying, the cost perhaps in many cases of a wonderful mission, the cost of doing the right thing for the right reason. That is what our Heavenly Father would have us tell you. It is a timeless message. We need to plan and prepare if we are to achieve eternal goals.
Let me just conclude with one other as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus said again to a multitude that had gathered around him, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.”
And to help fill the courts with guests the king sent his servants out and they did bring them in.
The Savior continues, “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment.”
Now wedding suits were a very important part of the wedding celebration during this period. “And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? [Can you imagine going to a modern wedding reception today without proper attire? Your host might say, “Why did you come tonight without a tuxedo?”] And he was speechless.
“Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (See Matt. 22:2–13.)
I used to be a little puzzled about that last part, and now I think I know why we have so many Latter-day Saint dentists.
Again let me translate that marvelous scripture, using a little more modern phraseology for you young people. Think now of the wedding garment as yours and my character. And when the king, our Heavenly Father, came in to see us, his children, he saw there one of us who had not on a good, moral character.
And he saith unto him, “How comest thou in hither, not having a pure, undefiled character?” And you and I were speechless. And then our Heavenly Father said, “Bind him, and take him out of my presence forever.”
I didn’t say that, young people. The Lord did. And our purpose here is to teach you the doctrines of the kingdom. Know of our love, faith, and trust in you, for the future looms bright in terms of your gospel commitment. May you and I together walk down the Lord’s road in peace and harmony is my humble prayer, as I bear witness to these things, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.