I have some thoughts—notes that I thought I might be prompted to use tonight. So, if the Lord is willing, I should like to talk to you now for a few minutes in this great conference.
I had a lesson years ago as to the greatness of priesthood. It had to do with the call of the First Presidency for me to come to their office on a day that I shall never forget—April 20, 1935. I was city commissioner in Salt Lake City. I was a stake president.
We had been wrestling with this question of welfare. There were few government work programs; the finances of the Church were low; we were told that there wasn’t much that could be done so far as the finances of the Church were concerned. And here we were with 4,800 of our 7,300 people who were wholly or partially dependent. We had only one place to go, and that was to apply the Lord’s program as set forth in the revelations.
It was from our humble efforts that the First Presidency, knowing that we had had some experience, called me one morning asking if I would come to their office. It was Saturday morning; there were no calls on their calendar, and for hours in that forenoon they talked with me and told me that they wanted me to resign from the city commission, and they would release me from being stake president; that they wished me now to head up the welfare movement to turn the tide from government relief, direct relief, and help to put the Church in a position where it could take care of its own needy.
After that morning I rode in my car (spring was just breaking) up to the head of City Creek Canyon into what was then called Rotary Park; and there, all by myself, I offered one of the most humble prayers of my life.
There I was, just a young man in my thirties. My experience had been limited. I was born in a little country town in Idaho. I had hardly been outside the boundaries of the states of Utah and Idaho. And now to put me in a position where I was to reach out to the entire membership of the Church, worldwide, was one of the most staggering contemplations that I could imagine. How could I do it with my limited understanding?
As I kneeled down, my petition was, “What kind of an organization should be set up in order to accomplish what the Presidency has assigned?” And there came to me on that glorious morning one of the most heavenly realizations of the power of the priesthood of God. It was as though something were saying to me, “There is no new organization necessary to take care of the needs of this people. All that is necessary is to put the priesthood of God to work. There is nothing else that you need as a substitute.”
With that understanding, then, and with the simple application of the power of the priesthood, the welfare program has gone forward now by leaps and bounds, overcoming obstacles that seemed impossible, until now it stands as a monument to the power of the priesthood, the like of which I could only glimpse in those days to which I have made reference.
Now, with that understanding of priesthood power, let me speak of a few other matters that have come to my mind tonight.
There are two scriptures I would have you think of as applicable today as they were in the period following the advent of the Savior in the meridian of time in the post-apostolic period. In the Acts of the Apostles, the apostle Paul gave these charges to the elders of Israel. He said:
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God. …
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
“Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28–30.)
And then the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
“Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
“As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
“For … I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
Today those warnings are just as applicable as they were in that day in which they were given.
There are some as wolves among us. By that, I mean some who profess membership in this church who are not sparing the flock. And among our own membership, men are arising speaking perverse things. Now perverse means diverting from the right or correct, and being obstinate in the wrong, willfully, in order to draw the weak and unwary members of the Church away after them.
And as the apostle Paul said, it is likewise a marvel to us today, as it was in that day, that some members are so soon removed from those who taught them the gospel and are removed from the true teachings of the gospel of Christ to be led astray into something that corrupts the true doctrines of the gospel of Christ into vicious and wicked practices and performances.
These, as have been evidenced by shocking events among some of these splinter groups, have been accursed, as the prophets warned; and they are obviously in the power of that evil one who feeds the gullible with all the sophistries which Satan has employed since the beginning of time.
I should like now to make reference to some of these. The first is the spread of rumor and gossip (we have mentioned this before) which, when once started, gains momentum as each telling becomes more fanciful, until unwittingly those who wish to dwell on the sensational repeat them in firesides, in classes, in Relief Society gatherings and priesthood quorum classes without first verifying the source before becoming a party to causing speculation and discussions that steal time away from the things that would be profitable and beneficial and enlightening to their souls.
Just an example: I understand that there is a widely circulated story that I was alleged to have had a patriarchal blessing (I don’t know whether any of you have heard about that) that had to do with the coming of the Savior and the ten tribes of Israel.
In the first place, a patriarchal blessing is a sacred document to the person who has received it and is never given for publication and, as all patriarchal blessings, should be kept as a private possession to the one who has received it.
And second, with reference to that which I was alleged to have had, suffice it to say that such a quotation is incorrect and without foundation in fact.
There is one thing that shocks me: I have learned, in some instances, that those who have heard of these rumors are disappointed when I tell them they are not so. They seem to have enjoyed believing a rumor without substance of fact. I would earnestly urge that no such idle gossip be spread abroad without making certain as to whether or not it is true.
The First Presidency in August 1913 issued a warning to the members of the Church which could bear repeating today. Let me read you a few things that were said then:
“To the officers and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
“From the days of Hiram Page (Doc. and Cov., Sec. 28) [D&C 28], at different periods there have been manifestations from delusive spirits to members of the Church. Sometimes these have come to men and women who because of transgression became easy prey to the Arch-Deceiver. At other times people who pride themselves on their strict observance of the rules and ordinances and ceremonies of the Church are led astray by false spirits, who exercise an influence so imitative of that which proceeds from at Divine source that even these persons, who think they are ‘the very elect,’ find it difficult to discern the essential difference. Satan himself has transformed himself to be apparently ‘an angel of light.’
“When visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or an extraordinary gift or inspiration convey something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of its constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know that it is not of God, no matter how plausible it may appear. Also, they should understand that directions for the guidance of the Church will come, by revelation, through the head. All faithful members are entitled to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for themselves, their families, and for those over whom they are appointed and ordained to preside. But anything at discord with that which comes from God through the head of the Church is not to be received as authoritative or reliable. In secular as well as spiritual affairs, Saints may receive Divine guidance and revelation affecting themselves, but this does not convey authority to direct others, and is not to be accepted when contrary to Church covenants, doctrine or discipline, or to known facts, demonstrated truths, or good common sense. No person has the right to induce his fellow members of the Church to engage in speculations or take stock in ventures of any kind on the specious claim of Divine revelation or vision or dream, especially when it is in opposition to the voice of recognized authority, local or general. The Lord’s Church ‘is a house of order.’ It is not governed by individual gifts or manifestations, but by the order and power of the Holy Priesthood as sustained by the voice and vote of the Church in its appointed conferences.
“The history of the Church records many pretended revelations claimed by impostors or zealots who believed in the manifestations they sought to lead other persons to accept, and in every instance, disappointment, sorrow and disaster have resulted therefrom. Financial loss and sometimes utter ruin have followed.”
This is something that is recurring time and time again, and we call upon you holders of the priesthood to stamp out any such and to set to flight all such things as are creeping in, people rising up here and there who have had some “marvelous” kind of a manifestation, as they claim, and who try to lead the people in a course that has not been dictated from the heads of the Church.
As I say, it never ceases to amaze me how gullible some of our Church members are in broadcasting these sensational stories, or dreams, or visions, some alleged to have been given to Church leaders, past or present, supposedly from some person’s private diary, without first verifying the report with proper Church authorities.
If our people want to be safely guided during these troublous times of deceit and false rumors, they must follow their leaders and seek for the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord in order to avoid falling prey to clever manipulators who, with cunning sophistry, seek to draw attention and gain a following to serve their own notions and sometimes sinister motives.
The Lord has very plainly set forth a test by which anyone may challenge any and all who may come claiming, clandestinely, to have received some kind of priesthood authority. Now this is what the Lord said in the 42nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 11:
“Again, I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by someone who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.” [D&C 42:11]
Now, if one comes claiming that he has authority, ask him, “Where do you get your authority? Have you been ordained by someone who has authority, who is known to the Church, that you have authority and have been regularly ordained by the heads of the Church?” If the answer is no, you may know that he is an imposter. This is the test that our people should always apply when some imposter comes trying to lead them astray.
Now there is another danger that confronts us. There seem to be those among us who are as wolves among the flock, trying to lead some who are weak and unwary among Church members, according to reports that have reached us, who are taking the law into their own hands by refusing to pay their income tax because they have some political disagreement with constituted authorities.
Others have tried to marshal civilians, without police authority, and to arm themselves to battle against possible dangers, little realizing that in so doing they themselves become the ones who, by obstructing the constituted authority, would become subject to arrest and imprisonment.
We have even heard of someone claiming Church membership in protest against pornographic pictures being displayed in theaters, having planted bombs, and therefore becoming subject to punishment by the law and subsequently standing judgment before the disciplinary bodies of the Church.
While we must stand solidly behind those who are trying to stamp out the filthy and provocative display of so-called pornographic materials, we have but one answer to all those who thus take such radical measures, and this is the word of the Lord:
“Let no man think he is ruler; but let God rule him that judgeth, according to the counsel of his own will, or, in other words, him that counseleth or sitteth upon the judgment seat.
“Let no man break the laws of the land … until he reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet.” (D&C 58:20–22.)
I want to warn this great body of priesthood against that great sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, which has been labeled as a sin second only in seriousness to the sin of murder. I speak of the sin of adultery, which, as you know, was the name used by the Master as he referred to unlicensed sexual sins of fornication as well as adultery; and besides this, the equally grievous sin of homosexuality, which seems to be gaining momentum with social acceptance in the Babylon of the world, of which Church members must not be a part.
While we are in the world, we must not be of the world. Any attempts being made by the schools or places of entertainment to flaunt sexual perversions, which can do nothing but excite to experimentation, must find among the priesthood in this church a vigorous and unrelenting defense through every lawful means that can be employed.
The common judges of Israel, our bishops and stake presidents, must not stand by and fail to apply disciplinary measures within their jurisdiction, as set forth plainly in the laws of the Lord and procedures as set forth in plain and simple instructions that cannot be misunderstood. Never must we allow supposed mercy to the unrepentant sinner to rob the justice upon which true repentance from sinful practices is predicated.
One more matter: There are among us many loose writings predicting the calamities which are about to overtake us. Some of these have been publicized as though they were necessary to wake up the world to the horrors about to overtake us. Many of these are from sources upon which there cannot be unquestioned reliance.
Are you priesthood bearers aware of the fact that we need no such publications to be forewarned, if we were only conversant with what the scriptures have already spoken to us in plainness?
Let me give you the sure word of prophecy on which you should rely for your guide instead of these strange sources which may have great political implications.
Read the 24th chapter of Matthew—particularly that inspired version as contained in the Pearl of Great Price. (JS—M 1.)
Then read the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord, not man, has documented the signs of the times. [D&C 45]
Finally, turn to the promises the Lord makes to those who keep the commandments when these judgments descend upon the wicked, as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 38. [D&C 38]
Brethren, these are some of the writings with which you should concern yourselves, rather than commentaries that may come from those whose information may not be the most reliable and whose motives may be subject to question. And may I say, parenthetically, most of such writers are not handicapped by having any authentic information on their writings.
As the Lord has admonished priesthood bearers from the beginning: “Wherefore, gird up your loins and be prepared. Behold, the kingdom is yours, and the enemy shall not overcome.
“Verily I say unto you, ye are clean, but not all; and there is none else with whom I am well pleased;
“For all flesh is corrupted before me; and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth, among the children of men, in the presence of all the hosts of heaven—
“Which causeth silence to reign, and all eternity is pained. …” (D&C 38:9–12.)
Now brethren, I have spoken plainly to you in this priesthood session. Let what has been said by all the brethren tonight, and in this conference, not fall on deaf ears. Let these admonitions be received as the Lord directed they should be received, in an early revelation, to which President Tanner has already made reference, “as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.” (D&C 21:5.)
Only by so doing can we be truly one as a body of priesthood, by following the leadership that the Lord has established in our day in order that we may be one. And he warns us if we are not one, we are not his, as he has declared in the Doctrine and Covenants.
There are one or two things I should like to say about myself and this present responsibility. Never had I thought of myself as one day becoming the President of the Church. As a boy in my rural community, I used to hear the brethren talk about a “pillar” in the Church. I wondered what in the world it meant. It must be something great to be a pillar in the Church. Well, now, maybe I am beginning to realize something about what that means, but I know this: those who try to guess ahead of time as to who is going to be the next President of the Church are just gambling as they might be on a horse race, because only the Lord has the time table.
I remember one time Elder Charles A. Callis in a Council of the Twelve meeting. There was a rather spirited discussion on some questions. One of the Brethren said, “You had better listen to Brother George Albert Smith, the President of the Twelve, because he may be the next President of the Church.”
Brother Callis smiled and said, “Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure. Three times in my life I have chosen the next President of the Church, and all three of them died before they came to the presidency.” The Lord only knows, and for us to speculate or to presume is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.
I have one other thought I should like to express. Brigham Young was a great defender of the Prophet Joseph Smith. There were Judases in the ranks in that day, just as there were in the Savior’s day, and just as we have today, some who are members of the Church who are undercutting us, who are betraying their trusts. We are shocked when we see the places from which some of these things come.
Brigham Young was invited by some of these men who were trying to depose the Prophet Joseph from his position as President of the Church; but they made a mistake by inviting President Brigham Young into their circle. And after he had listened to what their motives were, he said something to this effect: “I want to say something to you men. You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God, and sink yourselves to hell.”
There was a pugilist there by the name of Jacob Bump, so the story goes, who doubled up his fists and started toward President Young, who replied to this man’s threats: “I would like to lay hands on a man like you in defense of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
Remember that, brethren. You cannot destroy the appointments of the prophets of God. The Lord knows whom he wants to preside in his church, and sometimes it takes a lot of practicing, guiding, testing, before he may know whether or not one of us is prepared for the present assignment.
Now I think it is folly for one to compare one President of the Church with another. No one takes the place of another President of the Church. Each President has his own place. I had a lesson taught me some years ago when, in company with one of the brethren, I had reorganized the presidency of the Ensign Stake. We had named the bishop of one of the wards as stake president. It was near the end of the year, and he elected to remain as bishop, along with his first counselor, who was a bishop, until they had closed the books at the end of the year.
Six weeks after they were sustained, the stake president suddenly passed away.
Then I began to receive a barrage of letters. Where in the world was the inspiration for you to call a man whom the Lord was going to let die in six weeks? They invited me to talk at his services, and some seemed to be expecting me to try to explain why I had appointed a man that the Lord was going to take home in six weeks.
President Joseph Fielding Smith sat on the stand and heard my attempt to satisfy these people, and he said to me, “Don’t you let that bother you. If you have called a man to a position in this church and he dies the next day, that position would have a bearing on what he will be called to do when he leaves this earth.”
I believe that. I believe that every President of this church, every apostle of this church, every bishop, every stake president, every presiding position will have a bearing on what one is called to do when he leaves this earth.
And so, when you think of one President taking the place of another, he doesn’t. That President maintains his own place. We shouldn’t try to compare one as being greater than this one or greater than the other, because each one is, in the eyes of the Lord, in his own time the one most needed for that particular time. You may be sure of that.
Now, just one final thought. I sat in a class in Sunday School in my own ward one day, and the teacher was the son of a patriarch. He said he used to take down the blessings of his father, and he noticed that his father gave what he called “iffy” blessings. He would give a blessing, but it was predicated on “if you will not do this” or “if you will cease doing that.” And he said, “I watched these men to whom my father gave the ‘iffy’ blessings, and I saw that many of them did not heed the warning that my father as a patriarch had given, and the blessings were never received because they did not comply.”
You know, this started me thinking. I went back into the Doctrine and Covenants and began to read the “iffy” revelations that have been given to the various brethren in the Church. If you want to have an exercise in something that will startle you, read some of the warnings that were given through the Prophet Joseph Smith to Thomas B. Marsh, Martin Harris, some of the Whitmer brothers, William E. McLellin—warnings which, had they heeded, some would not have fallen by the wayside. But because they did not heed, and they didn’t clear up their lives, they fell by the wayside, and some had to be dropped from membership in the Church.
Now, there is one thing that I think we should all be mindful of. I was with a group of missionaries in the temple one day. A question was asked by one of the sisters about the Word of Wisdom, concerning the promise made that if one would keep the Word of Wisdom he should run and not be weary and should walk and not faint. And she said, “How could that promise be realized if a person were crippled? How could he receive the blessing that he could run and not be weary, and walk and not faint, if he were crippled?”
I answered her, “Did you ever doubt the Lord? The Lord said that.”
The trouble with us today, there are too many of us who put question marks instead of periods after what the Lord says. I want you to think about that. We shouldn’t be concerned about why he said something, or whether or not it can be made so. Just trust the Lord. We don’t try to find the answers or explanations. We shouldn’t try to spend time explaining what the Lord didn’t see fit to explain. We spend useless time.
If you would teach our people to put periods and not question marks after what the Lord has declared, we would say, “It is enough for me to know that is what the Lord said.”
Elder Gordon B. Hinckley told a story after going into Vietnam that to me was a great lesson. There was a young man, as I remember it, who was in the military service in Vietnam and who joined the Church and was now about to go back to his home country in Southeast Asia.
Brother Hinckley said to him, “What is it going to do to you when you get back home now that you have joined the Church?”
“Oh,” said the youth, “I will be cast out. My family will disown me. I will have difficulty in school. I will have no military rank.”
Elder Hinckley then asked, “Isn’t that a pretty big price to pay?”
And this young man looked at Elder Hinckley and said, “Well, the gospel is true, isn’t it?”
That was a soul-searching question for Brother Hinckley, who replied: “Yes, my boy, with all my soul, the gospel is true.”
And then this young man said, “Well, what else matters then?”
Brethren of the priesthood, if the gospel of Jesus Christ is true—and it is true—what else matters? The Lord may bless us with that rock-bottom testimony that will guide us through all the perils of life if we will just continue to say to ourselves, “Because I know that the gospel is true, nothing else matters.”
I bear you my solemn witness that it is true, that the Lord is in his heavens; he is closer to us than you have any idea. You ask when the Lord gave the last revelation to this church. The Lord is giving revelations day by day, and you will witness and look back on this period and see some of the mighty revelations the Lord has given in your day and time. To that I bear you my witness, and leave with you my testimony this night, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.