We have here Captain Larry J. Chesley, Major Jay C. Hess, and Lieutenant Commander David J. Rollins. Will you stand up, please? Captain Chesley, United States Air Force, was a prisoner of war for seven years. He comes from the Burley Stake, Star Ward. Major Jay Hess, United States Air Force, was a prisoner of war for six years, from Bountiful East Stake. Lieutenant Commander Rollins, United States Navy, a prisoner of war for six years, is from the San Diego North Stake.
These three young men represent many of those boys who have gone through the fire of adversity. We just want you men to know that our hearts have been touched by the announcement of your faith, your confidence in your country and in your commander-in-chief, that you have come through thus far. We want to say to you that we have been praying, we have been hoping with every means at our command; and we now say to the priesthood, brethren, will you put your arms around these boys, and help them now to make their adjustments as may be necessary in their homecoming.
The Lord bless you, brethren. We love you and the many others who have been in these circumstances and have come through the fire, and have now been prepared to go forward. You will be the kind of men that we look to for the standards of our youth in the years that lie ahead. Thank you, brethren. We welcome you home.
Our hearts go out to the many others, to the mothers and fathers in the thousands of homes where the boys didn’t come home. We are having an Easter program where they have asked me to respond, seeing what might be done to ease the aching hearts of the thousands of others who didn’t come home. There is hope. Thank God for the promise of the gospel and the blessings that lie beyond the grave.
Just a word now about what has been said regarding the Aaronic Priesthood MIA and the Melchizedek Priesthood MIA. I am sure that you listened to President Romney and heard him define that word ponder, and then made its application; that is what we are asking you to do now, and not go out as a Monday morning quarterback and try to do all the second-guessing. I want to say to you that there is no topic that has received longer and more searching, prayerful discussion by the General Authorities of the Church than the matters that pertain to the young people of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood groups, and the women of similar ages.
May I just make this one statement, so that you will get this thing in proper focus. These announced Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood MIAs do not do away with the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Associations. What is intended, as you see this unfold, is that the programs will go forward, but with priesthood identity the like of which they have not enjoyed before. And we sincerely believe that if you fully understand and this program is fully comprehended, as the priesthood identity is now explained, many of those who have not been active will now be brought into activity; and the priesthood and the youth and the young adults, and those over 25, and many others who have felt themselves forgotten souls will now, under the leadership of these great leaders, move forward. We hope that there will not one be missed, and everybody will be taken into focus by the great plan of salvation.
As I have gone out to youth conferences on various occasions, I have asked, “What is your greatest problem?” And surprisingly, the leaders have always said something like this: “We want to have you put all the youth organizations belonging to the same church together.” We have had our campus stakes, institutes, M Men and Gleaners, Delta Phi, Lambda Delta Sigma, Latter-day Saint Student Associations, all of them, and sometimes the same ones clamoring to be with the others in the group. Institutionalized, these same groups will still function as far as religious activities are concerned; but so far as the activity part of the program, the social part, is concerned, we trust that as you see this move into action, you will see that our youth of these various organizations, of these various groupings, will now be brought together so that there will be a wider relationship than there has ever been before. Hopefully there will be a greater chance for young people to find companionship within their groups, and eventually, we hope, in temple marriage.
Suspend judgment, then, and ponder what has been said tonight until you receive further instructions, which will be given you in detail, as the brethren have explained.
I have a letter from some man who seemingly has found something in the hieroglyphics of some discovery that is the answer to a lot of the things that lay ahead for the world. And interestingly enough, as I looked at this, my mind reflected back to an address I heard delivered from this pulpit by President Anthony W. Ivins on October 4, 1931. Just why I thought of that—I suppose it was intended that I should—is because he gave an address at that conference and used as his text the recently published book called Our Bible in Stone. Many of you remember this treated principally the erection, the symbolism, and the prophetic character of the pyramid of Gizeh, or in Greek, the Cheops. Students of the pyramid, after a study of the measurements, symbols, and the record of the pyramid, if it had a record, said that the year 1928 would witness the beginning of a period of great tribulation, which would culminate with intensity in 1936. That period, according to the reckoning of the students, would close with the advent of the Lord and the establishment of a period of peace, happiness, and goodwill among men.
Then President Ivins gave these wise words of counsel with reference to this book: “Now, my brethren … I have referred to this little book and its contents as I desire that you might understand. It will undoubtedly go into the mission field and our elders may make use of it. I simply want to warn you against sensationalism of any kind. … I do not say that his conclusions are wrong, but I do say that they do not come to us as the voice of the Church, nor are they to be accepted as such.”
Then he said something that seems very significant to me. He said: “Brother J. Golden Kimball told us yesterday that he was a great believer in dreams that come true.” I wish you would think of that. That accords with my feelings. I am a great believer in dreams that have come true.
“I am reminded of the fact,” he said, “that immediately after the close of the World War these students of the Pyramids announced and published it that according to their measurements and calculations there would begin in the year 1928 a period which would bring tribulation and sorrow to the people of the world; that they would be required to humble themselves before the Lord, and that that period of tribulation would continue until the year 1936. … We all know that a part of this dream at least has come true.”
After commenting on the financial condition throughout the nations at that time, in the 1930s, President Ivins then concluded his remarks with these profound words of wisdom: “Well, now, my brethren and sisters, what about it all? Just be calm and turn to the Lord. … I pleaded with the people to put their houses in order and get out of debt, for I knew this was coming, because God himself through his Only Begotten Son had declared it.
“Now, my brethren and sisters, if the Church has anything to say to you it will come from them direct and not from the writings of other men. It will come to you in a manner that you will understand it. It will not be speculative. It will come to you philosophically, truthfully, and governed by common sense. God bless you,” he said, “is my humble prayer. …” (Conference Report, October 1931, pp. 87–94.)
Now this is something that needs repeating to this great body of priesthood, because we have a rash of writings by certain persons who claim to be of good standing in the Church, going into considerable detail as they recite their past and present Church affiliations and activities in the foreword, interlude, and advertising. There are sensational predictions and observations, and to make their writings appear to have Church sanction, they use quotations and addresses from Church leaders, past and present, taken out of context in such a way as to make it appear as though these quotations were the endorsement of the book they wish to sell to Church members, who may thereby be induced to accept their writings as from unquestioned sources.
Now we have also had some who claim to be in good standing in order to take advantage of the gathering of the Saints at some of our general conferences, and who have gone so far as to program group meetings for their own interest, with the obvious hope that by doing so, many of our conference visitors may be urged to attend their meetings, even if it may have necessitated their absence from vitally important instructional sessions of the conference.
Furthermore, some designing individuals have solicited opportunities to speak at church gatherings, firesides, priesthood quorums, sacrament meetings. Now, brethren, we feel it is of the utmost importance to lift a warning voice so that our people will be safeguarded against such tactics as an all too obvious self-seeking opportunity to spread their own propaganda for their own interests.
We must urge that priesthood leaders use careful discretion in screening out those whose motives may be subject to serious questions.
Now a word about magnifying the priesthood. Much has been said about that tonight. I would like to read a portion of a short revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith to Edward Partridge in 1830:
“Thus saith the Lord God, the Mighty One of Israel: Behold, I say unto you, my servant Edward, that you are blessed, and your sins are forgiven you, and you are called to preach my gospel as with the voice of a trump;
“And I will lay my hand upon you by the hand of my servant Sidney Rigdon, and you shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom;
“And now this calling and commandment give I unto you concerning all men—
“That as many as shall come before my servants Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith, Jun., embracing this calling, … shall be ordained and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel among the nations. …
“And this commandment shall be given unto the elders of my church, that every man which will embrace it with singleness of heart may be ordained and sent forth, even as I have spoken.
Now, I want to refer particularly to this one verse, and then make a few comments about magnifying the priesthood. Notice what the Lord said: “And I will lay my hand upon you [Edward Partridge] by the hand of my servant Sidney Rigdon, and you shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom.”
The other night I had a group of young Cub Scouts, who are about the age to become ordained deacons, and I said to these young men, “When you get to be deacons, what will be the duties of a deacon?”
And they all said, “The duty of the deacon is to pass the sacrament.”
And I said, “Now I would like you to think of this a little differently. That isn’t the way to explain the duty of a deacon. What does it mean to pass the sacrament? When a deacon carries the emblems of the bread and water which have been blessed to the good of those to whom it shall be passed, it is then a renewal of a covenant that if they will keep the commandments of God and remember the Lord Jesus Christ, for whom those emblems stand, they will have the Spirit of the Lord to be with them.”
A deacon, then, has the responsibility of representing the Lord to carry these emblems and thus be the Lord’s agent in submitting these to the body of the Church.
When you ask a teacher what are his duties, he may answer, “Well, it’s to do home teaching.” But suppose you say to him, “When you do home teaching you are representing the Lord, to visit the home of each member, to see that they are doing their duty, and to see that they are all keeping the commandments of God.” The duties of a priest: The priest is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament; and to visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.” (D&C 20:46–47.) They should have in mind when they are acting in those capacities it is as though they were acting for and responsible to the Lord.
When we officiate in the name of the Lord, as holders of the priesthood, we are doing it in the name and in behalf of our Heavenly Father. Priesthood is the power by which our Heavenly Father works through men, through deacons, through teachers, through priests, and I have a feeling that we are not impressing that upon our young men. They are not taking the understanding of their priesthood as seriously as they might. If they did, they would always want to appear as President Tanner has said of Bishop Featherstone. They would always want to appear at their best when they are exercising their priesthood. Their hair would be properly groomed; their clothing and appearance would reflect the sanctity they should feel in the performance of their priesthood duties. I have had that same feeling. I have never performed an ordinance, such as administering to the sick, without first excusing myself, if I were out in the garden or somewhere, until I was properly clothed, to make the best appearance I could, because I felt in so doing I was drawing close to the Lord himself, and I want to appear at my best in his presence.
Brethren, I am afraid that some of our elders do not understand this, that when they are officiating as elders of the Church, or as seventies or as high priests, it is as though when they perform the ordinance, the Lord through them is acting upon the heads of those for whom they minister. I have often thought one of the reasons why we are not magnifying our priesthood is because we don’t understand that as holders of the priesthood, He is working through us by the power of the holy priesthood, and I would wish that we could all have that feeling, and so teach our young people what it means to hold the priesthood and to magnify it.
Now tonight, brethren, we have touched a number of subjects. We come to you, one of the greatest bodies of priesthood that has ever been assembled, so we understand. What an influence! At the sessions of this conference you have had your attention called to some of the most dangerous trends in our public life—sex education, pornography, permissiveness—running rampant over the world. Brethren of the priesthood, this army, if they would reach out with all the influence that they could wield and really magnify their priesthood as the representatives of our Heavenly Father, could engender such a power and might that by the use of our priesthood in our various communities, these things would not be allowed to continue without a sturdy defense on the part of the priesthood of the living God.
We must call ourselves to new service and new responsibilities, and not stand idly by and let these things go without challenge. Our youth are in danger. Keep your home ties strong, brethren. See to it, as we have all tried to say, and as I have repeated it many times and some have quoted it in this conference, that “the greatest of the Lord’s work you brethren will ever do as fathers will be within the walls of your own home.” Don’t neglect your wives, you brethren. Don’t neglect your children. Take time for family home evening. Draw your children around about you. Teach them, guide them, and guard them. There was never a time when we needed so much the strength and the solidarity of the home. If we will do that, this church will grow by leaps and bounds in strength and influence throughout the world. No longer need you be considered as a hiss and byword. We should stand four-square for the things that are honorable, righteous, pure, virtuous, and true.
Brethren of the priesthood, we love you. We stand ready. As you pray for us, we will try to meet that high expectation, God being our helper. We realize the magnitude of the responsibility we bear, and except we can be assured of your faith and your loyalty, and your unquestioned one hundred percent keeping of the commandments of God, we cannot meet it.
I quoted in the opening session of this conference a wonderful letter that I received from a student body president who is greatly concerned about things going on on the campus and ‘round about in the society where he moves, and then his statement was, “I can assure you that every Latter-day Saint on this campus who is keeping the commandments of God one hundred percent is supporting and sustaining you.” Brethren, I know that that is true throughout this whole church. Every Latter-day Saint who is keeping the commandments is following the leadership of the Church. By that same token, if you find those who are not willing to follow the leadership of the Church, you may be sure it is a certainty that they are not keeping the commandments of God one hundred percent.
So it is a call to arms—arms to do what? To keep the commandments of God in order that we might lay claim to the blessings we need so much in this day of uncertainty, in this crazy mixed-up world, as some have spoken of it, and our youth have seemed to feel. In these new movements with our young people, our only hope is that by intensifying the responsibility of the priesthood with the youth organizations we can strengthen their hands and reach out to these young men and women who need so much the shepherding influence of the priesthood, for in so doing we feel sure we can help to raise up a righteous generation that will carry on the work throughout the ages that lie ahead of us.
I bear you my solemn witness, my beloved brethren, that these things that have been spoken tonight have been spoken under the inspiration of the Lord, and we give it to you for your pondering, for your prayerful consideration, suspending judgment, and not raising your voices in criticism, but carrying on the youth organizations as they now exist until these brethren have given you the full details of just what lies ahead; then you can begin to see the merits of what it is all about.
So I bear you that witness and leave you my blessing this night, and pray God’s blessings upon you, the priesthood of the Church, the strength of Zion, the backbone of the kingdom of God on earth. So I pray and leave you my blessing, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.