Beloved brethren and sisters, we are nearing the close of this semiannual conference which we have attended, and have enjoyed I hope.
Some few years ago we established a new policy. As the Church grew large, populous, and far-reaching, and realizing the cost of transportation from the far reaches of the earth to this conference, realizing the limitation on the facilities here even—for we had long since filled this building—we determined to take the conferences to the people.
And so the first was held in Manchester, England; the second was held in Mexico City, Mexico; the next year we went to Munich, Germany; last year we went to Stockholm, Sweden; and this year we have been to Sao Paulo, Brazil and to Buenos Aires, Argentina and the states in South America.
We have been highly gratified with the reception. We have taken a group of the General Authorities and we have held for the local people a conference somewhat similar to this one. We have sustained the authorities of the Church; we have given to them the benefits that they might have received had they come to this conference.
We expect to continue this program and to go to different parts of the world and take the messages and keep in close touch with the great numbers of people who are congregating in the far ends of the Church.
Recently we were in Brazil and then Argentina on successive weekends, and we came back with our hearts filled with gratitude at the attitudes and the spirits and the testimonies of those good people who came in large numbers, at some sacrifice, to those centers to hear the gospel from the leaders of the Church.
When we were in Sao Paulo, Brazil, we announced to those people that, subject to their willingness and their readiness to assist, we would build a holy temple in South America for all the South Americans at that time. Hopefully, in later years, other temples might be built for those who are farther away. The people received it with gratitude and great happiness, tears of joy and thankfulness.
They have been coming as they could accumulate the funds for that long trip to the United States. They have been coming two, four, and six at a time to receive their endowments in the holy temple and to be sealed to their companions and to their families, and so to realize that they could have a temple close to home was a great joy to them.
As we talked about financing it—and we always give the local people the privilege of contributing toward it but the body of the Church, of course, makes the larger contribution—they were anxious to do so. They were glad to pledge what they could toward building the temple.
I was handed a little note this morning from one of the brethren who has spent much time in Brazil, and he said, “It has been reported to me that over 140 Brazilian members had already booked passage to come to this conference and to go to the temple. After you made the announcement to build a temple in Brazil, 70 cancelled their passage and pledged the fare to the building of the temple.” It runs into tens and tens of thousands of dollars, as you would recognize.
We think that a wonderful demonstration. We are sad that they need to wait any longer for their temple privileges; but to the young people, time is not quite as crowding as it is to some of us older ones.
During this conference, you have heard many beautiful testimonies and sermons of great strength. We hope that the listening audience—which could run into the millions—may have been listening with pure hearts and receptive minds and that some of them may wish to join us in this great congregation now that is running into the millions.
We know that it is true. We testify that to all the world. We hope that they will set aside any prejudices they might have had, or misconceptions, and that they might come to the fold of Jesus Christ where it is pure and undefiled.
During this conference the Brethren have spoken upon many subjects; and, all in all, they have covered quite well the fundamentals of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As we sat in a press conference a few days ago, I was asked by the pressmen, “What situation exists in our society today which causes you the greatest concern?” We had already discussed the problem of growth, for we are growing so rapidly it is a little difficult to keep the leadership ahead of the people; but we are, thankfully, making headway.
As I thought quickly over this matter, I attempted to answer the question, and I recalled the time when the world leadership was based in Assyria and Babylonia. I remember the Old Testament story of Belshazzar—spoken of by President Romney in the priesthood meeting last night—the son and successor of the famous Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, being the last reigning king before the conquest of Cyrus the Great. We remembered the unholy thefts of Nebuchadnezzar, when he defiled the sacred temple of Solomon in Jerusalem and took from that temple many costly and precious serving items. I noted that Belshazzar the king made a great feast, with a thousand of his lords. He drank wine before the thousand and with the thousand. To feed a thousand persons at a banquet is a herculean effort.
Not satisfied with the theft of the golden and silver vessels which his father had taken from the holy temple, which had already been dedicated to the Lord for His purposes, Belshazzar took the stolen vessels and filled them with intoxicating liquor, and invited into his chambers, not only the thousand of his lords, but his princes, his wives, and his concubines. His guests ate and drank, probably gave toasts to the gods of gold, the gods of silver, the gods of brass, the gods of iron, the gods of wood, and the gods of stone. (See Dan. 5:1–4.)
I wondered if history were repeating itself, as I pondered and thought over the condition of our own world today and its permissiveness. In reading the media today I think I see some striking and frightening similarities in the two ages. I read of great feasts in many places, of many community leaders and social leaders and VIPs in large numbers. I read of the local lords and their wives and their mistresses. I read of their drinking and their drunkenness and their extravagances and their immoralities—their shame—and then I whisper to myself, “History is repeating itself.”
I weary of discussing too much the matter of the moral situation in our world. But I read in the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord said, “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation; keep my commandments and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments.” (D&C 6:9.)
Then he said, “And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
“Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.” (D&C 18:13–14.) As the early Saints were going into Missouri, the word of the Lord came to the leaders:
“Let them preach by the way, and bear testimony of the truth in all places, and call upon the rich, the high and the low, and the poor to repent.
“And let them build up churches, inasmuch as the inhabitants of the earth will repent.” (D&C 58:47–48.)
And so today, I think, I fear, it is the day of repentance—a day for people to take stock of their situations and to change their lives where that is necessary.
The commandment came to the leaders in this day as it came direct from the Lord to Simon Peter in the days of old: “Wherefore, I give unto you a commandment that ye go among this people, and say unto them, like unto mine apostle of old, whose name was Peter.” (D&C 49:11.) I find that Peter the apostle constantly called upon the people to cleanse their lives and repent from their transgressions.
“Dearly beloved,” he said, “I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
“Having your conversation [or your conduct] honest among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Pet. 2:11–12.)
I read of the common practice of the associations of men and women not marriage partners; and they are claiming long and loudly that marriage is no longer necessary. And apparently almost without shame do they live together in a sexual partnership without marriage. Has God changed his laws? Or has puny, irresponsible, presumptuous man dared to change the laws of God? Was sin yesterday? Did the devil reign in the hearts of men only in the far-away past?
Abraham knew that the cities of the plains—Sodom and Gomorrah and other places—were wicked cities, housing wicked, godless people, saying with Cain, “Who is the Lord that I should know him?” (Moses 5:16.) He was aware that destruction of those cities was imminent; but in his compassion for his fellowman, he begged and pleaded with the Lord, “Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city,” will you spare the others of the city? (See Gen. 18:24.) That pleading being granted, came Abraham again and prayed that the cities would be saved if 45 were found, or 40 or 30 or 20 or down to ten, but apparently there could not be found even ten, in those vicious cities, who were righteous. (See Gen. 18:24–32.)
The evil continued. The sin was too well entrenched. They had laughed and joked about a destruction. The transgressions for which Sodom had apparently been renowned continued on. In fact, the people wanted to take advantage of the pure angel men they had seen come into the city. The vicious men pressed and would have broken down the doors to get to them. (See Gen. 19:4–11.)
Everything was done that could be done by Abraham to save the city, but it had become so depraved and wanton that to save it was impossible.
“Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven;
“And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.” (Gen. 19:24–25.)
Again we see history repeating itself. When we see the pornography, the adulterous practices, homosexuality gone rampant, the looseness and permissiveness of an apparently increasing proportion of the people, we say the days of Satan have returned and history seems to repeat itself.
When we see the depravity of numerous people of our own society in their determination to force upon people vulgar presentations, filthy communications, unnatural practices, we wonder, has Satan reached forth with his wicked, evil hand to pull into his forces the people of this earth? Do we not have enough good people left to stamp out the evil which threatens our world? Why do we continue to compromise with evil and why do we continue to tolerate sin?
Recently I came across a statement of the Presidency of the Church in another day, about six presidents ago, and I should like to have read many of the lines from that statement, for it brings to our mind that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the commandments that he gave to the early prophets in other millennia and to the prophets in the day of the Savior, and to prophets of this day, bring to our minds fully and conclusively that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
We do not believe in situation-itis; we do not go with the people who think that this is a different age, this is a different time, these people are more enlightened, that was for the old times. Always the Lord will hold to his statements that he has given through the ages, and he will expect men to respect themselves, to respect their wives, and the wives to respect their husbands, and to respect their families, and to live righteously, as he has repeated thousands of times through the ages.
And so as I talked to the press, that thought came to my mind. What can we do that we are not doing? How far can we go? What changes can we make that will guarantee righteousness in this world? Because if we do not, it looks as if destruction could come, as it came to the Babylonians or as it came in a little different way to Sodom and Gomorrah and other cities.
So we feel very strongly about this; and that is why we continue to preach about it; why we caution our children and teach them; why we caution our youth; why we caution our married folks to let marriage be a beautiful, sanctified situation.
Now, my brothers and sisters, as we close this conference, we hope you return to your homes with new spirituality to a greater degree, that you will take to your families, to your friends, to your wards and stakes and branches the testimonies that you have received and the good feelings that have come into your hearts as you have listened to the Brethren as they spoke and bore witness.
I want to close with my testimony. I know that God lives. I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that he loves. I know that he inspires. I know that he guides us. And I know that he loves us. I know that he can love or he can feel greatly aggrieved when he sees us getting off the path which he has marked so plainly and made so straight.
And I bear this witness to you in the name of Jesus Christ, our Master. Amen.