It is a great joy to greet the priesthood of the Church this glorious night. All over the world we gather to worship the Lord and give him praise.
My brothers in the priesthood, it was a great thrill recently to have tens of thousands of the sisters of the Church assemble in hundreds of places around the world in a special meeting for the women of the Church. You will have had your own reports from your wives and sisters, mothers, and daughters about the meeting. We feel gratified that we were able to hold the meeting and that technology made it possible. We love the women of the Church! We have great respect for them.
In following up on that event, I want to counsel you as sons, brothers, fathers, and husbands. As you serve with the women of the Church, follow what Paul said when he urged Timothy to “intreat … the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1–2). We men of the priesthood ought to so do. We must be different than other men, and I am sure most priesthood holders are. Paul’s suggestion that we treat older women as if they were our mothers and younger women as if they were our sisters and to do so with “all purity” is excellent instruction. Men of the world may disregard women or see them only as objects of desire or as someone to be used for selfish purposes. Let us, however, be different in our conduct and in our relationships with women.
Peter urged us to give honor unto our wives. (See 1 Pet. 3:7.) It seems to me we should be even more courteous to our wives and mothers, our sisters and our daughters, than we are to others. When Paul said that a man who did not provide for his own and those of his own household was “worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8), I like to think of providing for our own as including providing them with affectional security as well as economic security. When the Lord told us in this dispensation that “women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance” (D&C 83:2), I like to think of maintenance as including our obligation to maintain loving affection and to provide consideration and thoughtfulness as well as food.
President Lee once observed that the “needy” around us may need friendship and fellowship as well as food. I sometimes think our own Latter-day Saint women are “needy” just because some of us are not as thoughtful and considerate of them as we should be. Our pantries can be filled with food and yet our sisters can be starved for affection and recognition.
Let us, brethren, support the sisters of our household in their Church callings as they so wonderfully support us. Let us not neglect them simply because they sometimes go on being good even when they are neglected.
Let our homes be filled with praise and commendation for all those of our household. Let us also, brethren, not get so concerned with our priesthood peers, those men we are associated with in our church assignments, that we neglect our eternal companions, for our association with our wives will be forever.
Our Father in Heaven was gracious enough to give to us for our pleasure and convenience all life on earth. Let me read to you from his personal statement:
“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
“And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Gen. 1:20, 29–31.)
I read at the priesthood meeting at the last conference the words to the verse of the song years ago, “Don’t Kill the Little Birds,” with which I was familiar when I was a child growing up in Arizona. I found many young boys around my age who, with their flippers and their slings, destroyed many birds.
In Primary and Sunday School we sang the song:
As I was talking to the young men at that time all over the world, I felt that I should say something more along this line.
I suppose in every country in the world there are beautiful little birds with their beautiful plumage and their attractive songs.
I remember that my predecessor, President Joseph Fielding Smith, was a protector of these feathered and other wild life creatures.
While President Smith at one time was in the Wasatch Mountain Area, he befriended the creatures from the hill and forest. He composed four little verses as follows, and opposite each he drew a little picture. Of the mountain squirrel first, he wrote:
And then the bat was next:
Then he came to the deer:
And then the birds:
Now, I also would like to add some of my feelings concerning the unnecessary shedding of blood and destruction of life. I think that every soul should be impressed by the sentiments that have been expressed here by the prophets.
And not less with reference to the killing of innocent birds is the wildlife of our country that live upon the vermin that are indeed enemies to the farmer and to mankind. It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is a shame, in my opinion. I think that this principle should extend not only to the bird life but to the life of all animals. For that purpose I read the scripture where the Lord gave us all the animals. Seemingly, he thought it was important that all these animals be on the earth for our use and encouragement.
President Joseph F. Smith said, “When I visited, a few years ago, the Yellowstone National Park, and saw in the streams and the beautiful lakes, birds swimming quite fearless of man, allowing passers-by to approach them as closely almost as tame birds, and apprehending no fear of them, and when I saw droves of beautiful deer [feeding] along the side of the road, as fearless of the presence of men as any domestic animal, it filled my heart with a degree of peace and joy that seemed to be almost a foretaste of that period hoped for when there shall be none to hurt and none to molest in all the land, especially among all the inhabitants of Zion. These same birds, if they were to visit other regions, inhabited by man, would, on account of their tameness, doubtless become more easily a prey to the gunner. The same may be said of those beautiful creatures—the deer and the antelope. If they should wander out of the park, beyond the protection that is established there for these animals, they would become, of course, an easy prey to those who were seeking their lives. I never could see why a man should be imbued with a blood-thirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life. I have known men—and they still exist among us—who enjoy what is, to them, the ‘sport’ of hunting birds and slaying them by the hundreds, and who will come in after a day’s sport, boasting of how many harmless birds they have had the skill to slaughter, and day after day, during the season when it is lawful for men to hunt and kill (the birds having had a season of protection and not apprehending danger) go out by scores or hundreds, and you may hear their guns early in the morning on the day of the opening, as if great armies had met in battle; and the terrible work of slaughtering the innocent birds goes on.
“I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food, and then he should not kill innocent little birds that are not intended for food for man. I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood.” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939, pp. 265–66.)
One of the poets stated in this connection:
—and I might add there also, because God gave it to them, and they were to be used only, as I understand, for food and to supply the needs of men.
It is quite a different matter when a pioneer crossing the plains would kill a buffalo to bring food to his children and his family. There were also those vicious men who would kill buffalo only for their tongues and skins, permitting the life to be sacrificed and the food also to be wasted.
When asked how he governed so many people, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”
We look to the Prophet Joseph Smith for proper teaching. He said once: “We crossed the Embarras river and encamped on a small branch of the same about one mile west. In pitching my tent we found three massasaugas or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, ‘Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.’ The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger.” (History of the Church, 2:71–72.)
Now, my brethren young and old, there is another matter I wish to mention. I wish to read for you a verse for your serious thought. The verse is called “Keeping Clean” and is in somewhat the same area as the other Brethren have talked about.
Brethren, let us think about these things. Ponder them in your heart. Live worthily, keep the commandments, honor your priesthood and the Lord will love and bless you; and as his servant, I leave my love and blessing with you.
I want to mention one other matter before closing, and that is, we’ve been talking about the great missionary program which Brother LeGrand Richards mentioned in the first of the meeting. We now have some 26,606 missionaries. Every week the number is increasing.
There are many nations where we have not been able to get in, to get visas, or get passports; and it is very important. If we are to fulfill the responsibility given to us by the Lord on the Mount of Olives to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, then we will need to open the doors to these nations. I mentioned this the other day to the brethren in the Regional Representatives meeting. We’ve hardly scratched the surface. We need far more missionaries, and we need more countries that will think of us as being their friends and will give us an opportunity to come into their nations and give to their people the finest thing in the world—the gospel of Christ—which can be their salvation and their great happiness.
I’m hoping that every man and boy listening to me this night will make it a solemn practice in regular life to pray constantly for this great blessing to bless the brethren who are making a special effort to reach the leaders of these nations and to convince them that we have only good for their people. We will make them good citizens, we will make them good souls, and we will make them happy and joyous.
I hope that every family will hold home evening every Monday night without fail. Missionary work will be one of the strong points that will be brought before it; and the father and the mother and the children in their turns will offer prayers which will be centered around this very important element—that the doors of the nations might be opened to us and then, secondly, that the missionaries, the young men and women of the Church, may be anxious to fill those missions and bring people into the Church.
In China we have nine-hundred million people. Yesterday about fifty Chinese Saints came in to see me. I took them through the Church offices and told them about our programs, and then I said to them, “We have been talking about China today.” (That was the day of the Regional Representatives meeting.) “We’ve learned of that people’s good qualities and that the Spirit of the Lord seems to be brooding over them, to bring the possibility of the gospel to them.” I asked all of those Chinese people who were here at conference, “Will you guarantee that in all your home evenings and in all your family prayers and in all your public prayers you will mention this to the Lord? Now, I know he can do it without our help; but I think he would want to know that we were interested in it and that we would appreciate it greatly.”
So I’m hoping that, beginning now, the prayers of the Saints will be greatly increased from what they have been in the past, that we will never think of praying except we pray for the Lord to establish his program and make it possible that we can carry the gospel to his people as he has commanded. It is my deep interest and great prayer to you that this will be accomplished.
And now in closing, I wish to express appreciation for all that has been said by these beloved brethren who have spoken. I bear my testimony to the truth of the gospel and to the greatness of it, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.