My brethren and sisters, we now bring to a conclusion the 155th Semiannual General Conference of the Church. We have enjoyed a rich and rewarding two days. We have been enlightened and blessed by those who have spoken to us. Our hearts have been lifted by the wonderful music to which we have listened. The prayers have been both inspired and inspiring.
All of us have appreciated the attendance of President Spencer W. Kimball in all four of the general sessions. Although he has not been able to speak to us, we have been able to look into his face, and that has been an inspiration. We know that he still stands as the prophet of the Lord in this day.
I pray that as we return to our homes, we may do so with stronger resolution to live the gospel and to teach our children by precept and example to do so. Nephi’s great words to his father, when he and his brothers were asked to go back to Jerusalem for the record of their forebears, are quoted frequently among us. They are familiar to all of you; nonetheless, I wish to repeat them, with the suggestion that each of us return to our homes with these words as a motto for the months ahead: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Ne. 3:7.)
In the last two days we have been reminded frequently of the commandments of the Lord. We have had set forth before us the counsel of his prophets. All of the counsel will have been in vain if those of us who have heard it do not have added resolution in our hearts to go forth now with a fortified spirit of obedience to the will of the Lord.
I know that frequently it is not easy to face up to that which is expected of us. Many think they cannot do it. We need a little more faith. We should know that the Lord will not give us commandments beyond our power to observe. He will not ask us to do things for which we lack the capacity. Our problem lies in our fears and in our appetites.
We shall soon be extending calls to sixty or more men to go out and preside over missions. We will give them more time than the Brethren gave mission presidents many years ago when they simply read their names in such conferences as this. Those with whom we will be speaking in the next two or three months will not be leaving until next July. We live in a very complex society, and we recognize that men need a period of time to get their affairs in order.
Over the past years it has been my responsibility to extend calls to scores of men, their wives, and their families to leave all behind and go into the mission field. Those with whom we shall speak in coming months will respond in the same way that those in the past have responded. They will, in effect, say, “Of course, I am ready to go whenever and wherever the Lord calls.”
They and their wives will gather their children around them. There will be tears as the children think of leaving their schools and their friends. The family will kneel together in prayer, and when they arise from their knees, although their eyes will be moist, they will say in unison, “We’ll go where you want us to go, dear Lord; we’ll do what you want us to do.” (See Hymns, 1985, no. 270.)
I confess that at times I feel reluctant to ask people to do things in the Church because I know they will respond without hesitation. And I know also that those responses will entail great sacrifice. But I know this also, in the case of mission presidents and their families, there will be more tears shed when they leave the mission field to return home than will be shed when they leave home to go into the field. It is so with temple presidents and with many others who are called by the Church to leave their homes to serve in the harvest field of the world.
In all of my experience I have never had anyone turn down such a call. There have been a few who, when I have inquired concerning their circumstances, we have felt that they should not go, at least at that time. But even in those cases a strange thing happens. Once a man has been talked with concerning such an assignment, even though a call was not extended, he never seems to get over it. Before long he is writing a letter or telephoning to say that he is ready to go.
Someone occasionally says that there was so much of sacrifice in the early days of the Church, but there is no sacrifice today. The observer goes on to say that in pioneer days people were willing to lay their fortunes and even their lives on the altar. “What has happened to the spirit of consecration?” some of these ask. I should like to say with great emphasis that this spirit is still very much among us. I have discovered that no sacrifice is too great for faithful Latter-day Saints.
Only a week ago a man was recommended for a responsibility in a distant land. After I had checked out his worthiness and his capacity, I called him and talked with him. I wanted to know about his circumstances. I asked when he would be due for retirement from his employment. He indicated in about five years. I asked what leaving now would do to his future retirement income. He told me that it would mean a very substantial cut in that income. After going into this and other matters, I felt to excuse him.
He called back the next morning to tell me that he and his wife had discussed it, and they were ready to leave any time. He said they would not worry about the future, that they had faith to believe that a way would be opened to them to take care of their needs if they were willing to do that which the Lord asked of them. He went on to say that the Lord had been so good and generous to them and to their children that they would be willing to do anything to show their gratitude. They did not have a great abundance of the things of the world, but they had enough for their basic needs; and more importantly, they had the gospel of Jesus Christ and all of the blessings that flow therefrom.
Now, my brothers and sisters, most of you will not be asked to make such sacrifices or to respond to such calls. But what you do with your lives as you live them from day to day is no less important.
Let us now return to our homes with determination to live the gospel more fully. There is nothing the Lord expects of us that we cannot do. His requirements are essentially so easy. For instance, He said concerning the Word of Wisdom that it is “a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.” (D&C 89:3.)
We can observe that Word of Wisdom. We receive numerous letters inquiring whether this item or that item is proscribed by the Word of Wisdom. If we will avoid those things which are definitely and specifically defined, and beyond this observe the spirit of that great revelation, it will not involve a burden. It will, rather, bring a blessing. Do not forget: it is the Lord who has made the promise.
We can pay our tithing. This is not so much a matter of money as it is a matter of faith. I have yet to find a faithful tithe payer who cannot testify that in a very literal and wonderful way the windows of heaven have been opened and blessings have been poured out upon him or her.
I urge you, my brethren and sisters, every one of you, to take the Lord at His word in this important matter. It is He who has given the commandment and made the promise. I go back to Nephi, who in that time of worry and concern said to his brothers: “Let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth.” (1 Ne. 4:1.)
It is not a burden to refrain from two meals a month and give the value thereof to assist in caring for the poor. It is, rather, a blessing. Not only will physical benefits flow from the observance of this principle, but spiritual values also. Our program of the fast day and the fast offering is so simple and so beautiful that I cannot understand why people everywhere do not take it up. Hearings have recently been held in the Congress of the United States on a proposal to recommend to the president a day of fasting to raise funds for the starving people of Africa. Our own experience last spring was so easy of execution and so tremendously productive that our consecrations have blessed thousands without causing any of us to suffer in the least.
We can attend our sacrament meetings, there to partake of the emblems of the sacrifice of our Savior. As we do so, we will renew our covenants and be reminded of sacred obligations falling upon those who have taken upon themselves the name of the Lord. In these meetings we will hear counsel for our blessing. We can share the association of wonderful neighbors and friends in the gospel, and what a priceless boon this can be.
We can read the scriptures, ponder their meaning, and develop familiarity with them for our everlasting blessing. We can do so in our family home evenings, and as we do there will grow within our children a love for the Lord and His holy word.
We can reach out to help one another as neighbors and associates, extending even beyond our own brothers and sisters in the Church, to assist any in trouble or want wherever they may be. There is so much of sorrow in the world. There is so much of loneliness and fear. There is so much of hate and bitterness, of man’s inhumanity to man.
Let us as Latter-day Saints cultivate a spirit of brotherhood in all of our associations. Let us be more charitable in our judgments, more sympathetic and understanding of those who err, more willing to forgive those who trespass against us. Let us not add to the measure of hatred that periodically sweeps across the world. Let us reach out in kindness to all men, even toward those who speak evil of us and who would, if they could, harm us.
In a word, let us more nearly live the gospel of the Master, whose name we have taken upon us. Let us move this work forward; let our lives be such as to be worthy of emulation.
As I conclude and as we close this conference, I think of the charge given by the dying King David to his son Solomon: “Be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man;
“And keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself:
“That the Lord may continue his word which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said he) a man on the throne of Israel.” (1 Kgs. 2:2–4.)
If we will so conduct ourselves as Latter-day Saints, this work will never fail nor even lag. It will move forward toward that destiny given it by Him whose name it bears. Our Father will smile with favor upon us, and we shall look to Him and live.
For these great blessings I humbly pray as I express unto you my appreciation, my love, and my gratitude, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.