Truly a royal priesthood has assembled tonight. The Tabernacle on Temple Square is filled to overflowing, and the Assembly Hall is occupied, as are chapels throughout many countries in the world. In all likelihood this is the largest assemblage of priesthood holders ever to come together. Your devotion to your sacred callings is inspiring. Your desire to learn your duty is evident. The purity of your souls brings heaven closer to you and your families.
These are difficult economic times. Cutbacks in industry, layoffs on a substantial scale, and the resultant dislocation of families become a serious challenge. We must make certain that those for whom we share responsibilities do not go hungry or unclothed or unsheltered. When the priesthood of this church work together as one in meeting these vexing conditions, near miracles take place.
We urge all Latter-day Saints to be prudent in their planning, to be conservative in their living, and to avoid excessive or unnecessary debt. The financial affairs of the Church are being managed in this manner, for we are aware that your tithing and other contributions have not come without sacrifice and are sacred funds.
Let us make of our homes sanctuaries of righteousness, places of prayer, and abodes of love, that we might merit the blessings that can come only from our Heavenly Father. We need His guidance in our daily lives.
In this vast throng is priesthood power and the capacity to reach out and share the glorious gospel with others. We have the hands to lift others from complacency and inactivity. We have the hearts to serve faithfully in our priesthood callings and thereby inspire others to walk on higher ground and to avoid the swamps of sin which threaten to engulf so many. The worth of souls is indeed great in the sight of God. Ours is the precious privilege, armed with this knowledge, to make a difference in the lives of others. The words found in Ezekiel could well pertain to all of us who follow the Savior in this sacred work:
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. …
“And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
“And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezek. 36:26–28.)
How might we merit this promise? What will qualify us to receive this blessing? Is there a guide to follow? May I suggest three imperatives for our consideration? They apply to the deacon as well as the high priest. They are within our reach. A kind Heavenly Father will help us in our quest.
First: Learn what we should learn!
Second: Do what we should do!
Third: Be what we should be!
Let us in some detail discuss these objectives, that we might be profitable servants in the sight of our Lord.
Learn what we should learn. The Apostle Paul placed an urgency on our efforts to learn. He said to the Philippians, “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philip. 3:13–14.) And to the Hebrews he urged, “Lay aside … sin …, and let us run with patience the race … set before us, Looking [for an example] unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Heb. 12:1–2.)
Do what we should do. In a revelation on priesthood, given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, recorded as the 107th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, “learning” moves to “doing” as we read, “Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.” (D&C 107:99.)
Be what we should be. Paul counseled his beloved friend and associate Timothy, “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12.)
Learn what we should learn. Do what we should do. Be what we should be. By so doing, the blessings of heaven will attend. We will know that we do not serve alone. He who notes the sparrow’s fall will, in His own way, acknowledge our service.
Let me share with you, brethren, a touching experience that illustrates this assurance.
Brother Edwin Q. Cannon, Jr., was a missionary to Germany in 1938, where he loved the people and served faithfully. At the conclusion of his mission, he returned home to Salt Lake City. He married and commenced his own business.
Forty years passed by. One day Brother Cannon came to my office and said he had been pruning his missionary slides. Among those slides he had kept since his mission were several which he could not specifically identify. Every time he had planned to discard those few slides, he had been impressed to keep them, although he was at a loss as to why. They were photographs taken by Brother Cannon during his mission when he served in Stettin, Germany, and were of a family—a mother, a father, a small girl, a small boy. Brother Cannon knew their surname was Berndt but could remember nothing more about them. He indicated that he understood there was a Berndt who was a Regional Representative in Germany, and he thought, although the possibility was remote, that this Berndt might have some connection with the Berndts who had lived in Stettin and who were depicted in the photographs. Before disposing of the slides, he thought he would check with me.
I told Brother Cannon I was leaving shortly for Berlin, where I anticipated that I would see Dieter Berndt, the Regional Representative, and that I would show the slides to him to see if there were any relationship and if he wanted them. There was a possibility I would also see Brother Berndt’s sister, who was married to Dietmar Matern, a stake president in Hamburg.
The Lord didn’t even let me get to Berlin before His purposes were accomplished. I was in Zurich, Switzerland, boarding the flight to Berlin, when who should also board the plane but Dieter Berndt. He sat next to me, and I told him I had some old slides of people named Berndt from Stettin. I handed them to him and asked if he could identify those shown in the photographs. As he looked at them carefully he began to weep. He said, “Our family lived in Stettin during the war. My father was killed when an Allied bomb struck the plant where he worked. Not long afterward, the Russians invaded Poland and the area of Stettin. My mother took my sister and me and fled from the advancing enemy. Everything had to be left behind, including any photographs we had. Brother Monson, I am the little boy pictured in these slides, and my sister is the little girl. The man and the woman are our dear parents. Until today, I have had no photographs of our childhood in Stettin or of my father.”
Wiping away my own tears, I told Brother Berndt the slides were his. He placed them carefully and lovingly in his briefcase.
At the next general conference, when Dieter Berndt, Regional Representative, visited Salt Lake City, he paid a visit to Brother and Sister Edwin Cannon, Jr., that he might express in person his own gratitude for the inspiration that came to Brother Cannon to retain these precious slides and that he followed that inspiration in keeping them for forty years.
William Cowper penned the lines:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm. …
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
I leave with you my testimony that this work in which we are engaged is true. The Lord is at the helm. May we ever follow Him, is my sincere prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.