My beloved brothers and sisters, it is customary for the President of the Church to open each conference, to greet the Saints worldwide, and to set the tone of all that follows. Since President Benson is unable to be with us in person, I respond to his invitation to speak in his behalf. For the most part, I will present his actual words.
Last Wednesday, President Hinckley and I had a most delightful visit with President Benson. He greeted us warmly, flashed that friendly smile all of us love, and made us feel most welcome. When President Hinckley outlined the plans for conference and asked the President if it was his wish that we go forward with the arrangements and extend his love to all, he responded with a resounding, “Yes!” We understand his concerns. We share his love, and we bring to you his blessings. This giant of the Lord merits our constant prayers and our abiding faith.
On Friday, March 26, Sister Monson and I attended and participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony formally opening a truly magnificent exhibit in the museum west of Temple Square. It is entitled “The Mountain of the Lord’s House” and depicts the fascinating forty-year saga required for the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. Where possible, I urge all of you to see the exhibit and feel the spirit it conveys. Tuesday, April 6, the Salt Lake Temple will have a birthday. One hundred years will have passed since that glorious day when it was dedicated.
While visiting the exhibit, a reporter asked me the question, “Would President Benson like this exhibit?”
I answered, “He would love it!”
President Benson has always loved temples and temple work. When he felt better, each Friday he and Sister Benson would enter the temple to participate in a session. We knew our First Presidency meeting that morning must accommodate this commitment. One morning I commented that I had to get busy and do some of my own family names that were prepared. With a smile and a twinkle in his eye, the President said, “Brother Monson, if you’re too busy, why not let Sister Benson and me do your names for you.” Needless to say, we found time to do the work ourselves.
President Benson’s own expressions indicate this love for temples. He reflected:
“I remember … as a … boy, coming in from the field and approaching the old farm home. … I could hear my mother singing, ‘Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?’ (Hymns, 1950, no. 58.) I can … see her in my mind’s eye bending over the ironing board … with beads of perspiration on her forehead.” She was ironing long strips of white cloth, with newspapers on the floor to keep them clean. “When I asked her what she was doing, she said, ‘These are temple robes, my son. Your father and I are going to the Logan Temple.’
“Then she put the old flatiron on the stove, drew a chair close to mine, and told me about temple work—how important it [was] to be able to go to the temple and participate in the sacred ordinances performed there. She also expressed her fervent hope that some day her children … grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have the opportunity to enjoy those priceless blessings.” He continued: “I am happy to say that her fondest hopes in large measure have been realized.” 1
On another occasion, President Benson instructed us: “Sometimes in the peace of lovely temples, the serious problems of life find their solutions. [At times] pure knowledge flows to us there under the influence of the Spirit.” Said he: “I am grateful to the Lord for temples. The blessings of the House of the Lord are eternal. They are of the highest importance to us because it is in the temples that we obtain God’s greatest blessings pertaining to eternal life. Temples really are the gateways to heaven.”
He said: “May we remember always, as we [visit and work in these glorious temples], that the veil may become very thin between this world and the spirit world. I know this is true.” He declared, “It is well also that we keep in mind that it is all one great program on both sides of the veil and it is not too important whether we serve here or over there, as long as we serve with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.” 2
President Benson, your words are welcomed. We have heard them. We shall follow them. They, like the temples you so much love, are as a refuge from life’s storms—even a never-failing beacon guiding us to safety.
I echo the feelings of one and all, President Benson, in saying we love you and ever pray for you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.