Brethren, I am honored and humbled to share this historic podium with others of the General Authorities, particularly the fifteen prophets, seers, and revelators seated behind me, whom I love and revere. I bear witness that these mighty men of God, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, have been prepared, refined, tested, and called to preside over and to give direction to this expansive priesthood labor.
There is a sign prominently displayed in a shopping mall in Manila, the Philippines, that reads, “Your ‘I will’ is more important than your ‘IQ.’” As I ponder the meaning of that short phrase, there comes to mind the chorus of the great Primary song based on 1 Ne. 3:7: “I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands. I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey” (“Nephi’s Courage,” Children’s Songbook, pp. 120–121). I also find myself humming and whistling the refrain from the celebrated hymn of the Restoration: “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord, … I’ll say what you want me to say, … I’ll be what you want me to be” (“I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Hymns, 1985, no. 270).
Far too many who have been blessed with great ability and exceptional intellect fail to have an “I will” attitude when it comes to going, doing, saying, and being what the Lord commands.
I will go, I will do, I will say, I will be all convey determined obedience. Our third article of faith states, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” Certainly the most magnificent act of obedience was accomplished in Gethsemane. You may recall the heartfelt plea of the Savior: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
For us who bear the priesthood of God, there are many important “I wills”: I will be loyal to the oath and covenant of the priesthood; I will be responsive to my quorum president; I will exhibit perfect fidelity to the covenants made in holy places; and, I will serve with excellence in my Aaronic Priesthood ministry, preparing myself for further priesthood service. Possibly the most significant “I will” we all could commit to this night is I will follow the living prophets.
Brigham Young said, “You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God, and sink yourselves to hell” (in Conference Report, May 1963, p. 81). Elder John A. Widtsoe said: “The most important prophet in any age is the living prophet. … To follow the living prophet, the interpreter of the past, is the essence of wisdom. The very strength of the Church lies in the doctrine of continuous revelation through a living prophet” (Evidences and Reconciliations, 3 vols. in 1, arr. G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960, p. 352).
President Wilford Woodruff recalled a meeting at which the Prophet Joseph Smith said to Brigham Young, “Brother Brigham I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the written oracles and the written word of God.” Brigham Young is reported to have laid the scriptures, one by one, before him and then indicated he felt the words of the living prophet were more important than the writings before him because the words of the living oracles convey the word of God to us in our day. President Woodruff went on to say, “When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: ‘Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1897, pp. 22–23).
How are we doing in obeying the living prophets? Do you recall their counsel just six months ago in the last general priesthood meeting? For example, do you remember President Faust saying, “There is no greater responsibility than that of being a husband and a father, from which there is no release. … ‘Love thy wife with all thy heart, and … cleave unto her and none else’ [D&C 42:22]”? (In Conference Report, Apr. 1995, p. 63.)
Can you remember President Monson’s fervent request, “Brethren of the priesthood, the world is in need of your help. There are feet to steady, hands to grasp, minds to encourage, hearts to inspire, and souls to save. … Yours is the privilege to be not spectators but participants on the stage of priesthood service”? (In Conference Report, Apr. 1995, p. 67.)
Young men, oh I hope the magnificent counsel of President Hinckley continues to ring in your ears: “You cannot indulge in any unbecoming behavior without injury to the beauty of the fabric of your lives. Immoral acts of any kind will introduce an ugly thread. Dishonesty of any kind will create a blemish. Foul and profane language will rob the pattern of its beauty” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, p. 73).
Young men who hold the priesthood of Aaron, may I offer an “I will” for your serious consideration? It is I will become very well acquainted with the noble prophet Nephi through studying, pondering, and feasting upon the first two books of the Book of Mormon. My young friends, I promise that when you come to really know Nephi, you will be so impressed with his determination, courage, and desire to be obedient to the “things the Lord commands” that you will have a strong desire to incorporate his attributes into your own lives. Then when you are tempted by the adversary, as you may be nearly every day, to deviate from the counsel of the prophets, the wishes of your parents, or what “the Lord commands,” you can immediately have the words of stalwart Nephi automatically come to your mind: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” (1 Ne. 3:7). And when someone with whom you associate suggests you participate in something that is not as “the Lord commands,” you can think of the courageous plea Nephi made to his elder brothers: “Let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord” (1 Ne. 3:16).
I am aware of a group of courageous young men who followed the example of Nephi. After winning a baseball state championship for their age group, their team, made up mostly of Aaronic Priesthood holders, was invited to represent their state in a tournament to be held in a distant location. Upon arriving at the tournament site, they learned that some of the games were scheduled to be played on the Sabbath day. Each of these young men had to make a difficult personal decision: would he support the team, including several nonmember team members; or if scheduled on Sunday, would he follow what “the Lord commands” in keeping the Sabbath day holy? Their honoring the Sabbath day could mean the team would forfeit their chances of winning the tournament. One by one they quietly approached the coaches, and following the example of Nephi they independently chose to decline participation on the Sabbath day. As it turned out, when Sunday arrived the team’s record, coupled with adverse weather conditions, interrupted the schedule. I have had occasion to closely follow these young men over the years. They have continued to pattern their lives after the sterling example of Nephi. They have gone on missions, and they continue to strive to do and say what the Lord has commanded.
A few weeks ago I, like perhaps many of you, witnessed on television a long-standing baseball record broken. A record once thought unbreakable. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched this fine athlete who broke the record stand on the field with his family and receive accolades of the public and his team. Although I am impressed with this young man’s ability to hit and field a baseball, I am far more impressed with the attributes he displayed in achieving that feat. He demonstrated great perseverance, constancy, sacrifice, courage, and determination in reaching his goal. These are some of the attributes we need to help us be successful in going, doing, and saying as “the Lord commands.”
You adult brethren, may I suggest an “I will” for us which has been repeatedly emphasized by modern prophets? It is of critical importance in today’s world, where the influence of the adversary is intensifying and the foundation of our society, the family, is disintegrating. It is I will resolve that the leadership of my family will be my most important and sacred responsibility; and I will not leave the teaching and governance of my family to society, to the school, or to the Church. We are reminded in the Doctrine and Covenants that fathers and mothers are held accountable by the Lord to teach their children about faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and the need to pray and walk uprightly before the Lord (see D&C 68:25, 28).
Perhaps you have heard some say, “I am so busy with living and providing that I have little time to devote to my family, but I make an effort to see that my limited time is quality time.” Brethren, this type of rationalization is severely flawed. Effective family leadership requires both quantity and quality time.
When I was called to be bishop of our ward, our young four-year-old son inquired of me, “Are you the guy they give those envelopes of money to?” I answered, “Yes, I am the one,” realizing that we needed a little lesson on tithing. Brandon clapped his hands and exclaimed, “Oh goody, we’re going to be rich!” We later learned he was thinking that Dad no longer would have to work and would therefore have lots more time for him!
If giving your family quantity time means focusing less on providing the “wants” in life or putting aside nonfamily involvement with fishing poles, golf clubs, boats, trips, and so on, those things should be done immediately. Brethren, we need desperately to recommit to this extremely important “I will.” May we never be too busy to do the things that matter most: to preside in righteousness in our homes and follow, unconditionally, the counsel of living prophets.
Brethren, I pray we may often recall, and perhaps even hum and sing, that simple but infectious Primary song, “I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands. I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.” May we focus and align our “I wills” with his will. I testify that the Lord wants us to obey the living prophets. I further testify that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ lives. He is our Savior and our Redeemer. He has, upon the principles of our repentance, atoned for our sins. I testify that this is so, in the holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.