I’m honored to be here, to be part of this great conference. I’m glad that the First Presidency saw fit to have me back on the program. As we get older we have some limitations. I understand mine, and sometimes we can learn to sort of plow around them. If our vision starts getting a little weaker, I’ve found that we can compensate by doing other things and plowing around that little weakness and maybe strengthening some others. But out of all of that, I want you to know of my love for the gospel and for my knowledge of its truthfulness.
We were singing a great song as the intermediate hymn, “Now Let Us Rejoice,” written by W. W. Phelps (Hymns, no. 3). That was written following an incident in Independence, Missouri, where Brother Phelps was the editor of a little newspaper. He had a printing press, and the people who were unfriendly toward the Church decided to do away with it, and the mob broke in and burned the building and destroyed the printing press. They burned some 200 homes of the Saints in showing their displeasure over the people following this movement. In that despair W. W. Phelps wrote those words, “Now let us rejoice in the day of salvation. No longer as strangers on earth need we roam,” bringing hope to the people and encouragement. With hope that those things will happen in our lives, we move on because of the truthfulness of what we are attempting to do.
I want all of you to know that I know that the work that we do is the gospel of our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, as taught by Him when He was upon the earth, when He called Apostles and the disciples followed Him and He carried on His ministry in teaching them. I’ve often reflected upon the experience of when John and Andrew, these two young men, were introduced to the Savior by John the Baptist and they followed the Savior and stayed with Him that day, as it is recorded by John (see John 1:39). They were in His presence. They would have shaken hands with Him. They would have known the inflection in His voice. They would have heard Him testify who He is, that He came to do the will of the Father. They would have been in that holy presence. After having that experience, Andrew had to share it with somebody, so he found his brother Simon and took him to Jesus. Because of that feeling that Andrew had in his heart—that he had to share what he knew and what he felt and what he had seen—he shared it with his own brother as he brought him to the Savior. The holiness and personal influence of the Savior made an ordinary Simon into an extraordinary Apostle. (See John 1:35–42.)
I have been impressed with all of the prophets since the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith—he who by revelation received the message, the visit from God the Father and His Son, as Brother Aldin Porter has explained to us in detail this morning. I know that in order to usher in this work, that visitation took place, giving the Prophet Joseph Smith the vision and the determination and the ability to withstand all that he did in order to help bring about the Restoration. Heavenly messengers and revelations came to the Prophet Joseph Smith to help usher in this great work, which we declare to all the world and that I know to be true. I know that the prophets who have followed since the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith were all called of God.
It is always thrilling to me to read more of the lives of those wonderful men. One of those I would like to mention this morning was President David O. McKay, who came into my life as the first prophet to teach and influence me personally.
I was called to be a stake president in California just before President McKay was sustained in a solemn assembly as the President of the Church and as our prophet. My wife, Ruby, and I drove to Salt Lake to be in attendance at that conference. I felt of that spirit, of that leadership, and of the direction that President McKay gave to the Church at that time. Later on I invited him to come to California to dedicate a Church building that we had just finished. That was in the days when we would raise half the money to buy the land and half the money to pay for a building, not like it is today, but where we felt a real ownership in the Church property and in buildings. President McKay came as a result of my invitation, which surprised me. We met him at the train and were pleased to have him in our home. That gave me a new vision of the magnitude and the breadth and the importance of the mission that we have here upon the earth to fulfill.
Later President Spencer W. Kimball became a great influence in my life. I am mentioning only a few Church Presidents because of the shortness of time here this morning. How President Kimball taught us! In his wonderful manner, he taught from the scriptures and discussed principles and policy and doctrine in a way that would help lift our hearts and souls. He told a story of a young soldier who had gone into the army. He had written a letter home to his parents saying that he had been at the shooting range learning how to handle a rifle and that he had been taught how to handle a hand grenade. In writing home, this young man said, “In learning how to handle a hand grenade, we were throwing duds, ones that weren’t real.” Then he said, “When we were throwing duds, I was able to get 35 feet away, but today they gave us the real thing and I got 80 feet away.” President Kimball could touch our lives in a way that helped us see and understand things to be done.
I want to remind you that six months ago, following conference on Sunday, we went home to listen to a television program. We were concerned for President Gordon B. Hinckley. (I had the privilege and the honor to watch him for a number of years before he became our prophet and leader. I watched the careful way that he carried on the affairs of the Church that had been his while he was a counselor to three Presidents.) President Hinckley was to appear on a nationwide television program, and we wondered how it would come across. We knew of the importance of it and what it would mean to us. We knew of the work and the hours of prayer and meditation and study that our prophet and leader had done in being prepared for this exposure which would reach, according to the information we have received, some 35 million people. You will remember, as I remember now, the anticipation and the wonderment of how this would come across.
After that program was over, my heart was beating fast, and I felt it would burst. I was filled with joy and thanksgiving to the Lord for the way our prophet and our leader had handled the interrogation by one who had a reputation of attempting to ask questions that might be difficult to handle. What a joy it was for us to witness how our prophet and our leader had been blessed and magnified! As I watched his face on the television, and I’m sure you would have had the same reaction, I realized that a vast number of people were seeing what a prophet of God looked like: a kind, good, and handsome man, clean and intelligent. You could see the outstanding character, the personality of our prophet and leader, who would be exposed to that vast audience of people. And then when the interrogator asked President Hinckley, “Do you really believe that story that heavenly beings appeared to that young boy in that grove of trees? Do you really believe that to be true?” And here our prophet just instantly said, “Of course I do. Isn’t it great?”
Those words have been ringing through my ears ever since that happened. “Of course I do. Isn’t it great?” He made that pronouncement with such confidence and with that wonderful personality he has, declaring it to all of the world. We want President Hinckley to know that since that time, missionary activity in the United States in the area where people who heard that program reside has picked up, and member activity has picked up too. More people have become interested in the Church because they have seen a living prophet in the flesh stand before that immense audience and declare to the world, “Of course I do. Isn’t is great?” We would hope and pray that the missionaries throughout the world would have that same feeling and that same understanding and that same determination—to want to so declare this message of hope and salvation and eternal life to all the world.
I thank the Lord every day for the health and determination I have to make the best use of every hour I have upon the earth to help in the spreading of this work. I leave you my love, my witness, and my own deep knowledge and conviction that it is true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.