When President Thomas S. Monson asked those new members of the Seventy and the Young Women general presidency to come up and take their places on the stand, I remembered vividly April 1970, when I was called to be an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve—which was a surprise to me. I’d only known about it for just a few hours. As I was invited to sit in one of the red chairs in the old Tabernacle, the choir started to sing “O Divine Redeemer.” As I listened to that pleading song with that wonderful melody, I silently asked the Savior to accept me as I am and remember not my failures, my shortcomings, and my sins (see Ps. 25:7). What a wonderful day that was! That flashed through my mind as President Monson made that invitation today.
I’m honored to be here this afternoon to spend a few moments with all of you and bear to you my witness and my testimony and my feelings regarding this wonderful work.
I told Elder Neal A. Maxwell I would come up here without my cane. He had it ready for me, but I said, “No, I can get by without it. I’ll show you I have the faith that it will happen.” As I get older and as the years roll on, I’m honored to have this opportunity and to have the ability and the desire to stand and witness to you of the blessings of the gospel that have come into my life during these past many years. I don’t know if I’m the oldest one in this great hall today, but I am now in my 97th year. When it was announced this morning that this is the 172nd semiannual conference of the Church, I thought some people in their younger years could look upon 172 as a long, long time. I would remind you of the 100th anniversary of the Church. At that time, Ruby and I were married. It was 1930. This is the 172nd anniversary of the Church, and we have been married 72 years. I’m only mentioning that to you so you mathematicians can remember 172; it comes pretty easily.
I wish at this time to pay tribute and express gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the blessings I’ve received all the years of my life—for having been born of goodly parents and raised in a goodly home. And as we have moved around the country in all of the activities we have been involved in, I’m grateful to have been associated with good people. Good people influence your life and help in molding your own personality and character and help you to mingle out in society and live the way that you should live. They help you carry on worthwhile enterprises, and they lift you onto a higher plane. And so I’m grateful to my Heavenly Father for the blessings that I have had. I bear witness of Him, that I know that He is our Father and that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Creator, and the Savior of all of mankind. I am grateful for that majestic role He has played in the Creation and the establishing of the gospel on the earth and for the opportunity that brings to mankind, if they will listen, to hear and to understand and to have the blessings of heaven if they merit them and to live in such a way that the gospel becomes a great part of their life.
I have gratitude for my ancestors who joined the Church back in the early days of the Church, who moved from upstate New York to join with the Saints in Nauvoo and became involved with the Nauvoo Temple and then with the exodus into the West. For all of these blessings, I’m grateful on this day, as I pronounce them to you.
I must mention President Gordon B. Hinckley. He gave an outstanding talk this morning—giving us an overview of the recent years but particularly an overview of the events of Nauvoo and of the rebuilding of that majestic temple. All that has taken place there has been a blessing to the world and to mankind.
I want President Hinckley to know that I have watched carefully since he was called to be an additional counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball and as he has assumed his role in the First Presidency. How he has grown and matured and been inspired and directed in carrying out the activities that we have been a witness to! Many of us have played some small role in the vision that he had of the growth that has happened in the Church recently, including the building of the temples, where we now have 114 operating. All of these things have been the result of the inspired direction of President Hinckley. Bless his heart for what he has done in helping the Church to expand and our image to grow and improve throughout the world. We’re so grateful for what he has done, for the stature that we have today in the Church, and for his leadership.
As recorded in Luke, one day the Savior entered a village where there were 10 lepers. Now, those of us who have grown up in the last few years know very little about lepers. Leprosy was a terrible, dreaded disease anciently. These 10 lepers came to the Savior and said, “Master, have mercy upon us; have mercy upon us who have that terrible ailment of leprosy.” And He said to the 10 lepers, “Go visit your priest, and he will take care of you”—which they did. They went to see their priests, and they were cleansed, all 10 of them. A short time later, one of them returned to the Savior and fell on his face and his hands and his knees, thanking the Savior for blessing him and making him well from that terrible disease. And the Savior said to that one man: “Weren’t there 10? What has happened to the other nine? Where are they?” (See Luke 17:11–19.)
As I’ve read that story again and again, it’s made a great impression upon me. How would you like to be part of the “nine society”? Wouldn’t that be something—to be numbered among those who failed to return and acknowledge the Savior for the blessings He had given them? Only one returned.
It’s so easy in life for us to receive blessings, many of them almost uncounted, and have things happen in our lives that can help change our lives, improve our lives, and bring the Spirit into our lives. But we sometimes take them for granted. How grateful we should be for the blessings that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings into our hearts and souls. I would remind all of you that if we’re ever going to show gratitude properly to our Heavenly Father, we should do it with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—because it was He who gave us life and breath. He gave us the opportunity to live as we are, to have the gospel in our lives, to have the example of good people like President Hinckley leading the Church throughout the world today and the opportunity for the young people to look to him with pride and gratitude for a leader who looks and acts the part and demonstrates what the Spirit of Christ can bring into our heart and soul. As that gratitude is magnified and developed and expanded, it can bless our hearts and our minds and our souls to where we’d like to continue to carry on and do those things that we are asked to do.
We have a lot of our family scattered in at least 20 locations in the United States and England. I have suggested to them that when they have opportunities to sustain the General Authorities—particularly President Hinckley and his counselors—if they have to stand at the radio or wherever it might be, that with enthusiasm they raise their hands and say to themselves, “I’m part of sustaining the leadership of the Church.” I had in my mind’s eye today as we were raising our hands some little youngsters—children whom we love and adore—raising their hands in various parts of the world. We hope that we will implant in them along with the Spirit of the Lord a desire to learn, to know, to live and be part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We hope they fully enjoy their opportunities to develop their characters and to be able to reach out and help change and lift the hearts of other people.
God lives. He is our Father. I testify to you that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and the Prophet Joseph Smith was the prophet of the Restoration. President Hinckley is our inspired leader over this Church throughout the world today. Bless his heart for all that he does and for the inspiration and revelation and vision that is his as he leads the work forward. I leave this witness with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.