Amos of old prophesied: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:
“And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it”(Amos 8:11–12).
There is hunger in the land, and a genuine thirst—a great hunger for the word of the Lord and an unsatisfied thirst for things of the Spirit. I am satisfied that the world is starved for spiritual food. Ours is the obligation and the opportunity to nourish the soul.
More than a century ago President Brigham Young offered a prayer in which he pleaded for a blessing “upon the priesthood, [and] all in authority in thy Church and kingdom, that they might enjoy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to qualify them in the discharge of every duty.”
This prayer was voiced as he stood at the pulpit of the Tabernacle and offered the invocation on the first conference of the Church ever convened there.The day was 6 October 1867. More than 130 years later his plea to the Lord is as timely as it was on the day it was offered.
We need the Holy Spirit in our many administrative responsibilities. We need it as we teach the gospel in our classes and to the world. We need it in the governance and teaching of our families.
As we direct and teach under the influence of that Spirit, we shall bring spirituality into the lives of those for whom we are responsible.
With the tremendous growth of the Church we become increasingly aware of the great magnitude of the affairs of this the Lord’s kingdom. We have a comprehensive program for the instruction of the family. We have organizations for children, for youth, for mothers and fathers. We have a vast missionary system, a tremendous welfare operation, probably the most extensive family history program in the world. We must build houses of worship,hundreds and thousands of them. We must operate schools, seminaries, institutes. The ramifications of our activities reach around the world. All of this is the business of the Church. But it is more than an organization of inspired enterprises. It is more than a social body. These are but means to the accomplishment of its one true purpose.
The forces against which we labor are tremendous. We need more than our own strength to cope with them.
To heads of families, to all who hold positions of leadership, to our vast corps of teachers and missionaries, I should like to make a plea: In all you do, feed the spirit, nourish the soul. “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3:6).
To administrators, the leadership of the Church in our thousands of stakes, missions, districts, wards, and branches, you who structure and conduct the many and varied meetings—and I include myself—I make a plea that we constantly seek the inspiration of the Lord and the companionship of His Holy Spirit to bless us in keeping our efforts on a high spiritual plane. Those prayers will not go unanswered, for the promise has been given through revelation that “God shall give unto you knowledge by His Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 121:26).
Concerning the conduct of our meetings, the Lord has said that we are to conduct the meetings as we “are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God” (D&C 20:45). And again, “it always has been given to the elders of my church from the beginning, and ever shall be, to conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit” (D&C 46:2).
In addition to that principle, let us ponder a statement made long ago. Concerning converts who had come into the Church, Moroni wrote, “After they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer” (Moro. 6:4).
Brethren and sisters, in the conduct of all our meetings let us see that we feed the flock of God with that bread which perisheth not.
To all parents, all who teach the gospel, including missionaries, to each of you I should like to pose a question given by the Lord Himself. “Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained?”
He then answers it: “To preach my gospel by the Spirit.”
And then the Lord goes on to tell of the remarkable thing that happens when we preach by the Spirit: “Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together” (D&C 50:13–14, 22).
Is not this the objective of all our effort, that both we who teach and we who are taught understand one another and are edified and rejoice together?
I remember the story of one of our LDS chaplains, a man of great faith, devotion, and courage. For a year or more he had been in the central highlands of South Vietnam during the war there some 30 years ago. He had been where the fighting was bitter and the losses as tragic as in any area of Vietnam. On two occasions he was wounded. He saw a tragically large percentage of his brigade become casualties, many of them killed in action. The men of his unit loved and respected him. His superior officers honored him.
He was not always a member of this Church. As a boy in the southern United States he grew up in a religious home where the Bible was read and where the family attended the little church of the community. He desired the gift of the Holy Ghost of which he had read in the scriptures but was told that it was not available. The desire never left him. He grew to manhood. He served in the U.S. Army. He searched but never found the thing he most wanted. Between military enlistments, he became a prison guard. While sitting in the gun tower of a California prison, he meditated on his own deficiencies and prayed to the Lord that he might receive the Holy Ghost and satisfy the hunger which he felt in his soul. That hunger had not been fully satisfied with sermons to which he had listened.
One day two young men knocked at his door. His wife invited them to return when her husband would be at home. These two young men taught that family by the Holy Spirit. In two and a half weeks they were baptized. I have heard this man testify to the effect that as he was taught by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was edified and rejoiced with those who taught him. Out of that marvelous beginning, with the gift of the Holy Ghost, came a shedding forth of light and truth that gave peace to the dying, comfort to the bereaved, blessings to the wounded, courage to the timid, and faith to those who had scoffed. Sweet are the fruits of teaching done under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They feed the spirit and nourish the soul.
May I give a special word of counsel to parents who stand as heads of families: We need the direction of the Holy Ghost in the delicate and tremendous task that is ours in strengthening the spirituality of our homes.
Oh, the countless tragedies that are found across the world, tragedies whose roots find their bitter nourishment in contentious homes.
My phone rang one afternoon many years ago. The young man on the other end of the line said frantically that he needed to see me. I told him that I was involved with appointments for the remainder of the day and asked if he could come tomorrow. He stated that he had to see me at once. I told him to come and asked my secretary to change the other appointments. In a few minutes he walked in, a boy with a hunted and haunted look. His hair was long, his appearance miserable. I invited him to sit and to talk openly and frankly. I assured him of my interest in his problem and of my desire to help him.
He unraveled a story distressing and miserable. He was in serious trouble. He had broken the law, he had been unclean, he had blighted his life. Now in his extremity there had come a realization of the terrible plight in which he found himself. He needed help beyond his own strength, and he pleaded for it. I asked him if his father knew of his difficulties. He replied by saying that he could not talk with his father, that his father hated him.
I happened to know his father, and I knew that his father did not hate him. He loved him and mourned and grieved for him, but that father had an uncontrolled temper. Whenever he disciplined his children, he lost control and destroyed both them and himself.
As I looked across the desk at that trembling, broken young man, estranged from a father he considered his enemy, I thought of the great words of revealed truth given through the Prophet Joseph Smith. They set forth in essence the governing spirit of the priesthood, and I believe they apply to the government of our homes.
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained … , only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:41–42).
I believe those marvelous and simple words set forth the spirit in which we should stand as parents. Do they mean that we should not exercise appropriate but sensitive discipline, that we should not wisely reprove? Note these further words:
“Reproving betimes with sharpness, [When? While angry or in a fit of temper? No.] when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; [Does the Holy Ghost attend contentious reprovings? No.] and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
“That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death” (D&C 121:43–44).
This, my brethren and sisters who stand at the head of families, is the key to government in the home directed by the Holy Spirit. I commend those words to every parent and do not hesitate to promise that if you will govern your families in the spirit of those words, which have come from the Lord, you will have cause to rejoice, as will those for whom you are responsible.
These inspired words are the spiritual sinews of the gospel and become the fiber of our faith. God help us to cultivate them in every activity in the Church and in every association in our homes.
I return to President Young’s prayer of more than a century ago: Our Eternal Father, we ask thy blessing “upon the priesthood, [and] all in authority in thy Church and kingdom, that they might enjoy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to qualify them in the discharge of every duty” in their homes, callings, vocations, and neighborhoods and in all their actions and associations.
The world is starved for spiritual food.
We need the Holy Spirit in the governing and teaching of our families, in our Church administrative responsibilities, and as we teach the gospel in our classesand to the world.
We need the Spirit so that those involved may be “edified and rejoice together” (D&C 50:22).
Our righteous prayers for the companionship of the Holy Spirit will be answered.