In Tribute and Introduction:
On July 19 President Joseph Fielding Smith will be ninety-five years old—but in typical fashion, on his birthday he will give gifts to some 150 friends and family members, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It’s just like him—always giving happiness to others.
At ninety-five our prophet is a great human being—honored for his integrity and his study of the scriptures, and for his lifelong devotion to God.
Recently he attended a special Sunday devotional at the Long Beach Civic Auditorium in California that was attended by 14,000 Latter-day Saint youths from forty-six stakes.
Following is the text of President Smith’s talk, with comments and pictures recorded on that special day. The President was accompanied to California by his wife, Sister Jessie Evans Smith.
My dear young brothers and sisters: I am happy to be with you on this occasion, to bear my testimony to the truth and divinity of this great work in which we are all engaged, and to counsel you relative to the one thing which will do more than any other to bring peace and happiness into your lives here and now and prepare you for an inheritance of eternal glory in the world to come. I speak of the Lord’s system of marriage—celestial marriage, marriage for time and for all eternity in the house of the Lord.
It is very apparent to all of us who read the newspapers, who listen to the news accounts on the radio, and who watch what comes over television that all too many do not hold marriage and the family unit in that respect which the Lord intends.
Many people today do not honor or respect any form of marriage. Some are unfaithful to their marriage vows and live unclean and immoral lives; some break up their homes through divorce for petty and selfish reasons; and some do not even pretend to enter into legal marriages but simply live in immorality and have children who are conceived in sin.
We are living in an evil and wicked world. But while we are in the world, we are not of the world. We are expected to overcome the world and to live as becometh saints. The Lord has given us his everlasting gospel to be a light and a standard to us, and this gospel includes his holy order of matrimony, which is eternal in nature. We should not and must not follow the marriage practices of the world. We have greater light than the world has, and the Lord expects more of us than he does of them.
We know what the true order of marriage is. We know the place of the family unit in the plan of salvation. We know that we should be married in the temple, and that we must keep ourselves clean and pure so as to gain the approving seal of the Holy Spirit of Promise upon our marriage unions.
We are spirit children of our Eternal Father, who ordained a plan of salvation whereby we might come to earth and progress and advance and become like him; that is, he provided a gospel plan which would enable us to have eternal family units of our own and to enjoy eternal life.
Those of his spirit children who choose the right course and create for themselves eternal family units by entering his order of matrimony have the power, if they endure in faith, to gain eternal life. This should be the whole object and purpose of our existence.
When the Lord placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he sealed them together as husband and wife in an eternal marriage union and commanded them to multiply and replenish the earth; thus they were able to begin the process of providing mortal bodies for the spirit children of our Father in heaven.
Now, what the Lord did for Adam and Eve, he has also offered to all those who will accept the fullness of his gospel law and live in harmony with its eternal truths. He has offered us eternal marriage. He has given us the sealing power so that we can bind on earth and have it sealed eternally in the heavens. He has given us temple marriage so that we can create eternal family units of our own. I think these blessings, which center around and grow out of the continuation of the family unit in eternity, are among the most important blessings known to man.
The principle that the family unit can continue in eternity is one of the noblest thoughts that can enter the mind of man. The Lord has commanded us: “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.” Women are to have the same feelings toward their husbands, and parents should possess a love for their children, and children for their parents, which does not end with death.
Do we not continue to remember with love and respect our parents and our children who have passed away? Does love cease because death intervenes? Love is as eternal as life, and both go on after the grave. Why would anyone who knows the Lord’s law deliberately choose to marry “until death do us part,” and thus let death end the family relationship?
We cannot conceive of the glory and blessings which shall attend the continuation of the family unit for all the eternities that are ahead. How glorious it is to know that if we are true and faithful to the laws of this highest order of matrimony, we shall continue as husband and wife, united perfectly as one forever in celestial glory.
I plead with you, the youth of Zion everywhere, to keep yourselves clean and pure so that you will be entitled to go to the house of the Lord and, together with the companions of your choice, enjoy all these great blessings the Lord offers to you.
These are glorious concepts, and along with all the other things which have been restored in this day, they came from the Lord. They are true; they are everlasting. This whole system of revealed religion which we have received is true.
I bear testimony that through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord has restored his church and kingdom on earth for the last time, and that his everlasting gospel is here. This gospel is the plan of salvation, and the crowning principle in the whole plan centers in celestial marriage.
I pray that we may all catch the vision of these glorious truths and that we shall so live as to qualify for the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Comments before the meeting
“I wonder what he’ll say. I’ll bet it’ll be really important for all of us.”
Jay Pearce, Alhambra Ward
“Like most of the people here, I’ve never had a chance to see a president of the Church. To see him in person and actually hear his voice is a really fantastic opportunity.”
George Watkins, Whittier First Ward
“Lots of things have gone through my mind, but anything he talks about is fine with me.”
Sue Kirksey, Palmdale Second Ward
“I’m recording it for my mom because she’s never heard the prophet. I’m here mainly for guidance.”
Jerry O’Malley, Lakewood Second Ward
“I wanted to hear the prophet. I hear it’s strong when you hear a prophet.”
Sandra Moody, Wilshire Ward
“I can’t believe that I’m only this far from a prophet of God. This is really something.”
Leslie Titenson, Garden Grove Fifth Ward
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a really long time.”
Carol Kinny, Santa Monica City College
“I think it is most exciting just to think that a prophet is coming here. I’ve always wanted to meet a prophet or shake one’s hand, but I’ve never had the opportunity to even see one until now.”
Patti Stevens, Long Beach Third Ward
“I’m all excited to see him! Also, I think he’ll inspire me to maybe be more like him. He’ll probably answer some of my questions about life after death, temple marriage, things like that.”
Kathy Salmon, Downey First Ward
“I think it’s fantastic. I never knew there were so many Mormons in Southern California.”
Ron Phillips, Costa Mesa First Ward
Comments after the meeting:
“Today a prophet of God became a reality for me.”
Lori Guiver, Garden Grove Seventh Ward
“I thought that was really great, their singing that duet. They’re like two wonderful grandparents. Instead of being so far off, they’re really down to earth.”
Laura Gunn, Santa Susana Second Ward
“As he talked and after he had finished his speech, my heart kept beating fast to testify to me that what he said was true. I kept thinking of the promises made to me in my patriarchal blessing, that the Lord would guide me to the right one.”
Marshall Gardener, Yuma First Ward, stationed with the Navy at Long Beach
“I wanted to see a man who talks with God. I fasted and prayed; so did the girl I went with. Although there was no question before I went to the meeting that he was a prophet, when I saw him—the moment I first saw him—I had an even greater realization that he is a prophet.”
Charles Bates, Long Beach Ninth Ward
“It was a fantastic testimony-building experience to see him and then sing ‘We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.’ I was overwhelmed by the spirit.”
Manuela Rees, Whittier Sixth Ward
“Here you could feel a unity in the Church that seemed to fortify everyone’s spirits.”
Ron Sellers, Morningside Park Ward
“This is the best day of my life because I saw and heard a prophet of God. He has a beautiful sense of humor.”
David Latta, Gardena First Ward
“What impressed me most was that the prophet would take his valuable time to meet with the youth of the Church. I was impressed, too, with the youthful attitude of the prophet and his wife.”
Gary Whomes, Long Beach Second Ward
“I’m speechless. Impressed. All the synonyms. I’m compelled to think of Sister Smith; she’s very sincere about getting to the kids. She’s something more than just a human being standing there—there’s some backing from somewhere; it’s obvious.”
Mike Killian, Ontario Second Ward
“I was impressed by the personal love and devotion of President and Sister Smith. Holding hands at ninety-four is neat.”
Hyacenth Doyle, Lawndale Ward
“I enjoyed it very much—I cried all the way through it. This equaled or surpassed anything I have ever experienced.”
Anne Sellers, Morningside Park Ward
“I am interested in your church. It was very wonderful seeing so many young people, all with the same ideals, all united together to pay tribute to their leader. His message was very strong. He emphasized the importance of staying pure, which is hard when there is so much evil around.”
Eileen McFarland, a nonmember from Inglewood
“A super spiritual experience! I had never in my life seen so many kids gathered together to hear one speaker. I was thrilled to see missionaries translating for deaf persons. I was impressed just to hear the prophet speak on such a relevant topic as marriage and family.”
“Satan has worked on me to try to convince me that Joseph Fielding Smith was not a prophet. But today I sat in the front row as he entered. Suddenly I felt within me a testimony that he is the prophet. It was a marvelous thing to have happen to me.”
Jo Anne Hinton, Long Beach Second Ward, a convert of two months
“I’m a convert of two years now. You know how they always say you tingle. Well, I did that, all the way through. The prophet and his wife seem so human. It makes me think I can reach their goals. This seemed like heaven; everyone seemed so united. For an instant we were all striving for exactly the same goal: eternal life.”
Theresa Orozco, Bakersfield Fifth Ward