Conference Report


Many inspirational messages were presented at the 142nd Annual General Conference in April. The following excerpts have particular meaning for youth. For the complete text of all the addresses see the July Ensign.

… I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.

An individual may fall by the wayside, or have views, or give counsel which falls short of what the Lord intends. But the voice of the First Presidency and the united voice of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be.

The Lord said very plainly to Joseph Smith “that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.” (D&C 42:11.)

And also: “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.” (D&C 65:2.)

Now, brethren, these things are true. The Lord is with his people. The cause of righteousness shall prevail. Our cause is just, and the Lord will guide and direct us and bring us off triumphant in the end.

I testify that if we shall look to the First Presidency and follow their counsel and direction, no power on earth can stay or change our course as a church, and as individuals we shall gain peace in this life and be inheritors of eternal glory in the world to come. And I say this to you, my good brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. President Joseph Fielding Smith

Someone has said that it is not where you are but the direction in which you are going that counts; not how close you are to failure or success but which way you are headed. …

Let us remember too that the further out of line or out of tune we ourselves are, the more we are inclined to look for error or weaknesses in others and to try to rationalize and justify our own faults rather than to try to improve ourselves. Almost invariably, we find that the greatest criticism of Church leaders and doctrine comes from those who are not doing their full duty, following the leaders, or living according to the teachings of the gospel. President N. Eldon Tanner Second Counselor in the First Presidency

Today we are constantly hearing from the unenlightened and misguided, who demand what they call free agency, by which they apparently mean, as evidenced by their conduct, that they have their agency to do as they please or to exercise their own self-will to determine what is law and order, what is right and wrong, or what is honor and virtue.

These are frightening expressions when you reflect upon what I have just quoted from the revealed word of God. A moment’s reflection will help you to see that when one sets himself up to make his own rules and presumes to know no law but his own, he is but echoing the plan of Satan, who sought to ascend to God’s throne, as it were, in being the judge of all that rules mankind and the world. There has ever been, and ever will be, a conflict between the forces of truth and error; between the forces of righteousness and the forces of evil; between the dominion of Satan and the dominion under the banner of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

The true meaning of free agency is clearly set forth by a father who explained to his son:

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh. … And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great mediation of all men [meaning the atonement of the Savior], or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil. …” (2 Ne. 2:27.) President Harold B. Lee First Counselor in the First Presidency

Many of us have had the experience of being on a ship traveling on the ocean. As we look in the various directions, we can see nothing but water. As far as the mortal eye can see, the sky comes down and meets the water. The sun comes up on the horizon, and in the evening the sun sets on the horizon. …

What about our spiritual horizon? Is it limited to our present struggle for the things of this world? Is it limited to an acquisition of things of the flesh? Is our horizon limited to our competition with a money-mad world, to the obtaining of the worldly things of life, or does it reach out to an eternity with God and our loved ones in the life to come?

Our horizon should extend to an unlimited future beyond death—out beyond those things of a temporal nature. Our horizon of the future should not be confused with the close-up horizon of present conditions. Elder Joseph Anderson Assistant to the Council of the Twelve

In a poem of pessimism which he wrote soon after World War I, Yeats described the widening circle—the gyre—in which the falcon flew away from the falconer. He wrote:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

—“The Second Coming”

When the falconer is not heard, the falcon is lost. So are men when they cannot or will not hear the voice of the Master. Things fall apart in human life, the center cannot hold, trouble is born, and the “worst,” who are “full of passionate intensity,” do their own thing, follow their own base appetites and wayward wills, and impose upon those who are less intense and involved—and particularly upon the young—false constructions and interpretations of the meaning of life. Elder Marion D. Hanks Assistant to the Council of the Twelve

How is it that we have not discovered the secret of peace when we have been looking for it all through the ages? I’ll tell you. We are looking for someone to create it for us—to bring it to us. Edna St. Vincent Millay said: “There is no peace on earth today, save the peace in the heart at home with God. … No man can be at peace with himself. …” (“Conversations at Midnight,” Collected Poems, Harper and Row, Copyright 1937 and 1964.)

Have you experienced that peace within you because you helped your neighbor rake his lawn or mow his lawn? Have you felt that peace within because you helped your neighbor pick his fruit or harvest his crops? Have you witnessed that peace within because you shoveled the snow off your neighbor’s walks? Have you felt that peace which came because you helped someone solve a problem and get a new lease on life? Have you “cheered up the sad, and made someone feel glad”?

Did you ever have a guilty conscience? Do you know the turmoil and tumult it can bring to your very soul? It can cause mental and even physical illness. Do you know the blessed relief of rectifying whatever caused this feeling? It may have been an unkind word, a thoughtless act, or it may have gone deeper than that. Until you have adjusted whatever causes a guilty conscience, you cannot hope for peace of mind.

Do you, at this time, have unkind feelings or less than love in your heart for a friend, a neighbor, or any of God’s children? Try doing something extra nice for that person, and keep it up until all the bitterness has gone from your heart.

Have you taught a Sunday School class and felt when you finished that you had really taught someone some principle of the gospel that had really helped him or given him a brighter look on life? Remember the feeling of peace and joy that followed? Have you ever taught someone the gospel and received that feeling of joy because he had accepted what you had been teaching? The thrill of missionary work!

Have you sensed the thrill, the peace within your soul, that comes from a knowledge of the gospel and from accepting and living in accordance with the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Have you felt the peace from doing temple work, vicarious work for the dead?

A key to peace, then, is service. Christ said: “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matt. 23:11.) Elder Eldred G. Smith Patriarch to the Church

Someone has pointed out that books are among life’s most precious possessions. They are the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that man builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, civilizations perish, but books continue. The perusal of a great book is as it were an interview with the noblest men of past ages who have written it.

Charles Kingsley once said, “There is nothing more wonderful than a book. It may be a message to us from the dead, from human souls we never saw who lived perhaps thousands of miles away, and yet these little sheets of paper speak to us, arouse us, teach us, open our hearts and in turn open their hearts to us like brothers. Without books, God is silent, justice dormant, philosophy lame.”

John Milton once said, “Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a progeny of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.” (Areopagitica.) Elder Sterling W. Sill Assistant to the Council of the Twelve

I think if I could give a whole sermon in just six words it would be these: Socrates said many years ago, “Know thyself,” Cicero said, “Control thyself,” and the Savior said, “Give thyself.” President Paul H. Dunn Of the First Council of the Seventy

It was on a summer day early in the morning. I was standing near the window. The curtains obstructed me from two little creatures out on the lawn. One was a large bird and the other a little bird, obviously just out of the nest. I saw the larger bird hop out on the lawn, then thump his feet and cock his head. He drew a big fat worm out of the lawn and came hopping back. The little bird opened its bill wide, but the big bird swallowed the worm.

Then I saw the big bird fly up into a tree. He pecked at the bark for a little while and came back with a big bug in his mouth. The little bird opened his beak wide, but the big bird swallowed the bug. There was squawking in protest.

The big bird flew away, and I didn’t see it again, but I watched the little bird. After a while, the little bird hopped out on the lawn, thumped its feet, cocked its head, and pulled a big worm out of the lawn.

God bless the good people who teach our children and our youth, I humbly pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen. Elder Howard W. Hunter Of the Council of the Twelve

When we sustain officers, we are given the opportunity of sustaining those whom the Lord has already called by revelation. The dictionary tells us that the word sustain means “to bear up, to support, to furnish sustenance for, to aid effectually, to hold valid, to confirm or corroborate.”

The Lord, then, gives us the opportunity to sustain the action of a divine calling and in effect express ourselves if for any reason we may feel otherwise.

To sustain is to make the action binding on ourselves and to commit ourselves to support those people whom we have sustained. When a person goes through the sacred act of raising his arm to the square, he should remember, with soberness, that which he has done and commence to act in harmony with his sustaining vote both in public and in private. President Loren C. Dunn Of the First Council of the Seventy

In this church there is a call to youth and there is plenty to do, if you will but follow the counsel of your leaders. It is not intended that you just “take the bit in your mouth” and run. A wise saying aptly applies: “The hand that holds the reins is not the power that pulls the load.” The vigor and energy of youth united with the wisdom of mature men make a great team. That is the way the Lord has designed the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods to work together. Elder A. Theodore Tuttle Assistant to the Council of the Twelve

It is important to recognize that the laws governing prayer are as immutable as those governing science. Response is predicated upon our having the proper attitude and so living that we are entitled to the whisperings of the Spirit. We must keep ourselves in tune with the Holy Ghost. Elder Franklin D. Richards Assistant to the Council of the Twelve

As I now reflect on the responsibility that has come to me as the president of the Aaronic Priesthood, I recall some of my feelings as a boy. I am humbled by the many blessings the Lord has granted me through the Aaronic Priesthood.

I remember with some clarity the thrill of passing the sacrament as a deacon in the Cardston Second Ward, Alberta Stake, in Canada. That same thrill returns each time I am invited to pass the sacrament to the General Authorities in our monthly meeting in the Salt Lake Temple. Bishop Victor L. Brown Presiding Bishop

While we were growing up, our father was a ward clerk for fifteen years, and I remember that every Sunday evening he would come home after meeting and go into the dining room. He would pull down the blind and on the oak table he would put the money that he had gathered that day for the bishop—the tithes and offerings.

He would count it and account for it and put the ones and the fives and the tens in a pile; and then he would get the ironing board and an iron and a wet rag, and then our dad would take each of these paper bills and iron it smooth.

Now you would wonder what four little boys would recognize about this. The one thing they got from it was that whatever you do for the Lord, you do the very best that you know how. There is nothing that is too good for the Lord. Bishop H. Burke Peterson Of the Presiding Bishopric

After this call came the other day, I went out into the backyard, and in my mind’s eye I could see hosts of Aaronic Priesthood bearers—young men who are fine and good and true, who are dedicated to the Lord with all their heart and soul, who want to put that same look into their face which we see in the faces of the brethren here before us today. And they were doing it and they were obedient and following their leaders.

And in my mind’s eye, with great sadness, I saw another great group of Aaronic Priesthood bearers who are not able to put this into their face because they were disobedient; they were being persuaded by friends and peers. Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone Of the Presiding Bishopric

Today we have a universal search for peace—a generation of peace; yet most of those who discard the grasping, selfish race for power know not where to turn to find a way of life to take its place.

But peace cannot be achieved by making a sign or by writing words on fences. It must come first and most completely to the individual through his own efforts in keeping the commandments of our Lord and Savior, for God made all men to enjoy such peace.

Just as running madly after worldly things does not bring peace, neither does sitting idly. Because our modern conveniences often leave us much time beyond that which is necessary to sustain ourselves and our families, it becomes important not to spend this time idly, for there is much to be done if we are to partake of the Lord’s peace.

Probably there is no quicker way to enjoy inner peace than by serving one another. …

We accept as a fact that God has revealed through his chosen prophets the way of life which leads to peace, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Human passions for mortal gratification, including selfishness, envy, anger, and pride, must be replaced by spiritual ideals, and sin must become abhorrent to us, for we know that all we do here will affect our lives in eternity.

We believe that only through this knowledge and way of life can an individual or a nation achieve that peace which is so desired and sought after.

And so we say to this generation, which is so verbally calling for peace, that this thought toward peace today is indeed significant, for it is true that peace is in our hands—our own personal peace as well as in great measure the peace of our world. Believe in it, work for it, live for it; for in it, as you follow through and work for the establishment of peace first in your own souls, you will then have true peace in your lives. Elder John H. Vandenberg Assistant to the Council of the Twelve

I had gone to a certain house several times and had been rejected and warned not to come back again, but I was prompted to go again and again. And then as I was attempting to walk past that house, I was prompted to go in and try again to make contact. I used the big brass knocker on the English door without any response. I could see a lady in the front room knitting, and I made considerable noise with that knocker. She did not come out, and I went around to the back door. There was no knocker on that door so I used my walking stick, and I knocked with considerable vigor; in fact, it echoed through all the house.

Very soon the lady came out, and her coming out reminded me of my early days on the farm when I teased a sitting hen off the nest. (I see some of you have had farm experience.) You know that a setting hen when she is teased off the nest comes off with her feathers going in the wrong direction, with her beak in perpetual motion, and this woman reminded me of that.

I apologized and said, “I am sorry to have interrupted you and have insisted upon an interview, but, my dear sister, I have come over six thousand miles to bring you a message which the Lord wants you to have. He sent me here to give you that message. I am going back to Canada in a few days, and I must tell you what the Lord wants you to know.”

She said, “You mean the Lord sent a message to me!”

I said, “That is right, he did.”

I told her of the restoration of the gospel, the organization of the Church, and the message of the restoration. She was quite impressed by what I told her. And I said when I left, “I am sorry to have disturbed you, but I could not refuse to carry out the message and the mission that was given to me when I came here. When we meet again, and we will meet again, you are going to say, ‘Thank you for coming to my back door. Thank you for loving me enough to carry the message of the Lord to me. When you left I could hardly contain myself. I was worried, disturbed, and wondered what it was all about. I finally went to the mission home, got some literature, studied, and became a member of the Church with my family.’”

Ten years later I was in England again, this time as a soldier, and at the end of the meeting a lady came up with two grown daughters. She said, “I do thank God and thank you that you came to my door with that message many years ago. I and my daughters joined the Church and we are going to Utah in a short time, and we thank God that you had the courage, the fortitude, and the faith to come to me with that divine message and to leave it with me in the name of the Lord.” Elder Hugh B. Brown Of the Council of the Twelve

One thing more I should like to state. We are having come into the Church now many people of various nationalities. We in the Church must remember that we have a history of persecution, discrimination against our civil rights, and our constitutional privileges being withheld from us. These who are members of the Church, regardless of their color, their national origin, are members of the Church and kingdom of God. Some of them have told us that they are being shunned. There are snide remarks. We are withdrawing ourselves from them in some cases.

Now we must extend the hand of fellowship to men everywhere, and to all who wish to join the Church and partake of the many rewarding opportunities to be found therein. To those who may not now have the priesthood, we pray that the blessings of Jesus Christ may be given to them within the full extent that it is possible for us to give them. Meanwhile, we ask the Church members to strive to emulate the example of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, who gave us the new commandment that we should love one another. I wish we could remember that. President Harold B. Lee First Counselor in the First Presidency

And if there is one wondrous thing about this work, it is that it is true; that there is saving efficacy and virtue and force in the gospel of Jesus Christ; and that the power of God unto salvation is found here in the tops of these everlasting hills; and this glorious truth is spreading out to all the nations of the earth as rapidly as people in them accept the testimony and witness that is borne and believe the truths that our fellow representatives proclaim. This is a day of which God has said that all of gathered Israel shall be witnesses of his name. “… ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.” (Isa. 43:12.) President Bruce R. McConkie Of the First Council of the Seventy

While touring a mission, I ran across a missionary who had been an all-American basketball star in college. Upon graduation from the university, he had turned down a high paying contract to play professional ball so he could go on a mission.

Another missionary told me that when he graduated from high school he was offered $30,000 a year to play professional baseball. He refused the offer so he could go on a mission.

When a young man is faced with the choice of a mission or of playing professional ball at a high salary, it takes great faith and devotion to choose the mission; but many young Latter-day Saints have made this choice. President Milton R. Hunter Of the First Council of the Seventy

Christ is our greatest example of forgiveness. To the woman brought before him accused of adultery, he said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11.)

Then on the cross he prayed: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34.)

Regardless of our ego, our pride, or our feeling of insecurity, our lives would be happier, we would be contributing more to social welfare and the happiness of others, if we would love one another, forgive one another, repent of our wrongdoings, and judge not. President N. Eldon Tanner Second Counselor in the First Presidency

To the youth of Zion we say: The Lord bless you and keep you, which most assuredly will be so as you learn his laws and live in harmony with them. Be true to every trust. Honor thy father and thy mother. Dwell together in love, confidence, and conformity. Be modest in your dress. Overcome the world, and do not be led astray by the fashions and practices of those whose interests are centered upon the things of this world. Marry in the temple, and live joyous and righteous lives. Remember the words of Alma: “Wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10.) Remember also that our hope for the future and the destiny of the Church and the cause of righteousness rests in your hands. President Joseph Fielding Smith

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dale Kilbourn