It does not seem possible that another six months have passed since we last had the privilege of meeting here in a general conference of the Church. Since then much has happened--in our own lives and in the events of the world. Since then, I have been privileged to complete my eighty-eighth year and to live into the eighty-ninth year of my life. The Lord has blessed and sustained us, both Sister Grant and me, and among the richest of our blessings are our brethren and sisters and our friends, whose prayers in our behalf have blessed our lives, and whose thoughtfulness in many ways has made our days happier.
JOY IN THE INTEGRITY OF THE OFFICERS OF THE CHURCH
I rejoice exceedingly in the many blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ that we enjoy. I rejoice in having the fellowship and the faith and prayers and good feeling of those with whom I associate, I rejoice in the integrity, the faith, and the diligence of those who preside in the various stakes of Zion. I realize that we are beset with faults and failings and imperfections, but I am convinced that almost without exception those who have the charge of the Saints in the wards and stakes of Zion, and in the missions are men of God, and that their integrity is beyond question, and that, if need be, they would be ready and willing to lay down their lives for the advancement of the kingdom of God. I believe that the elders of Israel in all the different wards and stakes of Zion earnestly desire to know the mind and will of our Heavenly Father, and that they are ready and willing to do anything that is within their power, to fulfill that mind and that will and to carry it out in their lives. It is this integrity and this desire that give me joy and satisfaction, and that encourage me in the responsibilities that devolve upon me.
THE PASSING OF ELDERS SAMUEL O. BENNION AND RUFUS K. HARDY
Since we last met, the Church has been called upon to mourn the passing of two of our brethren of the General Authorities, Brothers Samuel O. Bennion and Rufus K. Hardy, both of the First Council of the Seventy. I honored them and loved them. They were true men of God, and rendered great service in the Lord's latter-day work. We miss them and shall continue to miss them in the presiding councils of the Church--but their place in our Father's kingdom is assured. They were valiant preachers of righteousness and will receive the blessings of the valiant and of the righteous. May God our Father give his peace and comfort to their devoted wives, Sister Hardy and Sister Bennion, and to their families.
CONCERNING TITHING AND OTHER PRINCIPLES
I rejoice in the increased tithes and offerings of this people, and in the increased numbers who are fulfilling their financial obligations to the Lord, and I hope and pray that this principle and all the other principles of the gospel are being taught our children in our homes, and in our Church organizations.
It should be the pride of every bishop and of every bishop's counselor, and of the president of every stake and his counselors, and of every officer and teacher, and of every member of this Church, young and old, that they earnestly and conscientiously pay their tithing. We are capable of accomplishing this if we will only think so and labor to that end.
I realize and appreciate the fact that the Lord could pour out upon us an abundance of the wealth of this world, that he could make us all rich, because the mountains are full of wealth, and he could open up avenues to us that we could all become wealthy, but in doing this we would have no opportunity of showing our faith by our works; we would have no opportunity of developing our manhood and of fitting and preparing ourselves by actual labor to go back and dwell in the presence of our Heavenly Father.
As I understand the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they were that it would profit no man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul. It is by the faithful discharge of the duties and the obligations that rest upon us in the Church of God that we are developed. It is by the exercise of our mental faculties that we improve upon them; it is by the exercise of our physical powers that we strengthen them; it is by the cultivation and the exercise of our spirits that we grow in spirituality, that we grow in the testimony of the gospel, that we grow in ability and strength to accomplish the purposes of our Heavenly Father upon the earth.
On the subject of tithing I heard a very splendid illustration given by a teacher in one of our children's classes: She brought with her ten beautiful red apples. She explained that everything we have in the world came to us from the Lord, and she said, "Now, if I give one of you these ten apples, will you give me one of them back again? Now, any one of you children that will do that, hold up your hand."
Of course, they all held up their hands. Then she said, "That is what the Lord does for us. He gives us the ten apples, but he requests that we return one to him to show our appreciation of that gift."
The trouble with some people is that when they get the ten apples, they eat up nine of them, and then they cut the other in two and give the Lord half of what is left. Some of them cut the apple in two and eat up one-half of it and then hold up the other half and ask the Lord to take a bite. That is about as near as they see fit to share properly and show their gratitude to the Lord.
Our children often feel that we are under obligation to them if they learn their lessons in school; they feel that they have done something that places the parents under obligation, while, as a matter of fact, they have done something, if they have learned their lessons, that for all time will be of benefit to them individually. Likewise, a great many people in the Church act as though the Presidency of the Church, or the presidency of the stake, or the bishopric of their ward are under obligation to them if they obey the Word of Wisdom or if they obey the law delivered to us regarding tithing, or any other principle of the gospel. They feel that they have done something that places the Church, or the authorities of the Church locally, or the General Authorities, under obligation to them. But every law that is given to us in the Church is for our own individual benefit.
LOOKING AFTER OUR YOUTH
I wish to impress upon the workers in all the organizations of the Church, the need for laboring prayerfully, untiringly, and diligently at this time to persuade the youth of Zion to be more faithful, more diligent in all their obligations and responsibilities, in safeguarding their virtue, and in observing what is known as the Word of Wisdom. I feel that while there are tens of thousands of our young men who are doing this, there may also be some who in order to be counted as hail-fellows-well-met, may be tempted to become careless and forgetful.
I ask our young people, wherever they are in all the world, to remember well all of their principles and ideals, under all conditions and circumstances, when they are at home, and when they are away from home.
There is nothing like looking after people. It is just the same in the gospel as it is in business. If a man does not look after his trade, it is sure to go from him. We must look after the people, our young people and all others, no matter where they may go, if we hope to keep them in the line of their duty.
TO OUR YOUNG MEN IN THE ARMED FORCES
Our hearts, our thoughts, and our prayers go out to those who are in the armed forces. It would appear from all the figures we can gather, that more than one hundred thousand of our young men are in the services of their country, in uniform. We pray for them continually. We pray for the preservation of their lives and for their faithfulness to those things which are dearer than life.
We say to you again to be clean, to keep the commandments of God, to pray, to live righteously; and if you do, peace and understanding will come into your hearts, and our Father in heaven will comfort you; and will let his presence be felt in the hour of your need.
Young men of Zion, when you return to your homes, return with clean hands and clean hearts--and great will be your happiness, your faith, and your testimony. Your brethren and your loved ones cherish you, pray for you, and await the day of your coming.
And I pray with all my heart that if there are those who have made mistakes, that they will repent; and by this we may know that they have repented--that they will confess their sins and depart from them.
TO THOSE WHO ARE IN SORROW
Into many of our homes sorrow has come since last conference. In the days ahead we must face the fact that more homes and more families will be broken by news of death and of other tragedies. May the peace and comfort of our Father in heaven bring its healing influence to all who are called upon to mourn and to bear affliction. And may we be strengthened with the understanding that being blessed does not mean that we shall always be spared all the disappointments and difficulties of life. We all have them, even though our troubles differ. I have not had the same kind of trials that others have had to undergo, yet I have had my full share. When, as a young man, I lost my wife and my only two sons, I was earnestly trying with all my heart to keep the commandments of the Lord, and my household and I were observing the Word of Wisdom and entitled to the blessings of life. I have been sorely tried and tempted, but I am thankful to say that the trials and temptations have not been any greater than I was able to endure, and with all my heart I hope that we may never have anything more to endure than we will be blessed of the Lord with the ability to withstand.
And may we always remember, because it is both true and comforting, that the death of a faithful man is nothing in comparison to the loss of the inspiration of the good spirit. Eternal life is the great prize, and it will be ours, and the joy of our Father in heaven in welcoming us will be great, if we do right; and there is nothing so great that can be done in this life by anyone, as to do right. The Lord will hear and answer the prayers we offer to him and give us the things we pray for if it is for our best good. He never will and never has forsaken those who serve him with full purpose of heart; but we must always be prepared to say "Father, thy will be done."
May the Lord bless and keep you who are away from home, and bless your wives and your children, your mothers and your fathers.
May God bless and preserve the Saints and the righteous everywhere, in all nations, in the far-off islands, and in lands torn by war, as well as here among us. To all faithful, we extend anew the hand of fellowship, and hold you in remembrance before God; and may he accomplish his purposes, overrule in the affairs of nations, hasten the end of the war and of wickedness, and bring peace on earth.
WORK, THRIFT, AND INTEGRITY
I plead with all the Saints at this time, as all my predecessors in the presidency of the Church have done, to be honest, truthful, industrious, and thrifty; to get out of debt and stay out of debt; to prepare for the time when money may not flow as freely as it does now.
Even now, we are told that there will be leaner days ahead--notwithstanding that the war has progressed as far as it has. Let all of us who can, raise what we can of our own food and sustenance. Let all of us be industrious and useful to the full extent of our strength and ability. We are told to earn our bread by the sweat of the brow. I believe there may be a disposition on the part of some Latter-day Saints to say, "Well, after we get to be sixty-five we will not have to work any more." There should be in the heart of every man and woman, the cry, "I am going to live and work. There is nothing given to me but time in which to live, and I am going to endeavor each day of my life to do some labor which will be acceptable in the sight of my Heavenly Father, and if it is possible, do a little better today than I did yesterday." It is an easy thing to throw a dollar to a man, but it requires sympathy and a heart to take an interest in him and try to plan for his welfare and benefit.
And it is a principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ, now, as it always has been, to help every man to help himself--to help every child of our Father in heaven to work out his own salvation, both temporally and spiritually.
RESPONSIBILITY OF LEADERSHIP
I pray for the righteous among all peoples. I ask the Lord to bless those who preside in the nation; in the states, in the cities, and in the counties. I pray God to inspire the people that they will obey his commandments and elect good men to positions of public responsibility, that they will bury their political differences, their personal ambitions, and selfish interests, and seek for good men to hold office.
I tell you it is the duty of the presidency of this Church to ask the people to do anything and everything that the inspiration of God tells them to do, and you need have no fear that any man will ever stand at the head of the Church of Jesus Christ unless our Heavenly Father wants him to be there.
Several times I have gone to meetings in the old Endowment House, knowing that a certain matter was to be discussed, and my mind was as perfectly set upon a certain position on that question as it is possible for a man to have his mind set, and I believe I am as decided in my opinion as the majority of people. (I have heard it said that there is nobody as stubborn as a Scotchman except a Dutchman: and I am Scotch on my father's side and Dutch on my mother's.) And although I have gone to meetings determined in favor of a certain line of policy, I have willingly and freely voted for the exact opposite of that policy, because of the inspiration of the Lord that came to give direction. And upon every such occasion the action taken was vindicated and proved by later events to be for the best good of the people.
I could also relate circumstances when the brethren have been sent out to accomplish certain labors under the inspiration of the Lord when they thought they could not accomplish those labors. They have returned and been able to bear testimony that by and with the help of the Lord they had been able to accomplish the labor placed upon them.
The Lord gives to many of us the still, small voice of revelation. It comes as vividly and strongly as though it were with a great sound. It comes to each man, according to his needs and faithfulness, for guidance in matters that pertain to his own life. For the Church as a whole it comes to those who have been ordained to speak for the Church as a whole--and I say to you again, that it is the duty of the presidency of this Church to ask the people to do anything and everything that the inspiration of God tells them to do. We as Latter-day Saints, holding the priesthood of God, should magnify it, and we should respect the General Authorities of the Church; and as we respect them, God will respect us.
THE PATH OF DUTY, THE PATH OF SAFETY
There is but one path of safety for the Latter-day Saints, and that is the path of duty. It is not a testimony only; it is not marvelous manifestations; it is not knowing that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, that it is the plan of salvation--it is not actually knowing that the Savior is the Redeemer, and that Joseph Smith was his prophet, that will save you and me; but it is the keeping of the commandments of God, living the life of a Latter-day Saint.
I pray constantly for all the officers of this Church, whether in the priesthood or in the auxiliary associations. I am sure, in my secret prayers particularly, that I never forget, morning or night, those that have been called to preside, to direct the affairs in the priesthood quorums and in the auxiliary associations. My prayer is that each of you holding a place of responsibility shall so order your lives that they shall be examples of diligence and energy and of the Spirit of the Living God, that can be followed in every part by those over whom you preside.
If we do this, what a wonderful power we shall have with the Lord in the furtherance of his mighty purposes in the earth. If we keep his commandments, our influence will be not only with the world, but with our own young people. Their strength and power will be multiplied if we shall succeed in having them feel the necessity of observing the commandments of God, particularly concerning the principles of clean and righteous living.
I say to all Latter-day Saints: keep the commandments of God. That is my keynote--just these few words: keep the commandments of God!
The most glorious thing that has ever happened in the history of the world since the Savior himself lived on earth, is that God himself saw fit to visit the earth with his beloved, only begotten Son, our Redeemer and Savior, and to appear to the boy Joseph. There are thousands and hundreds of thousands who have had a perfect and individual testimony and knowledge of this eternal truth. The gospel in its purity has been restored to the earth, and I want to emphasize that we as a people have one supreme thing to do, and this is to call upon the world to repent of sin, and to obey the commandments of God. And it is our duty above all others to go forth at home and abroad, as times and circumstances permit, and proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is our duty also to be mindful of those children of our Father who have preceded us in death without a knowledge of the gospel, and to open the door of salvation to them in our temples, where we also have obligations to perform.
I bear witness to you that I do know that God lives, that he hears and answers prayer; that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world; that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of the true and living God; and that Brigham Young and those who have succeeded him were, and are, likewise prophets of God.
I do not have the language at my command to express the gratitude to God for this knowledge that I possess. Time and time again my heart has been melted, my eyes have wept tears of gratitude for the knowledge that he lives and that this gospel called Mormonism is in very deed the plan of life and salvation, that it is in very deed the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That God may help you and me and everyone to live it, and that he may help those who know not the truth, that they may receive this witness, is my constant and earnest prayer, and I ask it in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.