My brethren and sisters, this to me is, as it undoubtedly is to you, a solemn scene. It is wonderful what the Elders of Israel have succeeded in securing; it is perfectly marvelous the union of feeling and of action, found nowhere else in the world, among such a great number of people as are here this afternoon. I never felt more humble than I do on this occasion. It is, as was said by President Cannon, a serious ordeal through which we have to pass from time to time—to be presented here before the people, and all of our past acts and doings viewed by them, and we depend upon their sanction and approval or rejection. This belongs to them. The Holy Spirit of light, that brings intelligence to us and an understanding of sacred things, belongs to every member of the Church. They have a right to pass their opinion upon those that are presiding over them. The works and the labors that the officers perform in the presence of this people may be known and understood by every member of the Church—in a general way, at least. There may be some things that the First Presidency do; that the Apostles do, that cannot for the moment be explained; yet the spirit, the motives that inspire the action can be understood, because each member of the Church has a right to have that measure of the Spirit of God that they can judge as to those who are acting in their interests or otherwise.
Now, brethren, this much I say, and I say it in the name of the Lord: I will endeavor to be devoted to your interests and the interests of the kingdom of God. I will serve you to the best of my knowledge and understanding, in reference to that which will promote your interests in connection with the interests of the Almighty. I will do this, the Lord being my helper.
It is an easy thing for us to rise here and raise our right hands in token of our approval of what is presented before us. I can do that without any, trouble, and so can you. But there is something involved in this rising here and raising our right hands in approval of the propositions presented; there is a meaning to it; something that ought to be well considered, and that is, acting in the future in accordance with this manifestation of our approval. Now, I know—and I know it well; nobody can know it better—that if this mighty Priesthood and these Latter-day Saints that are before me will act up to that which they have approved by raising their right hands and in accordance with the motives that undoubtedly inspired them, the progress of this Church will be more rapid than it has been in the past. The Latter-day Saints are becoming stronger. They are much stronger at this Conference than they were at the last, as a general thing. There are some, no doubt, that are weaker, that nave not the strength and the faith they had six months ago; but the people, speaking generally, are much stronger and, if called upon, could endure more and make higher sacrifices than they could have done [p.55]six months ago. There is a satisfaction in this consideration.
In this solemn assembly, let us decree in our hearts, let us inwardly testify to the Lord, that we will be a better people, a more united people at our next Conference than we are today. This should be the feeling and determination of every man and woman present in this solemn assembly. I feel in my heart that I will try to be more devoted than I have been in the past to the interests of the kingdom of God and the carrying out of His purposes. We are bound to rise and to advance in power and in influence in the midst of the world. There may, as has been suggested by one of the speakers, be opposition to meet of a nature that we have never met before; such things have come in the past, and will come in the future; but I will assure you that if we will do our duty with a determination that we will be prepared for everything; we will go through successfully any future difficulties that may arise no matter how serious they may be. We have done wonders; we have passed through difficulties and made sacrifices that are marvelous, when we consider their nature. And we have done, and will do in the future, that which we never could have done unless we had educated ourselves by the spirit and power of God. We are a mighty people, and growing mightier as trials and difficulties arise. I can imagine that at some future period, in the other life, we will pass through an ordeal that will be as close and as serious to us as we have passed through today; for our past course and conduct will be fully understood. What a pleasure and consolation we have in thinking of the past, the sacrifices we have made, the purity of our motives, and the feelings that have exercised us in the past in having done right and passed through ordeals that were of an unpleasant nature. Coming before this mighty people here, what a pleasure there is in thinking that we have done heretofore about as well as we knew how, having kept our consciences tolerably clear. You who are seated here will have opportunities of standing in the presence of multitudes, and I can easily imagine, yonder in the next life, after we have passed along perhaps a thousand years or more, that many of you who are here today will have an audience before you of your own posterity. I am as sure of it as I am that I am talking to you; I know it just as well as I know anything. Now we are starting in. Most of us, no doubt, have sons and daughters who will continue faithful to your counsels, and in the other life they will be with you and increase with you. It was said to Abraham on one occasion that his posterity should be as numerous as the sands upon the sea shore and as the stars in the firmament. His offspring are being increased generation after generation.
It is well for us, once in a while to look away ahead and see what will be the result of all the sacrifices and labors that we endure and perform in this life. This existence is but a moment; but the other life is continuous from eternity to eternity. This is Sunday, and we are not pleased to talk very much on Sunday, or any other day, on matters of politics; but I sometimes think that our friends here make themselves a great deal of trouble and there are no fruits to their labors and exertions. No matter what condition we are in, we ought to have that understanding that we can do all our labors whatever they may be, as the Lord pleases that we should do them. We should perform them right and be faithful in every calling and position that we occupy. Whatever may be the difficulties or the temptations that a person may labor under, he should so govern and control himself that in every condition he may act wisely and in a way that will increase his intelligence, power and faith. It is a grand position that we occupy. Our future is glorious. We could not desire more for our happiness than has been prepared for us. Those who endure unto the end shall sit upon thrones, as Jesus hath overcome and sat down upon His Father’s throne. All things shall be given unto such [p.56]men and women, so we are told in the revelations we have received. In view of these prospects, what should we not be willing to sacrifice when duty requires? It is a great thing, we say, for a man to be an Apostle; yet there are things you can look forward to which are greater than this. A man has no reason to envy his friend because he happens to get a little higher than himself. The glory that is before us is open to every man and every woman, through this Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, glory and exaltation, in the fulness thereof. We have learned some things that are more valuable to us than a gold mine of the highest richness could possibly be. We are the offspring of God, He is our Father, and we have a mother in the other life as well. These women that are sealed to us for time and eternity will, with our children be ours in the other life, going on in honor and glory. The Lord has revealed this to us, and we know it is so. Is it not something grand to know these things? So I say, we should be a holy people, a sanctified people, a people that God loves, and worthy of being directed in the highest path of glory and exaltation.
It has been a grand assembly this afternoon. We do not see it every day in our lives. How soon such a gathering as this, for such a purpose will be again, God only knows, unless He has revealed it to someone, and I doubt whether He has.
Now, brethren and sisters, God bless you. I say it from my heart, and I feel it—God bless you. I feel that it belongs to me, and my brethren here, to be long-suffering, kind, always ready to forgive, and to cherish the highest love for every man and woman who is trying to do the will of God. Do not be discouraged, brethren. If you cannot become perfect at once; if you see that you have weaknesses which have brought you into some trouble, do not be discouraged; but repent of that which you have done wrong, by which you have lost more or less of the Spirit of God, tell the Lord what you have done, and resolve in your hearts that you will do it no more. Then the Spirit of the Lord will be upon you. I say again, my brethren and sisters, God bless you, to the full extent of that word, and fill you with His Holy Spirit; and may we all so live that, when we go forth from this life into the next, we may have such glorious scenes as we have here this afternoon. Amen.
Previous Opening Remarks, after being sustained as President of the Church:
Brethren and sisters, at the commencement of this Semi-Annual Conference I wish to say a few words. I suppose that many of the audience now before me have come from a long distance to meet with us in this general conference; and that all have been moved to gather here by pure motives—by a desire to improve and perfect themselves in matters that pertain to their usefulness in the kingdom of God. In order that we may not be disappointed in this, it becomes necessary that we prepare our hearts to receive and profit by the suggestions that may be made by the speakers during the progress of the Conference, which may be prompted by the Spirit of the Lord. I have thought, and still think, that our being edified does not so much depend upon the speaker as upon ourselves. When we come together on occasions like this we are entitled to receive something that will be of great importance to us in our lives. We ought to understand—and I presume that we do generally—that the work which we have come into this life to perform cannot be done to the glory of God or to the satisfaction of ourselves merely by our own natural intelligence. We are dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord to aid us and to manifest to us from time to time what is necessary for us to accomplish under the peculiar circumstances that may surround us. It is the privilege of Latter-day Saints, when they get into difficulties, to have supernatural power of God, and in faith, day by day; to secure from the circumstances which may surround us that which will be beneficial and advance us in the principles of holiness and sanctification, that we may as far as possible be like our Father. It certainly is possible to advance ourselves toward the perfections of the Almighty to a very considerable extent, to say the least. In fact, we are commanded to be perfect, even as our Father in heaven is perfect. From everything that arises, whether it be of a disagreeable nature or of a pleasant character, we should derive information and secure power to serve ourselves in the path of exaltation and glory over which we are moving. I know that we should never have been able to endure the severe trials that we have experienced during the past few years, had we not been gradually educated in times past and prepared to struggle with difficulties as we passed along.
I desire to suggest to the Latter-day Saints this morning that they should not lose sight of the object which has prompted us to gather ourselves together, that we may not return to our homes without having received lessons of encouragement to assist us in the surrounding difficulties. It is impossible for Latter-day Saints to move along in the path of glory we are now treading unless they devote themselves fully and wholly to the work and make the preparation which is absolutely necessary to meet and overcome the temptations that might otherwise overpower us. Here, I suppose, are brethren and sisters who hold important positions in the Church and have most solemn and pleasing duties to perform, and it is their ardent desire that they may be properly qualified to discharge these sacred duties satisfactorily to themselves and in a way that shall promote the interests of those they preside over.
There is something grand in the consideration of the fact that the Lord loves us with a most ardent love. The love that a woman exercises toward her offspring cannot equal the love that God exercises towards us. He never leaves us. He is always before us, and upon our right hand and our left hand. Continually He watches over us. The antideluvians rejected the Lord in their day. The message which He sent to them was of the highest importance. Upon their acceptance of the message depended their temporal and spiritual salvation. But they rejected it. When the Lord communicates to man that which pertains to his most important interests, it is a solemn and serious thing for him to reject so direct a message. But like antideluvians rejected the message, even the fullness of the Gospel, as it is now preached to us. If they had then embraced the opportunity they might have received the fullness of the Gospel and been prepared, when Christ was crucified and arose from the dead, to receive through the resurrection of their glorious bodies, free from disease and corruption—the most glorious object that ever man set his mind upon. Those people failed to embrace that opportunity; but the Lord did not fail to love them and to have regard for them, and He gave them another opportunity, although it was about two thousand five hundred years afterwards. After Jesus was crucified, He went and visited that people and gave them the opportunity of receiving that which they rejected when Noah proclaimed to them the principles of spiritual and temporal salvation.
Now, in some respects we differ from any other class of people. Opportunities are before us which are not before them, though at some future time they will have the same opportunities as we have received and acted upon. But our prospects are different from their prospects; things are required at our hands which are not required of them; and there could not be placed before men more glorious prospects than are placed before the Saints. No mortal man could wish anything greater or that will ultimately prove more satisfactory. Everything that pertains to perfect peace, happiness, glory and exaltation is before the Latter-day Saints. We should enjoy the spirit of this, and keep it actively before us. We should not let our prospects be darkened in the least by doing that which is not acceptable before the Lord.
Brethren and sisters, I pray that the Lord may be with us during this Conference; that He may be with those who address you, and especially with you, that you may receive and comprehend some principle or some suggestion that will be of the most sacred importance to you.
The brethren will now address you, and through the exercise of your faith you will be greatly and abundantly blessed; which may God grant, in the name of Jesus Amen.