Changes in Life Must ComeBy Elder Joseph Fielding Smith then, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles General Conference – June (delayed), 1919
My brethren and sisters, I have feelings of mingled sadness and joy in standing before you this afternoon. This conference, and the remarks that have been made by the various speakers, have brought to my memory many scenes of the past and I feel rather tender in my spirit. I realize perfectly that time is passing, that man’s probation here, or, his days upon the earth, are limited, and when his work is finished, in the natural course of things it is to be expected that he will be taken home. I accept the changes that come, rejoicing in the fact that the gospel which we have received is true. Changes of necessity must come, conditions vary, from day to day, and new scenes are bound to present themselves as time rolls on.
All my life, from my earliest recollection. I have accepted the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, believed in him, and accepted him as the servant of the Lord who was called and appointed to usher in this dispensation, known as the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. Clothed with power from on high, he was sent forth to declare the principles of the everlasting gospel to a perverse world that they might, through repentance, come unto God and receive salvation in his kingdom. This great truth has, I say, always, from my earliest recollection, found an abiding place in my heart, and I have accepted every change that has come unto the Church until this time; and now I find myself still in harmony with the work, with the sentiments of the Latter-day Saints, with my brethren who preside, because I am convinced in my heart that this is the work of God.
It was an inspiring sight that we beheld yesterday forenoon in this building when the brethren holding the priesthood in the various orders thereof were called upon to stand and express themselves by vote, either in favor of or against the presiding officers. I voted with full purpose of heart and with the determination, with the rest of you, to uphold and sustain the constituted authorities, to stand by them, because I realize that they hold the power and the priesthood which has descended from the day of the Prophet Joseph Smith, which the Lord has said will continue upon the face of the earth until the end of time, and even then it shall not be taken away, for this priesthood is eternal.
No man can preside in this Church in any capacity, without the consent of the people. The Lord has placed upon us the responsibility of sustaining by vote those who are called, to various positions of responsibility. No man, should the people decide to the contrary, could preside over any body of Latter-day Saints in this Church, and yet it is not the right of the people to nominate, to choose, for that is the right of the priesthood. The priesthood selects, under the inspiration of our Father in heaven, and then it is the duty of the Latter-day Saints, as they are assembled in conference, or other capacity, by the uplifted hand, to sustain or to reject; and I take it that no man has the right to raise his hand in opposition, or with contrary vote, unless he has a reason for doing so that would be valid if presented before those who stand at the head. In other words, I have no right to raise my hand in opposition to a man who is appointed to any position in this Church, simply because I may not like him, or because of some personal disagreement or feeling I may have, but only on the grounds that he is guilty of wrong doing, of transgression of the laws of the Church which would disqualify him for the position which he is called to hold. That is my understanding of it.
I am glad to say that in raising my hand to sustain the authorities of the Church I can do that consistently and with pleasure, because I know that the men who are called to preside in the name of the Lord are qualified, and are chosen by divine revelation. There was a time in the history of the Church when doubts arose in the minds of many of the people at the time of the disorganization of the presidency of the Church. Such a thing as the disorganization of the First Presidency had never occurred before, and many of the people were in doubt as to just what action should be taken. They wondered what the result would be. They were not acquainted, as perhaps they should have been, and as we are today, with the revelations which the Lord had given in regard to matters of that kind. Therefore, doubts arose in their minds.
Men assumed authority and stood forth before the people demanding their attention and claiming the right of presidency. The matter, however, was properly settled by the vote of the people, and President Brigham Young, whose right it was, was sustained by the vote of the Latter-day Saints to stand at the head of the Church upon the earth. And yet it became necessary on that occasion, while President Young was speaking to the people, before the vote was taken, for the Lord to make it known by a manifestation that he was indeed the successor of the Prophet Joseph and that the mantle of his predecessor had fallen upon his shoulders. Such a thing as that is not required today because now we have learned the order of the Church; we know what the revelations declare. We know just what will follow in case of the disorganization of any quorum of the priesthood, and the people are not in doubt. There is no reason now for us to be at cross purposes, to have a misunderstanding, to let doubts arise in our minds in regard to these matters, because everything is clear and everything will be followed in the order which the Lord has appointed. Now we move smoothly in the path of duty and accept the word of the Lord as it has been made known and as the understanding has been impressed upon our minds, due very largely to the experience of the past.
I am grateful and thankful for a testimony of the truth, notwithstanding the fact that the presence of this vast congregation in conference assembled and the remarks that have been made, bring to me thoughts and reflections that touch my heart, I have feelings of pleasure and of joy beyond expression in the knowledge that I have that the Lord has established this work and that it will endure upon the face of the earth and shall not be destroyed, it shall not be given to another people. It is here permanently and shall remain until the Lord has finished his work among the children of men; and then it will continue, for it is everlasting and shall never be destroyed. I know just as well as it is possible for me, I believe, to know in this life, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. There is no doubt in my mind in the least that Brigham Young was called and appointed to be his successor and that he presided over this people by the will of God and was filled with the spirit of inspiration and prophecy. So likewise it was with President John Taylor, President Wilford Woodruff, President Lorenzo Snow, and all others who have pre-sided, and so it must be unto the end. The Lord will not permit any man to reach he presidency in this Church who is not prepared, who is not worthy, and whom he does not want. We may be assured of that. And, therefore, I find myself, I say, in absolute harmony with you in the order of the priesthood, in the doctrines of the Church, the revelations as they have been given unto us from the beginning, and I trust and pray that always I may have that spirit and be found faithfully laboring in the discharge of my duty as an officer and member in the Church in the salvation of souls, is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.