Every one of us has been foreordained for some work as His chosen servant on whom he has seen fit to confer the priesthood and power to act in his name. Always remember that people are looking to you for leadership and you are influencing the lives of individuals either for good or for bad, which influence will be felt for generations to come. Our great responsibility might be more emphatically stated or clearly understood if we realize that there is only one member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for approximately every 999 people in the world and only one member of this church per every 333 Christians, approximately. There are more priesthood holders in the world today than ever before in the history of mankind, with greater power and influence, and of equally great importance, and with greater challenges and problems to meet. The world needs that power and strength and influence to give leadership in helping to meet, solve and overcome the problems caused by the wickedness so rampant in the world. The Lord has set up his church in these the latter days to do just that. The future progress of the Church, and, in fact, the future of the world, depends on how we magnify the office which we hold in the priesthood. Every deacon, every teacher, every priest, every holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood has an individual responsibility and privilege to combine forces with the Savior in being tools in his hands and helping him to accomplish his work and his glory, which is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. No other people have this same authority or special call. It is hard to imagine and impossible to calculate the tremendous influence we would have if every one of us would honor his priesthood, and magnify his calling, and really try every day and in every way to use his influence to meet the onslaught of Satan. Too many of us seem to take the priesthood which we hold for granted; we fail to realize what the Lord expects of us, or we don’t have the conviction, courage, and fortitude to stand up for the right and be counted, to be different when necessary.
We recognize that some members have questions and concerns as they seek to strengthen their faith and testimonies. We should be careful not to be critical or judgmental of those with concerns—great or small. At the same time, those with concerns should do everything they can to build their own faith and testimony. Patiently and humbly studying, pondering, praying, living gospel principles, and counseling with appropriate leaders are the best ways to resolve questions or concerns. Some have asserted that more members are leaving the Church today and that there is more doubt and unbelief than in the past. This is simply not true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never been stronger. The number of members removing their names from the records of the Church has always been very small and is significantly less in recent years than in the past. The increase in demonstrably measurable areas, such as endowed members with a current temple recommend, adult full-tithe payers, and those serving missions, has been dramatic. Let me say again, the Church has never been stronger. But, “remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” We reach out to everyone. If the grim realities you are facing at this time seem dark and heavy and almost unbearable, remember that in the soul-wrenching darkness of Gethsemane and the incomprehensible torture and pain of Calvary, the Savior accomplished the Atonement, which resolves the most terrible burdens that can occur in this life. He did it for you, and He did it for me. He did it because He loves us and because He obeys and loves His Father. We will be rescued from death—even from the depths of the sea. Our protections in this life and for eternity will be in individual and family righteousness, Church ordinances, and following the Savior. This is our refuge from the storm. For those who feel they are alone, you can stand resolutely in righteousness knowing that the Atonement will protect and bless you beyond your ability to fully understand.
Yesterday the growth statistics of the Church were presented. They are impressive and gratifying. They called to mind a recent broadcast of one of the nation’s popular television programs in which Joe Garragiola interviewed the Reverend Dean M. Kelley of the National Council of Churches, who spoke of the declining membership of some of the larger, well-known religious bodies and also of the accelerating growth of others. He gave as the reason for the decline: “Because they have become permissive; they allow just anybody to become members or remain members. They don’t insist on any rigorous requirements of belief or of contributions.” He pointed out, on the other hand, that those groups which require sacrifice of time and effort and means are enjoying vigorous growth. He then went on to say: “The fastest growing church [of] over a million members in this country is the Mormon Church, the Latter-day Saints, with headquarters in Salt Lake City, which is growing at five percent a year, [and] that’s a very rapid increase.” This is a most striking commentary, and one that should concern every thoughtful man and woman. One thing that it says is that a religion which requires devotion, which asks for sacrifice, which demands discipline, also enjoys the loyalty of its membership and the interest and respect of others.