It’s difficult for me to find the words to convey to you, my brothers and sisters, my heartfelt appreciation for the lives you live, for the good you do, for the testimonies you bear. You serve one another willingly. You are dedicated to the gospel of Jesus Christ. During more than 44 years as a General Authority, I have had the opportunity to travel the world over. One of my greatest joys has been to meet with you, the members, wherever you may be—to feel of your spirit and your love. I look forward to many more such opportunities. Throughout the journey along the pathway of life, there are casualties. Some depart from the road markers which point toward life eternal, only to discover the detour chosen ultimately leads to a dead end. Indifference, carelessness, selfishness, and sin all take their costly toll in human lives. Change for the better can come to all. Over the years we have issued appeals to the less active, the offended, the critical, the transgressor—to come back. “Come back and feast at the table of the Lord, and taste again the sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the Saints.”
When I was twenty-one years of age, I was sent on a mission to the southern states. I became secretary of the mission, and while there was called to Columbia, South Carolina, because some of our elders had become seriously ill. It was difficult to get word back and forth, so I got on a train and went down there. I found that they were improved and getting along all right. When I bade them good-bye, I boarded the train and started home, and we passed a little Indian settlement at the side of the track. I saw evidence that there were quite a number of Indians there, so I reached over and touched the man who was sitting in the seat in front of me, and I said, “Do you know what Indians these are?” He said, “They are the Catawbas.” That is the tribe that Chief Blue represents, who has just spoken to us. . . I speak of that because that was the first time I had ever heard of the Catawba Indians, and there were only a few of them. I understand now from Chief Blue that ninety-seven percent of them are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. . . So you may be interested, brethren and sisters, in knowing that I am delighted in seeing Chief Blue here today, representing that tribe of fine Indians. I have seen some of them since. I have met one very fine young woman who is a schoolteacher, and others I have met of that race; in fact, I have some trinkets in my office that were sent to me by members of that tribe. I am happy to have this good man here who represents one of the tribes that descended from Father Lehi as well as some of the others that are in our audience today. One good man that I am looking at here came to the temple during the week and was sealed to his wife. They are coming into the Church all around, and I am so grateful this morning to be here and hear this man who for sixty years has been a faithful leader among his people and now comes to this general conference and bears testimony to us.
My brothers and sisters, as the Brethren of the First Presidency and the Twelve have meditated upon and prayed about the great latter-day work the Lord has given us to do, we are impressed that the mission of the Church is threefold: – To proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; – To perfect the Saints by preparing them to receive the ordinances of the gospel and by instruction and discipline to gain exaltation; – To redeem the dead by performing vicarious ordinances of the gospel for those who have lived on the earth. All three are part of one work—to assist our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, in Their grand and glorious mission “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”. Having these sacred principles in mind—to proclaim the gospel, to perfect the Saints, and to redeem the dead—we have endeavored these past six months to carry out our responsibilities among the Saints at home and abroad. I should like, therefore, to give you a brief report on my stewardship since last we met in October 1980.