Sacred ResponsibilitiesBy President Lorenzo Snow President of the Church General Conference – October, 1901
My dear brethren and sisters, it is rather a marvel to me that I venture to, talk to you this afternoon; not but that I have something to say and would really like to have the time and the voice to say it, and perhaps by the exercise of your faith and prayers I may have the voice to address you for a few minutes. I have been delighted to hear-of the spirit that has attended the speakers since this conference opened. It shows to me one glorious fact-that during the last six months the Latter-day Saints have not been idle. When the Elders address this conference and the Spirit is upon them more than it was at the preceding conference, it shows most clearly that there has been an advance on the part of the Latter-day Saints in the performance of their duties. The next conference we have, if the Saints will continue to improve as they have done during the last six months, our Elders will have more of the Spirit, and their addresses will be even more intelligent and more serviceable to you than they have been during this conference.
Brethren and sisters, God bless you. This is what I wanted to say to you. I have had a distressing cold the last eight or ten days, which has made me very hoarse, and I feared that I would not be able to appear at all during this conference.
I want to say a few words in reference to one particular subject. and I do not want what I shall say to be forgotten. It is a matter that concerns all the Saints; you are all interested in it, and especially the Presidents of Stakes, their counselors, the High Councilors, the Bishops and their counselors, and all those who have been appointed to hold certain portions of the Holy Priesthood and to be actively engaged in the various Stakes of Zion. There are now fifty Stakes of Zion and these Stakes are composed of several wards. On an average there are probably seven or eight wards to each Stake. Over each Stake there are a president and two counselors and twelve High Councilors. Then there are Bishops and counselors over the respective wards. And now, what responsibilities rest upon the officials of these fifty Stakes; The dominion of the Latter-day Saints, to a large extent, and the highest and most sacred responsibilities are depending upon these fifty presidents; and there is something to do for each of these authorities that I have mentioned. The most extensive and important responsibilities devolve upon these officials. And although, I doubt not, they have been pretty faithful in the past, they have not been so faithful in some respects, as they ought to have been; they have not realized their sacred responsibilities so much as they might have done.
This Church is now nearly seventy two years of age, and we are not expected to do the work of the days of our youth, but to do greater, larger and more extensive work. The Lord is coming one of these days, and He is interested in the work that you ought to be doing, and anxious to be doing. You ought to do all that you possibly, can, and leave everything in your business affairs that you wisely can do and attend to these matters. The presidents of these fifty Stakes should consider the people in their respective Stakes, in their various dominions. They should regard them as their own family, as their sons and daughters; and take as deep an interest in them as they ought to take in their own wives and children. It should be their thought by day and by night, how and in what way they can be most serviceable to their respective charges. Oh! brethren, do remember these things that I am now talking about; do not forget them. You presidents, when you retire to your rest, you probably can spend half an hour before you go to sleep, and let your thoughts run over your several jurisdictions. See wherein, either physically, financially or spiritually, you can help, and what can be done best in advancing the interests of your official family. These Bishops, however wise and energetic they may think themselves-and the most of them certainly are very wise and energetic-need to be looked after. It is not the duty of the Apostles to look after them.
The Apostles have a work that is in another direction altogether. I want the Presidents of Stakes hereafter to realize that it is their business, not the business of the Apostles; it is the business of the High Priests, the Elders, the Bishops, Priests, Teachers and Deacons to look after these things. Do not lay this duty upon the shoulders of the Apostles. It is not in their line, at least only occasionally. There is a certain channel by and through which the Lord intends to exalt His sons and daughters, to remove wickedness from the earth and to establish righteousness, and that channel is the Priesthood, which God has established and shown clearly the nature and character of the various officers and duties thereof. The Apostles and the Seventies, it is their business by the appointment of the Almighty, to look after the interests of the world. The Seventies and the Twelve Apostles are special witnesses unto the nations of the earth. The business of the High Priests, the Elders and the Bishops is to look after the interests of these various organizations that I have mentioned. You presiding officers of the various Stakes of Zion, the time is coming when you will not have to call and depend so much upon the Twelve Apostles. They will be directed in other channels, and I want you to distinctly understand it; and do not seek to throw responsibilities that belong to you upon these Twelve Apostles and upon the Seventies.
I wanted to say this, and to speak it with energy and in a way that you will not forget it, that you cannot forget it, It is a wonderful responsibility, and the Lord expects it of you. You ought to know how the laws of God are observed in your respective localities-how the Sabbath is kept; whether the young people are swearing, and off at midnight when they ought to be at home; how the parents govern and control them; how far the people are paying their tithing correctly; what they are doing in regard to their meeting houses, their school houses, and their houses of amusement; whether they are expending their time and means too much in these directions, or not enough; and what you can do in helping them along. Look at these things, and everything that pertains to the happiness of your children, the members of this family of yours, see what you can do about it. And the Lord God of Israel will help you in this, because it is just what He wants you to do. It is the duty that He has placed upon you to discharge, and He certainly will help you. But when you take any other course-when you depend upon the Apostles to reform your respective Stakes-you are doing that which you have no business to do. Do it yourselves, you Presidents of Stakes and counselors, you High Councilors, and you Bishops. The High Council should visit all through the Stake which they have charge of in connection with the President and his counselors. It is not the business altogether of the High Council to just wait till some persons come before them and want some little trifle settled. They have got to do something else, more noble and grand than such little matters. Go where you can do good, and be lively in it.
Now, God bless you Latter-day Saints. I am glad to see such a vast Multitude as there is here, and that I understand has been throughout this conference. I repeat, I am so delighted to hear that the Spirit of God has been on the Elders so bountifully as it has, and that they have spoken so well and so wisely to you as they have. I thank you for the faith you have exercised, because when I arose here I did not know that I could speak five words; but now I have said what I wanted to say. A great deal could be enlarged upon this, and the brethren will do so as opportunity serves.
There is still one matter that I might speak of. I am going on pretty fast toward my eighty-eighth year; I will soon be eighty-eight years old; and I have been laboring now for some months with but one counselor-President Joseph F. Smith. I feel as though I wanted a little more help-another counselor; and I have selected one, (through, I believe, the manifestations of the Lord), who, I think, will be energetic and strong, will serve the people, and help me and President Joseph F. Smith along in a proper way; and I hope you will sustain and support him. God bless you. Amen.