The work of the church is concerned with the eternal welfare of all generations who have lived upon the Earth. No other organization faces so great a challenge.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, made that statement in addressing the general priesthood meeting Saturday evening in the Tabernacle.Speaking before thousands of Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood holders assembled on Temple Square and in hundreds of other gatherings throughout the world, President Hinckley said he is confident that the challenge will be met by the growing generation and by generations yet to come.
Other general authorities who spoke at the session, included President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, who conducted the session; Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve; Elder J. Richard Clarke of the Presidency of Quorums of the Seventy; and Elders Jacob de Jager and Jack H. Goaslind of the Seventy.
Elder Derek A. Cuthbert, who is seriously ill and unable to attend the conference, was remembered in an opening prayer by Elder Ronald E. Poelman. Both are members of the Quorums of the Seventy.
President Hinckley gave a report on the state of the church, posing a series of questions and then endeavoring to answer them. The questions began with one about the well-being of President Ezra Taft Benson and concluded with an inquiry about the future of the church. Several questions and answers concerned church financial matters.
President Hinckley said President Benson, now in his 92nd year, is reasonably well for his age, assuring the audience that he is the "prophet of the Lord, put in that place under the divine will of our Father in heaven for the accomplishment of his eternal purposes. . . . I assure you that nothing of substantial consequence is done without his knowledge and concurrence."
President Hinckley said the church is making substantial progress in many areas, most importantly in growing faith and faithfulness among its members.
To one question, "Is the church an organization of great wealth, as some have maintained?" President Hinckley said the church has substantial assets, primarily buildings, necessary to its program. He said the church has a few income-producing business properties, "but the return from these would keep the church going for a very brief time."
He emphasized the importance of tithing, which he defined as the Lord's law of finance. He said there is "no other financial law like it. It is a principle given with a promise, spoken by the Lord himself for the blessing of his children."
President Monson's address, "A Royal Priesthood," was an admonition to youths and other priesthood holders to be loyal to the honor of holding the priesthood and to be true to the callings they have received.
Much of his talk centered on the importance of living the law of the fast and accomplishments that have been made by the church in the United States and other countries because of funds collected.
President Monson said the proceeds from two special fast days in 1985 and donations to the special relief of the suffering since that time have totaled $13,145,527. He detailed use of funds in Africa, the United States, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
President Monson said children in African nations are receiving immunizations in an effort to eradicate common communicable diseases. He said caring dentists have joined hands to provide free dental care to residents of an urban homeless shelter in Salt Lake City. Dentists, hygienists and other professionals volunteer their time and skills, and the church has helped to provide needed dental supplies, President Monson said.
Elder Perry discussed the importance of young men preparing themselves to serve missions for the church. He told of an interview that he had as a young man with his own bishop, who was his father, and of the challenges and opportunities young men face.
He urged young men to stay morally clean, maintain clean and pure thoughts and never commit acts that would prevent them from serving a mission. He also warned that harmful drugs and alcoholic beverages destroy minds and bodies.
Elder Perry cited the importance of youths and their families preparing financially for a mission. He said financing missions would not tax family resources "if young priesthood bearers would decide early in life that they would carry this responsibility measurably themselves."
Elder Clarke reminded priesthood holders that they are the sons of God and "have been commissioned by Christ to bear his holy priesthood and to build up his church. We must expand our awareness as quorums, and as individuals, and increase our caring capacity."
He said, "Let us live righteously and extend the healing power of the priesthood, through loving quorum service, to succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees."
In his address, Elder de Jager discussed the importance of individuals making necessary changes in their lives.
"As priesthood holders, we should ask ourselves these questions: Am I giving enough attention and time to personal change, which will make me a better person in the eyes of the Lord? And am I, as a father and spiritual leader in my own home, giving enough attention and time to my basic duties and responsibilities?" Elder de Jager said.
Elder Goaslind counseled youths, whom he referred to as "Young Men of Christ," to "cultivate, to cherish and to maintain righteous desires."
Having a desire to do good and taking action to carry out one's feelings are among the keys to happiness. "I promise you that the Lord will bless you with right attitudes and desires as you pray to him, attend to your duties, keep the commandments and serve him," Elder Goaslind said.