Magnificent and far-reaching blessings await people who honor and magnify the priesthood of God, President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, said during the priesthood session of conference.
Speaking to hundreds of thousands of men and boys in the Salt Lake Tabernacle and in gatherings throughout the world Saturday evening, President Hinckley gave a stirring address on the importance of being true and faithful to the priesthood.Other speakers at the priesthood session were President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Richard G. Scott of the Council of the Twelve; and Elders John H. Groberg and Russell C. Taylor of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
Music was by the Ricks College Centennial Priesthood Choir, directed by Richard Robison and Mike Belnap, with Clay Christiansen at the organ.
President Hinckley complimented President Ezra Taft Benson on an international Scouting award presented at the meeting, saying the 89-year-old church leader's entire life has been a "shining example of the finest teachings of Scouting." (See story on A7.)
President Hinckley called attention to promises made in the Scout Oath, suggesting that every priesthood holder take another pledge, of being on his honor to "magnify the priesthood of God."
Using a pair of binoculars to illustrate his talk, President Hinckley explained the meaning of "magnify." When priesthood holders are true to the trust that God has placed in them, they strengthen themselves and bring themselves closer to and strengthen others, he said.
President Hinckley quoted scriptures that show the need to magnify and be faithful to priesthood and other callings. All the blessings that the Father hath shall be given unto those who are faithful and true, he said.
The power of the priesthood is enlarged, he said, when priesthood holders teach sound doctrine, serve with diligence and enthusiasm, assist people in distress and strengthen the weak. Also, they must practice principles of honesty, integrity, fidelity and virtue, he said.
President Thomas S. Monson reminded the congregation that they have been "entrusted to bear the priesthood and to act in the name of God. We are the recipients of a sacred trust. Much is expected of us," he said.
He encouraged learning from the past and preparing for the future, with much of his talk devoted to encouraging youths to be positive and overcome discouragement.
"At times all of us let that enemy of achievement - even the culprit, self-defeat - dwarf our aspirations, smother our dreams, cloud our vision and wreck our lives," he said.
"Life was never intended to consist of a glut of luxury, to be an easy course or to be filled only with success. There are those games which we lose, those races where we finish last and those promotions which never come. Such experiences provide an opportunity for us to show our determination and to rise above disappointment."
President Monson recounted a story about Elder Randall Ellsworth, who a number of years ago was a missionary in Guatemala during an earthquake.
Despite injuries that paralyzed his legs and severely damaged his kidneys, the missionary later regained his strength, learned to walk and returned to service in the Central American country.
Elder Monson held up a cane used by the missionary, who through his faith learned to walk without the device. President Monson said the cane "serves as a silent witness of our Heavenly Father's ability to hear our prayers and to bless our lives. It is a symbol of faith. It is a reminder of courage."
Elder Richard G. Scott's address was focused on encouraging priesthood holders to learn to have trust in the Lord and to live so they can be trusted and helped by the Lord.
The general authority said he hoped to help youths and others "catch fire spiritually that they may enjoy the marvelous experience of giving and radiating strength to others" while continuing to grow and develop themselves.
Elder Scott said the "spiritual flame in some is easily quenched by the world around them. Yet, others live so as to be strengthened and nurtured by the Lord. They not only overcome the temptations of the world, they enrich the lives of others around them."
He recounted the experience of two missionaries who trusted in and relied on the Lord's help in saving the life of an injured man in Bolivia. And he urged youths and other priesthood holders to be honest with themselves and to bring their lives into harmony with the Lord's teachings.
"When your life complies with the will of the Lord and is in harmony with his teachings, the Holy Ghost is your companion in need . . . Like the missionaries, you can be protected and strengthened to do what alone would be impossible," he said.
He said that as he had spoken that "some of you (listeners) have been prompted by the Spirit about private things the Lord wants you to do something about. You have been impressed to know what to do . . . They are a personal message of the Lord to you. Remember that message. Follow it precisely, now for your happiness."
The "Beauty and Importance of the Sacrament" was the subject of Elder John H. Groberg's talk, in which he outlined the meaning and purpose of the ordinance and stressed the importance of worthily partaking of the sacrament.
"What does it mean to partake of the sacrament worthily? Or how do we know if we are unworthy? If we desire to improve (which is to repent) and are not under priesthood restriction, then, in my opinion, we are worthy. If, however, we have no desire to improve, if we have no intention of following the guidance of the Spirit, we must ask, are we worthy to partake or are we making a mockery of the very purpose of the sacrament, which is to act as a catalyst for personal repentance and improvement," Elder Groberg said.
Elder Groberg urged priesthood leaders to encourage more people to attend sacrament meetings and to partake of the sacrament with more worthiness. And he admonished leaders to teach more fully, with deeper feeling and greater power, the doctrine of Christ as embodied in the sacrament.
Elder Russell C. Taylor told of his love for basketball, comparing it with the game of life in which players must follow the rules so they "don't foul out."
He said the "rules in real life are different from those in a game. Our rules are the commandments of God."
He asked: "How many points are you making in your life? Are you winning?" Elder Taylor urged youths to prepare to serve a mission, which he defined as not only full-time missionary service but following the Lord's teachings throughout life. He cited the need of drawing close to the Lord through daily scripture study and prayer, regular fasting, living the Word of Wisdom, being morally clean and living a life of service.
He said, "There may be some among you who have fouled out. You've broken the rules, gotten offsides, moved before the snap, fumbled the ball. The ball - the gospel - is in your hands. Know that a loving Heavenly Father understands your weaknesses and wants you back on his team. Talk to your bishop. He will help you come back. You are needed and loved."
At the conclusion of the meeting, President Monson said President Benson had turned to the choir during the choir's singing to say, "This is a powerful choir." President Monson said, "President, they are from Idaho (President Benson's home state)," to which President Benson replied, "I know it."