"To the Children of the Church"
Ezra Taft Benson's Last
General Conference Talk as LDS Church President
President Ezra Taft Benson
13th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
160th Annual General Conference
Sunday Afternoon Session
"Dear child, you are God’s gift to your parents, and the gift your parents can give God is to bring you back to Him sweet and pure and faithful."
My dear brethren and sisters, how I have rejoiced in the messages I have heard delivered from this pulpit at this great general conference of the Church.
The messages are true. They are important. They are vital to our personal salvation, and with all my heart I commend them to you.
In previous general meetings of the Church, I have spoken specifically to the mothers and to the fathers, to the young men and to the young women, to the single adult sisters and to the single adult brethren.
For my closing message at this conference, I would now like to speak to the children of the Church—yes, to you, our precious children. And as you listen, I pray that you will know that this is a personal message just for you.
How I love you! How our Heavenly Father loves you!
Just like the beautiful Primary song you sing, each of you truly is a child of God. For you, rich blessings are in store, and if you learn to do His will, you will live with Him once more. I know this to be true. (See "I Am a Child of God," Hymns, 1985, no. 301.)
Today I desire to teach you what our Heavenly Father wants you to know so that you can learn to do His will and enjoy true happiness. It will help you now and throughout your life.
First, may I say how thrilled I am to know how you children are learning about the Book of Mormon. This is one of the very important things Heavenly Father wants you to do.
I know you are reading the Book of Mormon, for I have received hundreds of personal letters from you telling me that you are reading this sacred book. It makes me weep for joy when I hear this.
Many of you have read the Book of Mormon all the way through. In family home evening and in Primary you have dramatized Book of Mormon stories, you have sung songs about the Book of Mormon, you have learned the names of the books in the Book of Mormon, you have played Book of Mormon games, you have learned about wonderful Book of Mormon prophets. Some of you have even earned money to send copies of the Book of Mormon around the world.
How pleased I am to hear of your love for the Book of Mormon. I love it too, and Heavenly Father wants you to continue to learn from the Book of Mormon every day. It's Heavenly Father's special gift to you. By following its teachings, you will learn to do the will of our Father in Heaven.
I also hope your parents and leaders will give you opportunities to learn from the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Bible as well.
Now, there are other important things Heavenly Father wants you to do.
He wants you to pray to Him every day. He wants to help you because He loves you, and He will help you if you pray to Him and ask Him for His help. In your prayers, also thank Him for your blessings. Thank Him for sending our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, into the world. He made it possible for us to return to our heavenly home. Thank Him for your family. Thank Him for the Church. Thank Him for this beautiful world you live in. Ask Him to protect you. In your prayers, ask Him to help you know what to do in your life. When you make mistakes, your Heavenly Father still loves you. So pray to Him, and He will help you try again to do right.
Pray to Heavenly Father to bless you with His Spirit at all times. We often call the Spirit the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is also a gift from Heavenly Father. The Holy Ghost helps you to choose the right. The Holy Ghost will protect you from evil. He whispers to you in a still, small voice to do right. When you do good, you feel good, and that is the Holy Ghost speaking to you. The Holy Ghost is a wonderful companion. He is always there to help you.
My dear boys and girls, honor your fathers and mothers. They will help you make good decisions. Enjoy and respect your grandparents. Be a real friend to your brothers and sisters. Choose friends who have high ideals. Choose friends who will help you to be good.
Attend sacrament meeting. Listen carefully to what your bishop says. He is an important spiritual leader who has a special calling from Heavenly Father to help you.
Enjoy Primary, and attend every week. Bring your member and nonmember friends to Primary. Learn the Primary songs well. They are wonderful. Memorize the Articles of Faith and earn the Gospel in Action Award.
Be honest. Do not lie nor steal. Do not cheat. Do not use profanity, but be clean in your thoughts and speech.
Be a true Latter-day Saint. Stand up for your beliefs. One of my favorite Primary songs is "Dare to Do Right." Some of the words are:
Dare to do right! dare to be true!
You have a work that no other can do;
Do it so bravely, so kindly, so well,
Angels will hasten the story to tell.
(Sing with Me, B-81)
Remember, Satan does not want you to be happy. He does not want you to dare to do right. He wants you to be miserable, as he is. He has captured the hearts of wicked men and women who would have you participate in bad things such as pornography, drugs, profanity, and immorality. Stay away from these evils. Avoid books, magazines, videos, movies, and television shows that are not good. As the scriptures tell us, avoid the very appearance of evil. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:22)
Dress modestly. Choose clothing that covers your body properly. Behave in a courteous and polite way. Live the Word of Wisdom. Keep the Sabbath day holy. Listen to good music. Do your best to be good.
Do well in your school work and strive to be a good student.
With help from your parents, begin your own library of favorite tapes, books, and pictures which are available at Church distribution centers. Enjoy reading each month in your home the Friend magazine or the international magazines.
Love the country in which you live. Be a good citizen. Be patriotic. Fly your country's flag on special holidays. Pray for your country's leaders.
Primary boys, plan and look forward to serving a full-time mission for the Lord. Young girls, be prepared for missionary service if you are called. But also, young girls, learn from your mothers the important homemaking skills you will use in your own home.
Now I want to say something to you children who do not feel safe and who are frightened or hurt and do not know what to do. Sometimes you may feel all alone. You need to know that even when it seems that no one else cares, your Heavenly Father does. He will always love you. He wants you to be protected and safe. If you are not, please talk to someone who can help you—a parent, a teacher, your bishop, or a friend. They will help you.
I am sure each of you has favorite stories from the scriptures. One of my favorite stories is found in the seventeenth chapter of 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon. It tells about the visit of Jesus to the people on the American continent after His resurrection. It tells about Jesus healing the sick and teaching the people and praying to Heavenly Father for them.
Now, this is one of my favorite parts of that story:
"And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying unto the Father, he arose; but so great was the joy of the multitude that they were overcome.
"And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.
"And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.
"And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
"And when he had done this he wept again;
"And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
"And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them." (3 Nephi 17:18-24.)
I promise you, dear children, that angels will minister unto you also. You may not see them, but they will be there to help you, and you will feel of their presence.
Favored little ones were they,
Who towards him Jesus drew!
Who within his arms he took
Just as loving parents do,
Christ the Lord "Our living head."
This of little children said,
"Such shall of my kingdom be,
Suffer them to come to me."
Listen to the Savior's plea,
"Let the children come to me."
("Let the Little Children Come," Sing With Me, B-14.)
Dear children, our Heavenly Father sent you to earth at this time because you are some of His most valiant children. He knew there would be much wickedness in the world today, and He knew you could be faithful and obedient.
Dear child, you are God's gift to your parents, and the gift your parents can give God is to bring you back to Him sweet and pure and faithful.
He expects your parents and leaders to teach you, to walk beside you, and to be shining examples to you so that you will know the way you should go. They must spend time with you and love you and pray with you and for you.
Your leaders must call faithful men and women to teach you in Primary. We must provide experiences for you early in your life that will help you know how to live the gospel.
God bless the children of this Church. How I love you! How Heavenly Father loves you! And may we, as your parents, teachers, and leaders, be more childlike—more submissive, more meek, and more humble.
I close my message to you this day with the prayer that we may ever respond to your plea as you so sweetly sing:
Teach me to walk in the light of his love;
Teach me to pray to my Father above;
Teach me to know of the things that are right;
Teach me, teach me to walk in the light.
And then, as your parents, we sing to you:
Come, little child, and together we'll learn
Of his commandments, that we may return
Home to his presence, to live in his sight—
Always, always to walk in the light.
And together we sing:
Father in Heaven, we thank thee this day
For loving guidance to show us the way.
Grateful, we praise thee with songs of delight!
Gladly, gladly we'll walk in the light.
(Hymns, 1985, no. 304.)
For this I fervently pray for the children of the Church, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.