George Albert Smith's Final
General Conference Talk as LDS Church President
President George Albert Smith
8th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
121nd Semiannual General Conference
Sunday Afternoon Session
"...if men and women, with all the truth that they have, would retain all the wonderful things that have been passed on through the prophets of God, and then let us share with them the additional information the Lord has revealed since the Holy Bible was made accessible to the world, what a difference it would make."
You have just listened to the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, LeGrand Richards, and while he has been talking, I have been thinking of this great audience. Reference has been made repeatedly to missionary work. We have been told that we have nearly six thousand missionaries out in the world today. Of course they are coming and going all the time. For a small church, such as we are, having membership a little more than a million, approximately six thousand missionaries is a marvelous record. As I sit here looking at the faces of the men and women that I know here, and I can see people here from all over it came into my mind to ask the question: How many of you have filled a two-year or longer mission during your lifetime? Raise your hands. Thank you very much. This is a missionary Church. Sometimes people might think, from the way we refer to finance, that we are a bank, but we are not. Think of the buildings that are on this block, every one of them built many years ago. This tabernacle and the temple were built in the very poverty of our people when they were trying to make homes here in the valleys of these mountains. But the Lord said, "Seek ye first,"-not last-". . . seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33. )
Comforts and Blessings
When I travel, as I have, approximately a million miles in the world, in many nations and places in the world, and come back here, I do not know of any place where people have more comforts and blessings than we do right here in this place that 103 years ago was a desert land, with only one tree growing in this valley. My grandfather came with the first company of pioneers. There were 143 men, three women, and two children. After he had been here for five or six years, one of his non Mormon friends asked him, "President Smith, why did you leave Nauvoo and all that fine country back there in New York and Missouri and come out to this God-forsaken land?"
The reply of my grandfather was, "Why, we came here willingly, because we had to."
In other words, the people, about twenty thousand of them, when they were expelled from Illinois, had their choice. They could have stayed there and lived with so-called Christians (I want to emphasize that), or they could leave and come out here and live with the Indians. That was their choice. They preferred the Indians. Now that was not because our people did not believe in Christianity. I know of no people in the world who believe as firmly in the divine mission of Jesus Christ as do the membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I remember I have had many people say to me, "Why, you people do not even believe in Jesus Christ."
I have said, "What is the matter with you? If we do not believe in Jesus Christ, why do we call the Church, the Church of Jesus Christ?"
"Oh, I didn't know you called it that, I thought it was called the Mormon Church," they have replied.
Divine Mission of Jesus Christ
I remember I attended a conference in Canada once, and it so happened that I referred in my remarks during the evening to our faith in the divine mission of Jesus Christ, that we believed that the Lord prepared the way for the coming of Jesus of Nazareth; prepared Mary to be his mother and Joseph to act as his earthly father. And then Herod, in an attempt to destroy him, sent out a decree that the children in Bethlehem and the country round about who were two years old and under were to be slain, and he became one of the greatest butchers of all time. Joseph and Mary took Jesus and departed from the land of their birth and their home and went down into Egypt. They returned later when that wicked king had died, and the boy grew up in Nazareth and other places in that section. When he was twelve years old, he went with his parents to the temple. They were there to perform services in the temple as was customary with those good Hebrew people in those days. When Joseph and Mary started home, they missed the boy. They returned to Jerusalem and found him reasoning with the wise men in the temple. When he was reproached by his parents for causing them such anxiety, his answer was, ". . . wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49.) Remember he was only twelve years old.
When Jesus became a man, he went to the River Jordan where John was baptizing "because there was much water there," and he needed more than a teacup or a basin full-Jesus of Nazareth, who was to become the Savior of the world, went to John and applied for baptism, and John recognizing him as an unusual character said, ". . . I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?"
"And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him." (Matt. 3:14-15.) And Jesus of Nazareth went down into the water and was baptized by John, and when he came up out of the water, the Holy Ghost came and descended upon him in the form of a dove.
And a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Ibid., 3:17.) Could there be anything more definite than that? Our wonderful Bible contains all that information and much more, of course. When people say or think that we do not believe in the divine mission of Jesus Christ, let them know that we believe all that the Bible teaches in reference to him. We believe the story of how he organized his people and taught them, and how eventually, at the insistence of his own people, he was crucified by the representatives of the Roman government; not for any wrong he had done, but because he was too good to live among that people.
We believe all that. But that was not the end. The Bible tells us that he had been taken down from the cross where he had been crucified and placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. After three days, when the women went to the tomb with spices and other things to prepare his body for burial as was customary, they found that the tomb was empty. They began looking around. Mary was standing near the sepulchre weeping when she saw someone who she thought was the gardener. She asked where Jesus was, and He said, "Mary," and she recognized his voice. I suppose Mary would have embraced him, but he said, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father" (John 20:17)-that was three days after his crucifixion-but to go and tell his brethren, and gave her other instructions.
Not very long after that, his disciples were gathered together in a room; because of their fear of their enemies, the door was closed. All at once he materialized in that room-he did not have to wait for a door or a window to open. Thomas, who had not been present at the time of the previous appearance of Jesus, had been told by the disciples. Realizing that there was some doubt in the mind of Thomas, Jesus said, ". . . reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side." (Ibid., 20:27.)
And when Thomas had done it, he cried out, "My Lord and my God." ( Ibid., 20:28. ) He identified the body as the one he had seen on the cross. And then the Savior said. "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (Ibid., 20:29.) But that was not the end. He said to his disciples, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." (Ibid., 10:16. )
Visit to Other Sheep
What did he mean? We do not know from the Bible, but there is another glorious record, the history of the ancestors of the American Indians, another scripture, the Book of Mormon, and in this scripture is recorded how he fulfilled that promise of going to his other sheep. At the time of his crucifixion this earth was rent, and the mountains were made valleys, the valleys were made mountains, and buildings were destroyed, and many of the people who lived on the land lost their lives. They had been looking for the time when the Savior should come, for Samuel, the Lamanite prophet, had told them about it and all that would occur. They were gathered around the temple- and all at once they heard a voice, but they did not understand it. And they heard it a second time; and still they could not tell where it came from. And then they heard it the third time, and this time they understood, and looking up, saw the heavens open, and a glorified Being came down and stood among them. Had there been any doubt in their mind as to who it was, he dispelled it, because he said, "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world." (3 Nephi 11:10.)
Brethren and sisters, we have all the information that our Christian brothers and sisters do with regard to the life of the Savior in the Bible, and in addition to that, we have the story of his coming to the people on this western hemisphere, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. And when he came among them, he talked to them as he had to those in the old world. When he was ready to leave them, he blessed them, he healed their sick and took their children up in his arms and wept over them. And after being with them two or three days, coming and going, they saw him ascend into heaven.
Experiences of Joseph Smith
In 1820 Joseph Smith, the boy prophet not yet fifteen years of age, seeking to know what Church he should join because of the confusion in his neighborhood-his mother insisted he belong to one church and his father to another-went out in the woods to pray This boy had read in the Bible, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not- and it shall be given him." (James 1:5.) He went out into the woods and put it to the test. As he knelt there, the adversary sought to overpower him and he was stricken, but suddenly a bright light appeared. Two glorified Beings were standing in the air above him in the woods near Palmyra, New York. He saw them, and they asked him what he wanted, and he asked which of all the churches he should join. One of them spoke to him and said, pointing to the other "This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!" ( Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:17. ) Almost the same language that was used by the Father when Jesus came up out of the watrs of baptism-"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3: 17.) So when Joseph the boy wanted to know what to do, he was told by the Savior himself.
I say to you we not only have all that the world has with regard to the divinity of the mission of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible but also we have the story of another book, known as the Book of Mormon, and the account of his appearing in this western hemisphere, the tradition of which has been among the Indians ever since and we also have the story of another man who gave his life as a witness that he knew that God lives and Jesus is the Christ. I refer to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
My brothers and sisters, if men and women, with all the truth that they have, would retain all the wonderful things that have been passed on through the prophets of God, and then let us share with them the additional information the Lord has revealed since the Holy Bible was made accessible to the world, what a difference it would make. I remember a very fine doctor, who was a good member of the Jewish church in Atlanta, Georgia, and who read the Book of Mormon. I became well-acquainted with him, and he said to me one day, "There isn't a man living in the world today that could write the Book of Mormon. It must be something more than the work of man." I have known many people, who, having read it, and prayed about it, have received a witness that it is true.
Inspiration of Almighty
What I want to emphasize is this: Not only do we have all that is contained in these sacred records, but also when you have received the gospel, been baptized, had the hands of the servants of the Lord laid upon your head and received the Holy Ghost, you have a right to the inspiration of the Almighty if you live to be worthy of it Ought we not to be grateful for our many blessings? What a wonderful thing to live in a land like America and to have all the advantages [p. 159.] that we have. I feel so grateful for my privileges in the Church of Jesus Christ, for my companionship with the men and women of this Church and of other churches. I am grateful to have a host of friends in the various churches of the world, scattered in different places. I am grateful for those friendships, but I will not be satisfied until I can share with them some of the things which they have not yet received. And that is the thing we must keep in our minds- it is our responsibility to bear the word. Let us do the things the Lord wats us to do and keep his commandments and be worthy of the blessings that we enjoy that are superior to those of most people in all the world.
Obedience Brings Blessings
This is the closing session of this great conference. It will be another six months before we are again brought together in this capacity, as far as we know now. But in that six months we do not know what may occur. Reference has been made to the fact that many of our boys and some of our girls are already being taken away preparatory for another war. War is the result of sin, not righteousness. And if we want to avoid war and avoid the responsibilities that come, our duty is to keep the commandments of God, and he has promised that if we will do that we will enjoy blessings that we cannot enjoy in any other way.
I am happy to be with you today. we have had a wonderful time. We are grateful to this wonderful choir that sings to the world every Sunday, a choir that has rendered 1102 programs, broadcast to the world. We are not depending entirely upon the nearly six thousand missionaries. We also have the radio, and thousands of people listen in to the program that is given each week by this wonderful choir, an unpaid organization that is doing missionary work for the blessings of mankind.
Now are you happy? If you are keeping the commandments of God, I am sure you are happy. We have much to do. You have heard something about preparing a temple at Los Angeles.
Plans and Accomplishments
The first plans have been approved so that the temple may be constructed just as soon as the detailed plans are prepared. It will add another temple. We are the only people in the world who know what temples are for, and how wonderful it is that we can build a temple without feeling the loss of the expense. We have been building temples and building meetinghouses all these years. Since the war, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, the people that belong to this organization, have sent 130-odd carloads of food, bedding, and clothing to the people across the sea because they needed it, and they were made a present of it. Yet our granaries are filled today. Our root cellars are being filled now. Our little workshops where clothing is made and where second-hand clothing is repaired and made desirable are filling up again, and I want to say that I do not know of any people in the world that are more richly blessed than we, notwithstanding our constant giving that has been referred to here. They who giv to the poor, but lend to the Lord, and he is a wonderful paymaster.
Brethren and sisters, let us do our part. Harken to the advice that has come to us here during these sessions of conference. This is the Lord's house. His Spirit has been here, and we have been uplifted and blessed thereby. I pray that the power of our Heavenly Father may go with you workers of this Church, you members, wherever you go, that your homes may be the abiding place of the spirit of our Heavenly Father, that your sons and daughters may grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that you may love your neighbors, and that means members of the Church and those that are not: That means all who seek to be what the Lord would have them be. I pray that each of us may feel day by day the assurance that so many of you have, that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the Living God. I know that as well as I know that I live, and I bear that witness to you in humility, and realizing the seriousness of such a statement if it were not true, I still bear this testimony t you in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.