In two Conference talks April and Sept 1978 (Ensign May & Nov 78)
President Spencer W. Kimball Ensign, May 1978, 45
My beloved brethren, it’s a joy to meet with you this conference session. Before beginning, I should like to express my personal appreciation to this great body of men who have sung so melodiously to us this evening.
As we announced to the Regional Representatives yesterday, we meet together often in the Church in conferences to worship the Lord, to feast upon the word of Christ, and to be built up by faith and testimony. We hold ward stake, area, and general conferences, among others.
In recent years some of our most inspirational conferences have been the area conferences held outside the United States. We plan, beginning in 1979, to hold some area conferences in the United States. Through these area conferences more members of the Church will be able to meet and hear the General Authorities. Two members of the Council of the Twelve and others will attend each conference.
To ease the burdens of time, travel, and money upon members of the Church, we have also decided, beginning in 1979, to hold only two stake conferences each year in each stake. One of these will be attended by one or more General Authorities, and the other by the Regional Representative. This will leave more time for stake presidents and other local leaders to do more in perfecting the Saints.
And now, my beloved brethren, may I say something about the great priesthood responsibility of fulfilling our role of patriarch in the home. This role becomes more vital with each passing day, as new challenges to the strength and sanctity of the home arise.
The family is the basic unit of the kingdom of God on earth. The Church can be no healthier than its families. No government can long endure without strong families.
Never before have there been so many insidious influences threatening the family as today, around the world. Many of these evil influences come right into the home—through television, radio, magazines, newspapers, and other forms of literature.
Brethren, as patriarchs in your homes, be worthy watchmen. Be concerned about the types of programs your family is watching on television or hearing on radio. There is so much today that is unsavory and degrading, so much that gives the impression that the old sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are the “in thing” to do today.
There are magazines today publishing pictures and articles which likewise beckon to the baser instincts of men and women and young people. There are newspapers around the world which, seeking greater circulation, boldly flaunt sex. Some of our newspapers continue to publish illustrated advertisements which are basely provocative, inviting their readers to pornographic motion pictures. It is in such advertisements and motion pictures where seeds are sown for rape, unfaithfulness, and the most repulsive of deviant sexual transgressions.
Brethren, be vigilant on what enters your home through the printed word as well as the electronic media. Guard against radio and TV programs that degrade. See that only good reading material enters your home. Subscribe to magazines which enrich the mind and uplift the soul. There are many good magazines, including our own Church periodicals, the Ensign, New Era, and Friend.
In some of the large cities of the world such as London, Paris, Tokyo, New York, and Sao Paulo, there are a number of daily newspapers from which to make a choice. Bring to your home that newspaper which is most compatible with the teachings and standards of the Church.
Here in Salt Lake City, the world headquarters of the Church, we are also concerned. Certainly a powerful force in helping this city and state achieve its high standards has been the Deseret News. This newspaper has been a defender of our convictions relative to such moral issues as liquor, pornography, and abortion. It is vital to a safe, clean city and state, which are the heart of our growing, worldwide Church.
As the Deseret News, with the Church News, strengthens our city and state, our newspaper can also strengthen the homes of you brethren residing in this area of the world headquarters of the Church.
Brethren, by being alert to what enters your home, you can do much in helping your family seek that which is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.” (A of F 1:13.)
I had a note one day from a little boy who said, “I know a man who is such a wonderful man, and his name is The Bishop.” We always had a good bishop. We always loved him. There was Bishop Zundel and Bishop Moody and Bishop Tyler and Bishop Wilkins. I loved all my bishops. I hope all my young brethren love their bishops as I did.
It is a real joy to meet with you priesthood members at this important time of the year, a time when we think of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and his accomplishments and his service and his example and his great program.
He gave to Moses this: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.)
I take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the leaders of the organizations and all who serve in this great cause of priesthood activity, for their devotion and strength and power and influence which is worldwide and affects the lives of numerous people. I have been trying to think of the ways in which my life has been influenced by the youth organizations. I cannot remember when I began, but it seems to me like I can remember going to the old Robinson Hall in Thatcher, Arizona, almost as early as I could walk. It was only two blocks from our home, and we could walk to and from it, and we crossed the Union Canal time and again. This big Robinson Hall was a brick building of rectangular shape, and an all-purpose building for the community dances, for the Sunday School and Primary, for all Church services, for the funerals, for celebrations, and for everything that went on in our little rural town.
One night this great building caught fire, and I remember the lighted sky and the columns of smoke and the consternation and excitement for all of us, for a big fire like this attracted the entire town and all came hurrying with their buckets to help put out the fire. We had no fire department, but all men and their sons rushed across the town at the earliest call of “fire.”
He who gave the leadership sent all the men and boys to the canal bank and lined them back to back toward the burning building. Standing on the bank of the canal, the first man drew a bucket full of water and handed the full bucket to another man and he to another and back to the crackling flames in the building. The last man doused the bucket of water on the flames. Many buckets of water were thrown on the fire, but the fire was gaining and finally the walls stood out as blackened sentinels, and we returned to our homes saddened and defeated. It was many years before the fire department was organized in our little town.
This was the same canal in which I was later baptized into the Church, and this is the same canal from which I hauled water to the trees and plant life about our home. I was the smallest of the boys, so I was given this work. We called the transportation a “lizard.” Did any of you ever see a “lizard”? We made it with a Y-shaped tree limb. In the center we fastened a barrel and hitched one horse to the “lizard.” I drove it to the canal, where I dipped up barrels full of canal water, then drove the horse one block to the home where I dipped out the water for the plants and flowers.
My father made a great effort to surround the new home with every kind of flower and save them in those late summer days when water was so scarce. It was also my job to drive the horses and cows to the canal for their drinking water.
Sometimes the late summer rains would wash out the dams and leave all the valley dry and the canals all dry. Then the older boys, my brothers, answered the call to rush up to the headwaters of the canal with their teams and scrapers and wagons to haul rocks and brush and gravel to fill up the dam again to divert the water from the river to the farms and homes.
Years later we learned to make the sausage dams. The sausage dam was a long wire mesh filled with rocks to fill the water holes of the river and divert the river water back into the canal.
Nearly all the boys and girls were baptized in that famous old Union Canal.
The Allred Hall, a frame structure on Main Street two blocks north of Robinson Hall, was used for many purposes, and I can remember going there to Sunday School and Primary as a little boy and to sacrament meeting, for it was here that I was confirmed as a member of the Church.
We moved again to the old Allred Hall and then to the Academy Building, which was our educational institution and headquarters for the Polysophical Society meetings as well as all community and Church meetings, for Thatcher was populated almost entirely by members of the Church.
Then in 1902 we broke ground for a new stake and ward building in Thatcher, and I gave two dollars from my nickels and dimes for the building. I remember they dug a great excavation and then there was a long delay before enough more funds could be gathered to construct the building. This was on the way to the post office and the stores where I was often sent to get coal oil for the lamps and for mail and to take the eggs and other things that my abilities made possible. I would always run down into the bottom of this great excavation hole and then up the other side; but when the weeds began to grow big in this enclosed area and I once saw some skunks there, I bypassed the excavation, for I had no interest in skunks as pets or as companions.
When the new stake building—which still stands and is being used for stake and ward purposes—was completed, it had just two large, rectangular areas, one for the meetinghouse on the top floor and one for recreation, the latter being the basement. I remember we had wires strung across the building and cloth curtains between the classes. We could hear something of nearly every class that was going on and even sometimes see, if the lights were just right. I remember some years later when we of the basketball team of the Gila Academy did our practicing here and played our games, and I always took more than my share of the credit for the fact that in this smaller building with some obstructions, we defeated some high school and college teams while we were but a high school team.
I remember some of the teachers. We always went to priesthood meeting on Monday nights, and we deacons would congregate around the potbellied stove and there receive our instructions. I remember some excellent teachers in Orville Allen and LeRoi C. Snow and others in that place, and also formed some excellent friendships among other young men of my age. LeRoi C. Snow of Salt Lake City was there in the bank, and he intrigued us as we became deacons with his many stories of the Red Sea, and the crossing of the Red Sea by the children of Israel, and Jerusalem where he had been.
I remember going to Sunday School, and I believe that I received a great deal of inspiration for the foundation of my life in this place. We had opening exercises in the chapel above and then went downstairs to our classwork.
I remember some of the teachers who came so devotedly and consistently to give us “the word,” and they taught me many things which are basic to my acquaintance with the Church programs and the doctrines.
My mother had a good voice and played the organ, and she and my oldest sister, Clare, sang duets. I inherited a little of the love for music from her, so I was always interested in the singing of the songs, and I generally raised my voice and sang lustily. I remember the song, “We Meet Again in Sabbath School.” (Hymns, no. 193.) And we did meet again and again and again, all my life. And I remember when my mother died up in Salt Lake City when I was eleven, there had been a goal set for us to attend Sunday School every Sunday of the year. She died in October. I had never missed a Sunday School since the first of January, I had been present every week, and I had a difficult time to square myself with myself to miss the Sunday that her body lay in state in our home.
I really didn’t understand then how hard these teachers labored to teach us, and how grateful I am for the great army of teachers in all the organizations of the Church who are so devoted and untiring to teach the children of Zion.
And then, if sometimes we had forgotten the verses, we could all join lustily in singing the chorus of the songs:
Join in the jubilee; mingle
The song “Love at Home” (Hymns, no. 169) we sang in our home evenings, which the Kimball family always held in the early days of this century.
I remember the song “In Our Lovely Deseret,” which Sister Eliza R. Snow wrote. She composed many of our songs. I can remember how lustily we sang:
Hark! Hark! Hark! ’tis children’s
I am not sure how much innocence and love we had, but I remember we sang it, even straining our little voices to reach the high E which was pretty high for children’s voices. I remember we sang:
That the children may live
I wanted to live a long time and I wanted to be beautiful and strong—but never reached it.
Tea and coffee and tobacco they despise.
And I learned to despise them. There were people in our rural community who were members of the Church who sometimes used tea and coffee and sometimes tobacco. The song goes on:
Drink no liquor, and they
[I still don’t eat very much meat.]
They are seeking to be great and good and wise.
And then we’d “Hark! Hark! Hark” again, “… When in innocence and love Like the angels up above.” And then the third verse went:
They should be instructed
And then we’d “Hark! Hark! Hark” again.
They must not forget to pray,
And then we’d sing, “Hark! Hark! Hark” again. I was never quite sure whether the angels were limited in their voice culture as we were, but we were glad to take the credit.
One of the songs that has disappeared was number 163, “Don’t Kill the Little Birds,” and I remember many times singing with a loud voice:
Don’t kill the little birds,
I had a sling and I had a flipper. I made them myself, and they worked very well. It was my duty to walk the cows to the pasture a mile away from home. There were large cottonwood trees lining the road, and I remember that it was quite a temptation to shoot the little birds “that sing on bush and tree,” because I was a pretty good shot and I could hit a post at fifty yards’ distance or I could hit the trunk of a tree. But I think perhaps because I sang nearly every Sunday, “Don’t Kill the Little Birds,” I was restrained. The second verse goes:
Don’t kill the little birds
This made a real impression on me, so I could see no great fun in having a beautiful little bird fall at my feet.
And then there was the song that Evan Stephens wrote, “The Mormon Boy,” and how proud I was when we were to sing in the congregation:
A ‘Mormon’ Boy, a ‘Mormon’
I liked this song; I have always gloried in those words: “I might be envied by a king, For I am a ‘Mormon’ Boy.”
I liked the song “What Shall the Harvest Be?” because it gave us a chance to sing in parts.
My beloved brethren, as I close I bear testimony to you that I hold the priesthood. You hold the priesthood. This is the priesthood that Elijah held, and the prophets Peter, James, and John also. They and their associates held the priesthood. But without the sealing power we could do nothing, for there would be no validity to that which we do. That’s the thing that counts. That is why Elijah came. That is why Moses came, for he conferred upon the head of Peter, James, and John in that dispensation these privileges and these powers, these keys, that they might go forth and perform this labor. That is why they came to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Lord said, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before … the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” (Mal. 4:5.)
Why should he send Elijah? Because he held the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the priesthood, and without the authority that is given, the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness.
Salvation could not come to this world without the mediation of Jesus Christ. How shall God come to the rescue of the generations? He will send Elijah the prophet. The law revealed to Moses in Horeb never was revealed to the children of Israel as a nation. Elijah shall reveal the covenants to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. The anointing and sealing is to be called, elected, and the election made sure.
“I know that God lives. I know that
Jesus Christ lives,” said John Taylor, my predecessor, “for I have seen
him.” I bear this testimony to you brethren in the name of Jesus Christ.
President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, Nov. 1978, 43
It is a great joy to greet the priesthood of the Church this glorious night. All over the world we gather to worship the Lord and give him praise.
My brothers in the priesthood, it was a great thrill recently to have tens of thousands of the sisters of the Church assemble in hundreds of places around the world in a special meeting for the women of the Church. You will have had your own reports from your wives and sisters, mothers, and daughters about the meeting. We feel gratified that we were able to hold the meeting and that technology made it possible. We love the women of the Church! We have great respect for them.
In following up on that event, I want to counsel you as sons, brothers, fathers, and husbands. As you serve with the women of the Church, follow what Paul said when he urged Timothy to “intreat … the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity” (1 Tim. 5:1-2). We men of the priesthood ought to so do. We must be different than other men, and I am sure most priesthood holders are. Paul’s suggestion that we treat older women as if they were our mothers and younger women as if they were our sisters and to do so with “all purity” is excellent instruction. Men of the world may disregard women or see them only as objects of desire or as someone to be used for selfish purposes. Let us, however, be different in our conduct and in our relationships with women.
Peter urged us to give honor unto our wives. (See 1 Pet. 3:7.) It seems to me we should be even more courteous to our wives and mothers, our sisters and our daughters, than we are to others. When Paul said that a man who did not provide for his own and those of his own household was “worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8), I like to think of providing for our own as including providing them with affectional security as well as economic security. When the Lord told us in this dispensation that “women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance” (D&C 83:2), I like to think of maintenance as including our obligation to maintain loving affection and to provide consideration and thoughtfulness as well as food.
President Lee once observed that the “needy” around us may need friendship and fellowship as well as food. I sometimes think our own Latter-day Saint women are “needy” just because some of us are not as thoughtful and considerate of them as we should be. Our pantries can be filled with food and yet our sisters can be starved for affection and recognition.
Let us, brethren, support the sisters of our household in their Church callings as they so wonderfully support us. Let us not neglect them simply because they sometimes go on being good even when they are neglected.
Let our homes be filled with praise and commendation for all those of our household. Let us also, brethren, not get so concerned with our priesthood peers, those men we are associated with in our church assignments, that we neglect our eternal companions, for our association with our wives will be forever.
Our Father in Heaven was gracious enough to give to us for our pleasure and convenience all life on earth. Let me read to you from his personal statement:
“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
“And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” (Gen. 1:20, 29-31.)
I read at the priesthood meeting at the last conference the words to the verse of the song years ago, “Don’t Kill the Little Birds,” with which I was familiar when I was a child growing up in Arizona. I found many young boys around my age who, with their flippers and their slings, destroyed many birds.
In Primary and Sunday School we sang the song:
Don’t kill the little birds
As I was talking to the young men at that time all over the world, I felt that I should say something more along this line.
I suppose in every country in the world there are beautiful little birds with their beautiful plumage and their attractive songs.
I remember that my predecessor, President Joseph Fielding Smith, was a protector of these feathered and other wild life creatures.
While President Smith at one time was in the Wasatch Mountain Area, he befriended the creatures from the hill and forest. He composed four little verses as follows, and opposite each he drew a little picture. Of the mountain squirrel first, he wrote:
This is little Chopper Squirrel
And then the bat was next:
This is little Tommy Bat
Then he came to the deer:
This is little Bambi Deer
And then the birds:
This, our little feathered
Now, I also would like to add some of my feelings concerning the unnecessary shedding of blood and destruction of life. I think that every soul should be impressed by the sentiments that have been expressed here by the prophets.
And not less with reference to the killing of innocent birds is the wildlife of our country that live upon the vermin that are indeed enemies to the farmer and to mankind. It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is a shame, in my opinion. I think that this principle should extend not only to the bird life but to the life of all animals. For that purpose I read the scripture where the Lord gave us all the animals. Seemingly, he thought it was important that all these animals be on the earth for our use and encouragement.
President Joseph F. Smith said, “When I visited, a few years ago, the Yellowstone National Park, and saw in the streams and the beautiful lakes, birds swimming quite fearless of man, allowing passers-by to approach them as closely almost as tame birds, and apprehending no fear of them, and when I saw droves of beautiful deer [feeding] along the side of the road, as fearless of the presence of men as any domestic animal, it filled my heart with a degree of peace and joy that seemed to be almost a foretaste of that period hoped for when there shall be none to hurt and none to molest in all the land, especially among all the inhabitants of Zion. These same birds, if they were to visit other regions, inhabited by man, would, on account of their tameness, doubtless become more easily a prey to the gunner. The same may be said of those beautiful creatures—the deer and the antelope. If they should wander out of the park, beyond the protection that is established there for these animals, they would become, of course, an easy prey to those who were seeking their lives. I never could see why a man should be imbued with a blood-thirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life. I have known men—and they still exist among us—who enjoy what is, to them, the ‘sport’ of hunting birds and slaying them by the hundreds, and who will come in after a day’s sport, boasting of how many harmless birds they have had the skill to slaughter, and day after day, during the season when it is lawful for men to hunt and kill (the birds having had a season of protection and not apprehending danger) go out by scores or hundreds, and you may hear their guns early in the morning on the day of the opening, as if great armies had met in battle; and the terrible work of slaughtering the innocent birds goes on.
“I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food, and then he should not kill innocent little birds that are not intended for food for man. I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood.” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939, pp. 265-66.)
One of the poets stated in this connection:
Take not away the life you
—and I might add there also, because God gave it to them, and they were to be used only, as I understand, for food and to supply the needs of men.
It is quite a different matter when a pioneer crossing the plains would kill a buffalo to bring food to his children and his family. There were also those vicious men who would kill buffalo only for their tongues and skins, permitting the life to be sacrificed and the food also to be wasted.
When asked how he governed so many people, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”
We look to the Prophet Joseph Smith for proper teaching. He said once: “We crossed the Embarras river and encamped on a small branch of the same about one mile west. In pitching my tent we found three massasaugas or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, ‘Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.’ The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger.” (History of the Church, 2:71-72.)
Now, my brethren young and old, there is another matter I wish to mention. I wish to read for you a verse for your serious thought. The verse is called “Keeping Clean” and is in somewhat the same area as the other Brethren have talked about.
When you tell a filthy story,
Do you know that you exhibit
Do you think that you exhibit
any real common sense,
Be a little choice in language;
Brethren, let us think about these things. Ponder them in your heart. Live worthily, keep the commandments, honor your priesthood and the Lord will love and bless you; and as his servant, I leave my love and blessing with you.
I want to mention one other matter before closing, and that is, we’ve been talking about the great missionary program which Brother LeGrand Richards mentioned in the first of the meeting. We now have some 26,606 missionaries. Every week the number is increasing.
There are many nations where we have not been able to get in, to get visas, or get passports; and it is very important. If we are to fulfill the responsibility given to us by the Lord on the Mount of Olives to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, then we will need to open the doors to these nations. I mentioned this the other day to the brethren in the Regional Representatives meeting. We’ve hardly scratched the surface. We need far more missionaries, and we need more countries that will think of us as being their friends and will give us an opportunity to come into their nations and give to their people the finest thing in the world—the gospel of Christ—which can be their salvation and their great happiness.
I’m hoping that every man and boy listening to me this night will make it a solemn practice in regular life to pray constantly for this great blessing to bless the brethren who are making a special effort to reach the leaders of these nations and to convince them that we have only good for their people. We will make them good citizens, we will make them good souls, and we will make them happy and joyous.
I hope that every family will hold home evening every Monday night without fail. Missionary work will be one of the strong points that will be brought before it; and the father and the mother and the children in their turns will offer prayers which will be centered around this very important element—that the doors of the nations might be opened to us and then, secondly, that the missionaries, the young men and women of the Church, may be anxious to fill those missions and bring people into the Church.
In China we have nine-hundred million people. Yesterday about fifty Chinese Saints came in to see me. I took them through the Church offices and told them about our programs, and then I said to them, “We have been talking about China today.” (That was the day of the Regional Representatives meeting.) “We’ve learned of that people’s good qualities and that the Spirit of the Lord seems to be brooding over them, to bring the possibility of the gospel to them.” I asked all of those Chinese people who were here at conference, “Will you guarantee that in all your home evenings and in all your family prayers and in all your public prayers you will mention this to the Lord? Now, I know he can do it without our help; but I think he would want to know that we were interested in it and that we would appreciate it greatly.”
So I’m hoping that, beginning now, the prayers of the Saints will be greatly increased from what they have been in the past, that we will never think of praying except we pray for the Lord to establish his program and make it possible that we can carry the gospel to his people as he has commanded. It is my deep interest and great prayer to you that this will be accomplished.
And now in closing, I wish to express appreciation for all that has been said by these beloved brethren who have spoken. I bear my testimony to the truth of the gospel and to the greatness of it, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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