(Another week has come and gone, bringing with it another segment from our “General Conference Odyssey” — spearheaded by Nathaniel Givens)
We have come to the last, Tuesday afternoon, session of the April 1971 General Conference. I was struck in reading these talks by the emphasis on the need for revelation by the Holy Ghost and on the blessings of a Church guided by revelation.
Elder Le Grand Richards reflects that he is speaking at his 74th general conference, more than anyone at the time except President Joseph Fielding Smith.
I wonder where in all this world men could go today and listen to such sermons as we have heard here, which will exalt men and women in bringing them happiness in this life and eternal exaltation in the world to come, with their loved ones and with the sanctified and redeemed of our Father’s children.
Elder Richards twice quotes the ninth article of faith. “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” But, unlike many contemporary enthusiasts of the ninth (not general conference speakers to be sure), he does not use the reference to future revelations as leverage against past and present teachings.
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Pet. 1:19–21.)
I believe that the words of the prophets are the most sure guide we have in this world today. I believe what Jesus said: “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt. 5:18.)
Elder William H. Bennett argues the necessarily limited scope of human intelligence and thus our need for divine guidance:
It is important that we remember also that no matter how intelligent we may be, no matter how hard we work, no matter how good our teachers are or how favorable the other conditions for learning, in our allotted span of years on earth we can master only a very small fraction of the total field of knowledge; and what we do master usually is in a narrowed-down, specialized area. Consequently, we, in and of ourselves, have limitations. Our thinking is often highly selective and segmented and our judgment is often faulty. Should we not, then, be willing to heed the counsel given by Solomon:
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov. 3:5–6.)
Elder Henry D. Taylor Quotes President Joseph Fielding Smith to affirm the superiority of the witness of the Spirit to any vision: “Therefore, the seeing, even the Savior, does not leave as deep an impression in the mind as does the testimony of the Holy Ghost to the spirit. … the impressions on the soul that come from the Holy Ghost are far more significant than a vision. It is where spirit speaks to spirit, and the imprint upon the soul is far more difficult to erase.” (Seek Ye Earnestly [Deseret Book Co., 1970], pp. 213–14.)
He then relates the powerful story of Lorenzo Snow’s reception of “perfect knowledge” through the power of the Spirit.
“I had no sooner opened my lips in an effort to pray,” recalled President Snow, “than I heard a sound, just above my head, like the rustling of silken robes, and immediately the Spirit of God descended upon me, completely enveloping my whole person, filling me, from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and O, the joy and happiness I felt! No language can describe the almost instantaneous transition from a dense cloud of mental and spiritual darkness into a refulgence of light and knowledge. … I then received a perfect knowledge that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and of the restoration of the holy Priesthood, and the fulness of the Gospel. It was a complete baptism—a tangible immersion in the heavenly principle or element, the Holy Ghost; and even more real and physical in its effects upon every part of my system than the immersion by water.” (Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, p. 8.)
President Joseph Fielding Smith closes the conference with a clear and strong testimony and a moving prayer on behalf of the membership of the Church.
The testimony, while recognizing the goodness that exists in many individuals and associations outside the Church, evinces no embarrassment in asserting the Church’s unique truth claims.
I am not unmindful that there are good and devout people among all sects, parties, and denominations, and they will be blessed and rewarded for all the good they do. But the fact remains that we alone have the fullness of those laws and ordinances which prepare men for the fullness of reward in the mansions above. And so we say to the good and noble, the upright and devout people everywhere: Keep all the good you have; cleave unto every true principle which is now yours; but come and partake of the further light and knowledge which that God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever is again pouring out upon his people.
The prayer, in its reference to a “spirit of rebellion and defiance of decency” retains today, alas, all its relevance – except that what was rebellious then has now become routine, and so the scope of the term “decency” is now much restricted.
I pray that the Saints shall stand firm against the pressures and enticements of the world; that they shall put first in their lives the things of God’s kingdom; that they shall be true to every trust and keep every covenant.
I pray for the young and rising generation that they shall keep their minds and bodies clean—free from immorality, from drug abuse, and from the spirit of rebellion and defiance of decency that is sweeping the land.
Our Father, pour out thy Spirit upon these thy children that they may be preserved from the perils of the world and kept clean and pure, fit candidates to return to thy presence and dwell with thee.
And let thy preserving care be with all those who seek thy face and who walk before thee in the integrity of their souls, that they may be lights to the world, instruments in thy hands to bring to pass thy purposes on earth.
(To see Thoughts from others in the Odyssey, click on a link below)