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During the first six months of 1988, emphasis in stake conferences throughout the Church is being placed on addressing the challenges and objectives of each stake and the individual needs of the members.

Although the challenges faced by one stake may be different than those faced by another stake in another location, all the challenges faced in any location of the Church can be better met if we continually keep in mind the mission of the Church. Fulfillment of that sacred mission is not just the responsibility of our leaders, but also the responsibility of each member.We have been asked to help proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue and people - a monumental challenge. The world is vast and contains hundreds of nations and billions of people. But if we start with ourselves in our own stakes, the task befoe us becomes not quite so overwhelming. We should prepare ourselves and our children to serve a mission; we should continually friendship someone to hear the gospel; we should give financially to help support missionary work.

If each of us does our part, then "the stone cut from the mountain" that Daniel describes and which we understand to be the latter-day kingdom of God will continue to roll forward until it fills the whole earth. (See Daniel, chapter 2.)

We have been asked to help perfect the saints by preparing them to receive the ordinances of the gospel and by instruction and discipline to gain exaltation. Where does that challenge begin? With ourselves, of course.

We can work toward perfection by drawing closer to the Lord by keeping His commandments. We can attend the temple and participate in Sabbath services and regularly partake of the sacrament worthily. We also should make habits of regular prayer and fasting, and daily scripture study. We can serve others through compassionate service in the family, Church and community. We can help care for the poor and needy through a generous fast offering. We alone are responsible for our own perfection. No one can do it for us. It only comes as we live for it.

We have been asked to help redeem the dead by performing vicarious ordinances of the gospel for those who have lived on the earth. This can only be accomplished as we understand the doctrine of temple work and perform those ordinances necessary for the exaltation of the peoples of the world.

The emphasis in stake conferences of meeting individual challenges and needs also ties in with the 1988 course of study for the Church, the Book of Mormon.

President Ezra Taft Benson, since he became president of the Church a little more than two years ago, repeatedly has spoken of how the Book of Mormon can help us in our lives.

For example, speaking at the opening session of general conference last October, President Benson said, "There is a power in the [Book of Mormon] which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called the `words of life' and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life and in greater and greater abundance."

Later, during an interview with the Church News in December, President Benson said that the answer to practically every problem in the world is in the Book of Mormon.

In essence, we become more righteous, both individually and as a Church, by reading the Book of Mormon and learning to live its principles. Helping members of the Church become more righteous and to prepare them to gain exaltation is really what the mission of the Church is all about. It all ties in together.

Stake conference is a time for spiritual renewal, with guidance and direction from presiding leaders.

Who can listen to their stake president speak of what he feels the stake and its members need and not leave with a desire to do a little better? Who can listen to an inspiring address by a visiting General Authority or regional representative without being more fully committed to living the principles of the gospel?

Yes, stake conference is a good time to recommit ourselves to draw closer unto the Lord.