*As he walked toward his seat in the Tabernacle, President Ezra Taft Benson smiled and waved at the Mormon Youth Chorus, and then smiled and waved at the congregation.
The day couln't have been better. Unseasonably high October temperatures made waiting a little more pleasant for those seeking a seat in the first session.Inside the Tabernacle, beautiful flowers from Tonga adorned the stand. During the session, the Mormon Youth Chorus sang, "Oh Say, What Is Truth?" "How Lovely Are the Messengers"; "What Glorious Scenes Mine Eyes Behold"; "Hallelujah" from the Mount of Olives; "Now We'll Sing With One Accord"; and "I Need Thee Every Hour."
Presiden Gordon B. Hinckley conducted the session, and prayers were pffered by Elder William R. Bradford and Elder J. Richard Clarke, who was called to the Presidency of the first Quorum of the Seventy Saturday afternoon.
*Read Book of Mormon
*Counsel from it
*Teach out of it
*Include it in art
*Momorize its words
President Ezra Taft Benson commended members in his opening address for doing more to emphasize the Book of Mormon, but "the time in now" to flood the whole earth with this "witness of Jesus Christ."
Speaking Saturday morning, President Benson declared that this has been a landmark year in Church history i n the use of "the keystone of our religion - the Book of Mormon."
"This sacred volume of scripture has brought more souls to Christ, both within and without the Church, that ever before," he exclaimed. "There are so many who could be commended for this progress, but time will permit mention of only a few."
The prophet praised those who produced and distributed the Church video, "How Rare a Possession." He said it has had a powerful impact, and tens of thousands of copies of the video were distributed in the first weeks after it was shown.
He also complimented Chruch leaders and teachers for using the Book of Mormon to teach children. he said in many cases, children have led their parents back to the Lord through the Book of Mormon reading program in Primary.
President Benson then praised the efforts of the family-to-family Book of Mormon program, which sends copies to missionaries worldwide. He also commended Church publications for articles on the Book of Mormon and radio stations for broadcasting excerpts from its pages.
He praised those who have taught and spoken about the Book of Mormon, as well as those who have sponsored symposiums and lectures on it.
"And finally and most important, we commend that vast number of faithful saints who individually and as families are changing their lives, cleansing the inner vessel, through the daily reading of the Book of Mormon."
The Book of Mormon, the prophet explained, is the instrument that God designed to "sweep the earth as with a flodd, to gather out His elect."
"This sacred volume of scripture needs to become more central in our preaching, our teaching, and our missionary work," he continued.
In Sunday School and seminary classes, the Book of mormon is studied every fourth year, he noted. But, he couseled, this four-year pattern must not limit church members in their personal and family study.
"We need to read daily form the pages of the book that will get a man 'nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book.'"
He said in this age of electronic media and mass distribution of the printed word, God will hold man accountable if the Book of Mormon doesn't flood the earth in a monumental way.
"We have the Book of Mormon, we have the members, we have the missionaries, we have the resources, and the world has the need. The time is now," he strongly emphasized.
President Benson said the saints have "a great work to perform in a very short time: to flood the earth with the Book of Mormon.
To help Church members move forward in this effort, he issued seven challenges to increase their use of this ancient American scripture while spreading its message throughout the world. (See adjacent box.)
After issuing the challenges, the prophet looked to the future for fulfillment of those goals of using the Book of Mormon:
"I have a vision of homes alerted, of classes alive, and of pulpits aflame with the spirit of Book of Mormon messages.
"I have a vision of home teachers and visiting teachers, ward and branch officers, and stake and mission leaders counseling our people out of the most correct of any book on earth - the Book of Mormon.
"I have a vision of artists putting into film, drama, literature, music, and paintings great themes and great characters from the Book of Mormon.
"I have a vision of thousands of missionaries going into the mission field with hundreds of passages memorized from the Book of Mormon so that they might feed the needs of a spiritually famished world.
"I have a vision of the whole Church getting nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon.
"Indeed," President Benson continued with emotion, "I have a vision of flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon."
As he concluded his remarks, the prophet shared his feelings about entering his 90th year.
"I do not know how fully and why God has preserved my life to this age, but I do know this: That for the present hour He has revealed to me the absolute need for us to move the Book of Mormon forward now in a marvelous manner," Presdient Benson counseled.
"Moses never entered the promised land. Joseph Smith never saw Zion redeemed. some of us may not live long enough to see the day when the Book of Mormon floods the earth and when the Lord lifts His condemnation. But, god willing, I intend to spend all my remaining days in that glorious effort."