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"Perhaps never in history has the need for cooperation, understanding and good will among all people - nations and individuals alike - been so urgent as it is today," declared President Thomas S. Monson, who gave the opening address Saturday morning in behalf of President Ezra Taft Benson.

"It is not only fitting - it is imperative - that we emphasize the ideal of brotherhood and the responsibility true brotherhood confers upon all of us," President Monson said.President Benson, seated on the stand, listened attentively as his second counselor spoke to the congregation in his behalf.

Just prior to the beginning of the session, the prophet, upon entering the Tabernacle, greeted General Authorities with warm handshakes, then faced the standing congregation and smiled broadly, motioning with his hands for all to sit down.

President Monson, in his address, noted that the spirit of spring was in evidence on Temple Square, and said that spring "is a period of renewal, a time of gratitude and a season of reflection."

"The world," he continued, "has experienced sweeping changes since last we met. A wall has crumbled in Berlin. Families now may join together on either side and experience the joy they have long been deprived. In Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and in the German Democratic Republic, the bells of freedom have sounded, heralding the beginning of a new day in our time."

President Monson recalled the assistance given by the Church to members in Europe nearly four decades ago.

"All of us remember, President Benson, that dark period following World War II when our members were near starvation and bordering on despair," he said. "Then you undertook your dramatic assignment to supervise the distribution of food, clothing and medical supplies from the storehouse of the Church to the war-devastated families of Europe.

"Your words, President Benson, echo loud and clear when you declared: `We must dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather than the fears, of the world. I believe errands of mercy, such as the distribution of goods, housing and clothing to those in need, are rendered most effectively when handled by private organizations and individuals such as the Church.' "

In the spirit of the prophet's counsel, President Monson said that members of the Church have a responsibility to extend both help and hope to the hungry, the homeless, and the downtrodden throughout the world.

Emphasizing that there are a "host of cities" where need has outdistanced help, such assistance is being provided.

"Lives have been lifted, hearts have been touched and the frown of despair has been transformed to the smile of confidence, thanks to the generosity of the Church membership in the payment of their fast offerings as the Lord has commanded," he attested.

Remarking on the love President Benson and his wife, Flora, have for the temple, President Monson quoted the prophet as saying, "This is the closest place to heaven on earth - the house of the Lord. . . ."

President Monson concluded by expressing the hope that all live the commandments of God, and follow in the footsteps of His Son Jesus Christ.

"As we sincerely and fervently seek Him, we shall indeed find Him," he said. "He may come to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside. He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same words, `Follow thou me,' and sets us to the task which He has to fulfill for our time.

"He commands, and to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship; and they shall learn in their own experience who He is."