About 35 members of the Promontory Branch gathered for sacrament meeting Sunday, Oct. 15 in the chapel of their meetinghouse. The white frame building, which was moved onto the site about 40 years ago, is flanked on three sides by pastures of tall grass, gleaming golden in the autumn sunshine, and on one side by a winding road about 15 miles north of the Great Salt Lake.
The solitude of the building - the only other structure in sight is a house across the road and slightly to the east - bespeaks the isolation of Promontory, once a bustling railroad town. Today there is no town, although the name "Promontory" is used to designate the community where the LDS meetinghouse is located. "There are no stores, no services," said Branch Pres. Brent H. Larsen, who said that about 50 people live on the 30-by-30-mile area that comprises the boundaries of the branch on the promontory of land that juts into the Great Salt Lake.The 35 or so members waiting in the chapel, and who represented more than half of Promontory's population, did not display much more than passing curiosity as visitors trickled in to swell the congregation to about 50. After all, this was the Sunday designated for branch conference.
As a petite woman took her place alone at the front of the chapel, branch member Ron Porter commented to the person next to him, "She looks just like Sister Hinckley." Perhaps, he thought, she was related to Sister Hinckley.
Across the aisle, Kaye Draper had not noticed the woman seated at the front of the chapel, but as the branch president and several other brethren approached the podium, she whispered to Joycle Poulsen, "That man who just came in looks like. . . . Oh, my! That is President Hinckley!"
Reality took a few seconds to settle upon the congregation: President Gordon B. Hinckley and his wife, Sister Marjorie P. Hinckley, had come about 100 miles from Salt Lake City to attend sacrament meeting with members of the tiny Promontory Branch.
"I'm here to keep my word," President Hinckley said as he began his address to the small congregation. He explained that he had met Pres. Larsen on May 10, 1994, at the 125th anniversary commemorating the driving of the "golden spike" to mark the completion in 1869 of the intercontinental railroad at Promontory Summit, about 15 miles northwest of the branch meetinghouse. President Hinckley said that until he met Pres. Larsen last year he had no idea there was a branch of the Church at Promontory, and he promised Pres. Larsen that he would visit one day. "He took me up on it, and, somehow, I'm here, keeping my promise," President Hinckley said.
"Promontory. A lot of people would ask, `Where is that?' Once it was very famous. Now, it's remote and tucked away, very quiet."
President Hinckley said he was glad there was still a branch of the Church in Promontory, and expressed appreciation for the goodness and faith of the people, and for the strength of their testimonies.
"I'm thankful for branches of this kind in little areas across the world," he said. He spoke of the growth of the Church, saying there are branches or wards in more than 150 nations. He said there were branches in countries where, just a few years ago, there was no LDS presence. He spoke of branches in such places as Riga, Latvia, and in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. "Some," he said, "are larger than this branch.
"Great miracles are happening and you're all a part of it. We're all a part of it. You and I are all in this thing together, building the kingdom to advance the work of the Lord, moving forward this cause, filling the earth and sending out missionaries. I hope every young man who resides in this branch has in his heart the desire to go out and teach the gospel to the people of the world, wherever he may be called to go."
President Hinckley referred to the opening hymn sung at the branch's sacrament meeting that day, "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet." (Practically everyone in the congregation had tears in his or her eyes as the hymn was sung.) He said when he hears that song, he thinks of the Prophet Joseph Smith. "He was the instrument in the hands of the Almighty in laying the foundation of this great work. This boy of meager learning, of few opportunities, was visited by the Father and the Son in the most glorious event of its kind in all dispensations to usher in this the dispensation of the fulness of times, where there would be restored to earth all of previous dispensations. This is the great season for the work of the Lord as He moves forward His kingdom in anticipation of the time when He will reign as Lord of lords and King of kings. Each of us has responsibilities in moving forward that work."
President Hinckley said he thinks constantly of the fact that every principle of the gospel carries with it a conviction of its truth, "if we will prove it."
He told members if they have any question about the Word of Wisdom, to live it and they will come to know it is a true principle of the Almighty given through revelation for the blessings of His children.
"If you have any doubt of the truth of the law of tithing, pay your tithing," he said. "Live the law and you will gain a testimony of the truth of that law. . . .
"If you have any doubt about the divinity of the missionary program of the Church, go on a mission. . . .
"If you have any doubt about the wisdom, the divinity of observing the Sabbath day, stay away from the stores on Sunday. . . .
"If you have any doubt about the virtue of family home evening, try it. Gather your children about you, teach them, bear testimony to them, read the scriptures together and have a good time together. . . .
"If you have any question about the value of service in the Church, get to work. There will come into your hearts a feeling of gratitude of the tremendous opportunity that you have to serve in the Church, and that service will be sweet, wonderful and will bring blessings in your life. . . .
"If you have any question in your minds concerning the value of temple service, then . . . live worthy of it, and expose yourself to it. You'll come to know there is no adequate substitute for marriage in the house of the Lord. . . .
"So it is with every principle and practice of the gospel," President Hinckley continued. "And it is because of that that the Church grows and appeals to people. It carries with it a conviction of its truth as we serve in the cause of the Lord. My brothers and sisters, try it. Said the Lord, `Prove me now herewith.'
"Prove the Lord. That's all we have to do, through doing what He asks us to do. As we prove Him, as we test Him on that principle, there comes into our hearts a conviction of its truth and a knowledge of its certainty."
In her brief remarks, Sister Hinckley said it is wonderful to meet with Latter-day Saints anywhere in the world. She spoke of the joy that comes to her in being with members of the Church. They are, she said, outstanding, industrious, faithful, good and kind.
"I am so happy to be a member of this Church," she said "Every day of my life I pray that I may be worthy to be one of you. The gospel is true. Every day of my life I realize more than ever that this is truly the work of the Lord. I've seen far too much in my lifetime to ever deny this is His work and His glory."
She expressed gratitude for having "been born in a family of faith. My father and mother were humble people but our home was filled with faith," she said. "I think I learned as early as I did anything that the Church of Jesus Christ is true. I'm grateful for this. It is wonderful to grow up knowing where you came from, why you are here and where you hope to go."
The only members of the branch who knew President and Sister Hinckley would be visiting were Pres. Larsen and his wife, Carol, and Tremonton Utah Stake Pres. Sheldon Barfuss and his counselors, Glen Curtis and Michael Judd.