That President Gordon B. Hinckley loves being among fellow Church members there is no doubt. For the second week in a row he made a surprise visit to an unsuspecting congregation when, on Oct. 22, he attended the Magna Utah South Stake conference. (On Oct. 15, he visited the Promontory Branch, Tremonton Utah Stake; see Oct. 21 Church News.)
Following President Hinckley's instructions, Magna Utah South Stake Pres. Steven Broadbent directed that the agenda for the conference remain the same. He and his counselors addressed the conference, as well as two youth and two adult speakers. A young man and a young woman who will soon enter the Missionary Training Center were called on to bear their testimonies. The mother of another young woman was also called upon. President Hinckley offered the closing remarks.He commended the talks that had been given, saying they "will help me to improve my own life and will help each of you if put into practice." He also commended the stake's Primary chorus, and the members of the congregation, referring to them as wonderful people who love the Lord, who pray and who try to do what the Church expects them to do.
He then directed comments to parents: "You fathers and mothers, I know you love your children. I hope you treat them as if you love them. I know that your patience wears thin but I hope that you would restrain your anger. I do not believe that it is necessary to hurt children or beat them or do anything of that kind. I think my father never laid a hand on me in all my life except to bless me, placing his hands upon my head. Use the discipline of love rather than the heartbreak of the discipline of terror that children might experience. I hope you keep nurturing and loving your children, leading them in light and truth. They are the most precious things you have in all the world. Among all the assets you possess nothing is so precious as your children. You will grow old, even as I have grown old, and when you look around you, you will see the greatest thing to have is the love, confidence and respect of your children.
"Said the Lord to Isaiah, `And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord," and then He made the promise "and great shall be the peace of thy children.' " (Isa. 54:13.)
President Hinckley thanked the members for their desire to live the gospel, to do the right thing, to keep the commandments, to walk in faith and truth with love and respect for all. "I did not come here to preach," he said. "I just came to tell you that I love you."
He said the Church is getting stronger because the people are more thorough in living the gospel. "There is only one happiness for you and that happiness will come if you live the gospel," he said. "The peace of the Latter-day Saints, the happiness of the Latter-day Saints, the progress of the Latter-day Saints, and, I believe, the prosperity of the Latter-day Saints, will depend on their living the gospel of Jesus Christ in a world that is crumbling all around them. Be faithful and true."
He spoke of the Prophet Joseph Smith's testimony of the First Vision. (Joseph Smith-History 1:7.) He said if all members knew in their hearts that the Prophet's statement that he had seen the Father and the Son is true, they then would know that all else which came through the restoration of the gospel is true also. "And we would walk and live with greater faithfulness," President Hinckley said. "Tithing would not be a problem with us. Temple service would not be a problem with us. Keeping the Sabbath day holy would not be a problem with us. . . . Missionary service . . . would be no problem with us. All else that follows would be true. We would know it in our hearts if we had a solid, firm, immovable conviction of the truth and validity of that great vision wherein God the Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the boy Joseph Smith and the Father said, `This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!' . . .
"I wish all of you today would sit down with your family sometime and read those words again, that testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, stated with simplicity, with honesty. Then ask the Lord to put it into your hearts and give you the privilege of a testimony of its truth. And whenever you have any doubt of any practice of this Church, you can reflect on that. If that opening of the curtain of light and knowledge which ushered in this the dispensation of the fulness of times is true then all else which the Prophet taught is true also."
Pres. Broadbent was notified that President Hinckley would be attending the conference about a week and a half earlier. At a prayer meeting just before the conference began, he informed those who would be speaking and directing music that President Hinckley would be present. "I thought they would need a couple of minutes to catch their breath," Pres. Broadbent told the Church News.
He said the attendance count for the conference was 1,999. "President Hinckley walked into the chapel about five minutes before the meeting started. He really caught everybody by surprise," Pres. Broadbent said. "The people on the first few rows stood up; the others didn't know why they were standing until President Hinckley stepped up on the stand.
"We had a chorus of Primary children singing as President Hinckley walked in. One by one, as the children saw who he was, they couldn't sing any more. It seemed they had forgotten the words, or even forgotten what they were supposed to be doing."
Pres. Broadbent said as he looked over the congregation, the most common expressions he saw were tears of gratitude. "A lot of people had a hard time controlling their emotions," he said.
"I think the main message that we received from this visit is that President Hinckley and the Lord love each of us individually, that they care about what we are doing day to day in our lives, even though the Church has become quite large."