President Gordon B. Hinckley was foreordained in premortal life to become the president of the LDS Church.
So testified Elder David B. Haight of the Council of the Twelve during the Saturday afternoon session of general conference. Following the morning's formal sustaining of the new First Presidency, Elder Haight bore solemn witness to the event, outlining the individual strengths of the members of the new First Presidency and testifying of each man's divine calling."God's hand directs this work. He prepares his servants. He knows their hearts. He knows the end from the beginning and raises up those servants who will carry out his designs," Elder Haight said.
President Thomas S. Monson has an unusual ability to lead and inspire others - including those not of the LDS faith - in their desire to serve Jesus Christ.
President James E. Faust is gifted with an abundance of wisdom and uncommon spiritual direction and discernment that will bless the church, Elder Haight said.
Church members heard a moving testimony from the church's newest apostle during the session, which also featured a statistical report tallying membership at 9 million-plus in more than 2,000 LDS stakes worldwide. President Faust conducted the session, with music provided by an Aaronic Priesthood choir from the Springville Utah Region.
The bulk of the church's rapid growth has taken place during the time that President Hinckley has served in the leading counsels of the church, Elder Haight said.
President Hinckley's years of service as counselor to Presidents Spencer W. Kim-ball, Ezra Taft Benson and Howard W. Hunter prepared him for his role as the church's prophet, seer and revelator.
"No man better understands the church, nor is better known by the members of the church, than President Gordon B. Hinckley. . . Again, I testify, President Gordon B. Hinckley has been carefully prepared for this divine calling from before the foundations of the earth in heavenly councils."
President Hinckley's parents set lofty examples, teaching him how to work and finish a task. They inspired him to get a good education and serve mankind. He developed new talents during his mission when he assisted his mission president in developing church publicity for the media. "That interest has continued throughout the years to the present day," Elder Haight said.
President Hinckley has participated in the dedication and rededication of more temples than any other presiding officer in the church. His involvement testifies of his love for temple work as well as the necessity for members to be actively involved in the work of redeeming deceased ancestors.
"President Hinckley is not only a man for all seasons - but for all the world," Elder Haight said. He typically represents the church in meeting representatives of governments and worldwide organizations who come to pay respects to the church. As further testament to his ability to deal effectively with all types of people, he said President Hinckley was honored recently at a dinner held by the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
"The brief but inspired administration of President Howard W. Hunter has come to a close. He loved the Lord and his work - and we know the Lord loved him. President Hunter taught us how to be more gentle, kinder, more caring and more worthy in our pursuit to become more Christlike.
"We now begin a new era of church administration under President Gordon B. Hinckley - beloved by all - our 15th president since the restoration of the church in 1830.
"In the prescribed manner, we have accepted and sustained him. Through him - as has been done through prophets of old - revelation will be made available to meet the challenges of a modern society and advance the mission of the church throughout the world," he said.
David B. Haight of the Council of the Twelve
Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve
M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve
Henry B. Eyring of the Council of the Twelve
Eduardo Ayala of the Seventy
Cecil O. Samuelson Jr. of the Seventy
Aileen H. Clyde of the Relief Society presidency
Latter-day Saints must remember who they are - a choice, covenant people of God.
Church members can immunize themselves from sin by remembering that they are the covenant children of God and understanding what their covenants mean, said Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve.
When Jesus Christ spoke to his people, he first told them who he was, then he reminded them who they were, Elder Nelson said. By reminding his people that they are a choice, covenant people, the Savior spiritually elevates them and indoctrinates them with the understanding they need to resist sin.
"When we know who we are and what God expects of us - when his `law is written in our hearts' - we are spiritually protected," Elder Nelson said.
He reminded church members of their privileges and responsibilities as a covenant people. As the seed of Abraham, church members are entitled to the promises given to Abraham, including the right to receive the gospel, priesthood blessings and eternal life.
As was promised to Abraham, all the nations of the Earth will be blessed by church members' labors and the labors of their posterity, he said.
When people are baptized, they covenant to serve the Lord and keep his commandments. "Rewards for obedience to the commandments are almost beyond mortal comprehension," Elder Nelson said.
Honoring their covenants unites church members in this life and beyond. "Latter-day Saints understand the word of the Lord, who declared: `I say unto you, be one: and if you are not one ye are not mine,' " Elder Nelson said.
When God makes covenants with his children, he uses names that unify and sanctify, calling mortals his sons and daughters and admonishing them to call each other brother and sister.
That unity binds people despite death, Elder Nelson said. Speaking of the passing a few weeks ago of President Howard W. Hunter and Elder Nelson's own daughter, Emily, he said covenants made in the temple by LDS faithful forge sin-resistant souls in this life and bind one generation to the next in the life hereafter.
"Emily and President Hunter had no fear of death. They had made and honored sacred covenants with the Lord, and they knew that his covenants to them will be kept with equal fidelity. They lived nobly as `children of the covenant.' "
Suffering of others is difficult to see, but we must trust in God, whose objective is our happiness.
God feels so strongly about protecting people's agency that he allows some to suffer because of the agency of others, said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve.
At times the suffering of others is difficult to watch. "I can understand why someone who lacks an eternal perspective might see the horrifying news footage of starving children and man's inhumanity to man and shake a fist at heaven and cry, `If there is a God, how could he allow such things to happen?' " Elder Ballard said.
But never forget that "the primary objective of the very God of heaven" is man's eternal happiness and joy, he said. "As we trust in God and his plan for our happiness with all our hearts and lean not unto our own understanding, hope is born," he said.
The Lord has shown his children the way to abiding and eternal happiness. He has provided the scriptures, prophets and the Holy Ghost to comfort and direct those who will hear. Elder Ballard quoted Joseph Smith as saying that God will never institute an ordinance or give a commandment that is not intended to promote the happiness he has designed for his children.
Elder Ballard admonished church members to make choices that will further their happiness. Those choices become more difficult as society becomes more sophisticated, he said. The information superhighway can link homes to an incredible assortment of messages and influences. Church members should be selective in their choice of programs.
"Those who understand our Heavenly Father's eternal plan for the joy and happiness of his children will be better prepared to make good choices as the information superhighway rolls across the world. The computer, television, satellite, microchip and even the telephone, all can bless and enhance our lives - or can make them miserable."
Church members who want to be happy will not absorb illicit information or destroy their spiritual sensitivity through immoral acts or the consumption of harmful substances, he said. "Neither will they search for doctrinal loopholes to find reasons to challenge the ordained leadership of the church nor tamper with the simple truths of the gospel," Elder Ballard said.
All of God's children can prayerfully seek to know who they are and find real happiness in obeying God's commandments and enduring to the end.
People can become humble by taking Christ's name upon them and always remembering him.
The day and night since President Gordon B. Hinckley called him to his sacred office have taught him much about humility, said Elder Henry B. Eyring, newest member of the Council of the Twelve.
He recalled a brief visit years ago with two missionaries who asked advice on how to become more humble. He can answer that question better today than he did years ago, he said.
"I would have said just this, `Always remember him.' I would have tried to help them to do that by taking them in their minds to a garden where they would hear the Savior of the world's words, `Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.' "
Reading the scriptures last night, Elder Eyring said he learned of the Lord's promise to the humble - that they will be made strong and blessed from on high.
"Over the last hours, I have come to understand other blessings from always remembering him," he said. He recounted the conversion of an Albuquerque family that belonged to no church but had gathered each morning to read the Bible together.
When they found the gospel, they immediately recognized its principles as true, he said. "I realized some time last night or early this morning that they recognized the truth, that this is the truth of Jesus Christ, in large part because they had always remembered him. Every day they had gathered to read his words, so they had remembered him."
Elder Eyring promised to keep his personal covenant to take the Savior's name upon him and always remember him. "God our Father lives. His son, Jesus Christ, did the will of the Father and atoned for all of our sins. Because of him, we will be resurrected. Because of his Atonement, we may be exalted."
President Hinckley is a prophet, Elder Eyring testified. "The Savior will speak to us and all the world through him. If those who hear will take his name upon them, and always remember him and keep his commandments, they will finally come to him. He will take them home to his Father, and our Father, where we may live forever in families."
Church members in remote areas use prayer, scripture study and humility to keep the faith.
Church members in remote parts of the world stay faithful through prayer, scripture study, humility and trust in the Lord, said Elder Eduardo Ayala, of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
He described a recent visit to a remote stake in Peru. A general authority had not visited the stake in two years because of the danger in traveling there. More than three years earlier, two Peruvian missionaries had been murdered there, so all full-time missionaries had been withdrawn.
But the lonely church members remained faithful.
"They never stopped trusting in the Lord and they placed all of their faith in him," Elder Ayala said. The members also remained faithful in prayer and never stopped studying the scriptures.
"In the scriptures they found faith to overcome fear; solutions to their problems; divine comfort from the Master; the loving counsel of the Father; and especially the assurance of being guided in righteousness toward eternal life," he said.
The members also implemented priesthood programs, organizing returned missionaries to teach the gospel in place of the full-time missionaries who had been withdrawn. "References came in from member families. Home teaching increased. Nobody was overlooked."
Finally, the members humbled themselves before the Lord. "They purified their lives, they repented, they tried to live together as Saints, sharing much of what they had, fasting when problems arose or when they were threatened."
Members must come unto the Savior by the narrow gate and straight path he has identified.
To know how Jesus Christ sees them, church members should study the standards the Savior has set for them and examine the purity of their hearts, said Elder Cecil O. Samuelson Jr., of the Seventy.
The Savior has asked each person to be as he is. "To do otherwise, invites his disappointment," Elder Samuelson said.
"He, who not only knows us best but loves us most, has provided, through the grandeur of his Atonement, all that we need to compensate for our failings, mistakes, sins and disappointments," he said.
Members must obey the Savior's commandments and come to him by the narrow gate and straight path he has identified.
Quoting President Gordon B. Hinckley, he said, "As his followers, we can do no mean or shoddy or ungracious thing without tarnishing his image. Nor can we do a good and gracious and generous act without burnishing more brightly the symbol of him whose name we have taken upon ourselves."
Elder Samuelson described the Savior's ability to serve the masses while remembering the solitary. The Savior who fed thousands through miracles also took the time to provide "living water" to a solitary sinner. He preached the gospel to large congregations but also had time for a seemingly insignificant Nathaniel and his questions.
Elder Samuelson reminded listeners of two of the Savior's instructions: "If ye love me, keep my commandments," and "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Forsake pride and envy to forge an eternally rewarding covenant with Jesus Christ.
Church members' bonds with Jesus Christ began in the premortal world and can be a powerful force for changing their lives now, said Sister Aileen H. Clyde, second counselor in the General Relief Society presidency.
Members need to be guided in this world by the Savior's loving care for their unique and divine identities. "We are central in his great work. He teaches that as we receive his light, we can reflect that light in the world," she said.
Christ's two great commandments to love God and love one's neighbor comprise the beginning of how to engage in his covenant.
"The love Christ commands requires a mighty change and great humility. It requires us to forsake pride and to be stripped of envy," she said.
"When we have made the changes that only we can make, then, by the atoning blood of Christ, we may receive the forgiveness that only he can bring. The reciprocal nature of those actions suggests the high trust and respect the Lord has for our abilities. Anyone who has had experience with the Lord's love knows of the sure courage that comes when we keep our part of that trust and honor him by seeking his spirit and living the best we can."
In a troubling world, members' covenants with the Lord are the foundation upon which they can rely. Through covenants with Jesus Christ, members become his sons and daughters, linked through eternity to their loved ones and to God.
"Because of our covenants, we have protection from loneliness and alienation. Because of our relationship with him, we can reflect light and tenderness to one another and we can possess our own souls eternally."