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Echoing the visible show of support given to the new First Presidency in Saturday morning's Solemn Assembly, President Boyd K. Packer emphasized the vital nature of the particulars involved in such action.

The practice of raising a hand to sustain those who have been called to lead or to teach in the church is a matter of sacred importance, said President Packer, acting president of the Council of the Twelve.His remarks followed the sustaining of church leaders during the opening session of the 165th Annual General Conference in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.

Such practice, he said, "conforms to a revelation from the Lord," in which it was mandated that no authority be assumed by anyone without proper ordination or without the knowledge of the church membership.

"We affirm to you that in sustaining President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors, our First Presidency, the Twelve is one," he said. "For, in raising our hands to sustain the president of the church, we continue the line of authority unbroken since the beginning of the Restoration.

"Individually and collectively, the Twelve hold the keys and have confirmed the authority to exercise all the keys upon the senior apostle, the one man who is to preside over the church," President Packer said, referring to President Hinckley.

"The Lord has provided a system in which there is no aspiring, no maneuvering for position or power, not even a hint of soliciting votes or cultivating influence. The system does not allow it, neither would the Lord permit it. It does not work in the way that man usually works, and so it should be."

The ministry of the apostles, the First Presidency and the Twelve is to "bring us to a unity of faith," he said. "As it has been since the beginning, the adversary would divide us, break us up, and if he can, destroy us."

The ministry of the church leadership "leads them ever and always to the home and family," said President Packer.

The "shield of faith" outlined by the Lord in scripture "is not produced in a factory, but at home in a cottage industry. The ultimate purpose of all we teach is to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are happy at home, sealed in an eternal marriage, linked to their generations and assured of exaltation in the presence of our Heavenly Father," he said.

"In church, we can teach about the materials from which a shield of faith is made: reverence, courage, chastity, repentance, forgiveness, compassion. In church we can learn how to assemble and fit them together. But the actual making of and fitting on of the shield of faith belongs in the family circle. Otherwise, it may loosen and come off in a crisis."

The world is now experiencing the "perilous times" prophesied by the New Testament prophet Paul, President Packer said, and parents must follow scriptural dictates to teach their children repentance, faith, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

"Therefore our leaders press members to understand that what is most worth doing must be done at home. Some still do not see that too many out-of-home activities, however well-intended, leave too little time to make and fit on the shield of faith at home."

The great plan of happiness revealed to prophets "is the plan for a happy family. It is the love story between husband and wife, parents and children, that renews itself through the ages."



Morning speakers

Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve

Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Council of the Twelve

Robert D. Hales of the Council of the Twelve

Robert K. Dellenbach of the Seventy

J. Ballard Washburn of the Seventy

Merrill J. Bateman, Presiding Bishop

Elder Wirthlin

Gospel is a living spring that will quench your deepest spiritual thirst.

Just as Jesus offered "living water" to the woman he met at Jacob's Well in Sychar, the Savior continues to "provide the living water that can quench the burning thirst of those whose lives are parched by a drought of truth," said Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Council of the Twelve.

Church members are expected to "supply to (the spiritually thirsty of the world) the fullness of the gospel by giving them the scriptures and the words of the prophets to bear testimony as to the truth of the restored gospel to alleviate their thirst. When they drink from the cup of knowledge, their thirst is satisfied as they come to understand our Heavenly Father's great plan of happiness," he said.

Like the woman of Samaria, whose first thought was only to have her physical thirst forever slaked, many people today are "looking for the easy way," said Elder Wirthlin. But there are no magic fountains that will ensure success, fulfillment and happiness, short of living worthy of Christ's blessings.

"By living the gospel of Jesus Christ, we develop within ourselves a living spring that will quench eternally our thirst for happiness, peace and everlasting life," he said.

The latter days are a time of great spiritual thirst, said Elder Wirthlin. "Many in the world are searching, often intensely, for a source of refreshment that will quench their yearning for meaning and direction in their lives. They crave a cool, satisfying drink of insight and knowledge that will soothe their parched souls. Their spirits cry out for life-sustaining experiences of peace and calm to nourish and enliven their withering hearts."

Elder Wirthlin said that today's church leaders invite members to drink deeply of the gospel. President Howard W. Hunter, he said, "raised us to new heights of understanding and urged us to renew our commitment to keep sacred covenants." By himself treating others with more kindness, courtesy, humility, patience and forgiveness, President Hunter "encouraged us to drink more often and more deeply of the living water to bring spiritual enrichment into our lives."

President Hinckley now is "the Lord's anointed. He holds all priesthood keys and is authorized to exercise them in leading and directing the kingdom of God," Elder Wirthlin said. The new president has "drunk deeply throughout his entire lifetime" of the living water of the Lord and now can offer the same to those who are willing to follow, he said.

Elder Hales

Prophets throughout time have spoken plainly and offered wise guidance.

From the beginning of man's history, God has provided prophets to give guidance to his children and to create a link between heaven and Earth, said Elder Robert D. Hales of the Council of the Twelve.

President Ezra Taft Benson and President Howard W. Hunter, both deceased within the past year, left lasting admonitions to members of the church, said Elder Hales. "They taught us about the importance of family, studying the Book of Mormon and living our lives in such a way that it would draw us closer to God."

Sustained Saturday by the body of the church, President Gordon B. Hinck-ley now assumes the role of "prophet, seer and revelator," Elder Hales said.

"There has always been a desperate need for the steady and reassuring voice of a living prophet of God, one who will speak the mind and will of God in showing the way to spiritual safety and personal peace and happiness," Elder Hales said.

Through the ages, prophets have, "regardless of the consequences," had the strength to speak the words of God with plainness and boldness, said Elder Hales, recounting several examples from ancient scripture.

Those like Ahab of the Old Testament, who want to hear from the prophets only what is pleasing to them, will be disappointed, he said. Prophets are bound to speak the word of God with plainness, "let the consequences follow."

In this dispensation, said Elder Hales, quoting early church president Wilford Woodruff, the "Lord has raised up men and women to carry on his work. Many of us have been held in the spirit world from the organization of this world until the generation in which we live."

"In my own lifetime, through association with prophets, I have observed how they are prepared by the Lord," said Elder Hales. "By the time they become the prophet, their greatest concern is for the goodness and obedience of the members of the church. They express the love they have for the faithful Saints and their gratitude for the goodness of those who give service in the world. Their purpose is to bring us the will of the Lord for our times."

If people paid strict heed to the prophets, he said, "poverty would be replaced with loving care for the poor and needy. Many serious and deadly health problems would be avoided through compliance with the Word of Wisdom and the laws of sexual purity. Payment of tithing would bless us that we would have sufficient for our needs."

Elder Dellenbach

Quick, extraordinary translation of Book of Mormon was a miracle.

The translation of the Book of Mormon by a young man who was relatively uneducated, pressed by the burdens of caring for a family and intent on bringing forth a divinely inspired religion "is a profound miracle," said Elder Robert K. Dellenbach of the Quorums of the Seventy.

Now in print in more than 80 languages, with more translations under way, the book's advent was "an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs" - clearly a miracle, as defined in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary - said Elder Dellenbach.

With the aid of modern technology, today's well-educated Book of Mormon translators, armed with resources and technology, may spend up to four years preparing a text in a non-English language. By contrast, Joseph Smith, a poor farm boy working under less-than-ideal circumstances, completed his work in approximately 63 working days.

That was only possible, according to one of his scribes, Oliver Cowdery, because "The Prophet Joseph Smith . . . translated by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim," said Elder Dellenbach.

Without extensive revision and with only minor editing, Joseph Smith's translation became "the standard for all other language translations of the book throughout the world," Elder Dellenbach said.

"No other person with such limited education and facility as Joseph has singlehandedly translated in such a short period of time from ancient writings over five hundred pages of scriptural text."

The Book of Mormon has withstood the scrutiny of many skeptics and has become the means for people all over the world to come to Christ, Elder Dellenbach said. More than 73 million copies of the book have been printed to date.

Elder Washburn

Home is the testing ground for the sacred covenants we make at the temple.

Young Latter-day Saints can follow the example of Jesus, who was found in the temple at age 12, teaching and learning from his elders, said Elder J. Ballard Washburn of the Quorums of the Seventy.

Parents should encourage their children to be temple-worthy and make temple attendance a family affair, he said. Young people age 12 and older can perform baptisms and confirmations for the dead while they wait for the chance to participate in adult ordinances.

"Our effort as parents, wards and stakes should be to help our youth live worthily to go to the temple now. The goal is the same for young women as for young men - be temple-worthy now."

Living worthy of the influence of the Holy Ghost is the first requirement for temple preparedness, Elder Washburn said.

Going to the temple unworthily "is a great mistake," he warned. Couples who go to the temple for marriage while harboring unresolved sins, "are starting their marriages on very shaky ground. I believe this is one of the main causes of divorce in temple marriages."

Many of the world's problems are brought about by parents who do not accept the responsibilities of their temple covenants, including the willingness to have children and teach them the gospel, Elder Washburn said.

"We in the church must not be caught up in the false doctrines of the world that would cause us to break sacred temple covenants," he said.

While Latter-day Saints go to the temple to make covenants, "we go home to keep the covenants we have made. The home is the testing ground. The home is the place where we learn to be more Christ-like . . . where we learn to overcome selfishness and give ourselves in service to others."

Bishop Bateman

Facing death, having hope for one's eternal destiny are part of life's purpose.

Death can teach lessons about the purposes of life, said Presiding Bishop Merrill J. Bateman.

Recalling thoughts he entertained after the recent sudden death of a friend's teenage son, Bishop Bateman recounted four truths he identified as he contemplated that event:

- Life is short, whether death occurs at 17 or 80.

- There is spirit in man. When death occurs, the separation of the spirit from the body robs the person of the light and animation that go with living.

- Eternal families are important. "Just as there are parents to greet a newborn on Earth, the scriptures teach that caring family members greet the spirits in paradise and assist them in the adjustments to a new life . . . . Heaven only exists if families are eternal."

- Life has purpose and meaning. "To be meaningful, life must be more than the ephemeral pleasures of youth. There must be a plan. Death, even if accidental, is part of the plan. Developing faith in and coming to know one's maker is at the core of the plan. Having hope with regard to one's eternal destiny and experiencing joy must also be part of life's purpose."

Faith in Christ is the best balm for those who are bereaved, Bishop Bateman said. The Savior's personal acquaintance with every living soul gives him the ability to "know how to comfort and strengthen us . . . . The Savior's Atonement in the garden and on the cross is intimate as well as infinite. Infinite in that it spans the eternities. Intimate in that the Savior felt each person's pains, sufferings and sicknesses" and knows how to heal from within, he said.