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FOCUS IS UNCHANGING, PRES. HINCKLEY SAYS

While the continued growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints necessitates a change in the administrative ranks of area leadership, the focus of the Lord's church will always be on the individual.

President Gordon B. Hinckley told priesthood holders gathered for the priesthood session at the Tabernacle and in meetinghouses worldwide Saturday night that "The doctrine remains constant. But from time to time there are organizational and administrative changes made under provisions set for in the revelations," namely Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants.In his first conference address since being sustained as church president Saturday morning, he announced the honorable release of all the church's 284 regional representatives, effective Aug. 15. After thanking them for their service, President Hinckley announced the planned call of new local officers, to be known as area authorities. Those so called are to be high priests who will continue their employment, reside in their own homes and serve for approximately six years. They will be closely tied to the church's area presidencies and will be fewer in number than regional representatives.

With the changes, President Hinckley re-emphasized that "our interest and concern must always be with the individual . . .. Our great responsibility is to see that each (church member) . . . has opportunity for growth and expression and training in the work and the ways of the Lord, that none lacks the necessities of life, that the needs of the poor are met, that each member shall have encouragement, training and opportunity to move forward on the road of immortality and eternal life. This, I submit, is the inspired genius of this, the Lord's work."

While encouraging church members to reach out, move forward and build the church throughout the world, he said "with all of this there must continue to be an intimate pastoral relationship of every member with a wise and caring bishop or branch president. These are the shepherds of the flock whose responsibility it is to look after the people in relatively small numbers so that none is forgotten, overlooked or neglected."

The model for providing such individual attention is the Savior himself, he said.

Individual development comes through individual service, such as temple attendance and missionary work. The gaining of a strong and sure testimony requires individual service, study, prayer and faith.

Accountability is also individual, he said. "The decisions we make, individually and personally, become the fabric of our lives. That fabric will be beautiful or ugly according to the threads of which it is woven."

He closed his remarks by bearing witness that "the gospel is the way of peace, of progress, of safety, of salvation, of exaltation . . .. You and I have received this holy priesthood through the laying on of hands by those in authority. We must live worthy of it. We must safeguard it. We must honor it. We must use it in righteousness for the blessing of others."

President Hinckley also conducted the session and graced the audience with a bit of his fun-loving nature. He drew laughter from the audience with the announcement that music would be provided by a combined male choir from the Logan, Ogden, Salt Lake University and Orem institutes of religion. "I don't know how else you can bring harmony among Logan, Ogden, Salt Lake and Orem," he quipped. As he announced the closing hymn, "Where Can I Turn For Peace," he smiled, questioning whoever thought he - as the final speaker - would be the cause of chaos.

President Monson

President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, discussed missionary work and suggested a formula that he said would ensure success for those engaged in such service.

It includes preparing for missionary work with purpose, teaching with testimony and laboring with love, he said.

He urged Aaronic Priesthood holders to prepare for full-time missions and become a part of that "valiant missionary army of the Lord which now numbers 50,000 strong."

President Monson reminded priesthood holders that the command to teach the gospel was given long ago by the Savior to his apostles, but that the "sacred charge has not been rescinded. Rather, it has been re-emphasized."

He emphasized the importance of being willing to serve, of not being ashamed to share the gospel and of laboring with love.

"There is no substitute for love," he said.

President Monson related an experience he had of meeting a young woman on a plane in California, of discussing the gospel with her and answering her questions. Before the flight ended, President Monson asked her permission to have two lady missionaries contact her. Several months later President Monson was contacted by the woman, who happily called to announce that she had joined the church and to thank him for sharing his testimony with her.

"As tears filled my eyes and gratitude to God enlarged my soul, I thanked her and commended her on her search for truth . . .," President Monson said.

President Faust

In his address, President James E. Faust, second counselor in The First Presidency, discussed the "Responsibilities of Shepherds," who he said are held accountable by the Lord for the safety or salvation of his sheep.

"The bearers of the priesthood have this great responsibility, whether it is as father, grandfather, home teacher, elders quorum president, a bishop, stake president or other church calling," President Faust said.

He told of being asked as a small boy by his father to care for a sheep that had been lost and of how the animal died as a result of his failure to follow through in its care.

President Faust said he resolved after the incident and hearing his father's concerns that he would try "never again to neglect my stewardship as a shepherd . . . ."

He tied that experience to the responsibilities of home teachers and others with priesthood responsibilities for the welfare of those in their care.

President Faust reviewed duties of home teachers, bishops, stake presidents and general authorities but said there is "no greater responsibility than that of being a husband and a father, from which there is no release."

He urged priesthood leaders and others to "focus and concentrate on the simple, sublime, spiritually nourishing and saving principles of the gospel. We ask you to stand steady. We ask you to be faithful in your stewardships as the shepherding priesthood authority of the church . . ."

Elder Holland

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Council of the Twelve recounted experiences showing the dedication, courage and sacrifice of early-day missionaries and the father of a missionary.

Elder Holland said he hoped to impress upon young Aaronic Priesthood holders "some sense of history, something of what it has meant and something of what it may yet mean to belong to the true and living Church of God, and hold the significant offices in its priesthood which you now and will yet hold."

He recalled the encounter of two early-day missionaries in the South as they faced an angry mob. He said one elder lost his life and the other missionary, Elder Rudger Clawson, had a chance, long before being called to serve in the Council of the Twelve Apostles, to prove his faithfulness and to defend his beliefs, even at the peril of his life.

Elder Holland said he told the story, hoping that no one would dwell on the death of a young missionary or think gospel living brought only trials and tragedies in those early years. But he indicated that he hopes young people will come to appreciate how many early-day leaders, faithful fathers and others have faced challenges and lived the gospel with faith, courage and determination, leaving a "legacy" for those who follow.

Elder Brough

Elder Monte J. Brough of the Presidency of the Seventy told priesthood holders that great examples of role models are available as individuals search their own family history.

Elder Brough read from the journal writings of one of his ancestors and others, saying the search for personal identity is "essentially a search for role models that become instructive in the conduct of our lifestyles."

He said church members need not look beyond their own families "to find wonderful role models whose high standards are more than adequate in our search for personal identity." Searching one's family history is important, he indicated. It helps to " `obtain and maintain our identity.' "

Elder Martins

The importance of faithful, loving home teachers was extolled in an address by Elder Helvecio Martins of the Seventy. A 1972 convert to the church in Brazil, Elder Martins placed strong emphasis on home teaching as he praised the work of the first home teachers assigned to his family. He said they were interested in the well-being and progress of his family, continuing to show love and interest after the family moved to another area.

He said almost 23 years have passed since that time. But he said the "names and images of those first servants are forever in our memories since they served as true shepherds."

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Priesthood speakers

Gordon B. Hinckley, president of LDS Church

Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency

James E. Faust of the First Presidency

Jeffrey R. Holland of the Council of the Twelve

Monte J. Brough of the Presidency of the Seventy

Helvecio Martins of the Seventy