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Messages of joy, peace

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Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hardly need to be reminded they live in perilous times. As several speakers alluded to during the 174th Annual General Conference, the Apostle Paul's prophecy of the latter days, as recorded in the first seven verses of 2 Timothy chapter 3, are in evidence all around. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve said, "Evil that used to be localized and covered like a boil is now legalized and paraded like a banner."

But Church members also hardly need to be reminded that Heavenly Father loves them and has not left them alone. The annual general conference, which was translated into 66 languages and made accessible to nearly all of the Church's now 12 million members, was a prominent and uplifting reminder of that. The Lord has provided a prophet for this day, and he is showing the faithful how to live in happiness despite the wickedness that abounds.

And his message, together with those of the other General Authorities and leaders, was one of joy and peace. His exhortation was to be optimistic and happy, not overly burdened by the troubles of the world.

"There is still so much of conflict in the world," President Gordon B. Hinckley said. "There is terrible poverty, disease and hatred. Man is still brutal in his inhumanity to man. Yet there is this glorious dawn. The 'Sun of righteousness' has come 'with healing in His wings.' God and His Beloved Son have revealed themselves. We know Them. We worship Them 'in spirit and in truth.' We love Them. We honor Them and seek to do Their will."

The world, President Hinckley said, has experienced perilous times from the moment it was created. "Somehow, through all of the darkness, there has been a faint but beautiful light. And now with added luster it shines upon the world. It carries with it God's plan of happiness for His children. It carries with it the great and unfathomable wonders of the Atonement of the Redeemer."

It is particularly appropriate that Church members consider the Atonement during this Easter season. The Savior, of course, lived in very perilous times, as well. He grew up in a nation wracked with poverty, disease and the rule of an oppressive occupier. He was hounded constantly by critics, skeptics and people who wanted to kill Him. Yet He went about doing good, spreading hope and making others happy, firm always in His understanding of who He was and how His loving sacrifice — at the expense of suffering no one else can comprehend — would make the ultimate victory over evil possible.

Not once did He become discouraged or defeatist. Never did He allow the world to bring Him down. Instead, He sought always to bring the world up, thinking always of the welfare of others. Even as He suffered in agony on the cross, He forgave His tormentors.

And, clearly, Jesus has not changed today. He is the world's Redeemer, actively engaged in mankind's daily struggle against the forces of darkness, and He guides His Church.

Church members should be humble and grateful to have found the truth and to have located the voice of a true prophet. They should strive, as President Hinckley has constantly admonished, to be good neighbors, eager to be helpful, kind and generous to all without compromising their principles.

The Church, as President Hinckley said, is doing well. Temples dot the earth. New meetinghouses constantly are being built. And the Church's welfare program is spreading hope and humanitarian service worldwide to such an extent that it is gaining the attention of the leaders of the world.

There is, in other words, much reason for cheer. And there is every reason to have faith that the forces of righteousness will prevail over evil, even in these perilous times.