Message from President Thomas S. Monson
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It has been five years since I became President of the Church. At this time I feel it appropriate to review those five years and to look to the future.
Throughout my years as a General Authority I have emphasized a need for the "rescue" of our brothers and sisters from many different situations which may be depriving them of all the blessings the gospel can provide. Since becoming President of the Church I have felt an increased urgency for us to be engaged in this rescue effort. As faithful members of the Church have reached out with love and understanding, many have returned to full activity and are enjoying added blessings in their lives. There is yet much to do in this regard, and I encourage all to continue to reach out to rescue. Said the Lord, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:32).
Since the announcement was made in general conference this past October that the ages were being lowered when young men and young women might serve as full-time missionaries, thousands of additional missionary applications have been received at Church headquarters. Not only will increased missionary service bring more honest seekers after truth to a knowledge of the gospel, but our missionaries will also be blessed in countless ways as they dedicate their time and talents in service to the Lord. I have often said that a mission will provide a strong foundation upon which one's future life can be built. Not only will individuals be blessed as they serve missions, but the entire Church will also be strengthened.
Our temple-building efforts continue unabated. During the past five years, 31 new temples have been announced. During this same period, 16 temples have been dedicated, with five others having been rededicated after extensive renovations. When the Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple is dedicated in March of this year, we will have 141 temples in operation throughout the world. These numbers will continue to increase as we move forward in making temples accessible to all of our members, wherever they may live.
We continue to emphasize the need for our members to move forward in the work for our deceased family members. Our mandate is to seek out our dead and to provide them with the opportunity to accept the ordinances and blessings of the gospel. We accomplish this by making certain the ordinances are performed for them. President Joseph F. Smith, speaking of work for the dead, declared, "Through our efforts in their behalf their chains of bondage will fall from them, and the darkness surrounding them will clear away, that light may shine upon them and they shall hear in the spirit world of the work that has been done for them by their children here, and will rejoice with you in your performance of these duties" (Conference Report, October 1916, p. 6).
In this remarkable dispensation of the fulness of times, our opportunities to serve one another are limitless. We're surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our comfort, our support, our kindness — whether they be family members, ward members, friends, acquaintances, or even strangers. As we serve our fellow man, we serve the Lord. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these ... ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40). May we ever be found performing such service.
I commend all who faithfully attend to Church callings and responsibilities, whatever they may be. If you do not currently have a calling, yours is the opportunity to provide support to those who do have. As we are dependable and responsible in fulfilling our duties, much good is accomplished, both for us and for others. As all of us work together, we will strengthen one another and, by doing so, strengthen the Church as a whole.
This year will mark 50 years since I was called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I was 36 years old when that call came. Last August I celebrated my 85th birthday. Some of the senior members of the Quorum of the Twelve have a few years even on me. Age eventually takes its toll on all of us. However, we join our voices with King Benjamin, who said, as recorded in the second chapter of the book of Mosiah, "I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen ... and consecrated by my father, ... and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me" (Mosiah 2:11). Despite any health challenges that may come to us, despite any weakness in body or mind, we serve to the best of our ability. I assure you that the Church is in good hands. The system set up for the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve assures that it will always be in good hands and that, come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm.
As we now go forward, may we follow His example. He left His footprints in the sands of the seashore, but He left His teaching principles in the hearts and in the lives of all whom He taught. He instructed His disciples, and to us He speaks the same words, "Follow thou me" (John 21:22). May we ever be found doing so.