During the week that marked completion of his second year as president of the Church, President Gordon B. Hinckley continued the torrid pace he has kept during his administration by meeting with members from four stakes here March 15 and 16.
Accompanying President Hinckley to Tennessee were his wife, Marjorie; Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Elisa; and Elder F. David Stanley of the Seventy and second counselor in the North America Southeast Area, and his wife, Annette.More than 6,500 people - 66 percent of the Chattanooga Tennessee, Kingsport Tennessee, Knoxville Tennessee and the Knoxville Tennessee Cumberlands stakes - attended the general Church meeting in the Knoxville Civic Coliseum. A priesthood leadership meeting was held March 15 in the Tennessee stake center. That day, President Hinckley also met with 137 missionaries from the Tennessee Knoxville Mission.
Speaking by way of testimony to those attending the general session on the beautiful but crisp spring Sunday morning, President Hinckley said: "I hope that everyone here has a living, vibrant testimony of the truthfulness of this great work. I hope that every man, woman, boy and girl in this congregation can stand and say `I know that God my Eternal Father lives, and that I am His child.'
"I hope [you] can say `Jesus is the Christ, the only begotten of the Father, the first begotten in the flesh.' His divine sacrifice, in which He gave His life for each of us, in an Atonement greater than we can comprehend, has opened the way to eternal life," President Hinckley said.
He spoke similarly regarding having a testimony of the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the priesthood and the Church to the earth.
"We expect great things of our people, we expect great things of each of you, my brothers and sisters," President Hinckley stated. "To live the gospel, its teachings, to bring charity into your lives, to help those in need wherever they may be, and to stand tall, with the gospel and your testimony and witness of this great work."
President Hinckley encouraged those present, while celebrating this year the sesquicentennial of the pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley - who "counted this work of the Lord greater than life itself" - to not necessarily dwell on the accomplishments of the past, but to live in the present and look to the future.
"Now that's behind us, that's in the past, this is the present and it is wonderful. Let us go forward in the future to build this kingdom for those who need that work done, to be faithful, to be true, to rear our children in righteousness and in faith," he said.
President Hinckley directed remarks to the young people in the congregation. He encouraged them to know how to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost in their lives.
"Does it lead to that which is beautiful, does it lead to that which motivates us to do good, to lift ourselves to a higher plane? Then you may know that it is the prompting of the Spirit of God in your lives."
President Hinckley quoted from Moroni 7:16-17 and D&C 50:24, and promised the youth that if they would follow the counsel of the Lord, "as we seek the light of the gospel, our enlightenment will grow in the direction of God."
He spoke of the divine inheritance each young person has as a son or daughter of God, and how this should be the motivating influence in their decisions.
"You are a child of God. Do you really recognize the importance of that statement? Or is it just something we say or mouth, so to speak. What a marvelous concept! I am a child of God. I was born with a divine inheritance. There is something of divinity within me, and we ought to rise up to it and walk with our heads up in acknowledgment and testimony of that great and sacred fact. Live up to your divine birthright . . . and walk with godliness, in virtue and integrity, my dear young friends," stated the prophet.
President Hinckley left his blessing on those who came, many from 100 miles and more to attend. "I bless you as you walk in faith and faithfulness, that the windows of heaven will be opened above you and blessings be showered upon your heads, that there shall not be room enough to receive it . . . and you shall have a testimony in your hearts."
As the congregation, along with President Hinckley and his party, listened to the choir's closing number, "Come, Come, Ye Saints," there was a peace in the hall, a sense that if the gospel would be lived by those present, all would "be well."