The beginning of a new year traditionally is a time for renewal, a time to survey the past, and a time to look ahead to the future.
These words from a favorite hymn express such a pattern: "Come, let us anew our journey pursue, Roll round with the year, And never stand still till the Master appear." (Hymns, No. 217.)Looking back at 1997 there is much to be grateful for. It was a sesquicentennial year when the valiant pioneers who entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 were honored and remembered for their courageous deeds. A re-enactment of their westward trek drew worldwide attention to the Church and its progress during those 150 years.
The Church grew during this past year and reached the milestone of 10 million members. Such growth will continue as the gospel rolls forth ultimately to fill the whole earth.
This past year saw a remarkable effort by President Gordon B. Hinckley to reach Church members in the far corners of the world. No other Church president has traveled as much as President Hinckley. During 1997 he traveled to more than 142 different locations where he brought his love and testimony to thousands of members, conducted groundbreakings or dedications, and participated in various conferences. (See Church News, Dec. 27,1997, for more details.)
The year also saw the announcement of smaller temples to be built in more remote areas to allow greater temple participation by Church members. It is anticipated that more locations of these temples will continue to be made in the coming years.
For these, and many other reasons too numerous to mention, 1997 is a milestone year in Church history.
But what of the future? The Church will certainly not "stand still."
We can expect continued strenuous efforts by President Hinckley as he carries his great personal touch to members everywhere.
We can expect that the great army of missionaries will continue to spread the light and truth of the gospel and with the spirit of the Holy Ghost bring many souls into this true and everlasting Church.
With these new members will come the need for new meetinghouse facilities that will be built at an increasing pace to keep up with the growth. Also, work will continue to move forward on the great new assembly hall being constructed north of Temple Square.
A giant step forward in Church curriculum will unfold during this year as both Relief Society sisters and priesthood brethren study from the same correlated manual. Coming on the heels of 1997's sesquicentennial observance, it is appropriate that the lessons are centered on the prophetic role of Brigham Young, second president of the Church.
The introductory words to this unique study guide state: "The Prophet Brigham Young taught the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in a basic, practical way that gave inspiration and hope to the Saints struggling to build a home in the wilderness. Though more than a century has now passed, his words are still fresh and appropriate for us today as we continue the work of building the Kingdom of God."
It is safe to say that the Church will move forward significantly in 1998. Problems and challenges will be met and overcome, truth will be more firmly established in the lives of members, and every effort will be made to fellowship those who have stepped aside or who do not understand the divine nature of Jesus Christ as their Savior and Redeemer.
As we contemplate our efforts during 1998 it is well to recall these words of the Lord as given to the Prophet Joseph Smith:
"The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.
"For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round." (D&C 3:1-2.)
It behooves each of us during 1998 to stay on the Lord's course, to magnify our callings and duties, and to offer our best deeds to our families and to our fellow men. What more appropriate message for a new year could there be than the following sacred words?
"Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.
"And if thou art faithful unto the end thou shalt have a crown of immortality, and eternal life in the mansions which I have prepared in the house of my Father." (D&C 81:5-6.)