The "Eighth Wonder of the World" - the Houston Astrodome - was the setting Sunday, Sept. 20, not for a major league baseball game, but for approximately 22,000 Latter-day Saints who heard President Gordon B. Hinckley address a 12-stake regional conference.
"So this is the Astrodome," remarked President Hinckley. "It's the first time I've ever been here. I find myself on second base
where the speakers podium wasT and don't know how to get home."Accompanying President Hinckley and also speaking to the congregation were his wife, Marjorie; Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve; and Elder Angel Abrea of the Seventy and of the North America Southwest Area presidency and his wife, Maria.
President Hinckley was greeted by Houston's Mayor Lee Brown in a reception prior to the conference. Mayor Brown was presented with a framed copy of "The Family - A Proclamation to the World" and then joined other Houston officials in attending the regional conference.
During the conference, President Hinckley issued a challenge to the members of the Church living in this area "to resolve to get your lives in order so that when the Houston [Texas] Temple is completed, you'll be eligible to attend it."
"It will be a beautiful structure," he said. "It will be beautiful in many ways. It will be a House of the Lord. It will be a House of Peace. It will be a House of Righteousness. It will be a House of Covenants. It will be a sacred and holy place, the House of the Lord."
President Hinckley laid out several principles that will help local members become eligible to serve in the new temple, which should be completed in the next 18 to 20 months.
He spoke of goodness in life, fidelity in marriage, respect for one another, payment of a full and honest tithe, honesty in living the Word of Wisdom, family prayer and love of God.
"No man who abuses his spouse, or who abuses his children can . . . enter the temple. There is no man in this Church who holds the priesthood of God who deserves to exercise that priesthood, including eligibility to enter the temple, who carries in his heart an abusive attitude toward his wife, toward his children. And if there be any women who carry in their hearts an attitude of abusiveness, you have no place, until you repent of any such actions.
"My brothers and sisters, we are sons and daughters of God, and it becomes us to live with respect toward one another, with integrity, with goodness in our lives, with honesty and righteousness before the Lord."
President Hinckley said kindness, respect and love for one another are prerequisites for a recommend to enter the House of the Lord.
He then counseled members to pay their tithing. "Every man and woman who expects to go to the temple is expected to pay his or her tithing. Tithing is the Lord's law of finance." He asked if it was so difficult to pay tithing. Then answering his question he replied, "I've never found an individual anywhere in the world who pays tithing who had to be preached to concerning the payment of tithing. It isn't a matter of money. It's a matter of faith."
President Hinckley said as he travels the world he sees beautiful meetinghouses and temples, educational institutions, family history facilities and missionary work - "all made possible by the tithes of the people."
Speaking of the importance of the Word of Wisdom, he continued, "We expect observance of the Word of Wisdom. What a marvelous, wonderful thing that is. This is a great revelation on our bodies, given for the temporal blessings of our people."
President Hinckley shared his strong testimony of the importance of family prayer. He noted the practice of family prayer is largely disappearing today and the reinstatement of this practice in the homes of America would turn society's problems around.
"The very act of people supplicating themselves before the Lord in prayer night and morning would have a most profound effect upon the quality of our lives," he said.
President Hinckley said he expected that "every Latter-day Saint will carry in his or her heart a love of our Father in Heaven."
"We teach, we preach, we sing, `I am a Child of God,' " he said. "There is something divine in me. There's something of an inheritance that you have as a son or daughter of God that is divine and wonderful. Love God," he admonished.
He again reminded his listeners to "get yourselves ready, everyone of you, get yourselves ready to enter the House of the Lord. . . .
"Brothers and sisters, let's all stand up tall," he said in conclusion. "Let's be a little better. Let's be a little kinder. Let's be a little more faithful. Let's be better to people, sons and daughters of God."
Those attending the conference felt blessed that President Hinckley was in their midst. Sunday's meeting was the largest gathering of Latter-day Saints in Texas and was the first time in 20 years a prophet of the Lord officially visited the city of Houston.
"The conference strengthened my faith and strengthened my testimony of having a prophet of God," said Brian Hintze of the Sugar Land 1st Ward, Houston Texas South Stake. "It made me glad to be a member of the Church. It made me want to be a better person."