CHORLEY, England Tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints gathered May 15 in stake centers and designated ward meetinghouses throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland to participate in stake conferences in which they received, in a satellite broadcast, counsel from President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, and President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Conference proceedings originated in the Preston England Stake Center located on the grounds of the Preston England Temple at Chorley in Lancashire. Elder Harold G. Hillam of the Seventy and president of the Europe West Area conducted and offered remarks. Sister Carol Hillam bore her testimony.
President Monson centered his address on the Lord's instructions: " 'Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God' (Doctrine and Covenants 88:119).
"That was the blueprint for the Kirtland Temple," President Monson said, "and it is a blueprint for you and for me, for we are temple builders. We have only one chance at it; that's right now. What a blueprint for us to follow, for the Apostle Paul said, 'Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?' " (1 Corinthians 3:16).
President Monson asked the congregation to think of that statement and analyze what the Lord said about establishing His house as:
- A house of prayer. He said that when he and Sister Monson were married, Benjamin Browring, who performed the ceremony, gave them a formula which, if practiced, would assure them they would never have a misunderstanding in their marriage that would last longer than one day. If they followed the formula of kneeling by the side of their bed, with one offering the prayer one night and the other the next, they would never retire angry.
- A house of fasting. President Monson quoted Isaiah 58:610, in which the ancient prophet defined fasting and the duty to care for the hungry, the poor and the naked, and promised that "the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
- A house of faith.President Monson spoke of his forebears from Scotland and England on his mother's side of the family and Sweden on his father's, and the faith and courage they demonstrated in making their trek to the Salt Lake Valley.
- A house of learning."The Lord gave a definition of that: 'Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith' " (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).
President Monson taught principles from some of his favorite literary works, including "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens and referred to the passage in which the ghost of Jacob Marley tells Scrooge, "I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it, link by link, and yard by yard." Marley bemoans that no space of regret can make amends for life's opportunities misused. President Monson noted that a change came for Scrooge. "And a change should come for the better for each of us as we forget self and think of others."
- A house of glory. President Monson observed that to have a house of glory, one needs to be square with God, fair with others, and honest with oneself. He noted that a Mark Twain character, Huckleberry Finn, attempted to pray that he would be a better boy while knowing deep down that he would not change. Said Huckleberry Finn: "You can't pray a lie." President Monson said, "We can change for the better and so we should, if we're to follow that beautiful blueprint and have a house of glory, if we're to think of others first and self last, if we're peacemakers, if we quell the feuds and disagreements. That's what the Lord would have us do."
- A house of God. "One person and God make a majority," President Monson said. "Remember that when you are on the Lord's errand you are entitled to the Lord's help. He promised you, 'I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up' " (Doctrine and Covenants 84:88).
- A house or order. President Monson observed that lives are full and busy, but there is a time for all things. Counseling the members to heed the Lord's blueprint, President Monson added, "Take time to notice the unnoticed, the grieving widow, the children without a father, and the Lord will work through you and you shall become His partner in that area of activity."
He spoke of two widows, sisters in his ward when he was a young bishop, who became less active. Each had lost a son in his youth and couldn't get over it, and each had spent her life in mourning. "The shades had been drawn in that suite," President Monson said of the apartment where they lived. "They did not look out into the sunshine; they looked inward and tortured themselves."
President Monson told of how he and his counselors visited and worked with the widows. "These two women were brought out of the dark, the blinds of their lives were literally raised. I think they never missed another meeting.
"So it is in the United Kingdom and Ireland. There are those who at one time were active and now need a little encouragement."
In his address, President Packer recalled how during World War II he visited his brother before being shipped overseas. Both brothers were pilots, and a young Boyd Packer asked his more experienced brother if he were ever afraid. "He said when things closed in and looked in doubt and percentage-wise there weren't many of those first ones who came over who survived but he said that he would hum or sing to himself under his breath his favorite hymn. He said that gave him courage."
President Packer said humming or singing a hymn also "served me later than that when I learned that in the world we live in where things are closing in morally to where it's so difficult to . . . stay decent, . . . it's a useful thing to have a favorite hymn and when something enters your mind by virtue of seeing something or hearing something that ought not to be there you just switch on in your mind that hymn.
"You can do that you know, and it will crowd out the other unworthy thought. You can't think of two things at once. You mind can switch back and forth very easily but you can't actually think of more than one thing at once, and if you young people will remember that and do that it can be a shield and a protection to you."
President Packer then related how several years ago he and his wife, Donna, were at Oxford University looking for records of his forebear, John Packer, from the 16th century. Dr. Poppelwell, the head of Christ's College at Oxford, helped President Packer get the records out, "dusty old books," as they were described.
"There we found the record of John Packer and his record of school. The next year we were here and thought in compensation for his kindness that we would make a gift to the library of Christ's College, and I had a leather-bound set of the standard works prepared with a card of dedication in it."
The presentation seemed a bit awkward, President Packer recounted. Dr. Poppelwell called for the college chaplain to receive the gift. "I turned in the topical guide to the heading, Jesus Christ, and showed (the chaplain) 18 pages, single-spaced, small print, references to the two words in Jesus Christ and pointed out that this was the most comprehensive compilation of scripture references on the Lord Jesus Christ that had ever been compiled in the history of the world."
The atmosphere changed, President Packer said, adding that he and Sister Packer were cordially given a tour, including an excavation revealing murals dating to Roman days.
Continuing, President Packer spoke of gaining one's own testimony of the restored gospel. "Every one of us can have or should have our own sacred grove," he said.
"So here in all of these stakes gathered to the British Isles and Ireland here (are) common ordinary Latter-day Saints. Each one of you has a right to a testimony of your own, so that you can know as well as we know that the gospel is true, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God."
In brief remarks, Elder Hillam spoke of the law of consecration and how, in preparation for that law, members are asked to live the law of tithing. And to "help us come a little bit further," members live the law of the fast. "There are other things," he continued. "There's the welfare plan, where we have the opportunity of giving of our time and our talents. There are the humanitarian efforts that we have now, where the saints are invited to give of their resources. Some will be called to go with their talents to help in projects around the world. . . .
"Brothers and Sisters, what a wonderful thing it is to see, now that we are seeing parts of the Church stepping up to that wonderful time when we'll be living that celestial law, which the prophets have reminded us, that is the law that will be lived in the celestial kingdom."
Sister Hillam spoke of sacrifice and consecration, adding, "The blessings that come from giving are so wonderful. And when we give, we find that all things work together."