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179th Annual General Conference priesthood session

President Thomas S. Monson presided over, conducted and addressed the priesthood session of the 179th Annual General Conference, which convened in the Conference Center Saturday evening, April 4, 2009.

Elder Bruce D. Porter of the First Quorum of the Seventy offered the invocation; Elder Shirley D. Christensen of the Second Quorum of the Seventy gave the benediction.

Music for the session was by the priesthood choir of Brigham Young University-Idaho, which was directed by Kevin Brower and Randall Kempton and accompanied by Richard Elliott.

Following are quotes from addresses delivered during the priesthood session:

President Thomas S. Monson

Brethren, our responsibilities as bearers of the priesthood are most significant, as outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants: "The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church, ... (Doctrine and Covenants 107:18). And further, "The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments" (Doctrine and Covenants 107:20).

In 1958 Elder Harold B. Lee, who later served as the eleventh President of the Church, described the priesthood as "the Lord's ... troops against the forces of evil" (Harold B. Lee, "Priesthood," address to seminary and institute personnel, Brigham Young University, July 17, 1958).

President John Taylor stated that "the power manifested by the priesthood is simply the power of God" (John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, Second Edition, May 1944, p. 130).

These stirring declarations from prophets of God help us to understand that each man and each boy who holds the priesthood of God must be worthy of that great privilege and responsibility. Each must strive to learn his duty and then to do it to the best of his ability. As we do so, we provide the means by which our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ can accomplish their work here upon the earth. It is we who are their representatives here.

In the world today we face difficulties and challenges, some of which can seem truly daunting. However, with God on our side we cannot fail. As we bear His holy priesthood worthily, we will be victorious.

To you who hold the Aaronic Priesthood, may I say that I sincerely hope each of you is aware of the significance of your priesthood ordination. Yours is a vital role in the life of every member of your ward as you participate in the administration and passing of the sacrament each Sunday.

President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency

Almost all of us have seen a battlefield portrayed in a film or read the description in a story. Over the din of explosions and the shouts of soldiers, there comes a cry, "Man down!"

When that cry sounds, faithful fellow soldiers will move toward the sounds. Another soldier or a medic will ignore danger and move to the injured comrade. And the man down will know that help will come. Whatever the risk, someone will run low or crawl to get there in time to protect and give aid. That is true in every band of men joined in a difficult and dangerous mission which they are determined to fulfill at any sacrifice. The histories of such groups are full of stories of those loyal men who are determined that no man would be left behind. …

Such a feeling of responsibility for others is at the heart of faithful priesthood service. Our comrades are being wounded in the spiritual conflict around us. So are the people we are called to serve and protect from harm. Spiritual wounds are not easily visible, except with inspired eyes. But bishops, branch presidents, and mission presidents sitting before the fellow disciples of the Savior can see the wounded and the wounds.

It has happened for years and across the earth. I remember as a bishop looking out at the face and posture of a young man of the priesthood and having the thought come to my mind so clearly that it seemed audible: "I need to see him … and soon. Something is happening. He needs help."

I would never put off such an impression because I had learned that the wounds of sin are often not felt at first by the one being hurt. Satan seems sometimes to inject something to deaden the spiritual pain while inflicting the wound. Unless something happens soon to begin repentance, the wound can worsen and widen.

Consequently, as a priesthood holder responsible for the spiritual survival of some of the Heavenly Father's children, you will then move to help without waiting for a cry, "Man down!" Even a best friend or other leaders or parents may not see what you have seen.

You may have been the only one to sense by inspiration the warning cry. The others may feel, as you may be tempted to think, "Maybe the trouble I thought I saw is just my imagination. What right do I have to judge another? It's not my responsibility. I'll leave it alone until he asks for help."

Only an authorized judge in Israel is given the power and the responsibility to verify that there is a serious wound, to explore it, and then under inspiration from God prescribe the necessary treatment for healing to begin. Yet you are under covenant to go to a spiritually wounded child of God. You are responsible to be brave enough and bold enough not to turn away.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency

Pause for a moment and think about where your own heart and thoughts are. Are you focused on the things that matter most? How you spend your quiet time may provide a clue. Where do your thoughts go when the clamor of pressure of deadlines is gone? Is it on those short-lived fleeting things that matter only in the moment, or is your heart set on things that matter most?

What grudges do you bear? What excuses do you cling to that keep you from being the kind of husband, father, son, and priesthood holder you know you should be? What are the things that distract you from your duties or hinder you from magnifying your calling in diligence?

Sometimes the things that distract us are not bad in and of themselves; often they even make us feel good. It is possible to take even good things to excess. One example can be seen in a father or grandfather who spends hour upon hour searching for his ancestors or creating a blog while neglecting quality or meaningful time with his or children and grandchildren. Another example could be a gardener who spends his days pulling weeds from the soil while ignoring the spiritual weeds that threaten to choke his soul.

Programs of the Church can become a distraction if we take them to extremes and allow them to dominate our time and our attention at the expense of the things that matter most. We need balance in life.

When we truly love our Heavenly Father and His children, we demonstrate that love through out actions. We forgive one another and seek to do good, for "our old [self] is crucified with [Christ], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Romans 6:6). We "visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction," and we keep ourselves "unspotted from the vices of the world" (Joseph Smith Translation, James 1:27).

President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

(He addressed his remarks to the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood)

Your generation is filled with uncertainties. A life of fun and games and expensive toys has come to an abrupt end. We move from a generation of ease and entertainment to a generation of work and responsibility. We do not know how long that will last.

The reality of life is now part of your priesthood responsibilities. It will not hurt you to want something and not have it. There is a maturing and disciplining that will be good for you. It will ensure that you can have a happy home and raise a happy family. These trials come with responsibility in the priesthood.

Some of you live in countries where most of what you eat and some of what you wear and whether rent is paid will depend on what can be produced by the family. It may be that what you can contribute will make the difference so that your family is fed and housed. Learn to work and to support.

The very foundation of human life, of all society, is the family, established by the first commandment to Adam and Eve, our first parents: "Multiply, and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28; Abraham 4:28).

Thereafter came the commandment, "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee" (Exodus 20:12).

Be a responsible member of your family. Take care of your possessions — your clothing, your property. Do not be wasteful. Learn to be content.

It may seem that the world is in commotion; and it is! It may seem that there are wars and rumors of wars; and there are! It may seem that the future will hold trials and difficulties for you; and it most likely will! However, fear is the opposite of faith. Do not be afraid!

Elder Claudio R.M. Costa, the Presidency of the Seventy

As we consider the wise use of our time and resources to meet the needs of our families, our employment, and our Church callings, it is important to remember that every priesthood holder needs to grow spiritually. This is a responsibility we have to ourselves. And it is important to remember that we all have helpers. The counsel from our prophets, seers and revelators is the most precious help that we receive.

Our Savior extended this invitation to each and every one of us individually: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30).

When we do His work and His will, rather than our own will, we will realize that the yoke is easy and the burden is light. He will be with us always. He will reveal to us what we need for success with our families, our career, and every responsibility that we have in His Church.

Bishop Richard C. Edgley, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

Now, let me say a word or two to those who are currently be unemployed. The responsibility for finding employment or improving your employment rests with you. Continued guidance comes from the Lord through regular fasting and prayer. Your quorum leaders, bishops, specialists and employment resource center staff will help in your efforts. We fear, however, that often priesthood leaders are unaware of your situation. Speak up! Let them know you are looking for work. And bishops and priesthood leaders, rise up and let the brotherhood of the priesthood engage themselves in the wonderful opportunity to truly be a quorum, a brotherhood, a brother's keeper.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, while a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: "I am satisfied, my brethren, that there is enough of expertise, of knowledge, of strength, of concern in every priesthood quorum to assist the troubled members of that quorum if these resources are properly administered.... It is the obligation of the priesthood quorum to set in motion those forces and facilities which will equip the needy member to provide on a continuing basis for himself and his family" (Gordon B. Hinckley, "Welfare Responsibilities of the Priesthood Quorums," Ensign, Nov. 1977, 85-86).