President Hinckley: Testimony of sacred work is 'the most precious gift'

Of all things, the most precious gift is the conviction of the truth and divinity of this sacred work, said President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First President.

"When I was a young man I sat in a general conference in this Tabernacle and heard President Heber J. Grant declare that he was grateful above all else for the testimony which he had of this the work of God."I am now older than President Grant was when I heard him say those words. I now know how he felt."

President Hinckley discussed aspects of his testimony in his address at general priesthood meeting Saturday evening. He also paid tribute to President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, who received the Bronze Wolf award from the World Organization of the Scout Movement.

President Hinckley said he thanked his Heavenly Father for the testimony he has of the reality of the First Vision.

"I have stood among the trees where Joseph knelt as a boy, and heard the whisperings of the Spirit that it happened as he said it happened. I have read the words of critics who from 1820 until now have tried to destroy the validity of that account. They have made much of the fact that there were several versions and that the account as we now have it was not written until 1838. So what?" President Hinckley asked.

He observed that the simple, straightforward narrative, its lack of argument and the fact that Joseph Smith sealed his testimony with his blood speaks for its own truthfulness. "Could there have been a stronger endorsement?"

President Hinckley said he was grateful for his testimony of the Book of Mormon, "this wonderful companion to the Holy Bible."

While unbelieving critics still claim that Joseph Smith wrote the book from ideas gained from other manuscripts of the time, to compare these manuscripts with the Book of Mormon "is like comparing a man to a horse," said President Hinckley. "It is true they both walk," President Hinckley declared, bringing laughter from the congregation, "but beyond this there is little similarity.

"Could Joseph Smith, I ask you, the young man reared in rural New York largely without schooling, have dictated in so short a time a volume so complex in its nature, and yet so harmonious in its whole, with so large a cast of characters and so extensive in its scope . . . that has caused millions over the earth to say, `It is true.' "

President Hinckley said he thanked the Lord for the testimony he has of the "wholeness of the gospel, of its breadth and reach and depth."

"I cannot be grateful enough for the Atonement wrought by my Savior and my Redeemer. Through His sacrifice at the culmination of a life of perfection - that sacrifice offered in pain unspeakable - the bonds of death were broken, and the resurrection of all became assured. Beyond this, the doors of celestial glory have been opened to all who will accept divine truth and obey its precepts."

He testified of the value of obedience to two of what he referred to as "lesser laws," tithing and the Word of Wisdom.

Regarding tithing, he said, "millions of our people [payT faithfully, honestly, and willingly."

Regarding the Word of Wisdom, he said, "I wish we lived it more fully. But even though we do not, the Lord pours out His blessings upon those who try."

President Hinckley also expressed gratitude for his testimony of the divine calling of the leadership of the Church, including President Ezra Taft Benson.

"I know he was called of God to his high and sacred office."

President Hinckley reminisced on his past, observing that, "I have now served as a General Authority longer than any other man other than the president of the Church," and "in the administration offices longer than anyone now living."

He expressed gratitude to the many faithful and able men and women at the general and local levels of the Church. "To my Eternal Father I give thanks for that essence of divinity which is within each of us, and for the gift of life which comes from Him. I thank my Redeemer for His supreme gift to all, the gift of eternal life."

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