Pres. Benson's greetings expressed

President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, opened the 163rd Annual General Conference Saturday morning, April 3, by extending greetings to members worldwide in behalf of President Ezra Taft Benson. Because of his health, President Benson did not attend any of the sessions of conference.

"It is customary for the president of the Church to greet the saints worldwide and to set the tone for all that follows," President Monson explained as he opened conference. "Since President Benson is unable to be with us in person, I respond to his invitation to speak in his behalf. For the most part, I will present his actual words."President Monson said that just a few days before conference he and President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, visited with President Benson. "He greeted us warmly, flashed that friendly smile all of us love and made us feel most welcome," President Monson related.

He said President Hinckley outlined the plans for conference and asked President Benson if it were his wish that his counselors should go forward with the arrangements and extend his love to all. President Monson said President Benson responded with a resounding, "Yes!"

"We understand his concerns," President Monson told the conference congregation. "We share his love. We bring to you his blessings. This giant of the Lord merits our constant prayers and our abiding faith."

President Monson said that he and Sister Monson participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony March 26 that formally opened "a truly magnificent exhibit" in the Museum of Church History and Art, just west of Temple Square.

"It is entitled `The Mountain of the Lord's House' and depicts the fascinating 40-year saga required for the construction of the Salt Lake Temple," President Monson said. "Where possible, I urge all of you to see the exhibit and feel the spirit it conveys. Tuesday, April 6, the Salt Lake Temple will have a birthday. One hundred years will have passed since that glorious day when it was dedicated."

He said that while he was at the exhibit's opening, a reporter asked him if President Benson would like the exhibit. President Monson said he answered, "He would love it!"

"President Benson has always loved temples and temple work," President Monson related. "When he felt better, each Friday he and Sister Benson would enter the temple to participate in a session. We knew our First Presidency meeting that morning must accommodate this commitment. One morning I commented that I had to get busy and do some of my own family names that were prepared. With a smile and a twinkle in his eye, the president said, `Brother Monson, if you're too busy, why not let Sister Benson and me do those names for you.' Needless to say, we found time to do the work ourselves."

President Monson said President Benson's own expressions indicate his love for temples. He quoted President Benson: " `I remember as a boy, coming in from the field and approaching the old farm home. I could hear my mother singing, "Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?" I can see her in my mind's eye bending over the ironing board with beads of perspiration on her forehead. She was ironing long strips of white cloth, with newspapers on the floor to keep them clean.

" `When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "These are temple robes, my son. Your father and I are going to the Logan Temple.'

" `Then she put the old flatiron on the stove, drew a chair close to mine and told me about temple work - how important it was to be able to go to the temple and participate in the sacred ordinances performed there. She also expressed her fervent hope that some day her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have the opportunity to enjoy those priceless blessings. I am happy to say that her fondest hopes in large measure have been realized.' "

President Monson said that on another occasion, President Benson said: " `Sometimes in the peace of lovely temples, the serious problems of life find their solutions. At times pure knowledge flows to us there under the influence of the Spirit. I am grateful to the Lord for temples. The blessings of the House of the Lord are eternal. They are of the highest importance to us because it is in the temples that we obtain God's greatest blessings pertaining to eternal life. Temples really are the gateways to heaven.

" `May we remember always, as we visit and work in these glorious temples, that the veil may become very thin between this world and the spirit world. I know this is true. It is well also that we keep in mind that it is all one great program on both sides of the veil and it is not too important whether we serve here or over there, as long as we serve with all our heart, might, mind and strength.' "

President Monson directed his closing remarks to the Church leader, who was watching conference proceedings on television in his apartment just a couple of blocks from the Tabernacle. "President Benson," he said, "your words are welcomed. We have heard them. We shall follow them. They, like the temples you so much love, are as a refuge from life's storms - even a never failing beacon guiding us to safety.

"I echo the feelings of one and all, President Benson, in saying that we love you and ever pray for you."

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