Prophet focuses on Christ's message

If President Howard W. Hunter could give a message to the entire world, that message, he said, would reflect the "simplicity of the statements of the Master - instructions to live as one should and do what one knows to be right."

President Hunter, ordained and set apart as the 14th president of the Church June 5, has the responsibility to address the world at large, and, specifically, Church members on spiritual and moral matters.His concern for the spiritual welfare of people everywhere was evident during a Church News interview. Seated at his desk in the Church Administration Building, he spoke of his desires to see people reap the Lord's promised blessings through righteous living, and spoke of his distress when he sees people fail to live up to their spiritual and moral potential.

He reflected on a statement made at a media briefing June 6, where it was announced that he was the new president of the Church. In that statement, he said, in part: "I pray that we might treat each other with more kindness, more courtesy, more humility and patience and forgiveness."

President Hunter, leaning back in his chair, paused briefly during the interview in his office. He then said: "We never pick up a newspaper or hear a newscast that we don't hear comments made where people in the world have objectives and are following a course that is contrary to what the Lord has said on many occasions, Love one another' andhave charity for all people.'

"We don't read much about this (the Lord's admonitions) in the press; we read about those things that run contrary. We have an obligation, as Christians - as members of the Church - and we call upon all people to be more kind and more considerate - whether it be in our homes, in our businesses, in our relations in society. We add a voice and a caution, and teach that we can build and not tear down."

If he were to emphasize one theme of his administration, he said it would be that which has already been announced by the Church: " `Come unto Christ.' That isn't a man-made objective," he said. "We're just merely following the scriptural admonitions that have been given us to more fully qualify ourselves spiritually."

President Hunter suggested some actions that would help build spirituality, including giving more time and effort to family living and family responsibility. He also encouraged more temple attendance.

His comment about members increasing their temple attendance is a reflection of another portion of a statement he made at the June 6 media briefing, in which he invited members to "establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership and the supernal setting for their most sacred covenants."

In the interview in his office, President Hunter said he wants the pace of temple building throughout the world to increase so that all worthy members will be able to attend the temple and receive the blessings available only through temple work.

President Hunter, in speaking of the work that can be done by the Church as an organization, and that which can be done by members individually to improve conditions in the world, affirmed that members can't sit back and expect the Brethren to solve all problems.

"I feel," he said, "a great responsibility, because I believe the Church - the Christian Church, at least - has a definite responsibility to turn the thinking of the world.

"Then the question comes to mind, `What have I to contribute to that?' We all have to assume a responsibility, and it can come about through the teachings of a Christ-like response to all the problems of the world. It won't come through any other source. We all have an obligation to that. I've thought about it. It's a frightening thing to see the growth that is taking place in the world in science, industry, business, government circles and so forth. We all have a responsibility to add our best to the society of the world, because if we don't do so, it will continue to drift as it has in the last few years where there has been a great downturn of moral values.

"The world would be a better place if we considered morality important, if every person assumed responsibility for an increased spiritual outlook on life and on the conditions of society. Religion has a definite place in our thinking and in our lives. But some people turn their backs against it because they don't have the proper concept of what it means and what it could do if we would all follow it, be willing to give of ourselves for the benefit of others."

President Hunter said he sees as the world's greatest challenge the erosion of family solidarity. He voiced concerns about Latter-day Saints who are "living in a society that we might say is degenerating to a certain extent." He expressed hope that Latter-day Saints would bring to society "those things that are uplifting, that we can share with others through the scriptures and other ways."

He said the Church has a duty in the world where spiritual and moral values are concerned. "There are many things that we do not enter into, such as politics," he said. "But we have a place and an obligation if moral concepts are to be taught and encouraged. There's not an institution, except the Church, to take a position in teaching those concepts."

President Hunter said the Church supports the efforts of other churches in trying to counteract the negative elements of society. He said the LDS Church has no formal doctrinal ties with other religions, even those that share positions on the same issues. He added, however: "We have a place, and a large place, in expounding Christian teachings. If we take that place and amplify it, we are doing our share and others should do the same."

Some churches, in the name of "social growth," he said, are accepting, even to the point of teaching them, things that are popular in current thinking.

"Popularity is not the basis for teaching certain doctrines, though some feel that popularity makes them right," he said. "We follow the course of teaching scripture and following strictly the teachings of the Savior as contained in scripture."

President Hunter further said: "We have no thought of following a course that would be more lenient

in allowing various interpretations of Church teachingsT. The gospel is fixed and certain." That includes, he said, the process that must be followed by those who have been disaffected, should they desire to return to the Church "with full capacity of spiritual membership."

President Hunter's countenance brightened as he spoke of the youth of the Church. While expressing concerns for the conditions of the world in which youth are living, he also expressed great hope. He spoke of recently visiting the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. "They told me there were about 2,300 young missionaries being trained to go on missions," he said. "When I saw them and the way they looked, the way they dressed, I just had the feeling that with such an influence as that the world could be changed.

"That's one of our objectives, to change the world and its thinking, where people could have something positive to rely on. What a great place this would be if we could take the teachings of Christ and teach those who would listen. It would be a different place in which to live."

President Hunter spoke of the growth of the Church, of missionaries being admitted to nations previously thought to be closed. Smiling broadly, he said, "Some of my neighbors, a husband and wife, wanted to serve in the Church in some way a couple of years ago," he said. "When their assignment came, it was to outer Mongolia! I was surprised!"

He said while some countries still do not permit missionaries to enter, he is optimistic. "When the time comes ( to enter those nations), our objectives will be the same as in other countries - to build a worldwide community of Christian saints with a belief in God."

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