'Be more fully converted,' prophet says

President Howard W. Hunter encouraged some 13,000 Latter-day Saints gathered for a regional conference Sept. 18 to "be more fully converted, strengthened and fortified in the gospel" while living worthy of a temple recommend and making family life a "pre-eminent focus."

Presiding at his first regional conference since being ordained and set apart as Church president June 5, President Hunter spoke for about 20 minutes at the University of Arizona McKale Center, concluding with his testimony of the divinity of the Lord's work and His Church.He also addressed a gathering of 894 Tucson-area priesthood leaders on Saturday, Sept. 17, in a priesthood leadership session at a local stake center, where upon conclusion of his prepared remarks he took a couple of minutes to bear a firm personal testimony. In both instances Saturday and Sunday as he concluded his addresses and expressed his prophetic witness, the Spirit that accompanied President Hunter seemed magnified, prompting already attentive congregations to pay particularly rapt heed to his words.

In fact, the attention of Church members in Tucson and throughout southern Arizona had been focused on the prophet and his visit for some time prior to his arrival. Primary children in the wards of the six stakes of the Tucson Arizona and Tucson Arizona East regions had written their testimonies and notes to the prophet. One was selected as representative from each ward and presented to President Hunter with a photograph of the ward's Primary. Both President Hunter and his wife, Sister Inis Hunter, expressed their delight at the expressions from the children and appreciation for the Primary leaders and parents who had assisted them.

Many members traveled significant distances to see and hear the prophet and the other General Authorities. Four young women traveled from Yuma, Ariz., for several hours early Sunday to reach the arena by 6 a.m. and assure themselves excellent seats. When an usher checked the building in the dark pre-dawn hours and found them wrapped up in their blankets, he assured them they could remain when they offered to leave and return later if it would be more appropriate. Many others also arrived early.

It seemed wherever he went in Tucson, including in the airport coming and going, President Hunter was greeted enthusiastically by Church members. Hundreds lined up to shake his hand at the conclusion of the two conference sessions. As they did so, the prophet would listen attentively with a broad smile to their words and offer a gracious "thank you" to their expressions of love and support.

An equally warm welcome was given to Sister Hunter and to the other two General Authorities and their wives in attendance: Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Council of the Twelve and Sister Elisa Wirthlin; and Elder W. Mack Lawrence of the Seventy and Sister Jackie Lawrence. The women joined their husbands in speaking at the Sunday general session, which was conducted by Elder Lawrence, president of the North America Southwest Area.

President E. Widtsoe Shumway of the Arizona Temple also spoke Sunday morning. Prayers were offered by Pres. Michael B. Callahan of the Sierra Vista Arizona Stake and Pres. James G. Busby of the Tucson Arizona Stake. Music was provided by a 450-voice combined choir of the two regions, under the direction of Bradley Johnson and accompanied by Vicky Davis. Elder Wirthlin and others made particular note of the extraordinary renditions by the choir of Come, Come, Ye Saints, the Battle Hymn of the Republic and other numbers.

As President Hunter spoke, he was deliberate and clear in his delivery. "I would encourage all present today to live in such a way as to be an example of the teachings of the Savior," he said. ". . . You have noticed, I am sure, that those members of the Church who become involved in prominent activities that are not consistent with our standards, are sometimes widely reported on in the public press. Specific note is usually made that they are members of the Church. I suppose others expect more of us because of our beliefs. We must `let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and in so doing glorify our Father which is in heaven.' (Matt. 5:16.)

"In our efforts to be examples of the Lord's restored gospel, I would encourage each present today to consider the following suggestions in his or her life:

"Pay an honest tithing. This eternal law revealed by the Lord and practiced by the faithful from the ancient prophets down to the present, teaches us to put the Lord first in our lives. We may not be asked to sacrifice our homes or our lives, as was the case with the early Saints. We are challenged today to overcome our selfishness. We pay tithing because we love the Lord, not because we have the means to do so. . . .

"We encourage you to live the Word of Wisdom. . . . One of the unique characteristics of the Latter-day Saints is obedience to this law which encourages us to avoid that which is damaging to our body. . . .

"We hope you are reading and studying the scriptures on a daily basis as individuals and as families. . . . The Spirit will come into your homes and your lives as you read the revealed word. . . . We hope . . . that you will also make a study of the conference reports part of your scripture study.

"Strive to build a personal testimony of Jesus Christ and the Atonement. A study of the life of Christ and a testimony of His reality is something each of us should seek. As we come to understand His mission and the Atonement which He wrought, we will desire to live more like Him. We especially encourage the young men and young women to come to know the reason for the atoning sacrifice of our Lord. When temptations come, as they surely will, an understanding of the Savior's agony in Gethsemane and His eventual death on the cross will be a reminder to you to avoid any activity that would cause the Savior more pain. . . .

"As part of your private religious behavior, pray every day, night and morning. Let your heart be drawn out to the Lord continually as Amulek wisely counseled. (See Alma 34:27.) Pray as families both night and morning. What great blessings come into the lives of children who hear their parents petition the Lord for their welfare. Surely children who come under the influence of such righteous parents will be better protected against the influences of the adversary.

"Prepare to receive and accept the ordinances and covenants of the gospel. . . . We trust that young men are being properly tutored before receiving the Aaronic Priesthood at the age of 12 and that their parents and advisers are preparing them to advance within the priesthood at the appropriate age and then be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood at the proper time."

After emphasizing the importance of being worthy of a temple recommend and of attending the temple (see accompanying story below), President Hunter counseled the Saints to focus on their families.

"In the Church, families will never be out of style' orout of date.' One of the keys to strong family life is family home evening. The First Presidency has recently issued a letter regarding this inspired program. In part it states: `If the Saints obey this counsel to hold family home evenings, we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influence and temptations which beset them.' (Aug. 30 First Presidency letter.) We hope every family will follow this counsel."

Speaking to the priesthood leaders Saturday, President Hunter focused on seeking out less-active members, sharing the parable of the Good Shepherd from Luke and relating several personal fellowshipping experiences from his time in Southern California.

"When I assumed my present responsibility, I extended an invitation to all members of the Church to live with ever-more attention to the life and example of the Lord, Jesus Christ, especially the love and hope and compassion He displayed," President Hunter said.

"We now ask you as priesthood leaders and undershepherds of the Lord's flock to join us in inviting those who have transgressed or been offended, to come back. To those who are hurt and struggling and afraid, we say let us stand by you and dry your tears. To those who are confused and assailed by error on every side, we say come to the God of all truth and the Church of continuing revelation. Come back. Feast at the table laid before you in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and strive to follow the Good Shepherd who has provided it. . . .

"Because of what the Master has said about leaving the ninety-nine and going into the wilderness to seek the one that is lost, and because of our invitation to `come back,' we invite you to become involved in saving souls. Reach out to the less-active and realize the joy that will come to you and those you help if you and they will take part in extending invitations to come back and feast at the table of the Lord.

"The Lord, our Good Shepherd, expects us to be the undershepherds and recover those who are struggling or are lost. We can't tell you how to do it, but as you become involved and seek inspiration, success will result from efforts in your stakes and wards."

Elder Wirthlin referred to a message in the September Ensign by President Hunter concerning what it means to follow the Savior and pattern one's life after the Master. After sharing brief extracts Elder Wirthlin said, "I commend his full message and that you prayerfully study it."

Continued Elder Wirthlin: "In our Church we have fundamental principles, and I hope we will tie ourselves to those fundamental principles and never forget them.

"The first is that God is our eternal Heavenly Father; the second is that Jesus Christ is our Savior and our Redeemer; the third, the Holy Ghost is the Testifier and Comforter. Other fundamentals are the atonement of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

"We also know that there was an apostasy and a restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and

understandT the divinely ordained role of the Prophet Joseph Smith in bringing to pass the purposes of God for all of His children. And there are the crucial and pivotal doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ as contained in the holy scriptures and the teachings of the prophets, which would include the Plan of Salvation, the priesthood and its keys, ordinances and covenants and continuing revelation. Let us never forget the fundamental principles of the gospel."

Elder Lawrence taught and testified of the role of a living prophet, saying, "The most important prophet so far as you and I are concerned today is the one living in our day and age, to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us. We must listen and learn, but most important go forth to follow, obey, practice what we hear. This is a test of our faithfulness. . . .

"President Hunter is a common man with uncommon talents and, more important, he is our prophet, president and leader, and he has a desire for all of us to be exalted and to `come unto Christ.' President Hunter has long established a hierarchy of values upon which his personal, professional and spiritual decisions are based. Service to God has ranked highest of all on his list of priorities."

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