Pres. Monson returns to France

After more than 12 years, President Thomas S. Monson returned to France May 3-11, where he participated in regional conferences, priesthood leadership meetings and missionary meetings.

President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, presided at the meetings in Paris and Lyon. It was his first visit to the historic city of Lyon, located about 250 miles southeast of Paris.Accompanying President Monson to both cities were his wife, Frances, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve, and his wife, Patricia. Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy and second counselor in the Europe West Area presidency participated in the meetings in Paris on May 3-4. Elder Neil L. Andersen, also of the Seventy and first counselor in the Europe West Area presidency, participated in Lyon on May 10-11.

During the Paris regional conference, President Monson spoke about "Builders for Eternity." During the Lyon conference, which was held on Mother's Day, he paid tribute to mothers. In both conferences, President Monson said, there were "outstanding choirs" that performed.

President Monson later told the Church News: "There are many in France who are second- and third-generation members of the Church. That's showing stability. That's showing progress. It's showing fundamental growth. I came away feeling impressed with the progress in France and optimistic concerning the future."

He said there is "abundant leadership" among the members, and spoke of two French brothers, "each of whom has served as a bishop, stake president and mission president." President Monson said that with the members "there is a love of the gospel. You could feel it in the air."

A heart-warming experience occurred in the conference in Lyon. President Monson said he mentioned at the Saturday priesthood session an experience he once had at a district conference in Rome. Many in that congregation were wearing white carnations. "I inquired as to the purpose of the white carnations, and was told, `Oh, the white carnation is worn by any new member who has joined the Church since our last district conference. This way we can identify them and welcome them and let them know they are home.' "

He said that after he mentioned this to the priesthood leaders, his French driver told him, "We went out and bought white carnations. We loved that idea so much."

At the Sunday conference session, perhaps 100 of the members were wearing white carnations - older people, younger people, children - all indicating they were new members.

"It was just thrilling to see them," President Monson related. "They were proud to wear the carnation. They felt singled out for recognition and none of them could say they went home without being recognized."

President Monson said that the Church this year has acquired several floors of a large building in Paris constructed in the 1600s, which will be used for "long-awaited meeting space" for three or four wards. Included in the building is a visitors center, at which an open house was held during the time of President Monson's visit. Among other items in the visitors center are a handcart, representative of the pioneer trek, and two ships' beds, representative of the Mormon migration to America from Europe.

Speaking of the visitors center, President Monson said, "They [the French] love the Church and are anxious to share the gospel because it has brought them great joy."

At the Paris regional conference, President Monson addressed 4,010 members from northern France and Belgium.

In speaking of "Builders for Eternity," he quoted D&C 132:8: "Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion."

"Build your house on the rock," President Monson admonished. And then he asked, "Where do we turn for a blueprint?"

Answering the question, he quoted D&C 88:119: "Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God."

For each of the pages of the blueprint, President Monson related experiences of members of the Church and quoted scriptures.

For "house of prayer," he told Church members to follow the Lord's example found in three scriptural prayers, including the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:9-13): "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name;" the Lord's prayer at Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39): "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt;" and Jesus' prayer on the cross (Luke 23:34): "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

The second page of the blueprint is a "house of fasting," and to illustrate this President Monson quoted Alma 17 and Isaiah 58:6-8: "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?"

Quoting James 1:5, President Monson explained that the third blueprint is a "house of faith": "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

Speaking of a "house of learning," President Monson said, "Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith." (D&C 88:118.)

Of a "house of glory," President Monson told the congregation to not be weary in well-doing, for "out of small things proceedeth that which is great." (D&C 64:33.)

Concerning a "house of order," President Monson recalled meeting a man in Adelaide, Australia, who was receiving pressure from his family to join the Church. President Monson told him: "Brother, I want you to know that everyone in this room would like to see you become a member of the Church, including me. Don't you join the Church until you feel it is the right thing to do."

That brother later wrote President Monson to explain that he had put his house in order and joined the Church - after much study.

The final page of the blueprint is a "house of God," noted President Monson. "As the Lord said to Solomon, a builder of another day: `I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.' " (1 Kings 9:3.)

Concluding his regional conference address in Paris, President Monson said that "love is the mortar that holds together your eternal homes."

In the Lyon regional conference a week later, which drew 3,200 members from southeast France and the French-speaking area of Switzerland, President Monson spoke about "mother forgotten, mother remembered, mother honored, and mother loved."

President Monson said the thought of a "mother forgotten" breaks his heart. He spoke of one mother who waited by the window for her son to visit, but he never came.

Then focusing on "mother remembered," President Monson recalled Mother's Day in his boyhood, when during Sunday School "there would be a little potted plant for each mother and we were given the privilege of handing one to each mother. I noticed that they were grateful for the plant but they were more grateful to see a young boy hand them the plant and say `happy Mother's Day.' "

A "mother honored," said President Monson, is happy when her children study hard and bring home a good report card from school. Then she can see that they have applied themselves.

Speaking of a "mother loved," President Monson told of Jesus turning to His mother and saying "Woman, behold thy son!" and then to John and saying, "Behold, thy mother!" (John 19:26-27) He told the congregation to honor their mothers, as well as their fathers. (Ex. 20:12)

He concluded by saying all mothers should be "remembered and loved" on "Mother's Day and every day."

Elder Holland, who accompanied President Monson, said it was a wonderful personal experience to meet with the members, missionaries and priesthood leaders in western Europe. "There was a strong sense of commitment and faith among these people, and the results of that devotion are increasingly evident."

He said he came away more certain that the great days of the Church in Western Europe, including missionary work there, have only begun. "The good members of the Church are believers, and we came away believing in them."

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