President Monson honored by National Conference

Lauded as a "friend, . . . man of compassion, insight, wisdom and good humor," President Thomas S. Monson was honored April 29 by the National Conference of Community and Justice (NCCJ) at an awards banquet.

Founded in 1927 as the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the human relations organization has been known in recent years as simply the National Conference. In April the organization was renamed National Conference for Community and Justice, thereby keeping its original acronym.The organization is dedicated to fighting bias, bigotry and racism in America. Its stated purpose is to promote understanding and respect among all races, religions and cultures through advocacy, conflict resolution and education.

The new name allows for the inclusion of peoples of all religious faiths, not just Christians and Jews, said Sanford Cloud Jr., national president and chief executive office of NCCJ, in his keynote address at the awards banquet held at Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City.

President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, was lauded for his "lifetime of advocacy, service and dedication to the State of Utah and the betterment of humanity."

Also honored by NCCJ was Carolyn D. Smith, an engineer at Hill Air Force Base, whose career includes the distinction of being the first black female engineer in the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) System Program office.

President Monson, upon accepting a gift of crystal and a plaque, said the evening's program caused him to reflect upon many things in his life, particularly of early events that changed how he feels about some things and how he responds to others.

"Tonight has been a time for harvesting memories for me," President Monson said. "As the Scottish poet, James Barrie, said: `God gave us memories, that we might have June roses in the December of our lives.' "

He spoke of friends he has made over the years from different walks of life, different races and religious beliefs.

President Monson spoke of "pioneers for the great foundation of Utah's NCCJ chapter." He mentioned Wendell Ashton, Arch Madsen, Jack Gallivan Sr., Joe Rosenblatt, Ted Speros and B.Z. Kastler. The Utah chapter was founded in the late 1960s.

He commended current national and local leaders of NCCJ for "providing the treasure of your time and your talents" to help improve life's situations for so many people. "I've been thinking of the Holy Bible and that example which came from these words: `And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?' (Gen. 4:9.)

"Tonight, I would answer, `We are all our brothers' keepers.' "

He called attention to the achievements of others who have been recipients of the honor bestowed by NCCJ. "As I think of the future and reflect on the past, I must also think of the present," he said. "I like the words of John Ruskin, the English essayist: `Wherefore, when we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred, because our hands have touched them; and men will say, as they look upon the labour and wrought substances of them: See, this our fathers did for us.' "

He thanked NCCJ leaders for "being who you are and what you are, and for what you do and how you influence others to walk the better way."

Mr. Cloud, the introduction of whom included mention that he is the first African-American to lead NCCJ, commended President Monson and Mrs. Smith. "Their lives," he said, "really represent well the mission of NCCJ in fighting bias, bigotry and racism and promoting understanding respect among all races, religions and cultures through advocacy, conflict resolution and education."

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