In his opening address, President Ezra Taft Benson spoke to the elderly, those "who are the fastest growing segment of our population in the world today, as well as within the Church."
At President Benson's request, his Saturday morning address was read by his second counselor, President Thomas S. Monson."I hold special feelings for the elderly - for this marvelous group of men and women," said President Benson. The audience chuckled when he continued, "I feel that in some measure I understand them, for I am one of them.
"The Lord knows and loves the elderly among his people," the prophet observed. "It has always been so, and upon them He has bestowed many of His greatest responsibilities. In various dispensations He has guided His people through prophets who were in their advancing years. He has needed the wisdom and experience of age, the inspired direction from those with long years of proven faithfulness to His gospel."
President Benson offered eight suggestions to the elderly to help them make the most of their senior years.
- Work in the temple and attend often. "We urge all who can to attend the temple frequently and accept calls to serve in the temple when health and strength and distance will permit. We rely on you to help in temple service. With the increasing number of temples, we need more of our members to prepare themselves for this sweet service."
- Collect and write family histories. "In so many instances, you alone have within you the history, the memory of loved ones, the dates and events. . . . In some situations you are the family history. In few ways will your heritage be better preserved than by your collecting and writing your histories."
- Become involved in missionary service. "We need increasing numbers of senior missionaries in missionary service. When health and means make it possible, we call upon hundreds more of our couples to set their lives and affairs in order and to go on missions. How we need you in the mission field! You are able to perform missionary service in ways that our younger missionaries cannot."
- Provide leadership by building family togetherness. "We urge all senior members, when possible, to call their families together. Give leadership to family gatherings. Establish family reunions where fellowship and family heritage can be felt and learned. Foster wonderful family traditions which will bind you together eternally. In doing so, we can create a bit of heaven right here on earth within individual families. After all, eternity will be but an extension of righteous family life."
- Accept and fulfill Church callings. "We trust that all senior members who possibly can will accept callings in the Church and fulfill them with dignity. How we need the counsel and influence of you who have walked the pathway of life."
- Plan for financial future. ". . . Plan frugally for the years following full-time employment. Let us avoid unnecessary debt. We also advise caution in co-signing financial notes, even with family members, when retirement income might be jeopardized. Be even more cautious in advancing years of `get-rich' schemes, mortgaging homes or investing in uncertain ventures. Proceed cautiously so the planning of a lifetime is not disrupted by one or a series of poor financial decisions."
- Render Christlike service. "Christlike service exalts. Knowing this, we call upon all senior members who are able to thrust in their sickles in service to others. This can be part of the sanctifying process."
- Stay physically fit, healthy, and active. "How we love to see our elderly remain vigorous and active. Through keeping active, both the mind and the body function better."
In addition, President Benson offered counsel to loved ones of the elderly. "We encourage families to give their elderly parents and grandparents the love, care and attention they deserve," he emphasized. "Remember, parents and grandparents are our responsibility, and we are to care for them to the very best of our ability. When the elderly have not families to care for them, priesthood and Relief Society leaders should make every effort to meet their needs in the same loving way."
President Benson suggested families honor and respect their parents by treating them with courtesy and consideration, by seeking to understand their points of view, by obeying their righteous desires and wishes, and by inviting them to be involved in the lives of their grandchildren.
"Let us also learn to be forgiving of our parents, who, perhaps having made mistakes as they reared us, almost always did the best they knew how," he continued.
The prophet counseled priesthood leaders to be sensitive to the Spirit in assessing and meeting the spiritual, physical, emotional and financial needs of the elderly. "We hope that priesthood and auxiliary leaders will continue to give the elderly callings in which they can use their reservoirs of wisdom and counsel," the prophet advised. "We hope, where possible, that each can be a home teacher or visiting teacher. . . .
"We should prayerfully seek inspiration and direction in caring for the elderly," he concluded. "There is always a great diversity of individuals and individual needs."
President Benson's suggestions to help members make the most of their senior years:
- Work in the temple and attend often.
- Collect and write family histories.
- Become involved in missionary service.
- Provide leadership by building family togetherness.
- Accept and fulfill Church callings.
- Plan for financial future.
- Render Christlike service.
- Stay physically fit, healthy, and active.