President Gordon B. Hinckley asked seminary and institute teachers Feb. 7 to cultivate within the hearts of Latter-day Saint youth a love for the Savior of the world and a desire to follow His teachings.
"Do you really realize what each of you is a part of this huge effort to teach religion to young people in many nations, speaking scores of languages? Literally the sun never sets on groups of students who gather together to learn of the Lord and His great work."
Speaking during an annual fireside for Church Educational System employees, President Hinckley addressed more than 1,200 people gathered in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. The fireside was broadcast to an additional 40,000 full-time and volunteer CES instructors worldwide, via the Church satellite system. Paul V. Johnson, administrator of Religion Education, conducted the meeting, during which Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve also spoke.
During a brief greeting, Brother Johnson noted that a Church president has not addressed the annual gathering of Church educators since 1975.
President Hinckley told the educators that it is important to teach, but more important to inspire.
"You have no idea of the consequences of your service," he said. "As the years pass and your youthful students pursue their various endeavors, marry and rear families, recollections of what they learned in seminary and institute will guide their decisions and prompt their activities."
President Hinckley said he will always be grateful for the brief opportunity he had to teach seminary and for the opportunity now to serve as chairman of the Church Board of Education and the BYU Board of Trustees.
"These are stewardships which are extremely important and meaningful and wonderfully challenging," he said. "One measure of the importance we attach to the CES program is the fact that we spend more of the tithing funds of the Church on this than we do on the worldwide missionary program, the Temple and Family History program, or almost every other program except for the construction and maintenance of buildings."
The Church, he said, emphasizes the education of its youth because a frightening change has occurred in the world.
"A great flood of sleaze has gathered and is washing over us," he said. "Language is used on our campuses that never crossed our lips back in the days of my youth. Pornography with all of its titillating and vicious attraction is all about us. We have television, videos, DVDs, the Internet and other means to deliver the filthy and the evil into our homes and lives. It is taking its toll."
At the same time, he said, this is the season when so many youth show remarkable strength and capacity and resolve.
"How marvelous is the generation with which you deal. We have never had a generation its equal in all of the history of the Church. They are better educated. They are more familiar with the scriptures. I believe they pray with a greater measure of faith, have a greater desire to do the will of the Lord, are more active in the Church, go into the world as better prepared missionaries and live to become better parents."
It seems, he said, the good are getting better and the bad are getting worse. "These are your students. You have both kinds. And yours is the tremendous challenge to give courage and inspiration and faith to those willing to accept and to try with all the capacity that you can possibly have to hold on to those who are pulled with such pressure into those activities which will separate them from you and your better students."
Quoting Doctrine and Covenants 68:28, President Hinckley told the instructors to teach their students "to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord."
The scripture the word of the Lord to parents also applies to seminary and institute teachers, he said. "I believe that brief mandate encompasses the most important things we can do."
First, President Hinckley said, teach young people to pray "not in a self-righteous way, but as a response to the invitation from our Father in Heaven to speak with Him, to counsel with Him, to thank Him, to plead with Him for strength.
"What a wonderful thing it will be if you can teach them in such a way that they will know that prayer is their refuge from sin, a certain source of strength to withstand evil, their promise of help if they will but seek that help.
"Teach them to pray in the morning as they face the opportunities, the challenges, the temptations of the day. Teach them to pray in the evening to give thanks for the guidance, the strength, and the blessings of the Almighty upon their efforts. Teach them to kneel alone in prayer before they leave home on a date that they may remain in control of themselves, that they will so conduct themselves that the evening will provide a beautiful and wonderful experience and not something that can only bring later regret. Teach them to pray concerning their studies, concerning their friends, concerning the direction their lives should take, concerning the future companions of which they dream."
Second, President Hinckley asked the instructors to teach their students to walk uprightly before the Lord.
"Teach them that there is an all-seeing eye that looks down upon us, that knows our hearts, that knows our thoughts, from which we cannot hide. When all is said and done, we must live with ourselves, with the knowledge that this eye is upon us. Teach them always to walk the high road. In doing so they will walk uprightly with their Lord."
President Hinckley told the teachers that they must set an example.
"I hope that you will plead with the Lord to give you strength, to give you capacity, to give you inspiration in teaching those who come before you for instruction. Your example will count for more than all of your words concerning Church history and doctrine."
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