In the first meeting of its kind, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to the children of the Church in a satellite broadcast marking the 125th year of the Primary organization.
"I think there never was before a meeting such as this of boys and girls," he said to some 20,000 children ages 7 through 11, parents and Primary leaders gathered in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, and to the tens of thousands listening to proceedings in stake centers in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, and in Mexico, Central America and South America.
"We live in various countries and we salute different flags. But we have one great thing in common," the Church president continued. "We are all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And your coming together in these many different places is a sign of the wonderful growth which this Church has experienced since it was first established."
Seated on the stand with President Hinckley were his counselors in the First Presidency, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust. Also attending were Elder L. Tom Perry and Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve, and Elder Cecil O. Samuelson of the Presidency of the Seventy.
Also offering remarks during the meeting were Primary General President Coleen K. Menlove, who conducted the meeting, and her counselors in the Primary general presidency, Sister Sydney S. Reynolds and Sister Gayle M. Clegg. (Reports of their addresses are on page 4.)
President Hinckley spoke to the children with warmth and candor. He told them about the history of the Primary organization and how during the first 48 years of the Church's history there was no organization for children. "A very dear woman whose name was Aurelia Spencer Rogers thought that the little boys of the Church ought to have their own organization where they could be 'trained to make better men.' "
He said that President John Taylor thought the organization would be good for little girls as well, so 125 years ago the first Primary met with 225 boys and girls. "From that small beginning Primary has grown until it is a part of the Church all across the world," President Hinckley said. "Today there are almost a million of you children in Primary. This is good, because boys and girls ought to have their organization just as young men and young women, and the older folks of the Church have their organizations."
Speaking of the love of Primary teachers, President Hinckley related the account of Artel Ricks who was taught the principle of tithing by his family when he was a little boy of 5 or 6 years of age.
"He loved the Lord and so he wanted to give the Lord his tithing. He took one-tenth of his small savings. He says, 'I went to the only room in the house with a lock on the door the bathroom and there knelt by the bathtub. Holding the three or four coins in my upturned hand, I asked the Lord to accept them [I was certain He would appear and take them from me]. I pleaded with the Lord for some time [but nothing happened. Why would He not accept my tithing?] As I rose from my knees, I felt so unworthy that I could not tell anyone what had happened. . . .' "
A few days later, President Hinckley said, the boy's Primary teacher said she felt impressed to teach something not from the lesson how to pay tithing to the bishop. Young Artel Ricks knew the Lord had heard and answered his prayer, that he was loved and important to Him.
Remembering his own Primary days, President Hinckley spoke of learning about Jesus and His love, "about God our Eternal Father, to whom we could go in prayer," about Joseph Smith and the visit of Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, and about the history of the Church, "about the very courageous and faithful men and women and boys and girls who worked so hard to make it strong."
The Church president talked about the music of Primary and how today they have the Children's Songbook "with all kinds of music written just for you." He then quoted the words of the first verse of "I Am A Child of God." "What a wonderful song that is. And what a great truth it teaches. You have an earthly father. He is your mother's dear companion. I hope you love him, and that you are obedient to him. But you have another father. That is your Father in heaven. He is the Father of your spirit, just as your earthly father is the father of your body. And it is just as important to love and to obey your Father in heaven as it is to love and obey your earthly father."
Speaking of prayer, President Hinckley said: "I hope that every night and every morning you get on your knees and speak with your Father in heaven. I hope that in the morning you will express thanks for the night's rest, for warmth and comfort and the love you feel in your home."
He encouraged the children to pray for the Lord's blessings and guidance, to pray for family and those who are in need, and to pray for the missionaries. "If you really know that you are a child of God, you will also know that He expects much of you, His child. He will expect you to follow His teachings and the teachings of His dear Son, Jesus."
Continuing, President Hinckley told the children that their Heavenly Father would be offended if they swear or use foul language, if they are dishonest in any way. "He will be happy if you remember the less fortunate in your prayers to Him. He will watch over you and guide you and protect you. He will bless you in your school work and in your Primary. He will bless you in your home and you will be a better boy or girl, obedient to your parents, quarreling less with your brothers and sisters, helping about the home.
"And thus you will grow to be a strong young man or woman in this Church. You will also be a better member of the community. Every man or woman who ever walked the earth, even the Lord Jesus, was once a boy or girl like you. They grew according to the pattern they followed. If that pattern was good, then they became good men and women.
"Never forget, my dear young friends, that you really are a child of God who has inherited something of His divine nature, one whom He loves and desires to help and bless."
A choir of children from stakes in Granger, Utah, provided music. Directing the choir was Kathryn Spencer. Offering the invocation and benediction, respectively, were Vicki Matsumori and Anne Hawkins of the Primary general board.
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