Members throughout six New England stakes and in parts of three other states gathered in 182 buildings for a satellite broadcast on Sunday, May 22, as part of their stake conferences.
From a studio in Salt Lake City, President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, and President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, delivered conference addresses to members in 34 stakes, four districts and 11 missions throughout Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and in parts of New York, Delaware and New Jersey. Elder Robert S. Wood of the Seventy conducted the satellite portion of the conference and offered remarks. President Packer's wife, Sister Donna Packer, and Elder Wood's wife, Sister Dixie Wood, also spoke.
President Faust spoke of "the blessing of having believing blood." He told of a grandfather, George Finlinson, and said, "What made him a righteous man was in large measure because he married a righteous woman who was a righteous woman before she married him. He was rock solid in his faith, absolutely unquestioning."
He said that among his ancestors were some of the early leaders who helped the Prophet Joseph Smith establish the Church. "I am grateful for the believing blood of my forebears as well as those of my wife," he declared.
He said the believing blood flows from the heart and into the blood vessels of those who have absolute faith in the Savior and have an abiding testimony of the restored gospel. "I wish to stress the importance of the influence of those who have gone before and how enduring their faithfulness and testimonies are to their posterity," he said, mentioning Alma the younger, who had an angel appear to him because of the faith and prayers of his father; and the sons of Mosiah, who were influenced by their grandfather, King Benjamin, and their father.
"Lehi and Sariah, both with believing blood, had some children who were faithful and some who were not. Now, I remind all parents that it is our responsibility to teach our children, but we also remember that all have their agency. Therefore, all children in the same home may respond differently to our teachings as was the case with Lehi and Sariah. However, we must never give up hope."
He noted that when a person joins the Church, he or she becomes part of the history of the Church. He quoted Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve: "None of my family lines come through Nauvoo. I cannot trace my lineage to the pioneers. But like the majority of Church members around the world, I can deeply connect with all my heart to the saints of Nauvoo and their journey to Zion. The continuing effort of blazing my own religious trail to a Zion of 'the pure in heart' makes me feel close to the 19th century pioneers. They are my spiritual ancestry, as they are for each and every member of the Church, regardless of nationality, language, or culture."
President Packer noted that a number of early Church leaders were born in New England, including Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration; President Brigham Young; President Wilford Woodruff; Heber C. Kimball, grandfather of President Spencer W. Kimball; George A. Smith, grandfather of President George Albert Smith; Hyrum Smith, father of President Joseph F. Smith and grandfather of President Joseph Fielding Smith; Jedeiah M. Grant, father of President Heber J. Grant; and Ezra T. Benson, grandfather of President Ezra Taft Benson.
President Packer spoke of the time he served as president of the New England States Mission from 1965-68, and recounted a lesson he learned as he supervised the establishing of Relief Societies. Seven district Relief Society presidents gathered for instructions from President Packer and Alberta Baker, the mission Relief Society president. A district leader said the program wouldn't work because "we are an exception." President Packer said that Sister Baker responded, 'Dear Sister. We'd like not to take care of the exceptions first. We'll take care of the rules first and then we'll see to the exceptions.' "
President Packer spoke of a trial one of his sons experienced. Then about 9, the boy had been given a colt. During the three years the Packers lived in New England, the animal grew from a colt that once followed him around into a full-grown stallion that had run wild in the mountains on a Wyoming ranch. It took all day to corral it and "nearly a rodeo" to get a halter upon it. President Packer instructed his son, "Whatever you do, don't untie the horse." He had also taught him, when dealing with a horse and a rope, to never wrap the rope around his arm.
The boy untied the horse. It trotted off, dragging the boy, who had wrapped the rope around his wrist, thereby tying himself to the horse. "I had visions of a funeral of a boy," said President Packer. After he rescued his son, they had a father and son chat.
"This is a lesson to you young people in the audience," President Packer explained. "I said to my son, 'If you're going to control that horse, it won't be because of your size. It is stronger than you are and will always be stronger than you are. If you control it, it will be because of what you know and following rules.' "
By the end of the summer the boy was riding the horse. When the young man returned to school, the horse roamed with other horses which, by the next summer, were almost wild and moved nervously away when President Packer and his son approached. Coming through the sagebrush, the boy shook a bucket of grain and whistled. One horse lifted his head and came running up to him.
"What happened in between is what needs to happen to you youngsters in your lifetime," President Packer said. "There are rules; take care of the rules first. That's why, when you're young and impressionable, parents will teach about the Word of Wisdom, about conduct. There are a lot of dos and don'ts in the Church and all of them are aimed to protect, to bless us."
President Packer assured the young people, "In times of difficulty, the Lord does not leave us alone."
Elder Wood spoke of the strength that comes from families gathering. "In large ways and small, families reassert their foundations and convictions by gathering together, preparing themselves for the challenges each of them will face as they go their separate ways."
He mentioned family reunions, family home evenings, dinner together, family scripture study and prayer. "So it is also with the larger family of the ward and stake, sacrament meetings, stake conferences, youth conferences, ward outings and banquets. It is not simply the events themselves that are important but the binding together and mutual re-enforcement associated with these moments of gathering."
Sister Packer spoke of how important it is for family members to communicate, saying that somehow parents and grandparents have to keep repeating family stories.
She spoke also of keeping in touch with ancestors. "We, as a family, enjoy going to the temple to do ordinance work for those who have gone before. We like to do the preliminary work of going to the family history library and gathering the information so that we can identify them sufficiently."
Sister Wood referred to an article she read about how what people see, do, hear and say affects their brains, not only physically but also biologically. While the article focused on how things that are negative change the brain in a negative way in children, she said it applies also for adults. One of the best ways to combat negative effects is to feast upon the words of Christ, she said.
She described the joy and gratitude she felt as she had the rare opportunity to study the scriptures several hours a day every day of the week. "Imprinting of the scriptures can be a permanent thing," she said.
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