SACRAMENTO, Calif. More than 5,000 youth broke into a spontaneous, thunderous ovation of love for President Gordon B. Hinckley when he entered Arco Arena for a member meeting Saturday, Sept. 2.
The youth, seated on the arena floor, were dressed in colorful costumes for the cultural celebration they would present later that evening in the same building. President Hinckley smiled and waved in response to the ovation, which resulted in more cheers. Saturday's events were in conjunction with the dedication of the Sacramento California Temple the following day.
President Hinckley was accompanied by President Thomas S. Monson, his first counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Barbara. Also joining the Church leader were Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Melanie, and Elder Richard G. Hinckley of the Seventy and his wife, Jane.
Along with President Hinckley, President Monson and Elder Perry addressed the congregation, which included about 10,000 people in the arena seats, bringing the attendance to some 15,000. Elder Rasband conducted the meeting.
President Hinckley opened his remarks by telling the youth how beautiful they looked and how pleased he was to be with them. Then he recounted the Church's involvement in the mid-19th century history of northern California.
"Now, this is a great day for the members of the Church in the great state of California," he said. "It represents the summation of 150 years of Mormon history in this area."
He spoke of the Mormon Battalion and how some of its members went to work for John Sutter. He read a journal entry from one of the men, Henry Bigler, that hinted of the discovery of gold at Sutter's mill, not far east of Sacramento.
"They tried to keep the discovery of gold a secret," President Hinckley said, "and then Sam Brannan rode through the streets of San Francisco, waving his hat and shouting, 'Gold, gold found on the American River.'
"That discovery set the whole world afire. Prospectors came here by the thousands to participate in the gold rush. ...
"Many came overland by way of Salt Lake City, where they traded their jaded teams for fresh horses in an effort to reach here as quickly as possible."
In 1948, representing the Church, President Hinckley dedicated a small cabin "of the kind the Battalion men constructed and lived in," in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the discovery of gold in California, he told the congregation.
He explained that when Johnston's Army marched on the Church members in the Salt Lake Valley in 1857, many members in California returned to Utah. A short while later, missionary work began among the few who stayed.
"Converts were made, stakes were organized, and there followed the building of temples," President Hinckley continued. "The large and magnificent temple at Los Angeles was first constructed, followed by temples in Oakland, San Diego, Fresno, Redlands, and Newport Beach.
"The Church has now reached full maturity with the construction of this beautiful house of the Lord in the Rancho Cordova area."
After speaking of the Savior's Atonement and the need for temple work, President Hinckley concluded, "And so, I repeat that this dedication becomes the summation of all that we have done through the years in the establishment and strengthening of the Church in the state of California. This has been one of the most fruitful areas for missionary service in all the world. And I think today California is second only to Utah in the number of Latter-day Saints who live here."
President Monson recalled having been discharged from the Navy at nearby Shoemaker, Calif., at the end of World War II and expressed gratitude for being able to return to the area for the "wonderful occasion of the dedication of a temple."
He spoke on the topic of choices. "Everyone has choices to make in life, and our futures depend upon the choices we make," he said.
To emphasize the importance of making choices and setting personal goals, he quoted from Hymn No. 240, which proclaims that every soul is free, and that while the Lord will "call, persuade, direct aright...God will force no man to heaven....(and will) never force the human mind."
President Monson gave counsel regarding making some specific resolutions:
- Listen. Directing his remarks to the youth, he encouraged them to listen to the counsel of prophets, to their parents and to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.
- Learn. President Monson quoted Doctrine and Covenants 88:118, which instructs members to "teach one another words of wisdom" and to seek learning "out of the best books...and by study and also by faith."
- Labor.In reference to Nephi's admonition, "I will go and do the things which the Lord commanded...' (see 1 Nephi 3:7), President Monson spoke of the importance of being doers of the word and not hearers only.
"Work without vision is drudgery," he said. "Vision without work is day dreaming. Work coupled with vision yields success."
- Love. He recited portions of a beloved poem about three children. John and Nell professed love for their mother and then went off to play or pouted all day. Little Fan said, "I love you, Mother; Today I'll help all I can." She swept the floor and tidied the room and was "helpful and happy as child could be." The poem concludes:
I love you Mother," again they said,
Three little children going to bed:
How do you think that Mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?
President Monson spoke of Louis Jacobsen, who once told him of his boyhood. Louis was the son of a poor widow. When other children in his Sunday School class made light of his patched trousers and worn shirt, Louis ran from the chapel, vowing to never return. He was followed by the ward's Sunday School superintendent, George Burbidge, who sat with him on a street curb. They made paper boats and floated them in water flowing in the gutter. As they sat, Brother Burbidge spoke with young Louis, giving him encouragement, and, finally, took him by the hand and returned him to Sunday School. Years later, Louis Jacobsen became bishop of the same ward.
President Monson expressed hope that members will hearken to the Savior's voice and make room for Him in their hearts as they serve Him and others in a spirit of love.
Elder Perry, who once lived in Sacramento, talked about the Mormon Battalion and its members' example of following the prophet. He said after he joined the Marines, he went to boot camp in San Diego, Calif., soon after another group of Marines recruited from Utah that was also called the "Mormon Battalion." The good example of that group of Marines sparked Elder Perry's interest in the original Mormon Battalion.
After recounting some of its achievements in the 19th century, he told the congregation that when the members were discharged in California, Brigham Young asked as many as would to stay and work in the Sacramento area to earn much needed money. Elder Perry said he understood what a hard decision that was based on his strong desire to return home quickly from the South Pacific during his own military service.
Nevertheless, he continued, 256 Battalion members followed the prophet by staying over the winter of 1847-48. During that time some were working at Sutter's Mill near Sacramento when gold was discovered there. In spite of the looming gold rush, those men returned to their families in Utah the following spring.
"That event characterizes the feeling of the great loyalty the Church in Sacramento has had to sustaining the prophet," Elder Perry said. "We see it follow through the pages of the history of the Church in this very special valley from that time to the present."
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