MANGERE, New Zealand At an event staged to promote the importance of continuing education, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark spoke to 1,600 Latter-day Saint youth on Nov. 11 about career and personal development.
The youth, ages 14 to 18, gathered in the Church's Robertson Road Chapel in Mangere, New Zealand, to hear Ms. Clark, and Elder David Baxter of the Seventy, who gave the opening address.
Elder Spencer J. Condie of the Seventy and president of the Church's New Zealand/Pacific Islands Area, presided at the event.
Elder Condie presented the Prime Minister with a specially signed copy of President Gordon B. Hinckley's book Standing for Something.
During his remarks, Elder Baxter reiterated the political neutrality of the Church, then acknowledged the Church's appreciation for those who serve and work in the government.
Elder Baxter also spoke about his childhood, during which he was raised in one of Scotland's poorest communities. It was against this challenging backdrop that two sets of experiences shaped his life by giving him a different view of the world.
One day Latter-day Saint missionaries visited his home and brought with them such a strong feeling of goodness that he was able to juxtapose the things that they taught with his troubled background.
Second, Elder Baxter said, he discovered within the realms of education "opportunities that otherwise would not have happened. If you grasp the opportunities that education affords, the doors will open to you," he said.
He challenged the youth to become good men and good women and to avoid youth gangs "like the plague."
Offering the keynote address, Prime Minister Clark said that her childhood would have been different from what the youth present would have experienced.
"I grew up on a farm. We didn't have DVDs, iPods or even a television or mobile phones. Our telephone was a shared telephone line between seven farms in the area," she said. "Our school didn't even have a proper library, but every few months a book service would come and bring books to our school. My favorite hobby was reading."
"Reading is central to our education, and I have a belief in the power of education to take us to whatever we want to achieve in the world."
Ms. Clark said she was the first person in her family to attend a university. "In fact, I imagine I was the only person from our primary school who ever went to university. Many of your parents, too, may have not gone to university. Lots of parents have made sacrifices to give you a better life. You, too, can be the first to go to university and meet your own dreams."