President Boyd K. Packer has returned to Chile several times since his first assignment there 40 years ago.
"And I am glad now to be back here with you again. Now, that may sound strange to you that I say 'to be back here with you,' " President Packer said in an address during the Southern Chile Stake Conference broadcast on Feb. 20. He noted that several thousand miles lay between where he was speaking — a studio in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City — and Church buildings in 40 stakes and 16 districts throughout southern Chile where members had gathered. A Church satellite broadcast brought them together.
Participating with President Packer were Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Seventy and Sister Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women general president.
President Packer spoke of the Prophet Joseph Smith, saying he was in his early 20s when the Book of Mormon was published. "In putting the Church together, he had no experience," President Packer said. "He was not trained as a minister. He had not been to seminary and gone through the programs to qualify him as a minister of the gospel. He was, in a sense, just a plowboy. And yet the Lord chose Him."
He said that Joseph Smith did not have an easy life. "It was not easy to preach the gospel then, and it is not easy now to live the gospel, but it is the only way."
He mentioned Rico S. Garcia, who was baptized in 1956, and many faithful people who have joined the Church in Chile since that time, and the blessings that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings into people's lives.
"The disease that is spreading across the world is not missing any countries," President Packer said. "The wickedness and immorality are here with you as they are anywhere on earth. But also planted here in this land, beginning with Brother Garcia who may have been the first priesthood holder here, are the Spirit and power of the Lord to watch over and protect this land."
He spoke of Parley P. Pratt, the first missionary to serve in Chile, noting that Elder Pratt tried, but could not learn the language and probably went home thinking he was a failure.
"But there is something about the timing of the Lord," President Packer said. "The day is at hand that the Lord will speak, and His Church will grow. There are times when it just is not that time for us individually or collectively. But there is no question but that power is here because the priesthood is here."
The priesthood, with the gift of the Holy Ghost that is upon the Church, will assure that the Church "will roll on until it fills the whole earth," he said in reference to Daniel 2:35.
"During the Missouri persecutions, which were more terrible than you can ever know by reading the pages of history, the Prophet Joseph Smith, I suppose, was more than discouraged."
He explained that when the Prophet and others were confined in a jail in Liberty, Mo., there came the revelation, "How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints" (Doctrine and Covenants 121:33).
President Packer said, "That picture of somebody going out there and putting up his hand and trying to turn [the Missouri River] upstream is pretty impressive. And the Lord said, 'You might as well do that as to try to hinder the Almighty from pouring out knowledge and power and inspiration upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.' "
Elder Christofferson said that members of the Church love President Monson and seek to follow his guidance.
"Since President Monson asks only a few things, it is important to pay heed to what he does ask and do all we can to be obedient," Elder Christofferson said. "What does he counsel and ask of us?"
Elder Christofferson listed four specific topics:
Missionary service. "Many more can serve," he said. "It will bless them and the Church." He encouraged couples to prepare to serve.
Rescue those who have wandered from Church fellowship and safety. "President Monson has spent his life doing so; he reaches those he can," Elder Christofferson said. "This should be our individual effort as well as the focus of the ward council."
Marriage. He encouraged young men especially to "accept and welcome this responsibility," and "prepare as best you can, and go forward with faith." Elder Christofferson added, "We cannot accept the world's view that marriage is optional and other things are more important."
Strengthening the youth. He spoke of "two fronts" that President Monson has emphasized — home and Church.
"The very best thing we can do to strengthen youth is to strengthen their parents. Quorum presidencies, Relief Society presidencies, ward councils, stake councils determine under inspiration how to help parents be better parents," Elder Christofferson said. "Don't neglect prayer, scripture study, and home evening."
Elder Maynes spoke of covenants that members take upon themselves in the waters of baptism and in the temple of the Lord.
"Covenants are promises we make to the Lord," he said. "They are extremely sacred in nature. The most important thing we can do in this life is to keep the promises or covenants we make with the Lord."
He told the members that standing as witnesses is not just a Sunday activity. "Heavenly Father's work needs to be our work every day of the week," he said. "The little things we do each day in living the gospel support Him in His work to save His children, our brothers and sisters."
Elder Maynes congratulated young men and women who have made the decision to serve the Lord and thanked those who are helping them in their preparation, including Church leaders and parents
"I consider the decision I made while I was in my youth to serve a full-time mission as one of the most important decisions of my life. The decision to serve the Lord on a full-time mission has impacted every aspect of my life in very positive ways."
Sister Dalton expressed her love for Chile, saying that one of her sons served his mission there.
She bore testimony of the Savior and of His earthly mission, saying, "He came to the earth to show us how to live the plan that was authored in the pre-mortal realms, a plan that if followed and lived will make us happy. His example showed us the way to return home to our Heavenly Father. No other who has ever lived has been so steadfast and immovable. He was never distracted. He was focused on carrying out the will of the Father, and He remained true to His divine identity and mission. Indeed, it can be said of Him, He was true 'at all times, in all things and in all places' (Mosiah 18:9). I testify that He lives."
She expressed love and gratitude to the youth for their lives of strength and courage. "Although you are no strangers to moral temptation, opposition, and peer pressure, I congratulate those of you who continue to remain true to the divine mission which is yours by exercising your faith, by being obedient to the commandments, and by living the standards," she said. "You must never weary or get discouraged or distracted from being faithful. You must continue to stand as a witness 'at all times, in all things and in all places' " (Mosiah 18:9).