Through His prophets, the Lord continues to direct His work on the earth, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve testified as the keynote speaker at the annual FARMS banquet Sept. 14.
Elder Perry spoke to approximately 400 friends and supporters of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies who filled the ballroom of the Provo Park Hotel.The audience also viewed a video tape of the FARMS years in review and heard remarks from BYU professor Noel B. Reynolds, who is president of FARMS. Among other things, he talked about the recently established protocol between FARMS and BYU that will allow more cooperation in research and other activities. (See Sept. 2, 1995 Church News.)
It was also announced that a new FARMS building will be constructed adjacent to the south end of the BYU campus. Brother Reynolds said the building will include a hall for displays relating to the Book of Mormon, lecture hall, study hall, library, offices and a distribution center.
In his address, Elder Perry said, "My interest has always been in the chemistry, the organizational events, the human relations that have happened in the history of the Lord's dealings with His people and seeing how His hand is clearly in evidence in everything that He does."
Then he focused on the first three presidents of the Church in this dispensation as an illustration.
Describing the Lord's preparation of Joseph Smith, Elder Perry spoke of the Prophet's humble beginnings. He described the Smith family's struggles to find fertile soil for farming or another suitable livelihood in New England. He told of the family's several moves and of the typhoid fever epidemic that afflicted their family, including Joseph, in West Lebanon, N.H. A move to Vermont didn't bring relief to the destitute family because of the struggle to farm the difficult Vermont soil. That led to the move to Palmyra, N.Y.
"Again we see the hand of the Lord guiding them to the proper destination where the gospel could be brought forth," Elder Perry said. He added that Joseph's difficult beginnings led him to develop reliance on the Lord and to trust in Him. "He had to be truly sensitive to the spirit and to be a quick learner."
Brigham Young's beginnings were similar to Joseph's, Elder Perry said. The second prophet was also raised in harsh, rural conditions in New England. "These early years taught him thrift and industry," as well as good judgment, common sense and self-reliance, Elder Perry noted.
He spoke of the contrast between Brigham Young and Joseph Smith: "The two were different. Joseph Smith – the great master prophet, creative, inspired, visionary. Brigham Young – a tough administrator, a powerful leader who made workable the visions of the Prophet Joseph Smith."
Brigham Young's traits were valuable in building the colonies of the Great Basin, according to Elder Perry. When pioneers arrived without a place to live or work, the prophet would provide a job, paying them enough to live on but not as much as others were paying or as much as they could earn by starting their own farms or other businesses.
Then, speaking of the third prophet, Elder Perry said: "John Taylor . . . was born in an area that had been under cultivation for hundreds of years. Nearby were large commercial centers that over the centuries had acquired the jewels of civilization – libraries, museums, theaters and universities."
So while Brigham Young was prepared to "tame the wilderness," John Taylor was prepared to combat the intellectual enemies of the Church.
One of John Taylor's difficult assignments from the prophet Brigham Young was to publish a newspaper in New York that would present the doctrines and practices of the Church in such a way as to neutralize anti-Mormon feelings.
Elder Perry said the future prophet set up his office between those of the city's largest publications – the Herald and the Tribune – and fulfilled the assignment with boldness, challenging critics to prove their charges.
Elder Perry told the audience: "Now I hope you see the contrast in those three great leaders that the Lord brought forth to lead the early Church. One with a great vision, humble, sincere, with great faith to follow the teachings and ministrations of angels to bring about the great doctrines of the Church.
"Brigham Young, a great colonizer who led the people in such a practical way, who taught them how to care for themselves and built a sense of industry and self-reliance in their hearts.
"John Taylor, a man of unique ability and experience who had the ability to speak and say the things in such a way that people could understand them, with great culture, with great refinement. A base was being established for the Church to move forward, to grow and develop."
Elder Perry continued: "Now you have the great opportunity of using your trained heads, your research, to continue to bring the light and life of the gospel to the hearts of people. I want to assure you that the Lord always has His hand in this work. He's directing the leadership of the Church. You can go on to the fourth, the fifth and on up to our present prophet and know each in his own unique way is led by the Lord in a most outstanding, special way for his particular time to bring forth the gospel of our Lord and Savior.
"So we say to you tonight, put on those visors over your head, get that lamp out, get out those scrolls, get all you need to bring that great light and life of the gospel to the peoples of the world.
"You're making a marvelous contribution to what we need to know in gospel scholarship. And if you do this, the Lord will continue to provide the base for leadership of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that your works will be recognized, that you'll see the fruits and the accomplishment of the effort and time that you put in."