President Gordon B. Hinckley, continuing a practice of attending stake conferences and ward and branch meetings when he doesn't have a conflicting schedule, made a surprise visit to the Sandy Utah Cottonwood Creek Stake conference Dec. 3.
The visit renewed an association with stake Pres. William R. Walker. The two met in 1964 in Japan when President Hinckley was the member of the Quorum of the Twelve who had responsibility for the work of the Church in Asia and Pres. Walker was a missionary serving in the Northern Far East Mission.In 1966, when Pres. Walker was an assistant to mission Pres. Adney Y. Komatsu, President Hinckley returned to Japan to dedicate a meetinghouse. "On the afternoon before he left to return home, President Hinckley was standing outside the back door of the mission home," Pres. Walker said. "That is where the Tokyo Japan Temple is now located. President Hinckley issued a challenge to me and my companion, Elder Emery Smith. He said: `In the years ahead there will be great growth in the Church. There will be a great need for leadership. Now, you elders need to go home from your missions and prepare yourselves to be bishops and stake presidents."
In the stake conference Dec. 3, Pres. Walker said, "You can perhaps imagine the feelings I have today, 29 years later, to stand at this pulpit, as your stake president, and to have the president of the Church here with us, who was the apostle that issued the challenge to me to prepare to serve in this capacity. I assure you I never forgot President Hinckley's words to me that day."
In his remarks, President Hinckley referred to his assignments in Asia. "I remember some of those meetings in Japan and those other places in little houses that were drafty and cold . . . and wonderful; we felt the Spirit of the Lord as we met together as missionaries in His service," President Hinckley said. "How wonderful those occasions were and how rich and rewarding is the memory of those circumstances. How grateful every father and mother in this stake ought to be who has a missionary in the field. What a wonderful service it is."
He noted that 113 missionaries are serving from the Sandy Utah Cottonwood Creek Stake. "It means the people of this stake have faith," he said. "It means that they will be blessed. There is not a home from which those missionaries come that will not be enriched and blessed because of their service in the cause of the Lord."
Further, he said, "God our Eternal Father lives. You know that and I know that. Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world, He who was born in Bethlehem of Judea, whose birthday we commemorate later this month, who died on Calvary's cross in an atonement beyond our understanding. So great and magnificent a thing it was."
He bore testimony that Joseph Smith, a prophet of God, was visited by the Father and the Son, and that the priesthood is here to bless the sons and daughters of God. "The power of God is among us. I know that. I could not deny it," he said.
President Hinckley commended the Primary children who sang in a chorus at the stake conference and the young people who accompanied them. "You are beautiful," he said. "Stay on the track. Live close to the Church. Be prayerful. Seek the guidance of the Lord in your lives and He will bless you and bring happiness into your lives."
To the members, he said: "Let us go forward in this glorious work. How exciting and wonderful it is. I do not know how anybody can feel gloomy for very long who is a member of this Church. Do you feel gloomy? Lift your eyes. Stand on your feet. Sing songs of Christmas. Say a few words of appreciation and love to the Lord. Be positive. Think of what great things are occurring as the Lord brings to pass His eternal purposes. This is a day of prophecy fulfilled . . . this great day in the history of the Church. This is the day of which has been spoken by those who have gone before us. Let us live worthy of our birthright. Keep the faith. Nurture your testimonies. Walk in righteousness, and the Lord will bless you and prosper you and you will be a happy and wonderful people."