The Church is rising in stature before the world, said President Gordon B. Hinckley during a BYU class reunion Oct. 11.
Speaking in the Joseph Smith Building to BYU alumni from the classes of 1970, 1971 and 1972, President Hinckley said that during the past few months a substantial number of ambassadors to the United States have visited Salt Lake City. Although the diplomats have come to Utah at the invitation of the Utah Centennial Commission, they all expressed an interest in meeting with Church leaders, explained the prophet, who was speaking as a favor to his son, Clark – a member of the BYU class of 1971."It seems to me that there is scarcely a week passes that we do not have some notable from somewhere across the world who calls on us," President Hinckley said. "They are tremendously impressed and tremendously impressive."
President Hinckley said whenever these prominent visitors come, he is reminded of the words that Brigham Young spoke in the winter of 1848-49 to Church members who were cold and hungry.
"Some had their feet badly frozen. They were discouraged. Members of the Mormon Battalion had come back with gold in their pockets. And some of our impoverished people thought they would go to California and dig gold and then come back," President Hinckley explained.
"And in those circumstances, Brigham Young stood before the people in the old Tabernacle and said, among other things, " `We have been kicked out of the frying pan into the fire, out of the fire into the middle of the floor, and here we are and here we will stay. God has shown me that this is the spot to locate His people and here is where they will prosper; He will temper the elements for the good of His Saints; He will rebuke the frost and the sterility of the soil, and the land shall become fruitful. . . .'
"Now mark these further words that
Brigham YoungT said: `This will become the great highway of the nations. Kings and emperors and the noble and wise of the earth will visit us here, while the wicked and ungodly will envy us, our comfortable homes and possessions.'
"I am a living witness to the fulfillment of that marvelous promise. . . ," President Hinckley said. "We have these ambassadors, we have business leaders, we have government leaders, we have educators. `The wise and the noble,' my brethren and sisters, are coming to see us."
President Hinckley then referred to the prayer of dedication offered at the Kirtland Temple in 1836. In that prayer it was said, "Remember all Thy Church, O Lord, and bless Thy people . . . that Thy Church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." (D&C 109:72-73.)
President Hinckley said he liked the words "fair as the moon, clear as the sun," in terms of the recognition of the Lord's Church.
"I want to bear witness that this process is taking place. I marvel at what we are doing as a Church. Can anyone doubt that the Lord is at the helm?" he said. "Can anyone doubt that this is His work and that He is guiding it? We are now in more than 150 nations. We have 23,350 wards and branches scattered over the earth. We have 2,244 stakes as of today. I am advised that we are the second largest Church now in California and the seventh largest in the nation."
President Hinckley continued that the Church operates the largest private church-owned university and the largest family history resource in the world. He added he knows of no other Church that is involved in the kind of building program – on the average of about 375 new buildings a year – that the Church is.
"Something is happening," he said. "We are becoming better known. The Church is coming out of darkness into light.
"We are much more widely appreciated. There is still much ignorance concerning us, and that will be the case for a long time yet to come. But the old barriers are breaking down. New ones are arising, that's true, but with nothing like the venom that this Church has weathered in times past."
Speaking to the alumni, President Hinckley told members of the group that they can make something happen and influence those affected by "troubled schools, troubled homes, indifferent leaders."
"I hope, with all my heart," President Hinckley said, "that you are exerting your influence to improve the world, your community, your associations and in the process shed favorable light on the Church which has loved you and nurtured you."