On the evening following the Saturday sessions of October 1992 general conference, Elder Marion D. Hanks — the Presidency of the Seventy member given emeritus status earlier that day — sat with his family in his home and opened a note. A widow who lost her husband in an accident two years earlier had written to Elder Hanks, expressing her gratitude for the comfort she and her family received from a statement Elder Hanks had framed on his office wall.
“To believe in God is to know that all the rules will be fair, and that there will be wonderful surprises,” the statement read.
The next morning, on Sunday Oct. 4, as Elder Hanks addressed the congregation in his final general conference message, he spoke of the fair and wonderful nature of a God who loves His children and is with them in in all things.
In his talk titled “A Loving, Communicating God,” Elder Hanks spoke of what he called the “two great principles on which the gospel is centered.”
Love and agency.
“Because of our Father’s great love for His children and because of His commitment to freedom of choice for them, mankind has from the beginning enjoyed the opportunity to choose for themselves,” Elder Hanks said.
“Each of us is here to learn to love and give and hearken to the Spirit and choose to do the will of the Father. God wants His offspring and heirs to become all that we can be, to qualify for our inheritance. But we must choose; we are the decision makers, and He will not relieve that responsibility.”
Good can be found in many places and from many sources, Elder Hanks said, but he noted the importance of recognizing that the children of God are blessed with incredible opportunity to continually counsel and seek guidance from the best source, the source of all truth and light, a loving Heavenly Father.
He quoted a well-known Quaker, Rufus Jones: “Vital religion cannot be maintained and preserved on the theory that God dealt with our human race only in the far past ages, and that the Bible is the only evidence we have that our God is a living, revealing, communicating God. If God ever spoke, He is still speaking. He is the great I Am, not the great He Was.”
That God communicates with His children is a fundamental truth or principle key to understanding the gospel, Elder Hanks said.
“We rejoice in this and have a humble witness to bear: God is a living, revealing, communicating Father.”
Combining the truths shared by ancient prophets in the Bible and those shared in the scriptures of the Restoration “bring claryfying light and knowledge to the most important questions mankind has asked through the ages, and now asks, and in the future will continue to ask with increasing concercern as populations and interpretations multiply,” he said.
Elder Hanks explained that rather than asking why good people experience trials in a increasingly troubled world, the better question to ask is “how shall good people respond when they are tried?”
Scriptures make it clear that God does not promise His children an easy path. All who come to the earth are meant to experience trouble, affliction and adversity. “God does not deny us the experience we came here to have,” Elder Hanks explained. “He does not insulate us from tribulation or guarantee immunity from trouble.”
But to all those who suffer and sin, God provides the assurance that He will forgive and forget if His children will humble themselves and truly repent, Elder Hanks said.
“Knowing what God has promised can provide the courage and faith we need,” he said. “Thus the promise is that in times of sorrow and affliction, if we endure and remain faithful and put our trust in him and are courageous, the Lord will visit us in our afflictions, strengthen us to carry our burdens and support us in our trials.”
Belief in God leads to an understanding that He will be with His children in all things, lift them in their burdens and consecrate their afflictions for their gain, Elder Hanks concluded. While difficulties are an inevitable part of the mortal experience, help and comfort to overcome those difficulties are a guaranteed promise from a loving Heavenly Father who is ever present for His children to guide and direct them through personal and prophetic revelation.