Harold B. Lee (Church President: July 7, 1972 - December 26, 1973)
The Prophet Joseph Smith, in his inspired version of that same scripture, added these significant words: ‘who are the elect, according to the covenant.’ This is what has been said, in effect, in this conference: Unless every member of this Church gains for himself an unshakable testimony of the divinity of this Church, he will be among those who will be deceived in this day when the ‘elect according to the covenant’ are going to be tried and tested. Only those will survive who have gained for themselves that testimony.
There are among us many loose writings predicting the calamities which are about to overtake us. Some of these have been publicized as though they were necessary to wake up the world to the horrors about to overtake us. Many of these are from sources upon which there cannot be unquestioned reliance.
Are you priesthood bearers aware of the fact that we need no such publications to be forewarned, if we were only conversant with what the scriptures have already spoken to us in plainness?
Let me give you the sure word of prophecy on which you should rely for your guide instead of these strange sources which may have great political implications.
Read the 24th chapter of Matthew—particularly that inspired version as contained in the Pearl of Great Price.
“Then read the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord, not man, has documented the signs of the times.
“Now turn to section 101 and section 133 of the Doctrine and Covenants and hear the step-by-step recounting of events leading up to the coming of the Savior.
“Finally, turn to the promises the Lord makes to those who keep the commandments when these judgments descend upon the wicked, as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 38.
“Brethren, these are some of the writings with which you should concern yourselves, rather than commentaries that may come from those whose information may not be the most reliable and whose motives may be subject to question. And may I say, parenthetically, most of such writers are not handicapped by having any authentic information on their writings.” (Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1972, p. 128.)
We pray for our Saints everywhere, pray that they will hold steadfast. But, some of the greatest of our enemies are those within our own ranks. It was the lament of the Master, as he witnessed one of those chosen men, who under inspiration he chose as one of the Twelve, betray him with a kiss and for a few paltry pieces of silver turn him over to his enemies. Judas then stood by and, realizing the enormity of what he had done, took the only escape out to sacrifice himself. And Jesus could only explain that of the Twelve, meaning Judas, he had a devil.
When we see some of our own today doing similar things, some who have been recognized and honored in the past as teachers and leaders who later fall by the wayside, our hearts are made sore and tender. But sometimes we have to say just like the Master said, “The devil must have entered into them.”
A few years ago, we had a woman who had written some scurrilous things about the Prophet Joseph Smith. (Mention was made of it here in the conference at that time.) Shortly thereafter, I met someone on the street and they asked me if there had been a revelation or an utterance at the recently concluded general conference that might be considered as a prophecy. And I said, “Did you hear the closing remarks of President George Albert Smith as he closed the conference? If you did, you heard a prophet speaking, and let me tell you what he said.” I happened to have a clipping in my wallet. This is what President George Albert Smith said:
“Many have belittled Joseph Smith, but those who have will be forgotten in the remains of mother earth, and the odor of their infamy will ever be with them, but honor, majesty, and fidelity to God, exemplified by Joseph Smith and attached to his name, will never die.”
No truer words were ever spoken, and that person fell just as all others will fall who try to tear down the work of the Lord.
We have had some who, writing in the public press occasionally, are among those who have fallen by the wayside. They befoul the honored family names that they have. They have disgraced the honors that we had given to them in times past. They are trying to join the forces of the enemy against the work of the Lord. And we can say to them, as President George Albert Smith said then, “Those who have will be forgotten in the remains of mother earth, and the odor of the infamy will ever be with them, but honor, majesty, and fidelity to God, exemplified by the leaders of this church and attached to their names, will never die.”
I always remember the word of the Lord when I hear these things said by those who are trying to tear down his work. The Lord has said:
“Wherefore, confound your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and in private; …
“Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against the Lord.
“Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you—there is no weapon that is formed against you, shall prosper;
“And if any man lift his voice against you he shall be confounded in mine own due time.
“Wherefore, keep my commandments. …” (D&C 71:7-11.)
What he is trying to have us understand is that he will take care of our enemies if we continue to keep the commandments. So, you Saints of the Most High God, when these things come, and they will come—this has been prophesied—you just say,
“No weapon formed against the work of the Lord will ever prosper, but all glory and majesty of this work that the Lord gave will long be remembered after those who have tried to befoul their names and the name of the Church will be forgotten, and their works will follow after them.”
We feel sorry for them when we see these things happen.
May I paraphrase what the Lord has said in this great revelation from which I have quoted: any man who has seen any of the least of these happenings among us today, has seen God today moving in his majesty and in his power. Let us make no mistake about that.
Where else can you go for guidance? Where is there safety in the world today? Safety can’t be won by tanks and guns and the airplanes and atomic bombs. There is only one place of safety and that is within the realm of the power of Almighty God that he gives to those who keep his commandments and listen to his voice, as he speaks through the channels that he has ordained for that purpose.
In the answer that he gave to his disciples, when he told them that he was coming again, he explained some important things to them. The disciples asked him, “… Tell us, when shall these things be and the end of the world or the destruction of the wicked, which is the end of the world?” (See Matt. 24:3.) In their question, you have the definition of what it means to say “the end of the world.”
And then he gave to his disciples what we read in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew, what may be better understood from the Inspired Version, which is found in the Pearl of Great Price. He said, when the fig tree “begins to put forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh at hand.” (JS—M 1:39.)
He gave them certain signs by which they might know that his coming was nigh, even at their very doors. There will be great tribulation upon the Jews and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, “such as was not before sent upon Israel, of God, since the beginning of their kingdom until this time; no, nor ever shall be sent again upon Israel.” (JS—M 1:18.)
“And except those days should be shortened, there should none of their flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake, according to the covenant, those days shall be shortened.
“Behold, these things I have spoken unto you concerning the Jews; and again, after the tribulations of those days which shall come upon Jerusalem, if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe him not;
“For in those days there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.” [That means the members of this Church.]
“Wherefore, if they shall say unto you: Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth; Behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not;
“For as the light of the morning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west, … so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.” (JS—H 1:20-22, 25-26.)
Then he speaks of the wars that shall come: “… for nations shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
“And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold; but he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved.
“And again, this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come, or the destruction of the wicked;
“And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
“Verily, I say unto you, this generation, in which these things shall be shown forth, shall not pass away until all I have told you shall be fulfilled.
“But of that day, and hour, no one knoweth; no, not the angels of God in heaven, but my Father only.
“But as it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be also at the coming of the Son of Man;
“For it shall be with them, as it was in the days which were before the flood; for until the day that Noah entered into the ark they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage;
“And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.
“Then shall be fulfilled that which is written, that in the last days, two shall be in the field, the one shall be taken, and the other left;
“Two shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left;
“And what I say unto one, I say unto all men; watch, therefore, for you know not at what hour your Lord doth come.
“Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.” (JS—M 1:29-31, 33-34, 40-46.)
Brothers and sisters, this is the day the Lord is speaking of. You see the signs are here. Be ye therefore ready. The Brethren have told you in this conference how to prepare to be ready. We have never had a conference where there has been so much direct instruction, so much admonition; when the problems have been defined and also the solution to the problem has been suggested.
Let us not turn a deaf ear now, but listen to these as the words that have come from the Lord, inspired of him, and we will be safe on Zion’s hill, until all that the Lord has for his children shall have been accomplished.
And so, in the closing moments of this conference, I have been moved as I think I have never been moved before in all my life. If it were not for the assurance that I have that the Lord is near to us, guiding, directing, the burden would be almost beyond my strength, but because I know that he is there, and that he can be appealed to, and if we have ears to hear attuned to him, we will never be left alone.
I am grateful for strong men like President Tanner and President Romney and the Twelve and all the General Authorities, who are united more so than I have ever experienced before during my lifetime. The General Authorities are united and working together and are speaking with one voice to the world.
Follow the Brethren, listen to the Brethren. I bear you my witness as one whom the Lord has brought to this place, as Brother Gordon Hinckley has said. I thank the Lord that I may have passed some of the tests, but maybe there will have to be more before I shall have been polished to do all that the Lord would have me do.
Sometimes when the veil has been very thin, I have thought that if the struggle had been still greater that maybe then there would have been no veil. I stand by, not asking for anything more than the Lord wants to give me, but I know that he is up there and he is guiding and directing.
I extend my blessings to you wonderful Saints. Go back to your homes now. Take the love of the General Authorities to your people. We extend to those who are not members of the Church the hand of fellowship. May we reach out to those who have lost their sense of direction and, before it is too late, try to win them back into the fold; because they are all God’s children, and he wants us to save all of them.
Peace be with you, not the peace that comes from the legislation in the halls of congress, but the peace that comes in the way that the Master said, by overcoming all the things of the world. That God may help us so to understand and may you know that I know with a certainty that defies all doubt that this is his work, that he is guiding us and directing us today, as he has done in every dispensation of the gospel, and I say that with all the humility of my soul, ...
The time is coming and facing you right now ... when except you have that testimony of certainty that these things [the gospel, the Church, and so on] are true you will not be able to weather the storms that are going to beat upon you and try to tear you from your moorings today. But if you know with all your soul that these things are true ... you will know who Jesus your Savior is and who God your Father is; you will know what the influence of the Holy Ghost is. If you know those things you will stand as an anchor against all the storms that shall beat upon your house ... [Matthew 7:26-27]
The Master was saying, and I am saying to you today, that the rains of disaster, the rains of difficulty, the floods and winds of severe trials are going to beat upon the house of every one of you. There will be temptation to sin, you will have hardship, you will have difficulty to face in your life. The only ones that will not fall when those tests come will be those who have their houses founded upon the rock of testimony. You will know no matter what comes; you will not be able to stand on borrowed light. You can only stand on the light that you have by the witness of the Spirit that all of you have the right to receive.
How long has it been since you have read the Book of Mormon? I was startled a little while ago by interviews with two men who were years ago in our seminary system and both of whom have gone into other teaching positions, [and] have obtained their graduate degrees. They have slipped away from the gospel truths and now have been challenging and quarreling with and trying to destroy and criticize the teachings of the Church.
I have talked with both of them, and when I inquired about their reading the Book of Mormon, one of them said to me: "It has been fourteen years since I have read anything in the Book of Mormon."
Another said, "I can't remember when I last read anything from the Book of Mormon." So it will be with any of us, if we do not continue to saturate ourselves with the teachings of this most precious book which the Lord has given us for a purpose -- that is, to correct all of these errors and dissensions in our day just as He promised He would in other days.
We had a very grievous case that had to come before the high council and the stake presidency which resulted in the excommunication of a man who had harmed a lovely young girl. After nearly an all-night session which resulted in that action, I went to my office rather weary the next morning to be confronted by a brother of this man whom we had had on trial the night before. This man said, “I want to tell you that my brother wasn’t guilty of what you charged him with.”
“How do you know he wasn’t guilty?” I asked.
“Because I prayed, and the Lord told me he was innocent,” the man answered.
I asked him to come into the office and we sat down, and I asked, “Would you mind if I ask you a few personal questions?” He said, “Certainly not.”
“How old are you?”
“What priesthood do you hold?” He said he thought he was a teacher. “Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?” and he said, “Well, no.” He used tobacco, which was obvious.
“Do you pay your tithing?”
He said, “No”—and he didn’t intend to as long as that blankety-blank-blank man was bishop of the 32nd Ward.
I said, “Do you attend your priesthood meetings?”
He replied, “No, sir!” and he didn’t intend to as long as that man was bishop.
“You don’t attend your sacrament meetings either?”
“Do you have your family prayers?” and he said no.
“Do you study the scriptures?” He said well, his eyes were bad and he couldn’t read very much.
I then said to him: “In my home I have a beautiful instrument called a radio. When everything is in good working order we can dial to a certain station and pick up a speaker or the voice of a singer all the way across the continent. … But, after we had used it for a long time, the little delicate instruments or electrical devices on the inside called radio tubes began to wear out. … The radio may sit there looking quite like it did before, but because of what has happened on the inside, we can hear nothing.”
“Now,” I said, “you and I have within our souls something like what might be said to be a counterpart of those radio tubes. We might have what we call a ‘go-to-sacrament-meeting’ tube, ‘keep-the-Word-of-Wisdom’ tube, ‘pay-your-tithing’ tube, ‘have-your-family-prayers’ tube, ‘Read-the-Scriptures’ tube, and, as one of the most important, that might be said to be the master tube of our whole soul, we might call the ‘keep-yourselves-morally-clean’ tube. If one of these becomes worn out by disuse or inactivity—we fail to keep the commandments of God—it has the same effect upon our spiritual selves that a worn-out tube has in a radio.
“Now then,” I said, “15 of the best-living men in the Pioneer Stake prayed last night. They heard the evidence and every man was united in saying that your brother was guilty. Now, you, who do none of these things, you say you prayed, and you got an opposite answer. How would you explain that?”
Then this man gave an answer that I think was a classic. He said, “Well, President Lee, I think I must have gotten my answer from the wrong source.” And, you know, that’s just as great a truth as we can have. We get our answers from the source of the power we list to obey. If we’re following the ways of the Devil, we’ll get answers from the Devil. If we’re keeping the commandments of God, we’ll get our answers from God.