Untitled Priesthood Address
President George Albert Smith
President of the Church
(Conference Report, October 1948, pp. 180-190)

I wonder sometimes if as fathers we take pains to explain to our boys the seriousness of the obligation assumed when a boy becomes a deacon. I wonder if when the boy is ordained a deacon the father lets him feel that he has something now that is eternally important.

Contrasting Ward Situations

I remember hearing upon one occasion of two wards, side by side, with about an equal population. One of the bishops made it a point to visit the homes of the members of his flock when a child was born, and when the time came for it to be blessed in the fast meeting he was on hand to encourage the parents that their child might receive a blessing. As the children grew a little older he taught both the girls and the boys that there would be a blessing come to them if they would go to Primary and to Sunday School.

He made them want to be baptized when they were eight years of age, both the boys and the girls. When the boys were nearly old enough to be ordained deacons he had talked with them and made them feel that they could be ordained deacons. He was another father. He followed all those families through life and it was said of the ward that every boy and every girl were married in the temple and many of them went on missions.

The ward that adjoined this one had another kind of bishop. He was busy. He did not have time to follow up. He let his counselors do that. It was proper that his counselors should do part of it but the difference was noted by the stake presidency, that in the one ward all of the young people, almost without exception, were faithful, took advantage of their opportunities, were prepared and taught beforehand the importance of what they were to receive, while in the other ward if the parents did not teach the children they were not taught except in a mediocre way, and the result was that the majority of those young people grew up, not particularly interested in the church.

Responsibilities of a Bishop

Now, I mention this because a father of a ward, a bishop, has a great responsibility. I do not mean that the father of the child and the mother of the child do not have a responsibility. It is their duty and their responsibility, but what a wonderful addition to the life of these young people when they feel that the bishop recognizes them on the street, goes out of his way to encourage them to do what they ought to do. There is not anything that the children will not do for a bishop of that kind.

I remember, as if it were yesterday, when John Tingey placed his hands on my head and ordained me a deacon. I had the matter so presented to me and the importance of it, that I felt it was a great honor. The result was, it was a blessing to me, and then after awhile other ordinations came to me. But in each case the foundation was laid in my mind that here was an opportunity for another blessing, and I want to suggest to you fathers who are here tonight, there is no time that you can spend, no way in which you can utilize your time that will be of greater advantage than training your boys and your girls to be worthy of the blessings of our Heavenly Father.

Failure of Parents

Only a few weeks ago a good woman came into my office, a daughter of one of the most prominent men that ever has been in the church. She said: "I cannot understand why my children do not have any interest in the church." She continued, "I have talked to them and explained to them what they ought to do."

I went back in my mind, and I was not unkind enough to say to her, "What did you do with them when they were younger?" I did not read to her that scripture, Section 68 of the D&C, which says:

"Inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes, which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents" (D&C 68:25).

I do not know all the facts in regard to that family but I do know that they spent considerable of their time unmindful of their growing children, and I am wondering if by now, (the father is gone and the mother is still living), I am wondering now if she looked back and took into account what the father and mother did if it would not explain why these children now do not have much faith.

And so, brethren, as fathers, as brothers, as associates, as neighbors, why not lay up treasures in heaven by going out of our way and encouraging these young people to do what the Lord would have them do, so that as they grow up it will be natural for them to do the things that our Heavenly Father would like them to do.

History of Jerusalem

Reference has been made tonight to Jerusalem. I think the story of Jerusalem is one of the most pathetic of all the stories we hear. A city that had every advantage; a city that had within its walls those that the Lord himself claimed. They were his children and he still claims them. But a city that was so selfish, and the leadership of which was so careless, that the population of the city grew up in wickedness, not one group, but generation after generation, and the city was destroyed repeatedly although the Lord did everything he could by means of his prophets to train them that they could have been preserved.

There was one time when they were preserved. It showed how the power of the Lord could be made manifest. The city was surrounded and the plans were being made, and the Army outside made its threat, but a prophet went to the Lord and said, "These people need your help. They are repentant and will you not help them. They are helpless. They are surrounded by their enemy," and the next morning when daylight came a very large portion of the army outside was dead (2 Kgs. 19:14-35). The power of the Lord had been made manifest in that case and the city was preserved.

It is marvelous what the Lord has done in that regard, but I am thinking of Jerusalem today. After all these years and experience after experience, it is a battleground, and one of the most undesirable places to be living that you can think of in all the world. But there will come a change. Repentance will come and when that repentance comes and is accepted by the Lord, Jerusalem will be redeemed.

It was redeemed once, you will remember, after being in bondage seventy years. The Lord had told the prophet Jeremiah that Jerusalem would be destroyed and its people would be in bondage seventy years (Jer. 25:11-12; Jer. 29:10).

Freedom from Babylonian Captivity

One hundred years before Cyrus, the general who captured Babylon, was born, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Isaiah that Cyrus should be his servant and say unto Jerusalem that it should be rebuilt (Isa. 44:28; Isa. 45:1). Babylon at that time was the greatest city in all the world, and was thought to be impregnable. Cyrus was not a Jew. Cyrus did not understand the old Testament, nor did he know of the part he was to play in the freeing of the captive Jews and rebuilding Jerusalem.

While Cyrus was besieging the city of Babylon the great king, Belshazzar of Babylon and his associates were using the sacred vessels that had been taken from the house of the Lord in Jerusalem to drink from (Dan. 5:1-31). It was a great debauch, and suddenly in the midst of it was seen a hand writing on the wall these words, "Me-ne, Me-ne, Tekel, U-phar-sin," and they could not read it (Dan. 5:25).

The Queen said to the King, "There is a Hebrew prophet among us. He can tell you what it means."

And so they went out and brought Daniel in and when Daniel saw the handwriting on the wall he could read it. It was not difficult for him. He was the servant of the Lord. He had the priesthood and he had honored it in a most marvelous way all down through his life.

The king and others felt perfectly secure, feeling that with food and provisions, and a river of water running through the city, not anything could come in to disturb them, and yet on that wall were written the words which, when interpreted, read, "You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting, and your kingdom will be divided among the Medes and the Persians." At that very hour "my servant Cyrus" had diverted the river that went through the city from its channel and his army entered under the wall, which wall was so high that it could not be scaled or destroyed with any means or weapons that they had, and so wide that several chariots could ride abreast on the top.

When that gentile, if we may use that term, that alien to those that had had the priesthood and the blessings of the Lord, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, realized that the Lord had given him Babylon, he issued a proclamation freeing the Jewish captives and returning them to rebuild their city of Jerusalem. He not only took his own army and his own people but he gave them means to use in payment to the workers.

Present Condition of Jews

I mention this because of the predicament Jerusalem is in tonight. Think of the condition the Jews find themselves in, wherever they are in all the world. I want to say to you that some of the best people that have ever lived were the Hebrew race and they were examples in many instances but they, in some cases, lost their faith and turned away. I want to say that some of the best men and women that we have had in Salt Lake City were Jews. I hope that the Latter-day Saints will not forget, will not fall into the habit that people have who hate the Jews because of their prosperity, and sometimes hate them for other reasons; that they will not fall into the habit of condemning a nation, condemning all those people, without remembering a circumstance that happened in the British Parliament.

Disraeli's Answer

There was an argument going on between a great Hebrew, Benjamin Disraeli, who was the Prime Minister of England, and a man who was a noted arguer in the House of Lords, and when he could no longer answer the Jew, then he began to taunt him with being a Jew. He said: "Yes, you are only a Jew anyhow."

And then Disraeli arose and said: "This man has taunted me with being a Jew. I am a Jew and I am proud of it. And when the forebears of this man were fighting like wild beasts for their mates, my people were laying the foundation for the literature of the world." That was his answer.

And then one more, and I hope we will all remember it. "When this man and those he loves bow in prayer, everything they ask for, they ask for in the name of Jesus Christ, a Jew."

I am stressing that tonight, although I did not expect to when I got on my feet because of the hatred that sometimes grows in men's hearts and we fail to see the virtues of others. Brethren, in the midst of these political campaigns such as we are having now, for goodness sake do not stoop to criticizing and finding fault unfairly and unjustly with those who do not believe the same as you do in politics. Let us be real Latter-day Saints,—not make believes—and see the virtues of the others. There is virtue in both camps.

Think of Jerusalem, tonight. Think of the predicament of that great people who have maintained their integrity as a nation, as individuals, as a race, as few others in the world have done. It has been marvelous to me, but see how pitiable their situation is now, and if all the people of the world were righteous and they were in transgression, there would be hope for them because our Heavenly Father has insisted, in his advice and counsel to the world, that "Jerusalem shall be redeemed" (Isa. 52:9; D&C 109:62).

Blessings Predicated on Righteousness

We do not have to go so far away. What about America? I was in a meeting, not very long ago, where a group of Boy Scouts stood and sang, "God Bless America," and they sang it beautifully, and all the time they were singing I asked myself the question, "How can he bless America until America repents?" Every great blessing that we desire is promised us by our Heavenly Father on condition that we honor him and keep his commandments. Praying is not sufficient. Not only must we pray but we must live to be worthy of the blessing.

In the midst of the upheavals of the world—I almost hesitate to open the newspaper and see the headlines of all the articles because so many of them are in large type and so often they indicate that the danger of another war confronts us.

Brethren, why did the Lord gather us out from the nations of the earth? Why did he not leave us in all the other lands? Why did he call our forebears to leave the comforts of home and the opportunities and blessings of civilization, such as it was, to come way out here into the tops of these everlasting hills, to settle these sterile desert plains, in many cases? Why? He knew what we needed. He knew that his people would have to keep his commandments if they were to endure, and like the time when the crickets came and were about to devour the crops, and starvation stared our people in the face, there were those among them who knew there was a way out. They did not know what it was, but then they began to pray. They had done everything else to destroy the pests, but when they began to pray there came into the western sky big flocks of seagulls, and they came in and began to devour the crickets.

Do you suppose that would have happened if those people had been wicked, if they had been immoral, if they had been drunken, if they had been violators of the commandments of God? I cannot believe it would have occurred, but I believe that among those people were some of the finest men and women that have ever lived upon the earth, and for that reason the Lord preserved their crops.

Faith Rewarded in Bear River

Then there was a circumstance up here on the Bear River. For ten years the frost had taken their crops every year. People had to go out of the valley for their breadstuffs. They could raise hay and cattle but they could not mature their food crops. And the President of the Church and his brethren went up there to hold conference. And when they were coming, O how the people prayed that the President of the Church, the prophet of the Lord, would rebuke the curse that seemed to be upon that land, that they might raise their harvest.

There may be quite a number of people from that stake here tonight because there are a lot of fine people who live there now.

And their conference was held—two days of conference. And the brethren had all talked. Not a word was said about their distress; not anything was said to them to encourage them that conditions would be better. The benediction was pronounced and the people were going out, and all at once the President stood up and he said: "Call the people back. I have something to say to them."

They came back and took their seats, and he said: "Now, you people have been faithful. You have not run away from here. You stayed. You have tilled the ground. You have done your best and every year you have lost your harvest of grain. The Lord knows what you need, and I can say to you that from this time forth you shall raise your crop."

Imagine after ten years, but they have raised a crop in that valley ever since. These things are not accidents, my brethren. The authority of the priesthood, properly exercised, brings to our minds the fact that we are not very far from the Lord and he is all-powerful and he is all-merciful. If we repent of our foolishness and turn to him, he will hear and answer our prayers.

Brethren, bishops, I was sorry that I could not be with you last night. Bishop Richards, I think I owe an apology right from the stand here. I went home last night after the meeting and went to bed just as soon as I could get there after the afternoon meeting, because I wanted to come down to your meeting. But when the time came to dress and come down, I got up and I was so weak I did not dare to come. I did not dress. I went back to bed, and I missed your fine meeting. But I wanted to be there and I am sure you had a happy time.

Office of a Bishop

I want to say this to the bishops. There is no position in the Church that will bring a greater blessing to any man than the office of a bishop, if he will honor that office and be a real father to the flock over whom he is called to preside. Do not forget that. He can go into the home, not to scold and find fault and criticize, but he can go like a loving grandfather, if I may use that term, and the family will pay attention, if he is wise, and he can gather them around him. And if he can only get his ward teachers to help him, there could be a great change in some of the wards of this church.

I am pleading with you, my brethren. Do not be satisfied with just going to the door and saying: "We want to know if everything is all right," and go your way. That is not the duty. That is not the way a ward teacher should operate, but every bishop should have under his direction men, young men, middle-aged men and old men, who will go into the homes, not apologizing for breaking into the house, but going as ward teachers.

Ward Teaching

Rodney Badger was a teacher in my father's home for years, and a great man. Whenever he came the family met and he sat and asked us questions and told us the things that he thought we ought to understand. And I want to tell you that when he came into our home he brought the spirit of the Lord with him. And when he went out we felt we had had a visit from a servant of the Lord.

Let us try and see if we cannot improve our ward teaching, brethren. Surely, in some cases, it is pitiable, because the Lord has given us all the power and authority and the ability to go into the homes and draw his sons and daughters nearer to him. But we often feel that we are so busy with other things we cannot do it.

Blessings Promised Bishops

I am not complaining. I know what a difficult thing it is to be a bishop. I have been in the homes of many bishops and I have ordained a good many, and I have followed them and seen what their experiences were; they have a very great responsibility, and it takes a lot of their time. But I want to say to you that there is no bishop, nor has there been a bishop in the Church, who has given the time, that the Lord expected him to give in looking after the flock and teaching his people and preparing them to do the work, that has not received one hundred percent of the blessings that he labored for, and they will extend to him throughout the ages of eternity.

He may not have had wealth, may not have had distinction. He may not have had the honor of presiding over clubs and things of that kind, but if he has done his duty as a bishop, he has been hand in hand with the Father of us all, and everything that he has done to bless his kind is laid up as a treasure in heaven and nobody can take the blessing from him.

Let us see if we cannot improve that, brethren.

As well as some of us have done, let us see if we cannot do better.

False Teachers

There is one little item here that has been called to our attention. In some of our wards, in order to draw the congregations and bring more people out, our bishops, and in some cases, our auxiliary organization leaders, go out and find somebody to come and deliver a lecture in the Sunday night meeting. Sometimes men are invited they do not know anything about and sometimes those men say things that are not what should be said in the meeting.

There are two Indians that are working now among our people and they are being invited from ward to ward and they are going in and telling stories, and they dress up with their feathers and costumes that are attractive to young people, and we are informed that they teach things that are foreign to what we believe and what the Lord wants us to have our people believe.

Bishops, and leaders of organizations, protect your people from those who would teach them things that would be harmful to them. There are some of the finest people in the world that are Indians. Those men that I am talking about now may have many good traits of character, but right now they are going among our people and saying and doing things that will do harm and will all have to be set aside, because they are not telling that which is true. So, we would like you tonight to pass that on in your wards, and stakes, you stake presidents and the bishops that are here, and in whatever you do, protect your people in the ward from those that you do not know anything about and who will seek an opportunity to come in and talk to the people when they should not be permitted to do so, because they are not teaching that which would be helpful to the people.

Honor the Sabbath

Another thing, brethren, our bishops and our stake presidents can have a tremendous influence in bringing the people of their wards and stakes to feel that they must honor the Sabbath day. Honoring the Sabbath day and keeping it holy is a commandment of our Heavenly Father. Six days he has given us to do about as we please, as long as we do not do wrong, but on the seventh, he said, "The seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord Thy God" (Ex. 20:8-11). He has advised us to do no work, neither our animals, nor the stranger within our gates, and he has promised us blessings if we will do what we ought to do.

Brethren, it is not an insignificant thing to violate the Sabbath day. I want to say that you lose every time you violate the Sabbath day, you lose more than you can gain, no matter what you may think you are going to gain, but your boys and girls sometimes do not understand that. Teach it to them. Teach them that their homes may be the abiding place of prayer.

I remember when I was a child, living right across the street from here and the boys would come over to our place on Sunday after Sunday School, and I was like the boys, I thought it would be lots of fun to play ball and to play other games. But I had a wonderful mother. She did not say, "You cannot do it," but she did say: "Son, you will be happier if you do not do that. Let the boys go home and read a good book."

Home Training

I want to tell you I am grateful for that kind of training in the home, but there are places where the children are turned loose and they are not guarded and they are not protected and they are not trained, and the result is, not only do they lose the blessing that would be eternally advantageous to them, but they cross to the devil's side of the line, and the first thing you know they do things that they should not do.

I want to say that just as soon as we go into the devil's territory we are in his power, and our safety is on the Lord's side of the line, and the Lord's side of the line is on the side of the Ten Commandments and the other commandments that the Lord has given, and we can easily tell what they are.

Protection of Young Women

Quite a number of our young people are leaving home in the country settlements and coming here to Salt Lake City. Our young girls are coming, and when they come if they are not in homes that will protect them, not under the supervision of good women, they are in great danger. If I were living in some of the outlying settlements, knowing what I know, if I had a precious daughter I never would let her come to Salt Lake City without a guardian, no matter how good she was. If I let her come at all I would be sure that she was properly safeguarded and chaperoned and helped.

Brethren, pass that word around. It is such an attractive thing for these girls to come where the bright lights are, and the papers are always telling what is going on here, but their eternal happiness may be destroyed by falling into the hands of some wicked, careless boy or man. And when they are ruined it is too late then to begin to say, "I wish we had not done it." Safeguard them, please, as far as you can, and when they come to the city and you know they are coming, you bishops send word here. You can send word or find out what ward they go into and you can write the bishops direct. If there is no other way, write the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association and give the addresses of these girls, and they will help to take care of them. They will do a wonderful job for you and help to save those that are more precious than gold.

Watchcare Needed

A great effort is being made right now to break into the ranks of this people. Others who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are building churches, building houses of amusement among us, and those who are skillful in attracting young people are gathering them in, and some of our young people have asked to have their names taken from the records of the church. They come out of good homes, but in some cases have not been taught properly and are easily misled by strangers.

Brethren, watch your people. You may have cattle and sheep on a thousand hills and all the hay and grain and potatoes and other things, you may own stocks and bonds and houses and banks and everything, but if you, by reason of your own carelessness and indifference, lose one of those young sons or daughters that God has given to you, you will be repenting of it a long time, and your repentance may not accomplish what you desire.

There is a lot I might say but there is not time. I have talked so long now.

It is lovely to be here with you. I am happy to be with a group of men like this, so many young men and boys here. Remember boys, every one of you, is a child of our Heavenly Father. Every one of you is living eternal life. Each of you boys and men, if you live properly, has a right to the priesthood of the living God. Do not lose that blessing and that privilege. And fathers, with your wives, teach your children the beauty of the things that the Lord has given to us as the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they will be happy and you will be happy, and your families will not be broken up by those who mislead them, many times wilfully and maliciously.

The Lord's Help Needed

This is a day and age of the world when we need the Lord's help, every one of us. I am grateful that we have almost everywhere now, in our schools, in our congress, in our stakes in different parts of the world, good men and good women that are not only teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ but they are living it. Wonderful helps they are in the various places that they are in, and we need it all. All those who have faith and live to be worthy of the inspiration of the Lord will be guided and inspired and helped in times of distress. He is not so far away. He is our Father. He loves us and wants us to be worthy to be called his children. This great body of men here tonight, this marvelous group, every one of you is a son of our Heavenly Father. This great group of men, every one is living eternal life, and the gospel of Jesus Christ was given to our forbears and now to us, to prepare us to live with him eternally on this earth when it becomes the celestial kingdom. Can you think of anything more wonderful?

Blessings and Testimony

May the Lord add his blessing. I pray that he will bless every one of you fine men, you teachers in the schools, you men in the wards and stakes, those of you who are working in companionship with men and boys and women in different parts of the world, I pray the Lord to bless you that you will not lose an opportunity to help uplift and develop and bring them to be what our Father would have them to be, and they will be your companions, then, throughout the ages of eternity.

God lives. Jesus is the Christ. Joseph Smith was a Prophet of the Living God. The Lord gave to him the priesthood that we hold and it will continue to be passed on to our descendants as it came from our forbears, if we will do our part.

God bless you brethren, I am so grateful to be with you.

Think of what it means to be a royal priesthood, not a make-believe, but a royal priesthood, everyone having contact, if we will, with the power of our Heavenly Father, the great King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).

This is his work and I bear my testimony to you that I know it as I know that I live, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.