Conference Report
Feed the Spirit—Nourish the Soul
Elder Gordon B. Hinckley
Of the Council of the Twelve Apostles

Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, October 1967, pp. 89-92

Our Eternal Father, we ask thy blessing "upon the priesthood, all in authority in thy Church and kingdom, that they might enjoy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to qualify them in the discharge of every duty."

This prayer was voiced by President Brigham Young a century ago as he stood at the pulpit of this great tabernacle and offered the invocation on the first conference of the Church ever convened here. The day was October 6, 1867. A hundred years later his plea to the Lord is as timely as it was on the day it was offered.

We need the Holy Spirit in our many administrative responsibilities. We need it as we teach the gospel in our classes and to the world. We need it in the governing of our families.

As we direct and teach under the influence of that spirit, we shall bring spirituality into the lives of those for whom we are responsible.

Worldwide scope of the Church:

With the tremendous growth of the Church we become increasingly aware of the great magnitude of the affairs of this the Lord's kingdom. We have a comprehensive program for the instruction of the family. We have organizations for youth, for children, for mothers and fathers. We have a vast missionary system, a tremendous welfare operation, probably the most extensive genealogical program in the world. We must build houses of worship, hundreds and thousands of them. We must operate hospitals, schools, seminaries, institutes. The ramifications of our activities now reach around the world. All of this is the business of the Church. Sometimes the tendency is to handle it as we would ordinary business. But it is more than an organization of enterprises. It is more than a social body. These are but means to the accomplishment of its one true purpose.

That purpose is to assist our Father in heaven in bringing to pass his work and his glory, the immortality and eternal life of man (see Moses 1:39).

The forces against which we labor are tremendous. We need more than our own strength to cope with them.

To all who hold positions of leadership, to the vast corps of teachers and missionaries, to heads of families, I should like to make a plea: In all you do, feed the spirit—nourish the soul. ". . . the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" (2 Cor. 3:6).

To cope with "famine in the land"

I am satisfied that the world is starved for spiritual food. Amos prophesied of old: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:

"And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.

"In that day shall the fair virgins and the young men faint for thirst" (Amos 8:11-13).

There is hunger in the land, and a genuine thirst—a great hunger for the word of the Lord and an unsatisfied thirst for things of the spirit. Ours is the obligation and the opportunity to nourish the soul.

Seek guidance of the Holy Ghost

First, to administrators, the leadership of the Church, you who structure and conduct the many and varied meetings—and I include myself—I make a plea that we constantly seek the inspiration of the Lord and the companionship of his Holy Spirit to bless us in keeping our efforts on a high spiritual plane. Those prayers will not go unanswered, for the promise has been given through revelation that "God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost" (D&C 121:26).

Concerning the conduct of our meetings, the Lord has said that "the elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God" (D&C 20:45). And again: ". . . it always has been given to the elders of my church from the beginning, and ever shall be, to conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit" (D&C 46:2).

And now listen to a statement made long ago. Concerning those who had come into the Church, Moroni wrote:

". . . after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, [Why?] that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer" (Moro. 6:4).

Brethren, in the conduct of all our meetings let us see that we "feed the flock of God" (1 Pet. 5:2), with that bread which perisheth not.

Teach with the spirit

Next, a word to those who teach the gospel, including the missionaries. To each of you I should like to pose a question given by the Lord himself. "Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were you ordained?"

He then answers it: "To preach my gospel by the Spirit . . ."

And then he goes on to tell of the remarkable thing that happens when we preach by the Spirit: "Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together" (D&C 50:13-14,22).

Is not this the objective of all our effort, that both we who teach and we who are taught understand one another and are edified and rejoice together?

Story of a military chaplain

There sits with us in this conference a man in military uniform, an officer of the United States Army. He returned only two weeks ago from South Vietnam. He is one of our LDS chaplains, a man of great faith and great devotion and, I may add, a man of great courage. For a year or more he has been in the central highlands of that sad, embattled nation. He has been where the fighting has been bitter and the losses as tragic as in any area of Vietnam. On two occasions he has been wounded. He has seen a tragically large percentage of his brigade become casualties, many of them killed in action while he has been in the field at their side. The men of his unit have loved and respected him. His superior officers have honored him. To look at him you would never think of him as an extraordinary man. He is rather small of stature, light of frame. He has been a good student, but he has not been a great scholar. He has not been trained as a minister of religion, but as I have observed him in conversations in Vietnam, in Japan, and here at home, I have felt of his great spirit. I have heard his quiet testimony.

He was not always a member of this Church. As a boy in the South he grew up in a religious home where the Bible was read and where the family attended the little church of the community. He desired the gift of the Holy Ghost of which he had read in the scriptures but was told that it was not available. The desire never left him. He grew to manhood. He served in the army at borne and abroad. He searched but never found the thing he most wanted. Between military enlistments, he became a prison guard. While sitting in the gun tower of a California prison, he meditated on his own deficiencies and prayed to the Lord that he might receive the Holy Ghost and satisfy the hunger which he felt in his soul. That hunger had not been satisfied with sermons to which he had listened.

One day two young men knocked at his door. His wife invited them to return when her husband would be at home. These two young men taught that family by the Holy Spirit. In two and a half weeks they were baptized. I have heard this man testify to the effect that as he was taught by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was edified and rejoiced with those who taught him. Out of that marvelous beginning, with the gift of the Holy Ghost, has come a shedding forth of light and truth that has given peace to the dying, comfort to the bereaved blessings to the wounded, courage to the timid, and faith to those who had scoffed. Sweet are the fruits of teaching done under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They feed the spirit and nourish the soul.

The Holy Spirit for parents

Finally, a word to parents, and particularly to fathers who stand as heads of families: We need the direction of the Holy Ghost in the delicate and tremendous task that is ours in strengthening the spirituality of our homes.

Oh, the countless tragedies that are found across the land, tragedies whose roots find their bitter nourishment in contentious homes.

My phone rang one afternoon. The young man on the other end of the line said frantically that he needed to see me. I told him that I was involved with appointments for the remainder of the day and asked if he could come tomorrow. He stated that he had to see me at once. I told him to come and asked my secretary to change the other appointments. In a few minutes he walked in, a boy with a hunted and haunted look. His hair was long, his appearance miserable. I invited him to sit and to talk openly and frankly. I assured him of my interest in his problem and of my desire to help him.

He unraveled a story distressing and miserable. He was in serious trouble. He had broken the law, he had been unclean, he had blighted his life. Now in his extremity there had come a realization of the terrible plight in which he found himself. He needed help beyond his own strength, and he pleaded for it. I asked him if his father knew of his difficulties. He replied by saying that he could not talk with his father, that his father hated him.

I happened to know his father, and I know that his father did not hate him. He loved him and mourned and grieved for him, but that father had an uncontrolled temper. Whenever he disciplined his children, he lost control and destroyed both them and himself.

As I looked across the desk at that trembling, broken young man, estranged from a father he considered his enemy, I thought of some great words of revealed truth given through the Prophet Joseph Smith. They set forth in essence the governing spirit of the priesthood, and I believe they apply to the government of our homes.

Power available through "love unfeigned"

Let me read them to you.

"No power or influence can or ought to be maintained . . . only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

"By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile—"

I believe those marvelous and simple words set forth the spirit in which we should stand as fathers. Do they mean that we should not exercise discipline, that we should not reprove? Listen to these further words:

"Reproving betimes with sharpness [When? While angry or in a fit of temper? No—] when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

"That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death" (D&C 121:41-44).

The Holy Spirit, key to government in the home

This, my brethren of the priesthood who stand at the head of families, is the key to government in the home directed by the Holy Spirit. I commend those words to every man within the sound of my voice and do not hesitate to promise that if you will govern your families in the spirit of those words, which have come from the Lord, you will have cause to rejoice, as will those for whom you are responsible.

I caught a glimpse of that kind of family life the other day in the Salt Lake Temple.

The father was a handsome young man, an air force officer, a jet fighter pilot. The mother was a beautiful young woman. With them were three lovely children.

They had joined the Church in the South a little over a year ago. They had put into their lives the program of the Church. They had experienced a joy they had never previously known. Now he had been ordered to Vietnam on an assignment fraught with peril. They all sensed the terrifying odds against his coming back alive and whole.

It was a picture almost celestial in that quiet, sacred room of the Lord's house. There in the authority of the Holy Priesthood they were sealed together as a family with a bond and covenant that time could not break and death could not destroy.

At the conclusion of that holy ordinance the father took his beloved companion in his arms, and together they held their beautiful children.

"You are ours, and we are yours, forever"

With emotions incident to the expected separation that would divide them in a few hours when he left for Asia, but with a faith that shone through her tears, the wife looked up into his eyes and softly said words to this effect: "Come what may now, dear, you are ours and we are yours, forever."

Somehow heaven seemed very near that morning.

It is the spiritual sinews of the gospel that become the fiber of our faith. God help us to cultivate them in every activity in the Church and in every association in our homes.

I return to President Young's prayer from this stand a century ago: Our Eternal Father, we ask thy blessing "upon the priesthood, all in authority in thy Church and kingdom, that they might enjoy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to qualify them in the discharge of every duty," in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.