The story of founder Joseph Smith should inspire today’s young people to do all they can to live their lives rooted in their faith, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told the church’s youth Saturday night at the Alamodome.
Gordon B. Hinckley, the top leader of the 12 million-member church since 1995, addressed an estimated 15,000 church members on the eve of today’s dedication of the church’s new San Antonio Temple at 20080 Stone Oak Parkway.
In a brief, encouraging message to the church’s young people, Hinckley called the history of the LDS church a miracle, considering that Smith was a farm boy of little education when he founded the church, which has spread to the far corners of the Earth.
“I’ve lived two and a half times as long as he did, and I haven’t even come close to what he accomplished,” the 95-year-old president said. His listeners laughed as he added, “Neither will you.”
Citing a University of North Carolina survey showing that LDS youths are more deeply religious than any other American youths, he challenged them to share their faith and happiness with others.
“Be true. Be clean. Be smart. And be prayerful,” he admonished.
He said they must be true to their faith and live by Gospel principles; be clean by renouncing drugs, sexual impurity and pornography; be smart by learning all they can and using their skills to serve others; and be prayerful, realizing that prayer is the key to happiness.
Hinckley showed his humor early by saying he couldn’t see the adults in the stands, “but I don’t think you matter much anyway.”
After his address, he thanked adults for listening as he talked to the youth, then drew laughs when he added, “If you come to the dedication of the temple tomorrow, I’ll talk to you.”
He is to lay the cornerstone of the new temple at 9 a.m., then lead church officials inside for a 90-minute dedication service. Church members will gather in local meeting halls, where they will watch the event by simulcast.
The dedication, a members-only event, is to be conducted four times to enable all church members to see it.
Lena Stum of Austin said seeing and hearing the prophet in person was exciting.
“I can’t help but feel how personable he is. He’s just a friendly, fun guy. I loved his four ‘Be’s.'”
Dan Haynes of Pflugerville was impressed that the church president focused so much on the young.
“Usually, he’ll direct part of his message to them, but I didn’t expect the whole thing to be geared to young people. I liked that,” Haynes said.
Later, a music and dance celebration was performed by some 4,000 youths and featured Texan elements, including dances performed to themes from TV westerns of the 1950s and ’60s such as “Bonanza,” “The High Chaparral” and “Rawhide.”
Opening with a cavalcade of mounted riders holding the six flags of Texas’ history, it included depictions of Texas history, the Alamo, pioneers, square dancing, a salute to the armed services and other patriotic themes.
Many youths wore white T-shirts, each with a “Heart of Texas Youth Jubilee” logo that showed the Alamo in red, topped by the angel Moroni blowing a trumpet, like the statue that adorns the new temple.
“It was amazing — a miracle. It was very powerful and touching,” said Christine Butler of San Antonio, whose daughters Sarah, 18, and Janey, 16, performed in the show.
“All those kids performing and the power of the message of family, faith and freedom, and singing, ‘I Am A Child of God’ — hundreds of them. It was awesome.”