My personal experience with Thomas S. Monson

thomasmonsonLast night I felt a special love for Thomas S. Monson, our current President of the Church. Since he will be speaking again this morning in our general conference, I wanted to share some of my feelings about this man Latter-day Saints sustain as prophet, seer, and revelator.

As I’ve written about before, when I was 11 years old my father unexpectedly died. Because my grandparents had been friends with the Monsons for many years, Thomas Monson – who was then 1st Counselor to Church President Gordon B. Hinckley – spoke at my dad’s funeral. At the time I met him very briefly. I never expected to meet him again.

Well several years later, I did. As a young teenager I happened to meet him backstage right before he was to speak at a large gathering. He invited me to sit next to him. He then put his arm around me and for the next 10 minutes treated me like I was the reason he was even there. Without being told anything other than my name, he launched into a brief history of how he knew my family and how much he valued his friendship with my grandparents. He asked about my immediate family – how we were doing, how I was doing, and encouraged me to be good to my mom and to help her. And while I don’t remember everything we talked about, I do remember, like the cliché, how he made me feel.

By any conventional standard, I certainly should have been the least of his worries that night. I’m still amazed that he demonstrated such concern for a little teenager he happened to run into right before his big talk.

Such concern seems to be characteristic for Thomas Monson. There are many stories of his lifelong efforts to reach out to the one. (See this talk and this talk, for two examples.)

You can probably understand why, then, I think this tribute to Thomas S. Monson in 2008 by Joseph B. Wirthlin is the most fitting tribute to I’ve ever heard given to anyone:

While it is a compliment to him that many of the great and mighty of this world know and honor him, perhaps it is an even greater tribute that many of the lowly call him friend. 

Thomas S. Monson points others to Jesus Christ, by word and deed, to live and love and serve as the Savior did. I know TSM is not a perfect man, but he is a very, very good one. More than that though, I believe him to be a special witness of Jesus Christ.

When I study TSM’s messages or hear him speak, I feel the Holy Ghost affirm that he is a prophet of God – a modern Moses. I sustain him as such and look forward to hearing him today at conference (morning session begins at 11am CDT). Watch the proceedings live here and follow on Twitter here, hashtag #LDSconf.

General Conference this weekend

I’d like to invite you to tune in today to our General Conference – a semiannual event for Latter-day Saints. Two weekends a year we gather to hear messages by the Church’s general leaders. Personally, conference weekend is a special time that inspires and lifts me. You can watch online at https://www.lds.org/general-conference/watch?lang=eng.

The Saturday morning session is just wrapping up. The Saturday afternoon session will begin at 3pm CDT. Please tune in.

The conference will continue tomorrow at 11am and then again at 3pm CDT.

 

Throwback Thursday: Elder Bednar on How to Increase Love

david a bednar - cropped

This week, the throwback isn’t all that much of a “throw”, as it comes from a talk David A. Bednar gave in April of this year. We Believe in Being Chaste was the title of his message and he spends quite a bit of time explaining why Latter-day Saints do believe in being chaste. There are many lines worth quoting (and in fact the whole thing is worth reading), but today I’ll just share this little statement:

Love increases through righteous restraint and decreases through impulsive indulgence.

And there you have it. Short and sweet. If Elder Bednar was going for a concise and memorable statement (say 140 characters or so), I say he deserves high marks. The character count on this particular line comes in at a healthy 85 – plenty of breathing room to add all kinds of relevant hashtags. It’s brief, yet powerful. Catchy, but not cliché. Perfect for our Twitterized world.

But it’s even more perfect for how we should govern our lives. I’d venture a guess that we all have learned from experience that our ability to feel real, genuine love is enhanced when we deliberately discipline our lives. Likewise, we diminish our ability when we abandon that discipline. An impulsive indulgence could be as subtle as a mouse click, which leads to a pornographic website or image. Or lingering on an indecent TV show while channel surfing. But righteous restraint looks and acts like Joseph of old, who fled from a tempting situation and “got him out” (Gen. 39:12).

So here’s to righteous restraint and to rejuvenating repentance. Let’s always remember there’s a way back and a way up, if for whatever reason, we’ve stumbled in our efforts to righteously restrain all our passions.

Photo credit: lds.org

Throwback Thursday: Elder Holland on Faith

I’ve been listening to a number of talks from Apostle Jeffrey Holland lately. His most recent General Conference talk on depression and mental illness was excellent, which you can find here. The other day, however, I randomly listened to two of his talks given ten years apart and found a repeating theme:

From this talk in April 2003 on teaching children:

In matters of religion a skeptical mind is not a higher manifestation of virtue than is a believing heart…

And from this talk in April 2013 on the importance of faith:

Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!

To be clear, he doesn’t say one should not have doubts, or not ask honest questions. Asking questions is paramount to discovering answers and receiving revelation. But his ultimate message is: don’t forfeit the faith you’ve already developed, even if it seems small. And don’t forget how often Jesus urged his followers to simply “believe.”

After all, in the eyes of God, Thomas’ doubts were not deemed superior to others’ choice to believe. Perhaps that’s the lesson Elder Holland is trying to teach us.

Guest Post: Why I listen to General Conference

Imagine if you knew God were going to come down and give us a message—think “Ten Commandments” style, burning bush and all.  I would want to see it.  If I knew where it was and had the option, I would want to be there.  That would be an amazing experience, don’t you think?  This past weekend, millions of Mormons in 197 countries spent 10 hours listening to messages from the Prophet, Apostles, and other leaders of the church translated into 95 different languages.  For me, it’s just as significant as God talking to Moses and then Moses telling me.  That’s the power of having a living prophet on the earth today—he speaks the will of God for us in our day.

So what messages did we hear this weekend?  Topics included forgiveness, receiving spiritual strength, finding happiness in family life, the power of the Bible and the Book of Mormon to strengthen our families, the blessings of women in our lives, and struggling with depression—messages that are timely and necessary for us in our day today, messages that are different from the messages Moses had for his people, but all congruent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, told the story of a couple explaining why members would want to spend their entire weekend every 6 months listening to 10 hours of talks–“Why would anyone ever want to join such a church?”    There are many reasons, but the answer they gave was threefold:

1)      This church was restored by Jesus Christ himself.

2)      Opportunities for doing good–believing in God is commendable, but most people want to do more.  They want to put their faith into practice.

3)      Walking the path of discipleship leads to precious blessings.  Our daily walk of discipleship leads to peace and purpose in this life.

He continues to talk about how to address our questions and doubts—I’d encourage you to listen to his answer which you can find here.  Click next to his name, the last one in the Saturday Morning Session.

For me, these talks which are part of General Conference, are a chance to hear the messages that God has prepared for me.  There are times where I laugh, many times where I’m brought to tears, and times when I’m moved to do better.  But most of all, I listen because I know that I will again feel the witness that I’ve received that God and Jesus Christ are real and that this is their gospel.   And for that witness, I am truly grateful.