My Father Is a Prophet
Ann M. Dibb
Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional
February 19, 2008
It is a humbling experience to stand before you today. I recall many times when I have read or listened to devotional addresses shared at this pulpit. When I have done so, my spirit has been touched, and my testimony of Jesus Christ has been strengthened. Today, I pray that we may experience that same spirit of shared testimony.
One afternoon last September, I was visiting my father’s office when he commented that in his Church Board of Education Meeting, my name had been presented and approved as a possible BYU–Idaho Devotional speaker. He said, “You might be hearing from someone about this request. I thought you would want to know.” He then added, “Oh, and it wasn’t me that presented your name.”
I find it meaningful to recognize that even though my name was submitted for approval in September, this is the first time I am speaking as the daughter of President Thomas Spencer Monson, 16th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This has been a time of many varied feelings for our family. Today, I’d like to share with you some of my personal feelings concerning the events of the past few weeks, as well as some of the extraordinary characteristics my father exemplifies.
I was saddened to hear the news of President Hinckley’s passing. My life has been blessed because I have known President and Sister Hinckley and their large, extended family. They are choice people.
Let me share with you one “homey” little story that illustrates the mutual association the Hinckley and Monson families have shared. You may have learned by now that my father enjoys pigeons and chickens. When Elder Richard Hinckley, President Hinckley’s oldest son, served as mission president of the Utah Salt Lake City Mission, their mission home was located on the street right behind my parents’ home. When the Monson chickens were laying well, my mother would gather several of the eggs and take them to the mission home. Sister Jane Hinckley would express her thanks, and then she would make a baked custard dessert, using those same eggs. She’d walk the dessert through the gate and deliver it to my parents—which they greatly appreciated. I sometimes wonder if that was why my parents took eggs to the Hinckleys in the first place, as they loved receiving Sister Jane Hinckley’s custard.
I imagine that each of us assembled here today remembers how he or she learned the news of President Hinckley’s passing. For me, it was at 8 o’clock on that Sunday evening. I was walking up my parents’ driveway, anticipating our usual Sunday visit. Only this time, I felt the impression that something had changed. I walked in the front door of my parents’ home, the same home where I grew up, and my niece Laurie shared the sad news.
As a family, we watched the news report on television. My father commented, “I’m sure that President Hinckley is greeting Jim right now (meaning President Faust). It’s hard to believe that both are now on the other side.” That was a tender moment for me as I sensed the great affection President Hinckley, President Faust, and my father shared because of their years of service together.
I hope you all watched President Hinckley’s funeral. I’m sure he was pleased with each of the talks and the beautiful music.
The Monday after the funeral, I attended the news conference with my mother. There I learned the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had met in the temple the day before, and my father had been set apart as the 16th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He had selected as his counselors, President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. I witnessed that day that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a church of order, revelation, and priesthood authority.
Last week I accompanied my parents to the dedication of the Rexburg Temple—your temple. Wasn’t it wonderful? Did you prepare yourself beforehand so that you would be ready to be taught the importance of temples in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Did you listen? Did you sing? Did you feel the Spirit? Did you renew your personal commitment to always keep the Lord’s commandments and be worthy to enter into His holy house? Did you write your feelings in your journal? What a powerful and personal opportunity to be reminded of God’s plan, our place in His plan, and the eternal blessings that can be ours as members of His Church.
Truly, we are living in times never to be forgotten.
At the time of my birth, my father served as the bishop of a large, downtown ward in Salt Lake City. A few years later, he served in the stake presidency. When I was four, our family moved to Toronto, Canada, because my father was called to serve as the mission president in the Eastern Canadian Mission. That’s where I started school. My father’s church service and his callings were a normal part of our family’s everyday life. When I was nine years old, Dad was called to be an Apostle. I couldn’t see how this was any different than his other callings, but my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Anderton, was very impressed. And if Mrs. Anderton was happy about my father’s calling, I knew it must be important. Time has passed, and my father has served as an apostle for almost forty-five years, twenty-two of which he has served in the First Presidency.
Sitting in the news conference that announced my father as the prophet, I realized that the event people had been foretelling throughout my life had happened. As strange as this may seem to you, I wasn’t prepared. There really is no adequate preparation. Our family never discussed this topic. My father was always an Apostle, a “Prophet, Seer and Revelator,” and we honored him and sustained him in his service. But we never mentioned or anticipated a time when he would become the President of the Church. In fact, one of the first times I really comprehended how different my father’s responsibility was took place when I was twenty years old, married, and working in North Carolina. A young woman I worked with casually asked, “What does your father do?” I realized that I had better respond carefully. I answered, “He’s an official with the Mormon Church.” What would she have thought if I had said, “He is an Apostle”? What would she think now if I answered, “He is the Prophet”?
What is a Prophet?
In True to the Faith, it states:
“As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are blessed to be led by living prophets—inspired men called to speak for the Lord, just as Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, Nephi, Mormon, and other prophets of the scriptures. We sustain the President of the Church as our prophet, seer and revelator—the only person on the earth who receives revelation to guide the entire Church. We also sustain the counselors in the First Presidency and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers and revelators.
“Like the prophets of old, prophets today testify of Jesus Christ and teach His gospel. They make known God’s will and true character. They speak boldly and clearly, denouncing sin and warning of its consequences. . . .
“Your greatest safety lies in strictly following the word of the Lord given through His prophets, particularly the current President of the Church. . . . The Lord promises great blessings to those who follow the President of the Church:
‘Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
‘For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
‘For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (D&C 21:4–6)” (True to the Faith, 129–130).
I want to testify to you that I know my father is a Prophet of God.
I’d like to tell you a little about my father, the Prophet. He is a great man, and you might be interested in learning about him. Let me share with you several characteristics I admire about him.
My Father Observes and Remembers (Mormon 1:2-5)
I believe the account given in Mormon 1:2–5 could relate, in some degree, to my father:
“And about the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me, (I being about ten years of age, and I began to be learned somewhat after the manner of the learning of my people) and Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe;
“Therefore, when ye are about twenty and four years old I would that ye should remember the things that ye have observed concerning this people. . . .
“And I, Mormon, being a descendant of Nephi, . . . I remembered the things which Ammaron commanded me.”
Later, Mormon engraved those remembrances upon the plates.
I don’t believe anyone would have referred to my father as a quiet child, but many would relate that he was “quick to observe” and “remember.” In fact, many of my father’s early observations and remembrances have been “engraved” in the Ensign Magazine after having been shared in general conference addresses.
Let me share one of my father’s early remembrances. He wrote:
“My first talk of a doctrinal nature was given in a priesthood meeting and pertained to the Word of Wisdom. I was a deacon and Dad wrote the message. As I read it in a stake priesthood meeting on a Monday evening at the old Pioneer Stake hall, either President Paul C. Child or his counselor, William F. Perschon, leaned over to me and said, ‘That was a fine message, but it will not be necessary for you to read a message in the future. You have the ability to deliver one without reading it.’ I took the advice seriously and have never since read a talk.”
All the while I was growing up, when general conference was approaching, my father would move the typewriter to the kitchen table, arrange his favorite reference materials close at hand, and then he would type away. We honored his need for quiet time. He’d go downstairs to the basement and practice his talk, checking the time with his stopwatch.
In my opinion, I’d say his best talks are those he gives at stake conferences or other small meetings, where he just uses an outline and fires away. Those talks come alive with truth, warmth, humor, and testimony. I went to a stake conference in Connecticut where he talked about tithing, inviting a few of the Primary children to come forward and help him. Afterwards, I felt like coming forward and paying my tithing right then and there, on the spot. I thought, “My, he’s good at this.” Of course, he’s had some practice, since he has attended stake conferences every weekend for years and years.
Long ago, as a young boy, my father listened to the counsel of his priesthood leaders. The counsel was given once, he followed it, and his abilities have been increased through blessings from the Lord. My father was, and is, “quick to observe.”
My Father Keeps the Commandments (Mosiah 2:22)
In Mosiah 2:22, we are told:
“If ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.”
My father was taught the Lord’s commandments in his home and at church. He made the choice early that he would keep the Lord’s commandments.
A month ago, I accompanied my parents on an assignment in San Diego, where my father spoke to the San Diego Temple workers. He reminisced about his experiences in the Navy when stationed in San Diego. As he shared his stories, I recognized that this was a time when, as a young man, he chose to stand firm against every temptation of the adversary. He had just had his 18th birthday, and he had met my mother at the University of Utah just prior to his leaving. He chose to stand tall, and sometimes alone, and be numbered as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. He did not visit Tijuana with the other young men; he did not swear or gamble; he obeyed the Word of Wisdom; he did his work well; he attended church; he attended the special firesides and activities the members provided for the Latter-day Saint servicemen. He honored and used his priesthood. He made the choice to keep the Lord’s commandments. Because he did so, and has continued to do so, he has qualified for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and he has received the promised blessings.
My Father Is a Loyal Friend (Matthew 25:40)
In Matthew 25:40, Christ says: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
My father has always lived according to this scripture and the advice given in For the Strength of Youth:
“To have good friends, be a good friend yourself. Show interest in others and let them know you care about them. Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Go out of your way to be a friend to those who are shy or do not feel included. Strengthen your friends by sharing your testimony and by setting a good example.”
My father’s friends come from all walks of life. I’d like to tell you about one of my father’s friends who would have been considered by others to be “one of the least of these my brethren.” His name was Ed Erickson. He was almost twenty years older than my father. Ed was born prematurely and experienced some of the complications that accompanied premature births almost a century ago. Ed couldn’t see very well, and he never had the opportunity to study and learn at a university. Yet, my father said Ed always had the scriptures open by his reading chair. He went to work at an early age to help support his widowed mother. He worked for the street department of Salt Lake City doing manual labor his entire working career. He never married, he never drove a car, and even when he was 90 years old, he would walk everywhere he went—usually about eight miles every day. Dad would say to Ed, while referring to himself as the bishop, “Ed, you’re one of my counselors.”
My father was a loyal friend and actively sought to find ways for Ed to feel valued. Dad frequently hired Ed to help him clean his pigeon coops and do manual chores in our large yard. I must say that I didn’t always feel comfortable around Ed. He was a big man, he looked different, and he didn’t talk very much. Ed just did his work, ate dinner with us, and then Dad would take him home. This happened several times each year. In later years, when my father would get tickets to take his grandchildren to the circus or to the rodeo, Ed always came, too, sharing our popcorn and drinks.
I was so amazed when Salt Lake City Magazine ran a feature on my father and Ed Erickson was quoted in the article. He stated the highest tribute I’ve ever read concerning my father. He said:
“If the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself had chosen an apostle, he wouldn’t have done a better job than Brother McKay did when he chose Tom Monson.”
Ed passed away three years ago at the age of 96. If you had attended Ed’s funeral, you would have thought it was the funeral for one of the greatest individuals who had ever lived—and actually, it was. It was the funeral for my father’s life-long friend, Ed Erickson.
My Father Encourages Others
My father lives Hymn #230, “Scatter Sunshine.” He truly “scatters sunshine all along his way.” He “cheers and blesses and brightens every passing day.” Part of my father’s service has always been to lift and encourage others. When you are with my father, you know he believes in you.
For those of you who attended the Rexburg Temple dedication, you might remember at the conclusion of the cornerstone laying he said, “Let’s pick up the mortar that’s fallen. That’s a little like repentance, isn’t it?” He encourages others to turn away from sin and be cleansed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He teaches truth and offers hope to those who’ve made mistakes.
I’d like to share a very recent example of encouragement. Our son, Mark, served his mission in Australia. One of his companions, Adam Brown, from Adelaide, Australia, came to Utah in order to attend general conference. He attended every session. In between two of the sessions, we introduced him to my father. This is an excerpt from the letter of thanks we received two weeks ago:
“As you were aware, when I returned home from Utah, I planned to propose to my beautiful girlfriend, Kellie. Her family is great, but I was still very, very nervous about asking her Dad for permission. I knew he would say, ‘Yes,’ but I was petrified. I think one of the things that got me over the line, because I chickened out the first two times, was President Monson’s comment when I showed him a photo of Kellie while visiting with him in his office. He said, ‘I approve.’ I gained courage from this. I figured if Kellie’s Dad were to say, ‘No, you can’t marry my daughter,’ I would be able to reply with, ‘Well, President Monson said that he approved.’ With this added courage on my side, I asked, and after the twenty-minute interrogation, he said, ‘Yes.’”
Adam Brown and Kellie were married on February 2nd in the Sydney Temple. My father was pleased to learn that his word of approval may have encouraged a temple marriage!
My Father Is Happy (Alma 29:9)
In Alma, 29:9, Alma says:
“I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.”
My father is a happy man. Even in the early morning, you can find him whistling a song of gladness. A large portion of that joy comes from his work and his service. He receives his greatest joy when he is able to serve as an instrument in the hands of God.
My dad always enjoys a good joke. In fact, he subscribes to one particular magazine because they have the best joke page. During last October’s priesthood session of general conference, some extra time allowed my father to improvise, and he made a few comments about boys with red hair. Not long afterwards, an ingenious young man, a fourteen-year-old teacher, from Nampa, Idaho, sent my father this picture. He got the biggest laugh out of the picture and showed it to everyone who visited his office and home.
My father is a happy man. He’s larger than life, and others are drawn to him.
My Father Loves His Family (3 John 1:4)
3 John 1:4 reads:
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
My father grew up in a loving family in Salt Lake City. He was one of six children. He benefited from a loving extended family, with aunts and uncles who acted as additional mothers and fathers to their nephew, Tommy. They all lived right next door to one another. When my father was dating my mother, my father’s care of his grandfather became a real “selling point” in his favor. As a teenager, Dad helped groom his grandfather on a regular basis, and he personally gave his grandfather a weekly shave with a Gillette Safety Razor. My mother’s mother told her daughter: “Any young man who is that kind and helpful to his grandfather will be a good husband.” She was right, and in my book, the way a young man treats his grandparents is still a good measurement of how good a husband he will be.
I have grown up always knowing that my father loves my mother. He is mindful of her needs and has always been grateful for her constant support. Because of my father’s church assignments, my mother has been home, alone, for a substantial amount of time. She has never complained.
My Young Women president when I was growing up, Carol Zimmerman, recently confided to me that when she first moved into the ward, she had unkind thoughts about my father. She’d see my mother at church alone each Sunday with her three children and she’d think, “Look at that good woman. I bet her husband is at home right now with his feet up and watching sports on television.” Nothing could be further from the truth!
I’ve asked my daughter, Sarah, to briefly share something about what it is like to be a grandchild of the Prophet.
When I was a little girl, my Grandpa would sing to me an old Boy Scout song that went something like,
“The horses went around.
Their feet were on the ground.
Who’s going to feed the cat while we’re away, away?
Go get the ax, there’s a hair on baby’s chin.
Oh, a boy’s best friend is his mother, his mother.”
Grandpa would slightly alter the last phrase to,
“Oh, a girl’s best friend is her Grandpa, her Grandpa.”
Every time I would see him, my Grandpa would ask me, “Who’s a girl’s best friend?” I would enthusiastically reply, “Grandpa!”
As I’ve grown, I’ve realized that President Monson is, indeed, a wonderful best friend to have.
A best friend is someone to have fun with. Grandpa loves to create memories, and he would always plan fun activities for us, his grandchildren. We loved our fishing outings, going to breakfast, and trips to the amusement park. I distinctly remember thinking that my Grandpa was very cool because he rode with me on the roller coaster at Lagoon and on Space Mountain at Disneyland!
A best friend is someone who is interested in your life. It was always a nice feeling to know that Grandpa was proud of my good grades and he always attended my piano recitals. He was also interested in my friends. When I was dating my husband, Grandpa called and asked us out on a “double date” to the symphony. I thought nothing of it as I was accustomed to spending a lot of time with my grandparents. My husband, however, later confessed that he had never been more nervous for a date in his life! We all had a great time.
Lastly, and most importantly, a best friend is someone you love. President Monson is a happy person. Just being where he is brings me a sense of great joy. Some of my happiest memories have been simple moments like driving in the car with my grandparents or spending Sunday evenings together at their home.
Now, I’m a grown woman with a young family of my own. I live across the country in Connecticut. But, Grandpa still calls me on the phone just to say “hello” and to see how I’m doing. I know he loves me and I love him.
Even today, President Monson will ask me the question, “Who’s a girl’s best friend?” The answer is and always will be the same . . . “Grandpa!”
I know that my father loves his family.
My Father Prays (D&C 90:24)
My father regularly follows the counsel found in D&C 90:24:
“Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.”
In the recent news conference, President Monson gave this counsel regarding prayer:
“Our youth must feel free to call upon their Heavenly Father in prayer. Sometimes the best answers that young people can get to the questions of life are found there upon their knees calling upon our Heavenly Father.
“If they will remember that the Lord is mindful of them and will answer their prayers, they will be able to meet every challenge that comes to them.”
My father has always prayed with and for our family, morning and night. He would mention us individually by name. His prayers are prayers of gratitude for the many blessings we receive.
My Father Has Great Faith (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Proverbs 3:5–6 teaches us:
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thy own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
A powerful example of my father’s faith took place after my mother experienced a severe injury. She had fallen, hit her head, and was in a coma for three weeks. My father was very concerned and prayed continually. He was given a small room at the hospital, called a Comfort Room, and had all of his work sent to him. He visited my mother every hour and spoke to her. His faith and prayers were answered. She awoke from the coma.
Not long afterwards, her doctor started explaining to my father and me what we could expect in terms of a recovery. He was not very optimistic. My father interrupted the doctor in mid-sentence and asked, “Doctor, do you have faith? Do you believe in miracles?” The doctor stammered and did not know how to respond. Then my father continued, “Well, I do. We’re going to continue in our faith. We are going to pray. Frances will be in the Lord’s hands, and along with all of the capable medical help, we believe the Lord will help her recover.”
With diligent care, therapy and time, my mother did make a remarkable recovery. Seeing this, several medical professionals acknowledged that my mother’s recovery was a miracle. My father has great faith.
My Father Is a Disciple of Jesus Christ
I’d like to share with you the most powerful testimony I’ve heard my father share. It was in his home ward during a sacrament meeting. He related his experience of going to the Holy Land, walking on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and walking where Jesus may have walked in the Meridian of Time. Then he said:
“I may have walked where Jesus once walked, but what is more important to me is that today, I can walk where Jesus would walk if He were still with us. I can listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and minister to those the Savior would minister to today.
“I try to never delay a prompting. When you honor a prompting and then stand back a pace, you realize that the Lord gave you the prompting. It makes me feel good that the Lord even knows who I am and knows me well enough to know that if He has an errand to be run and prompts me to run the errand, the errand will get done. That is the testimony of my life.”
Today, in my talk, I have used as my theme, “My Father Is a Prophet.” I believe the characteristics I’ve identified as belonging to my father can and should also be practiced by each of us. They are a part of the personal commitment each of us makes at the time of our baptism, to “take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ.” King Benjamin taught in Mosiah 5:8–9:
“There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.
“And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called, for he shall be called by the name of Christ.”
I know that you sustain our new prophet. I would ask that you not only sustain him, but that you strive to emulate his example. Will you make a commitment to choose to develop these characteristics? Will you declare aloud:
I will observe and remember.
I will keep the commandments.
I will be a loyal friend.
I will encourage others.
I will be happy.
I will love my family.
I will pray.
I will have great faith.
I will be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
I have faith that if we keep our commitments to develop these qualities, we will grow closer to our Savior and feel His love in our lives.
I express my great love for my father and my mother. I have always felt so loved. I also thank my husband and my children for their love and support.
I testify that The Church of Jesus Christ is true. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth, through revelation, by the Prophet Joseph Smith. We have scriptures to bless us and strengthen us in our day. Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God, and it is through His Atonement and Resurrection that we can return to our Heavenly Father after this mortal probation is complete and receive our eternal exaltation. It is my hope that we will all choose to sustain, follow, and emulate our new prophet, President Thomas S. Monson.
I am proud to say, “My father is a prophet.”
I wish to close with President Monson’s testimony to the members of the Church, shared in his last general conference talk. Imagine that he is expressing his testimony directly to you, because he is:
“I testify that our Heavenly Father loves each one of us. He hears the prayers of humble hearts. He hears our cries for help. His Son, our Savior and Redeemer, speaks to each of us today, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him’ (Revelation 3:20).
“Will we listen for that knock? Will we hear that voice? Will we open that door to the Lord, that we may receive the help He is so ready to provide? I pray that we will, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
© 2008 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.