I am honored to have the privilege of speaking to you today.
When I completed my service as a young missionary in Japan in 1966, I came to Rexburg and attended Ricks College. I loved it here. It was a wonderful time of my life. Since then, this school has always held a soft spot in my heart. I am very grateful to be with you today, and to be on this beautiful campus with such a remarkable student body.
I express particular thanks for the kindness of Elder Kim Clark and his wife Sue who have so graciously and kindly welcomed Sister Walker and me to your campus. You are certainly blessed to be under his wise and inspired leadership as the president of this university.
I have prayerfully considered what subject I might address that would be most beneficial to you, and concluded that I would like to speak to you about the “Example of a Prophet.”
Because I have been blessed with an assignment that has given me considerable opportunity to be with the President of the Church, I want to speak about the “Example of our Prophet today – President Thomas S. Monson.”
I pray that as I speak about specific aspects of the life and character of President Monson, that the Spirit will guide you and me to see how following the example of the Prophet can be a great blessing in our lives.
1. Devotion to the Lord
The first attribute that I wish to speak of is President Monson’s great example in his devotion to the Lord. Thomas S. Monson has been tireless in his devotion to the Lord and to the callings that have come to him in the Lord’s Church. When he was called as bishop of a large inner city ward at age 22, he served so well, that a few years later, President Harold B. Lee commented that Thomas S. Monson’s five years of service as bishop was like serving for twenty-five years as bishop. President Lee was not known for hyperbole, so the compliment paid to Bishop Monson was particularly meaningful.
Whether as deacons quorum president, or Prophet and President of the Church, President Monson gives it his all. This devotion to his calling is an example to every one of us. Thomas S. Monson has a motto: “What would the Lord do if He were here?” He truly looks to the Lord in all that he does. A picture of the Savior hangs on the wall of his office and is a constant reminder and inspiration to the Prophet.
Linked to his devotion to the Lord, is President Monson’s devotion to his wife.
You don’t have to be around President Monson for long to know of his deep love and devotion for his wife Frances. He speaks of her often and with obvious deep affection and profound appreciation. He pays tribute to her frequently. He loves to tell the story of how they met and dated at the University of Utah. His eyes light up and his smile is large when he speaks of his sweetheart. President Monson often mentions how supportive she has been. As he has gone about doing his duty and serving the Lord, he says he has “never heard a word of complaint” from Sister Monson.
In illustrating his affection for her from the time they first met, President Monson said: “When I was in the United States Navy at the end of World War II, I wasn’t so concerned about what was going on in the Navy as I was concerned about who Frances might be dating at home.” Upon his return, they resumed their courtship and eventually married in the Salt Lake Temple.
Together they stand as a wonderful example of a man and a woman who love each other and love the Lord and His Church; a couple who have continually stood together in righteousness and devotion to the Lord; a couple who have set an example of doing all in their power to raise their family in love and righteousness.
When he was called as a bishop at the age of 22, she honored her husband’s priesthood calling and stood beside him in loving support. He has mentioned that sometimes people would come to their home looking for the bishop, and when Sister Monson answered the door, they would ask: “Is your father at home?” His love and devotion to his wife is wonderful and a great example to all of us. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord commanded: “Thou shalt love they wife with all thy heart.” President Monson lives that commandment. In a recent meeting of all the General Authorities and their wives, President Monson tenderly said: “ Frances is a pure vessel of the Lord and I honor her as my eternal companion.”
2. Devotion to his Calling
President Monson is a great example of devotion to his calling. Think of his remarkable and devoted service to the Lord.
- Called as a Bishop at age 22
- Called to the Stake Presidency at age 27
- Called as a Mission President at age 31 (Toronto Ontario, Canada)
- Called as an Apostle of the Lord at age 36
- Called as a Second Counselor in the First Presidency at age 58; first serving as counselor to Ezra Taft Benson; then
as a counselor to Howard W. Hunter
- Called as a First Counselor in the First Presidency at age 67, a counselor to Gordon B. Hinckley
- Called as President of the Church at age 80
Many of you know of these callings, but perhaps I can share with you a story of a much earlier calling that illustrates his devotion and strength of character that has carried him to his current lofty calling.
As a young deacon in a Salt Lake City ward, he was called to be the deacons quorum secretary. He wanted the minutes of the deacons quorum to be the very best that they could possibly be. He worked hard to make them accurate, complete and neat. He even typed them to make sure they were the best that they could be. A deacon . . . . can you imagine?
President Monson’s life illustrates that appropriate and righteous decisions, and commitments made in our youth, often set us on the proper course and propel us to lives of virtue, righteousness and achievement. President Monson has been a truly remarkable example of all of those things.
Some might say: “Well, my calling is only that of a secretary. It’s not much of an assignment. I’ll wait to throw myself into something that comes along later.” Not young Tommy Monson, as he was known by friends and loved ones. As secretary in the deacons quorum he threw himself into it and worked conscientiously to do his very best. What an example! Even as President of the Church, he occasionally speaks fondly of his memories and accomplishments as secretary in that deacons quorum. He has said: “I demand the best of myself.” A hard worker, President Monson is tireless in his efforts to do good. We would be wise to follow his example and say to ourselves: “I demand the best of myself.”
3. Following the Promptings of the Spirit
One of the hallmarks of Thomas S. Monson’s life is his commitment to follow the promptings of the Spirit. All the General Authorities who have been blessed to associate with President Monson over the years can attest to his fierce commitment to follow the promptings of the Spirit. And as he says: “And do it now, don’t wait till it is convenient.”
President Monson has told of an experience he had as a young bishop. A prompting came to go to the hospital and visit a member of his ward who was not doing well. President Monson was in a priesthood leadership meeting and he decided to delay going to the hospital until the meeting was over – a little more convenient and he wouldn’t have to leave in the middle of the meeting. When he arrived at the hospital room, he was asked: “Are you Bishop Monson?” He said, indeed he was Bishop Monson. The doctor told him: “Brother Brown was asking for you just before he died.” I’ve heard President Monson tenderly recount that experience and say: “I decided then and there that was the last time I would delay acting on a prompting.” Since then, he has taught it and he has lived it!
His devotion to the Lord and his commitment to following the promptings of the Spirit were beautifully stated by the President himself with these words: “The sweetest experience I know in life is to feel a prompting and act upon it and later find out that it was the fulfillment of someone’s prayer or someone’s need. And I always want the Lord to know that if He needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run that errand for Him.”
4. Love of the Temple
I’ve had the blessing of observing close-up, President Monson’s love for the temple. Soon after the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley, as the Executive Director of the Temple Department, I was invited to visit with the First Presidency to discuss temple matters. President Monson said: “Elder Walker, we’re not going to slow down the work of temples one bit. This sacred work must go forward and we will continue to build temples throughout the world.” He has done just that.
In the 27 months since he became President of the Church, he has announced plans for the construction of 15 new temples. He has also announced the renovation of four more temples. He has dedicated or rededicated eight temples.
The first one being the Rexburg Idaho Temple
After that, the Twin Falls Idaho Temple
Curitiba Brazil Temple
Panama City Panama Temple
Mexico City Mexico Temple
Draper Utah Temple
Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple
And just nine days ago, he dedicated the Vancouver British Columbia Temple.
He loves to go to a new temple, be with the Saints, and dedicate the temple to the Father and the Son. His dedicatory prayers have been beautiful and inspiring.
Let me quote from several of President Monson’s talks to give you a feel for his love for the temple.
“I think there is no place in the world where I feel closer to the Lord than in one of His holy temples.” 1
Another quote: “If we live worthy lives, if we have clean hands and pure hearts, if we allow the temple to touch us, we will be guided and directed in all that we do.” 2
Another: “As we love the temple, touch the temple, and attend the temple, our lives will reflect our faith. As we come to these holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we shall be able to bear every trial and overcome each temptation. The temple provides purpose for our lives.” 3
And at a recent temple dedication he said: “The best way to appreciate [the] temple is to use it.” 4
A beloved grandfather of President Monson had not chosen to go to the temple during his mortal life. President Monson loved and admired his grandfather and learned much from him. President Monson tenderly told of his joy at going to the temple to do the work for his grandfather as soon as he could after he had passed away. The sadness of his death was washed away by the joy and the assurance that came from doing his temple work. President Monson loves the temple and he knows the blessings of the temple are one of the most important and wonderful things any of us can have in our lives, or that we can do for others.
His love of the temple and his commitment to keep the sacred covenants made in the temple are an example to all of us.
5. An Example of Presiding in the Manner Directed by the Lord
In Doctrine & Covenants Section 107, the Lord gives us direction as to how His church should be organized. President Monson is exemplary in following the Lord’s pattern of presiding. For 22 years President Monson served as a counselor to three presidents of the Church. He served as Second Counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson and President Howard W. Hunter and as First Counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Then on Feb 3, 2008, he was ordained and set apart as the 16th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf at his side, they make a powerful and noble presidency of the Lord’s Church.
President Monson is exemplary in the way he works with his counselors as they direct the affairs of the Kingdom. He seeks their counsel and direction. I have watched him as he listens to their words and considers their feelings and recommendations. He delegates to his counselors. He trusts his counselors. He loves his counselors. I have also witnessed the great love and devotion that President Eyring and President Uchtdorf have for President Monson. They love him and stand beside him and they frequently testify that he is the Prophet of God. They are exemplary as they work together and follow the pattern that the Lord has revealed for the governing of His Church.
Wisdom and strength will come to us as we look to the First Presidency as our ideal and our pattern of leadership.
6. He Loves People
President Monson is a wonderful example of loving others. Think of his life experiences. Think of his conference messages for 47 years. A master teacher, his remarkable and memorable messages almost always include a story that teaches love for others. His stories make us think and they paint a picture of how to reach out to others and minister to them – often one at a time.
This is the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord said: “Love thy neighbor,” and President Monson has been a remarkable and ideal example of this commandment from the Lord.
I have witnessed that while he extends love and fellowship to all, he pays special attention to the downtrodden, the disadvantaged and the forgotten. He seems to instinctively reach out to the least fortunate, the handicapped and the broken-hearted.
I have watched him as he has looked into a crowd of people, and he has found and given individual attention and comfort to the handicapped and the sad. It is a thrilling and humbling thing to see this kindness, this sensitivity and this love for his fellowmen. As I have witnessed his tenderness and kindness, I had the strong feeling, “This is how the Savior would be.” I suppose that is what we would expect of the Lord’s Prophet. He is truly an example for all of us to follow.
The Apostle Paul wrote: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
President Monson loved and assisted the 84 widows in his ward as a young bishop, and that love for others and the desire to assist and comfort those most in need has been a hallmark of his life and ministry. With his weighty assignments that have taken him throughout the world during his ministry, it could only have been through the hand of the Lord that President Monson was able to attend and speak at the funerals of all 84 of his beloved widows. His love for them did not cease when he was released as bishop – but has continued throughout his life. It has been the same with his missionaries. My brother was one of his missionaries and his regard and concern for them continues to this day. He has shown us how the love should continue even after we are released from a calling.
Jesus said: “……Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (see Matt. 25:40)
President Monson’s love for others has not been limited to the faithful in our church. He extends his love to all:
- He is well known for reaching out to those of other faiths,
- His many acts of kindness have not only gone to active members of the church, but he has been remarkable in his
efforts to reach out to and bless those who are less active in our church,
- He has extended to many the invitation to perform their sealing in the temple – when they eventually get there.
Central to President Monson’s love for others is his example of Christ-like forgiveness, of understanding, acceptance and generosity.
Even though he has almost always been in priesthood leadership positions that have given him the keys of judgment, he is not at all judgmental.
Although rigorous in his personal commitment to live righteously, he is forgiving and understanding of others. He is always ready to give others a second or third chance.
7. Especially – Love For Children
As he loves people, it is quickly apparent that he holds a special place in his heart for children. When he is out among the people and so warmly greets them, the biggest smiles and the warmest greetings seem to be reserved for the children. He really loves children. It starts with his own children, of course, and grandchildren, but it extends to all God’s children. At temple dedications and on other occasions, he loves to stop and greet the children. He often asks the boys if they are planning on serving a mission. He often compliments the little girls on their pretty hair or their pretty dress. I have heard him sing for them, recite poems for them, and even wiggle his ears for them. He loves children and is kind to them while he also inspires and uplifts them. He has a marvelous gift in this regard, but it is one that every one of us can emulate. After all, it was the Savior himself who said: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (see Matt. 19:14)
8. He Never Gives Up
President Monson told of arriving in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to begin his service as mission president. He said: “I hadn’t been a missionary. I’d received no preparatory training for this important calling. I was young (32). I needed the help of the Lord. I went out behind the mission home and found a secluded spot in the trees where I could pray. I included in my prayer: I’ll not be a quitter. I’ll give it everything I’ve got.”
Every departing missionary and every one of us involved in other righteous endeavors would be wise and blessed to follow his example and say to the Lord in a private solemn prayer: “I’ll not be a quitter. I’ll give it everything I’ve got.”
There is no QUIT in President Monson and he instinctively believes other to have this same commitment. He doesn’t give up himself, and he doesn’t give up on others either.
On one occasion President Monson told me of an experience he had with a man he met many years earlier. It’s an amazing story to me.
President Monson had occasion to meet and speak with him and learned of his circumstances. The man was not wealthy, or famous, nor did he occupy a high position in society, government, or church. He was just a good man and President Monson knew that. When President Monson learned that he had not taken his wife to the temple to be sealed, he offered to officiate as the sealer when that day came and told the man he would look forward to that opportunity.
That hasn’t happened. President Monson told me: “I still keep in contact with him and I continue to remind him of my desire for him and his wife.” As President Monson told me of this relationship he showed very little disappointment in the fact that his efforts have not born the fruit he hoped for. He wasn’t discouraged or negative as he told me the story. He remains positive and hopeful and said something profound to me. He said: “I never give up on anybody. I will never give up trying to help them.” What an example!
Now some might say, “The man has had his chance. He has had an Apostle reach out to him for decades and he hasn’t responded. President Monson should now reach out to someone else.” However, President Monson hasn’t looked at it that way – rather – his attitude has been, and I quote: “I never give up on anyone. I’ll reach out to him and encourage him as long as I’m able.”
9. He is an Example of Being a Happy, Positive Person
In the Pearl of Great Price, the Prophet Joseph Smith is described as having a “cheery countenance.” That is President Monson.
A beautiful passage in the Book of Mormon seems to describe President Monson well: “Ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men….” (see 2 Nephi 31:20)
I don’t know that I’ve ever been around anyone who exemplifies these attributes more than our prophet. He is always pressing forward with a steadfastness in Christ. He does so with a wonderful attitude that is a perfect brightness of hope. And of course he loves God and he loves all men.
His perfect brightness of hope is manifest with a big and warm smile. He finds joy and humor in things around him.
He loves to tell enjoyable stories, to the delight of those who are fortunate enough to hear him.
He laughs easily and heartily.
He obviously enjoys life and he enjoys being with people.
President Monson loves the hymn: “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel”(#252)which we sang to begin this devotional. I think the reason he likes it so much is because he lives the challenge contained in the words:
“Put your shoulder to the wheel; push along, Do your duty with a heart full of song.” President Monson speaks often of doing our duty, and he is fond of the wise expression: “Do your duty, that is best – leave unto the Lord the rest.”
President Monson always does his duty with a heart full of song, and we ought to follow his example and do the same.
I’ve been in meetings where very serious matters were being discussed, when President Monson paused to share a delightful story. I noticed that his telling of the story seemed to help all to keep their balance. This ability to see the humor even in difficult situations gives him a unique capacity to not over-react, to keep things in proper perspective and to keep things in balance. We could all learn from this.
You can’t be around him very long without concluding that he is a very happy person – even with the weight of the worldwide church on his shoulders.
One morning I was waiting outside the First Presidency board room expecting to be invited in to discuss an important matter concerning temples. I heard someone whistling as they walked down the hall. I thought that was unusual and wondered who it might be. To my surprise, a moment later, around the corner came the Prophet, President Monson. To my delight, he interrupted his whistling to greet me with a big smile and a warm handshake.
He is a very positive person.
He constantly sees the good in others.
He is generous with compliments when they are deserved.
He has confidence in others and he trusts those to whom he has given assignments.
He gives people the benefit of the doubt.
He sees the sunshine amongst the clouds.
He doesn’t ignore the clouds, but he sees the silver lining in the clouds.
This attitude prevails even amidst trials and difficulties that he or others may encounter.
From what I know about the Prophet Joseph Smith, he was just like this. In other words, President Thomas S. Monson is much like the Prophet Joseph in that he is a man with a “cheery countenance”, a man who is happy and positive.
What marvelous examples they are! I want to be like them and along with you; I want to follow their examples.
10. An Example of Honoring those who Went Before Him
President Monson has set an excellent example in showing respect and honoring those who have gone before us.
He honors his parents and grandparents. He refers to them often and expresses his love and gratitude for all they did for him.
He honors his pioneer forefathers who came into the church, and speaks with equal fondness for the forefathers and pioneer members on Sister Monson’s side of the family.
I have noted that President Monson speaks respectfully and honors those who preceded him in each calling that has come to him.
Particularly poignant for me has been witnessing the love, admiration and deep respect he has for the great leaders of the church who have gone before him.
He speaks with deep affection for President J. Reuben Clark, a counselor in the First Presidency, who worked closely with President Monson when he was a young bishop as President Clark was preparing to publish his masterpiece, Our Lord of the Gospels.
President Monson also speaks with deep affection and respect for President David O. McKay – the prophet who called him to be an Apostle.
In like manner he speaks admiringly and respectfully of the great prophets who succeeded President McKay -- those under whom President Monson served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:
Joseph Fielding Smith
Harold B. Lee
Spencer W. Kimball
And then, of course, the three prophets who called Thomas S. Monson to stand beside them and serve as their counselor:
First, Ezra Taft Benson,
Followed by Howard W. Hunter and
Then Gordon B. Hinckley
Last year in an address at BYU, President Monson devoted his entire message to speaking respectfully and admiringly of his predecessors in that message, President Monson asked this question: “What can we learn from the (past) Presidents of the church?” He answered his own question: “We can learn that they never wavered, never faltered, never failed; that they are men of God.” 5
President Monson’s own words say it best. He said: “I was blessed to have been tutored by some of the greatest men who ever lived.”
11. He is a Student of the Scriptures - He Loves the Scriptures
The prophet looks to the scriptures for inspiration and guidance. When you listen to him speak, you learn of his love for the scriptures. Some of his favorite scriptures have become part of who he is.
“Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.” (D&C 107:99)
“Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind…..”(see D&C 64:34) These scriptures have burned into President Monson so deeply, they are truly a part of him:
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
That is the way President Monson has lived his life. He does trust in the Lord with all his heart. He acknowledges the Lord in all that he does and he goes forward with the absolute confidence and faith that the Lord is directing his paths. We would be blessed to follow his example.
Another of his favorite scriptures from the Doctrine and Covenants is:
“And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”(D&C 84:88)
He lives his life with the conviction that the Lord will do as he promised in this scripture.
We would all be blessed to follow his example - to love the scriptures and to find favorite scriptures that become part of who we are - and motivate us to live as the Lord would have us live. This is what President Monson has done.
On one occasion, President Monson shared with us: “When I feel an increased need for spirituality I read from Third Nephi.”
Along with his love of the scriptures, President Monson loves good literature and poetry and they have been a source of inspiration and joy in his life, as well as an important part of his messages. He has a fondness for many poetic expressions, such as: “God gave us memories so we might have [June] roses in the December of our lives.” 6
We are very blessed to have this great Apostle and President of the Church leading us today.
I pray that we may have the wisdom to follow his example.
In revelation, the Lord said: “I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived…” (see D&C 52:14)
The Lord has given us a prophet, whose life has modeled for us what each of us can be. We all know the words of the familiar hymn: “Follow the Prophet – He Knows the Way.” Not only should we follow his teachings, but we should follow his example.
Like President Monson, each of us can be:
* Devoted to the Lord
* Devoted to our spouse and our family
* Devoted to the callings that come to us in the Church
* Committed to following the promptings of the Spirit in our lives
Like President Monson, we can:
* Have a love for the temple
* Follow the Lord’s pattern as we serve and lead in the church
* Have love in our hearts for all people, and especially children
* Be happy, positive, and never give up
* Be students of the scriptures and love some scriptures so much that they become part of who we are
* Honor those who went before us, particularly the prophets of God
It is my prayer that something I have said may increase your love for our dear prophet and increase your desire to follow him. I have hoped that you would understand that all the words of my message have been a testimony that we are led by a Prophet of God.
The Gospel is true. (All of these things that I have talked about are really just part of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.)
I testify that we have a Father in Heaven who lives and loves us.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and I bear witness that He is our Savior and Redeemer.
I bear witness that this is His Church.
And I bear witness that we have been led by an unbroken succession of prophets of God from Joseph Smith to President Thomas S. Monson, who is the Lord’s prophet on the earth today.
I truly love and admire President Monson and declare to you that his entire life and ministry are remarkable and wonderful and worthy of our emulation.
May we “Follow the Example of the Prophet of God, Thomas S. Monson.”
I pray in the sacred name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.