Monday, August 11, 2008

Stories from President Thomas S. Monson

For a class project, I gathered stories told by President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have posted them on my blog:

Youth Gets Life

A sixteen-year-old youth was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences Monday after he pleaded guilty to murder charges in the deaths of three bank employees.

The youth was charged in the shooting deaths of the bank manager and two bank tellers. The three were slain during a $35,000 robbery at a bank in Las Vegas.

The youth who was charged was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church when eight years of age. He attended Sunday School and Primary and held the Aaronic Priesthood. Upon reading of the murders, his bishop declared sadly, “Where did we fail to communicate with him?”
Improvement Era, Feb 1969, 4

Will Arthur Live Again?

The flight from Brisbane, Australia, to San Francisco is a long one. There is time to read, time to sleep, and time to ponder and think. As a passenger on this flight, I was awakened by the calm, resonant sound of the pilot’s voice as he announced: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re now passing over the Coral Sea, scene of the great sea battle of World War II.”

Through the cabin window I could see billowy, white clouds and far below the azure blue of the vast Pacific. My thoughts turned to the events of that fateful eighth day of May in 1942 when the mammoth aircraft carrier Lexington slipped to its final resting place on the ocean floor. Twenty-seven hundred thirty-five sailors scrambled to safety. Others were not so fortunate. One who went down with his ship was my boyhood friend Arthur Patton.

May I tell you about Arthur? He had blond, curly hair and a smile as big as all outdoors. Arthur stood taller than any boy in the class. I suppose this is how he was able to fool the recruiting officers and enlist in the navy at the tender age of 15. To Arthur and most of the boys, the war was a great adventure. I remember how striking he appeared in his navy uniform. How we wished we were older, or at least taller, so we too could enlist.

Arthur’s mother was so proud of the blue star which graced her living room window. It represented to every passerby that her son wore the uniform of his country. When I would pass the house she often opened the door and invited me in to read the latest letter from Arthur. Her eyes would fill with tears, and I would then be asked to read aloud. Arthur meant everything to his widowed mother. I can still picture Mrs. Patton’s coarse hands as she would carefully replace the letter in its envelope. These were honest hands which bore the worker’s seal. Mrs. Patton was a cleaning woman—a janitress for a downtown office building. Each day of her life except Sundays, she could be seen walking up the sidewalk, pail and brush in hand, her gray hair combed in a tight bob, her shoulders weary from work and stooped with age.

Then came the Battle of the Coral Sea, the sinking of the Lexington, and the death of Arthur Patton. The blue star was taken from its hallowed spot in the front window. It was replaced by one of gold. A light went out in the life of Mrs. Patton. She groped in utter darkness and deep despair.

With a prayer in my heart, I approached the familiar walkway to the Patton home, wondering what words of comfort could come from the lips of a mere boy. The door opened and Mrs. Patton embraced me as she would her own son. Home became a chapel as a grief-stricken mother and a less-than-adequate boy knelt in prayer.

Arising from our knees, Mrs. Patton gazed into my eyes and spoke: “Tom, I belong to no church, but you do. Tell me, will Arthur live again?” Time dims the memory of that conversation. The present whereabouts of Mrs. Patton is not known to me; but, Mrs. Patton, wherever you are, from the backdrop of my personal experience, I should like to once more answer your question, “Will Arthur live again?”

I suppose we could say that this is a universal question, for who has not at a time of bereavement pondered the same thought?

Death leaves in its cruel wake shattered dreams, unfulfilled ambitions, crushed hopes. In our helplessness, we turn to others for assurance. Men of letters and leaders of renown can express their beliefs, but they cannot provide definitive answers.

The dim light of belief must yield to the noonday sun of revelation. We turn backward in time, that we might go forward with hope. Back to Him who walked the dusty paths of villages we now reverently call the Holy Land, to Him who caused the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk and the dead to live. To Him who tenderly and lovingly assured us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
Improvement Era, Jun 1969, 102


Arthur Patton died quickly. Others linger. Not long ago I held the thin hand of a youth as he approached the brink of eternity. “I know I am dying,” he said touchingly. “What follows death?” I turned to the scriptures and read to him: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). “There is a time appointed unto men that they shall rise from the dead; and there is a space between the time of death and the resurrection. … Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold … the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, … are taken home to that God who gave them life” (Alma 40:9, 11).

To me, the lad said, “Thank you.” To my Heavenly Father I said silently, “Thank thee, O God, for truth.”
Improvement Era, Jun 1969, 102

Toronto Missionary
Missionary Work

I reflect upon several of the young and inexperienced missionaries who came to the mission where I had the privilege to preside. I shall ever remember the bewilderment of one boy from down on the farm when he first gazed at the skyscrapers of Toronto. He inquired of me: “President, how many people in this here town?” I answered: “Oh, about a million and a half.” To which he responded, “Goll-ee! There are only eighty in my home town.”

That evening in our traditional get-acquainted testimony meeting, some of the veteran missionaries expressed themselves regarding the difficulty of the work. “Doors will slam in your face, abusive language will be hurled toward you, you’ll get discouraged and downhearted; but when it’s all over, you will say, “These have been the happiest two years of my life.’”
My missionary from the small town was more hesitant than ever as he spoke falteringly; “I’ll be glad when the happiest two years of my life are over.”

At best, missionary work necessitates drastic adjustment to one’s pattern of living. No other labor requires longer hours or greater devotion, nor such sacrifice and fervent prayer. As a result, dedicated missionary service returns a dividend of eternal joy that extends throughout life and into eternity.
Improvement Era, Dec 1969, 90

Dear Dad

A mission is a family affair. Though the expanse of oceans may separate, hearts are as one, as evidenced by this letter from a missionary son to his father:

Dear Dad:
This is my first Christmas away from my home and family. I wish that I could be home to share the joy, good cheer, and the love that come with this season; but I am grateful to be here in Sweden as a missionary.

I’m grateful for my father; I do so love, admire, and respect him. His life had always been a wonderful example to me and has helped countless times to make the right decisions.
I’m grateful for his wisdom, which has counseled me; his love, which has disciplined me; and his testimony, which has inspired me.

How can a son show his love for his father? How can he fully express what he feels? How can he demonstrate his gratitude? I wish I could answer these questions. There is, however, one way that I know I can show my gratitude, and that is by patterning my life after that of my father.
This, then, is my task—to live a live equal to that of my father’s, That I may spend eternity together with him.

Merry Christmas and God bless you,
Improvement Era, Dec 1969, 90

I Know It

Remember our boy from the rural community who marveled at the size of Toronto? He was short in stature, but tall in testimony. Together with his companion, he called at the home of Elmer Pollard in Oshawa, [Ontario,] Canada. Felling sorry for the young men who, during a blinding blizzard, were going from house to house, Mr. Pollard invited the missionaries into his home. They presented to him their message. He did not catch the spirit. In due time he asked that they leave and not return. His last words to the elders as they departed his front porch were spoken in derision: “You can’t tell me you actually believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God!”

The door was shut. The elders walked down the path. Our country boy spoke to his companion: “Elder, we didn’t answer Mr. Pollard’s question. He said we didn’t believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet. Let’s return and bear our testimonies to him.” At first the more experienced missionary hesitated, but finally he agreed to accompany his companion. Fear struck their hearts as they approached the door from which they had been turned away. A knock, the confrontation with Mr. Pollard, an agonizing moment, then with power, a testimony borne by the Spirit: “Mr. Pollard, you said we didn’t really believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Mr. Pollard, I testify that Joseph was a prophet. He did translate the Book of Mormon. He saw God the Father and Jesus the Son. I know it.”

Mr. Pollard, now Brother Pollard, stood in a priesthood meeting some time later and declared: “That night I could not sleep. Resounding in my ears I heard the words: ‘Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I know it. I know it. I know it’ The next day I telephoned the missionaries. Their message coupled with their testimonies, changed my life and the lives of my family.”
Improvement Era, Dec 1969, 92

Mrs. E.R.M. (quoted from an Ann Landers column)
Sanctity of Motherhood

The weakness of our will and the confusion of our choices are illustrated in a letter that was written by a mother to the popular columnist and human relations adviser Ann Landers:
“Dear Ann Landers: A year ago our two-year-old son, Earl, had difficulty breathing, so we took him to a doctor. We learned that Earl is allergic to cigarette smoke. My husband said we both had to quit smoking right then and there. He hasn’t touched a cigarette since. I went back to smoking that same night.
“My husband doesn’t know I smoke. I have to sneak around and smoke in the basement. And it is making a nervous wreck of me.
“Do you think it would be wrong if we let a nice couple adopt little Earl—a nice couple who don’t smoke? The only problem is that my husband is crazy about the boy. I love him, too, but I am more the practical type.
“What do you think, Ann? Mrs. E. R. M.”
“Dear Mrs. I think a lot of people who read this letter are going to say I made it up. It’s utterly fantastic that a mother would put cigarettes ahead of her own child. Don’t present your wild idea to your husband. I wouldn’t blame him if he decided to keep little Earl and unload YOU.”
Ensign, Jan 1971, 17

Junior High Question
Sanctity of Motherhood

I recognize that there are times when mother’s nerves are frayed, her patience exhausted, and her energies consumed; when she says, “My children don’t appreciate a single thing I do.” I think they do appreciate you. One of the questions after a study of magnets at one junior high school was: “What begins with ‘M’ and picks things up?” The obvious answer was “magnet.” However, more than a third of the students answered “mother.”
Ensign, Jan 1971, 17

Lost Batallions

This past November I stood on a very old bridge which spans the River Somme as it makes its steady but unhurried way through the heartland of France. Suddenly I realized that fifty-two years had come—then gone—since the signing of the Armistice of 1918 and the termination of the Great War. I tried to imagine what the River Somme looked like fifty-two years before. How many thousands of soldiers had crossed this same bridge? Some came back. For others, the Somme was truly a river of no return. For the battlefields of Vimy Ridge, Armentieres, and Nueve Chappelle took a hideous toll of human life. Acres of neat, white crosses serve as an unforgettable reminder.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
“We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.” —John McCrae

I found myself saying softly, “How strange that war brings forth the savagery of conflict, yet inspires brave deeds of courage—some prompted by love.”

As a boy, I enjoyed reading the account of the “lost battalion.” The “lost battalion” was a unit of the 77th Infantry Division in World War I. During the Meuse-Argonne offensive, a major led this battalion through a gap in the enemy lines, but the troops on the flanks were unable to advance. An entire battalion was surrounded. Food and water were short; casualties could not be evacuated. Hurled back were repeated attacks. Ignored were notes from the enemy requesting the battalion to surrender. Newspapers heralded the battalion’s tenacity. Men of vision pondered its fate. After a brief but desperate period of total isolation, other units of the 77th Division advanced and relieved the “lost battalion.” Correspondents noted in their dispatches that the relieving forces seemed bent on a crusade of love to rescue their comrades in arms. Men volunteered more readily, fought more gallantly, and died more bravely. A fitting tribute echoed from that ageless sermon preached on the Mount of Olives: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13.)

Forgotten is the plight of the “lost battalion.” Unremembered is the terrible price paid for its rescue. But let us turn from the past and survey the present. Are there “lost battalions” even today? If so, what is our responsibility to rescue them? Their members may not wear clothes of khaki brown nor march to the sound of drums. But they share the same doubt, feel the same despair, and know the same disillusionment that isolation brings.

There are the “lost battalions” of the handicapped, even the lame, the speechless, and the sightless. Have you experienced the frustration of wanting but not knowing how to help the individual who walks stiffly behind his Seeing Eye canine companion, or moves with measured step to the tap, tap, tap of a white cane? There are many who are lost in this trackless desert of darkness.

If you desire to see a rescue operation of a “lost battalion,” visit your city’s center for the blind and witness the selfless service of those who read to those who can’t. Observe the skills that are taught the handicapped. Be inspired by the efforts put forth in their behalf to enable them to secure meaningful employment.

Those who labor so willingly and give so generously to those who have lost so tragically find ample reward in the light that they bring into the lives of the sightless.

Do we appreciate the joy of a blind person as his nimble fingers pass quickly over the pages of the Braille edition of the New Testament? He pauses at the twelfth chapter of John and contemplates the depth of meaning in the promise of the Prince of Peace: “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46.)
Consider the “lost battalions” of the aged, the widowed, the sick. All too often they are found in the parched and desolate wilderness of isolation called loneliness. When youth departs, when health declines, when vigor wanes, when the light of hope flickers ever so dimly, the members of these vast “lost battalions” can be succored and sustained by the hand that helps and the heart that knows compassion.

While the rivers of France witnessed the advance of those who rescued the “lost battalion” in World War I, so did yet another river witness the commencement of the formal ministry of a universal rescuer, even a divine redeemer. The scripture records, “And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11.)
Ensign, Jun 1975,95

Christmas Feast

In Brooklyn, New York, there presides today in a branch of the Church a young man who, as a boy of thirteen, led a successful rescue of such persons in Salt Lake City. He and his companions lived in a neighborhood in which resided many elderly widows of limited means. All the year long, the boys had saved and planned for a glorious Christmas party. They were thinking of themselves, until the Christmas spirit prompted them to think of others. Frank, as their leader, suggested to his companions that the funds they had accumulated so carefully be used not for the planned party, but rather for the benefit of three elderly widows who resided together. The boys made their plans. As their bishop, I needed but to follow.

With the enthusiasm of a new adventure, the boys purchased a giant roasting chicken, the potatoes, the vegetables, the cranberries, and all that comprises the traditional Christmas feast. To the widows’ home they went carrying their gifts of treasure. Through the snow and up the path to the tumbledown porch they came. A knock at the door, the sound of slow footsteps, and then they met.

In the unmelodic voices characteristic of thirteen-year-olds, the boys sang “Silent night, holy night; all is calm, all is bright.” They then presented their gifts. Angels on that glorious night of long ago sang no more beautifully, nor did wise men present gifts of greater meaning.
I gazed at the faces of those wonderful women and thought to myself: “Somebody’s mother.” I then looked on the countenances of those noble boys and reflected: “Somebody’s son.” There then passed through my mind the words of the immortal poem by Mary Dow Brine:

“The woman was old and ragged and gray And bent with the chill of the Winter’s day. The street was wet with a recent snow, And the woman’s feet were aged and slow. She stood at the crossing and waited long, Alone, uncared for, amid the throng Of human beings who passed her by Nor heeded the glance of her anxious eye.

“Down the street, with laughter and shout, Glad in the freedom of ‘school let out,’ Came the boys like a flock of sheep, Hailing the snow piled white and deep. … [One] paused beside her and whispered low, ‘I’ll help you cross, if you wish to go? … ‘She’s somebody’s mother, boys, you know, For all she’s aged and poor and slow.

“ ‘And I hope some fellow will lend a hand To help my mother, you understand, If ever she’s poor and old and gray, When her own dear boy is far away.’ And ‘somebody’s mother’ bowed low her head In her home that night, and the prayer she said Was, ‘God be kind to the noble boy, Who is somebody’s son, and pride and joy.’ ”

What was the message of the Master? “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these … ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40.)
Ensign, Jun 1971, 95


There are other “lost battalions” comprised of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, who have, through thoughtless comment, isolated themselves from one another. An account of how such a tragedy was narrowly averted is this occurrence in the life of a lad we shall call Jack.
Throughout Jack’s life, he and his father had many serious arguments. One day, when Jack was seventeen, they had a particularly violent one. Jack said to his father: “This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I’m leaving home, and I shall never return.” So saying, he went to the house and packed a bag. His mother begged him to stay, but he was too angry to listen. He left her crying at the doorway.

Leaving the yard, he was about to pass through the gate when he heard his father call to him: “Jack, I know that a large share of the blame for your leaving rests with me. For this I am truly sorry. I want you to know that if you should ever wish to return home, you’ll always be welcome. And I’ll try to be a better father to you. I want you to know that I’ll always love you.”
Jack said nothing but went to the bus station and bought a ticket to a distant point. As he sat in the bus watching the miles go by, he commenced to think about the words of his father. He began to realize how much love it had required for him to do what he had done. Dad had apologized. He had invited him back and had left the words ringing in the summer air, “I love you.”

It was then that Jack realized that the next move was up to him. He knew that the only way he could ever find peace with himself was to demonstrate to his father the same kind of maturity, goodness, and love that dad had shown toward him. Jack got off the bus. He bought a return ticket to home and went back.

He arrived shortly after midnight, entered the house, and turned on the light. There in the rocking chair sat his father, his head in his hands. As he looked up and saw Jack, he rose from the chair and they rushed into each other’s arms. Jack often said, “Those last years that I was home were among the happiest of my life.”

We could say here was a boy who overnight became a man. Here was a father who, suppressing passion and bridling pride, rescued his son before he became one of that vast “lost battalion” resulting from fractured families and shattered homes. Love was the binding band, the healing balm. Love—so often felt; so seldom expressed.

From Mt. Sinai there thunders in our ears, “Honour thy father and thy mother.” (Ex. 20:12.) And later, from that same God, the injunction, “… live together in love.” (D&C 42: 45.)
Ensign, Jun 1971, 95


One who lived much of his life ignoring his fellowmen and living for self alone was Dickens’ immortal character, Ebenezer Scrooge. But there came that wintry night when the ghost of Jacob Marley appeared to Scrooge and lamented:

“Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunities misused! Yet such was I! Oh! Such was I!
“Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would conduct me!”

In an effort to comfort Marley, Scrooge proffered, “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob.”

Lamented Marley, “Business! … Mankind was my business!” (A Christmas Carol.)
The change that then occurred in the life of Scrooge was miraculous indeed. He became overnight the most generous, the most lovable, the most kindhearted Christian soul. In his own words he described his condition: “I am not the man I was.” So it ever is when one inclines his heart to the example of the Christ.

“… he that loveth not his brother abideth in death,” wrote the apostle John 1900 years ago. (1 Jn. 3:14.)

Some point the accusing finger at the sinner or the unfortunate and in derision say, “He has brought his condition upon himself.” Others exclaim, “Oh, he will never change. He has always been a bad one.” A few see beyond the outward appearance and recognize the true worth of a human soul. When they do, miracles occur. The downtrodden, the discouraged, the helpless become “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:19.) True love can alter human lives and change human nature.
Ensign, Dec 1971, 131

My Fair Lady

This truth was stated so beautifully on the stage in My Fair Lady. Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl, spoke to one for whom she cared and who later was to lift her from such mediocre status: “You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will.” (Adapted from Pygmalion, in The Complete Plays of Bernard Shaw, p. 260.)

Eliza Doolittle was but expressing the profound truth: When we treat people merely as they are, they will remain as they are. When we treat them as if they were what they should be, they will become what they should be. (Adapted from a quotation by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe.)
In reality, it was the Redeemer who best taught this principle. Jesus changed men. He changed their habits and opinions and ambitions. He changed their tempers, dispositions, and natures. He changed their hearts. He lifted! He loved! He forgave! He redeemed! Do we have the will to follow?
Ensign, Dec 1971, 131

White Ribbons

Prison warden Kenyon J. Scudder has related this experience: A friend of his happened to be sitting in a railroad coach next to a young man who was obviously depressed. Finally the man revealed that he was a paroled convict returning from a distant prison. His imprisonment had brought shame to his family, and they had neither visited him nor written often. He hoped, however, that this was only because they were too poor to travel and too uneducated to write. He hoped, despite the evidence, that they had forgiven him.

To make it easy for them, however, he had written them to put up a signal for him when the train passed their little farm on the outskirts of town. If his family had forgiven him, they were to put a white ribbon in the big apple tree which stood near the tracks. If they didn’t want him to return, they were to do nothing, and he would remain on the train as it traveled west.

As the train neared his home town, the suspense became so great he couldn’t bear to look out of his window. He exclaimed, “In just five minutes the engineer will sound the whistle, indicating our approach to the long bend which opens into the valley I know as home. Will you watch for the apple tree at the side of the track?” His companion changed places with him and said he would. The minutes seemed like hours, but then there came the shrill sound of the train whistle. The young man asked, “Can you see the tree? Is there a white ribbon?”

Came the reply: “I see the tree. I see not one white ribbon, but many. There must be a white ribbon on every branch. Son, someone surely does love you.”

In that instant he stood cleansed by Christ.

His friend said, “I felt as if I had witnessed a miracle.”

Indeed, he had witnessed a miracle appropriately described by the third verse of a favorite Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”:

“How silently, how silently, The wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts The blessings of his heaven. “No ear may hear his coming; But in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive him still, The dear Christ enters in.” —Hymns, no. 165

We, too, can experience this same miracle when we, with hand and heart, as did the Savior, lift and love our neighbor to a newness of life.

May we succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees, thereby inheriting that eternal life promised by the Redeemer, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Ensign, Dec 1971, 131

Master’s Degree

Thomas Huxley advised: “The end of life is not knowledge, but action.” When our testimonies are reflected by our service, they shine with unequaled brilliance. Unfortunately, there are those among your group who, turning to their academic pursuits, turn their back on God. You have heard their comment: “I will serve the Lord later—now I must study.” To such a one I would answer, “Thou fool.”

I am reminded of a highly successful business executive in Salt Lake City who served as a counselor in his ward bishopric while at the same time earning his master’s degree. During the hectic period preceding finals, the bishop asked him, “Lynn, I know you are facing a crisis in your schooling. Let us relieve you of your meeting schedule and some of the details of your assignments during the next two weeks.” Lynn answered, “Bishop, I would ask that rather than relieving me of responsibility, let me assume additional duties. I want to go to the Lord and ask his help by right, not by grace.” He never slackened. He graduated among the highest in his class.
New Era, May 1971, 2

Letter of Gratitude

Do you think to thank your mother, your father, who have given you life and who rejoice in your accomplishments? Your gratitude should be expressed personally, but, in addition, it should be mirrored by your life.

An appropriate tribute of gratitude was made by a young Latter-day Saint girl attending a Denver, Colorado, high school. The students in her class had been asked to prepare a letter to be written to a great man of their choice. Many addressed their letters to sports heroes, some to the leaders of their nation, while others addressed their letters to persons of reknown. This young lady, however, addressed her letter to her father, and in the letter she stated: “I have decided to write this letter to you, Dad, because you are the greatest man that I have ever known. The overwhelming desire of my heart is that I will so live that I might have the privilege of being beside you and Mother and other members of the family in the celestial kingdom.” That father has never received a more cherished letter.
New Era, May 1971, 2

Monson Giving His First Priesthood Blessing

Many of you will be entering military service and will have special need to be close to God. I testify as one who knows that he will not forsake you.

During the final phases of World War II, I turned eighteen and was ordained an elder one week before I departed for active duty with the navy. A member of my ward bishopric was at the train station to bid me farewell. Just before train time, he placed two books into my hands. One was a popular satire in which I took interest. The other was entitled The Missionary Handbook.

I laughed and commented, “I’m not going on a mission.”

He answered, “Take it anyway—it may come in handy.”

It did. In basic training the company commander instructed us concerning how we might best pack our clothing in a large sea bag. He advised: “If you have some hard, rectangular object you can place in the bottom, your clothes will stay more firm.”

I suddenly remembered just the right rectangular object—The Missionary Handbook. Thus it served for sixteen weeks.

The night before our Christmas leave, our thoughts were, as always, on home. The quarters were quiet. Suddenly I became aware that my buddy in the adjoining bunk, a Mormon boy, Leland Merrill, was moaning in pain. I asked, “What’s the matter, Merrill?”

He replied, “I’m sick. I’m really sick!”

I advised him to go to the base dispensary, but he knowingly answered that such a course would prevent him from being home for Christmas.

The hours lengthened. His groans grew louder. Suddenly he whispered, “Monson, Monson, aren’t you an elder?” I acknowledged this to be so, whereupon he asked, “Give me a blessing.”
Suddenly I became very much aware that I had never given a blessing, I had never received such a blessing, and I had never witnessed a blessing being given. My prayer to God was a plea for help. The answer came: “Look in the bottom of the sea bag.” Thus, at two o’clock in the morning I spilled the contents of the bag on the deck, took the book to the night light, and read how one blesses the sick. With about seventy curious sailors looking on, I gave the shakiest blessing I’ve ever given. Before I could stow my gear, Leland Merrill was sleeping like a child.
The next morning Merrill smilingly turned to me and said, “Monson, I’m glad you hold the priesthood.” His gladness was surpassed only by my joy.
New Era, May 1971, 2

Dare to be a Mormon

University entrance for me began in the midst of World War II. Girls on campus outnumbered men by a ratio of nine to one. Those were golorious days until there approached my own responsibility to serve. I was no hero. I enlisted in the U.S. Navy just ten days before I would have been drafted into the U.S. Army.

Navy boot camp was a never-to-be-forgotten experience. For the first three weeks I was convinced my very life was in jeopardy. The navy was not trying to train, but rather kill me. Finally came Sunday and the welcome news that all recruits would go to church. Standing at tattention in a brisk California breeze, I heard the wors of the chief petty officer: “Today, everybody goes to church. Those of you who are Catholics, you meet in Camp Decatur. Forward, march!” A rather sizeable contingent moved out. “Those of you who are Jews, forward, march!” A somewhat smaller group marched on. “The rest of you Protestancs, you meet in Camp Farragut. Forward, march!” Instantly there flashed throutgh my mind the thought: “Monson, you aren’t a Catholic; Monson, you aren’t a Jew; Monson, you aren’t a Protestant. You are a Mormon.” I stood fast. Then came the perplexed comment of the petty officer. Sweeter words I have not heard. “Just what do you guys call yourselves” You see, this was the first time I knew there were others standing behind me on that drill grinder. In uniskon we replied: “We’re Mormons.” He queried, “Mormons? Well, go find somewhere to meet.” We marched proudly by, almost to the cadence of the primary rhyme you remember:

Dare to be a Mormon;
Dare to stand alone:
Dare to have a purpose firm;
Dare to make it known.
Devotional Address, Jan 19, 1971 “Return with Honor”

Return with Honor

Our company had no particular slogan or symbol. One fighting unit in the war was known as The Fighting Irish, another as Uncle Sam’s Hellcats. Some Naval Air Corps squadrons painted on their planes the words, Remember Pearl Harbor or Back from Bataan. The motto I remmember best was that adopted by an air wigstationed in Britain and involved almost daily with bombing and strafing runs over theContinent. The words were simple, yet packed with pride and power: Return with Honor.

These words connoted courage to fight fear and meet death. They reminded each man to do his duty without flinching . They implied, “Better to die a man than return a coward.”

Then, as now, there were those who would “cop out,” fake mechanical trouble, pull up too suddenly from a dive, or skip drop a bombload to avoid heavily concentrated antiaircraft fire.
To most, that motto Return with Honor became a way of life. I wonder if it may not be a most desirable motto for each of us.

Most of you have left your homes, your families, your friends, and your communities to attenc BYU. You have set sail on the sea of education. One day you will return to that port called home. Have you determined to Return with Honor? Unfortunately, some tdo not. There are those who return cheaters, loafers, procrastinators—even sinners.
Devotional Address, Jan 19, 1971 “Return with Honor”

Just a Phony

I shall never forget such a one with whom I studied business law. On the football field he was the Saturday afternoon hero; in the classroom, just a phony. Oh, he was clever, all right. Perhaps too much so. During the final examination all books were to be closed. Now was the moment of truth. My friend came to class that morning barefooted in sandals, As the examination began, he removed his feet from the sandals and, with toes saturated with glycerin, he opened his textbook and skillfully, with those educated toes, turned the pages, that he might read the answers to the questions asked. He received an A grade, as he did in other classes. Nominated for honors, praised for his intellectual acumen, he passed the examinations of school but failed the test of manhood. Do not be a cheater.

In a similar class is the loafer or procrastinator. Content with mediocrity, he becomes an underachiever and loses, perhaps forever, that reward of excellence which, with concentrated effort, would have become his precious prize.

Even more to be pitied is the student who comes to college to learn but instead succumbs to sin.
Devotional Address, Jan 19, 1971 “Return with Honor”

Three Examples

It is true today; it has ever been so. Consider if you will two of Lehi’s sons who were asked to go forth to the house of Laban on a perilous, yet vital mission. They saw the danger; they feared for their safety. They doubted their ability. They murmured. They failed. How could they return with honor when they failed to depart with faith.

In contrast, who can help but be filled with admiration for their brother Nephi and his clarion call:

I will go and do the things which the Lord has commanded. (1 Nephi 3:7.)

Three capsule illustrations may be helpful.

First, from a serviceman, this letter:

Dear Brother Monson:
Today I arrived in Vietnam. It is raining, dull and frustrating. Yet I am happy, for I know this experience can be a great missionary opportunity. Already I have participated in gospel discussions with six interested persons not yet members of the Church. This assignment is called a tour of duty, but to me it is a missionary privilege.

Dear Brother Monson:
Today is the greatest day in my life. I am the happiest man in the world. You remember I spend much of my time in a wheelchair and have done since a bout with polio long years ago. At 7: 00 p.m., in this glorious state of California, my companions wheeled me to the edge of the baptism font. I lifted myself from the wheelchair and, with effort, lowered my weak legs and crippled body into the font. I took the hand of one who had found the truth and pledged to live it and repeated the baptism prayer, then immersed him in those waters which cleanse soiled and troubled lives. He thanked me. I thanked God.

Third, from a cold—even an old—city of Eastern Canada. The missionaries called it stony Kingston. There had been but one convert in six years, even though missionaries had been continuously assigned during that entire interval. No one baptized in Kingston. Just ask any missionary who labored there. Days in Kingston were marked on the calendar like days in prison. A missionary transfer to another place—anyplace—would be uppermost in thoughts, even in dreams.

While I was praying and pondering this sad dilemma, for my responsibility as a mission president required that I pray and ponder about such things, my wife called to my attention an excerpt from A Child’s Story of the Life of Brigham Young by Deta Petersen Neeley. She read:
Brigham Young entered Kingston, Ontario on a cold and snow-filled day. He labored there thirty days and baptized forty-five souls.

Here was the answer. If the missionary Brigham young could accomplish this harvest, so could the missionary of today.

Without explanation I withdrew the missionaries from Kingston, that the continuity of defeat might be broken. Then the carefully circulated word: “Soon a new city will be opened for missionary work, even the city where Brigham Young proselyted an d baptized forty-five persons in thirty days,” The missionaries speculated as to the location. Their weekly letters pleaded for the assignment to this Shangri la. More time passed. Then four carefully selected missionaries—two of them new; two of them experienced—were chosen for this high adventure. The members of the small branch pledged their support. The missionaries pledged their lives. The Lord honored both. In the space of three months, Kingston became the most productive city of the Canadian Mission. The city was the same, the population constant. The change was one of attitude.

Consider the serviceman in Vietnam, the crippled elder in California, the missionaries in Kingston. Like a silver thread running through the fabric of their lives is the spirit of, “I will go and do the things which the Lord has commanded.” Such will indeed Return with Honor.
Devotional Address, Jan 19, 1971 “Return with Honor”

God’s Cathedral

After the big London fire of long ago, the great English architect, Sir Christopher Wren, volunteered his services to plan and superintend the building of one of the world’s greatest cathedrals. Unknown to most of the workmen, he passed among them often, watching the construction.

To three stonecutters one day he put the same questions: “What are you doing?” One of them answered, “I am cutting this stone.” Another answered, “I am earning my three shillings per day.” But the third stood up, squared his shoulders and proudly said, “I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build this magnificent cathedral to our God.”
Devotional Address, Jan 19, 1971 “Return with Honor”


Statistically Speaking said...

Thank you for posting this! I read it on my mission, and I have been looking for it since. I love this talk!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much. I'll be using several of these in my seminary class about Pres. Monson.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for gathering these stories.