Tuesday, February 19, 2013

President Monson's biography

As I've mentioned, I have just finished reading/listening to (mostly listening to) President Monson's biography. It has taken me several months to finish, but it has been so worthwhile. I started listening in either October or November. I've checked the book on CDs (15 CDS!) out multiple times...renewing when I could or just returning them and placing them on hold and recording on a notebook where I left off so I could pick up there when I got them back again.

The title of the biography is "To The Rescue" and it is such an appropriate title. President Monson has literally spent his life serving, brightening others days, and going to the rescue. He has such faith and such courage. He has learned to really listen to the promptings of the spirit and to act immediately. He doesn't just ask us to "succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees" (D & C 81:6), he does this every day. He notices people. His talks focus on real experiences of real people. He reaches out to people. This past conference, in the priesthood session, he gave a talk entitled "See Others as they May Become". He looks at people and sees them as they might be if they lived the gospel. He is never afraid to tell people to go back to church, to repent, to go on a mission, etc. In a Time Out for Women talk given by Heidi Swinton, she tells of President Monson going into a gas station. The young man there had tattoos and piercings and didn't look like a missionary. But as President Monson paid for his gas, he asked the young man if he was planning to serve a mission soon. The man looked a little incredulous and said no. President Monson then encouraged the young man to go home and pray about serving a mission. Then he left. Well, the young man didn't go home and pray about serving a mission. But several months later, he was walking through the living room and glanced at the tv. He noticed that it was the man from the gas station on the tv. So he sat down and began to watch with his parents. He ended up watching the rest of conference. He felt something. ANd then he did go in his room and pray about serving a mission and he ended up going on a mission. The book is filled with countless other examples of ways that President Monson touched people's lives. He stopped to visit the sick, the elderly, the sad, the lonely. He writes letters. He stops to shake hands and to speak with others. He has the most incredible memory and despite meeting thousands or millions of people in his lifetime, he remembers many of their names and faces and the events of their meeting. He also keeps a detailed journal (I suspect that his journal helps with his memory...but I also believe that his incredible memory is a gift from God.)

I listened to his biography as I drove to/from work and I have shown up at work with tears streaming down my face on a number of occasions and needed to sit in my car for a moment to dry my tears. It's a nice way to start a day (and I'm not being sarcastic.)

I have found it comforting to listen to this as I've accepted what feels to me like such a monumental challenge to be the ward Relief Society President. First, I recognize that my responsibility is actually quite small in comparison to his or even to our Stake president or Bishop's responsibility and the duration of my call will be small as well. Somehow that is comforting to me... it makes it feel a little more manageable. Second, as I listened it occurred to me that he was prepared for this over many years. He wasn't called to be a prophet right away. He was called as a Bishop, then a mission president, then an Apostle and so on. He was taught line upon line, precept upon precept and his capacity to serve and to teach increased. I am certain that I, too, have been prepared for this through previous experiences and that as I serve my capacity will also increase as long as I put my trust in the Lord. I am certain there are plenty of people who could serve as well or better than me, but "whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies." I feel thankful for the opportunity to serve in my small way and to show the Lord and those around me that I love Him.

I find a lot of comfort (and truth) in his words from his conference talk in October 2012 entitled "Consider the Blessings". He said, "Our Heavenly Father is aware of our needs and will help us as we call upon Him for assistance. I believe that no concern of ours is too small or insignificant. The Lord is in the details of our lives." He also said in the same talk that "...the Lord's purposes are often accomplished as we pay heed to the guidance of the Spirit. I believe that the more we act upon the inspiration and impressions which come to us, the more the Lord will entrust to us His errands." He has shown that this is true as he is always about His Father's business, always serving and loving. Sister Swinton summarizes it this way, "What will the legacy of President Thomas S. Monson be? Observers have a tendency to set the starting point at the beginning of a man's presidency of the Church. But his legacy goes all the way back to when he began following the Spirit and heeding promptings, when he began reaching out with the power of the Spirit, one-on-one, to anyone and everyone, especially the forgotten. His legacy will be Christlike living." (page 528)

I want to be more like President Monson. I want to be more like my Savior. I'm thankful for the things I've learned from his conference talks and from his life.