6 Favorite Stories From President Monson’s Biography

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-7-04-24-pmBesides these six quotes, two things really jumped out at me from To The Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson:

One is that he has known and worked closely with fully half the church presidents of this dispensation. Think about that. Obviously, it will never be true of anyone else ever again. (He is also the last living Apostle to have been part of the 1978 revelation on the priesthood.)

The other is that the tale of his decades of ministry in East Germany is truly astounding. Seriously, someone should make a movie out of this. It’s one of the most harrowing stories I’ve ever heard out of the Cold War.

Here are the six stories in the book I liked the most–they really give a well-wounded view of who he is as a man:

  • Elder Monson’s sense of humor was manifest during one particular visit to Australia in the midst of a sever drought, where he noted with some amusement the names of the stake presidents–President Percy Rivers and President William Waters. He called this to the attention of his traveling companions, one of whom reminded Elder Monson that his name was Harry Brooks. The missionaries who met him at the airport were Elder Rainey and his companion, and when he registered at the hotel, the clerk could not find the reservation until, in searching the cards, he found Thomas S. Monsoon. (page 274)
  • At another mission presidents’ seminar, he set forth a seven-step plan for productive proselyting:
  1. Reports That Reveal
  2. Handbooks That Help
  3. Meetings That Motivate
  4. Schedules That Strengthen
  5. Procedures That Produce
  6. Love That Lifts
  7. Interviews That Inspire (page 356)

Continue reading

Advertisements

What President Monson Is Reading

512ktnfwjelIn President Monson’s brief remarks at this month’s General Conference, perhaps the thing that struck me most was in the priesthood session when he said, “Recently I read the true account of a dramatic manifestation concerning these promises.” Most of the talk, in fact, is a summary of a story from the book. That right there is already pretty high praise for a book, to have a prophet mention it and cite from it as the core of an address to the world.

It’s great to know what the prophet has been reading. He’s still working full time as CEO of a global organization, he’s several years a widower now, and his strength is starting to decline, but he still reads, and this is what he reads: a book about the inspiring experiences of Latter-day Saints during World War II. As far as I know, there isn’t a team of research interns doing any behind-the-scenes lifting in preparing anybody’s conference talks; when the prophet says he’s been reading this book lately, it’s really something he chose to pick up and spend time with.

Maybe we would do well to follow the prophet in his priorities, his habits, and even in his specific choices in reading. The book he mentions, Saints at War: Experiences of Latter-Day Saints in World War II, isn’t on Google Books, but it’s on sale at Amazon for as low as 14 cents a copy.

14 cents, to do what the prophet does.

You know what would be great? A “Prophets Book Club,” where people read books mentioned by prophets and apostles in General Conference.

At the end of the citation for this book in the published version of President Monson’s talk, a note says, “used by permission.” That’s wonderful: the prophet (or maybe his secretary) reached out to the author to ask if it was OK to refer to the book in General Conference. What a sweet conversation I bet that was.

 

Notes on President Monson’s Teachings, April 2014 General Conference

My notes on president Monson’s addresses at the April General Conference, 2014.  Obviously subjective, and subject to ongoing revision and improvement, but this helps me to pragmatically know how to “follow the prophet.”

 

IMPERATIVES

Priesthood Session: “Be Strong and of a Good Courage

  1. “…put ourselves in places and participate in activities where our thoughts are influenced for good and where the Spirit of the Lord will be comfortable.”
  2. (Quoting) “If you ever find yourself where you shouldn’t ought to be, get out!”
  3. “…do… the right thing even though we may be afraid, defend… our beliefs at the risk of being ridiculed, and maintain… those beliefs even when threatened with a loss of friends or of social status.”
  4. (Quoting) “Just be the same person you are in the dark that you are in the light.”

Sunday Morning: “Love—the Essence of the Gospel

  1. “…love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey.”
  2. “…love God, the Father of us all.”
  3. “…keep this truth [We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are brothers and sisters] in mind, loving all of God’s children will become easier.”
  4. “…recognize someone’s need and then…respond.”
  5. (Quoting Pres. Kimball) “…remember that those mortals we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that portion of mankind God has given us to love and to serve.”
  6. “…we must treat each other with kindness and respect.”
  7. “…strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle. Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do not destroy another person’s confidence through careless words or actions.”

Continue reading

Lehi, King Benjamin, and President Monson On Why We Follow the Prophet

It happened again last night, and not for the first time: I re-read a familiar section in the Book of Mormon and noticed something that had never arrested my attention before.

In King Benjamin’s classic speech, a major landmark in the Book of Mormon, he tells the people this about the the coming change of leadership from himself to his son:

…if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land…  (Mosiah 2:31, emphasis added)

Benjamin wasn’t the only Book of Mormon leader to teach about the reason for faithfully following the prophet; Lehi explained it twice:

And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord. (1 Nephi 3:5, emphasis added)

And it must needs be that the power of God must be with him, even unto his commanding you that ye must obey. But behold, it was not he, but it was the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, which opened his mouth to utterance that he could not shut it. (2 Nephi 1:27, emphasis added)

Nephi’s brothers, you may remember, resented being ordered around, against their natural inclinations, by a bunch of old white men in Salt Lake City…oops, I mean, by their younger brother.  (/sarcasm)

Continue reading

Conference Theme?

I’m looking for a big theme to this General Conference, and I’m wondering if it’s our duty to stand as visible, public representatives of Christ and His church.  That seemed to be the thrust of President Monson’s remarks in the priesthood session last night, President Eyring this morning, and Elder Ballard this morning (and, to a degree, President Monson again this morning). 

Full disclosure: I missed most of the first two Saturday sessions. 

It was interesting to see how the two talks by President Monson that I’ve seen this weekend were not only remarkably similar (resist the tide of declining moral standards in Western societies), but each was introduced with a reference to a newspaper article he’d read recently: in the priesthood session, it was from the New York Times; this morning, it was from the Wall Street Journal.  President Monson appears to do some seriously bipartisan news reading.

Apt Irony

President Monson’s address at the end of this morning’s session of General Conference was largely about the declining moral standards in our society.  Immediately after the closing prayer, the channel broadcasting it in Las Vegas showed an ad for Two and Half Men, featuring a woman in some slinky lingerie approaching Charlie Sheen as he lay in bed, and Jon Cryer wearing only a towel, with clothespins on his nipples.  Coincidence?

 

Has President Monson Gotten More Serious?

When President Monson was in the First Presidency, I rarely took notes on his talks.  Other speakers at General Conference would get a paragraph or so in my notebook, where I’d jot down the scriptures, doctrinal points, inspirational quotes, and directives given by each. 

But President Monson would usually just smile and tell cute stories that illustrated a simple principle (usually service).  He might frame a talk around a few basic imperatives (kneel down to pray, go forth to serve, etc.), but the bulk of his talks were just charming narrative.  When he’d come up, I’d set my notebook aside and just listen and enjoy. 

I loved the way he worked.  His style had its own value—he seemed content to leave the heavy stuff to the other guys, and he’d come in and be the coach pumping us up, motivating us by building desire to follow the examples in his stirring stories. 

But I think there’s been a big change in him in the last three years since he became president of the church.  I first noticed it in his closing remarks to the April 2009 General Conference.  Continue reading

President Monson’s “Marching Orders”

After every General Conference, my family tries to study the prophet’s talks to see what he wants us to work on, and we make a list of those priorities.  We usually summarize them in our own words, but this list is mostly copied and pasted directly from his text.  You might find more or less than these, but we saw 30 things he directly instructs Latter-day Saints to do:

Saturday Morning–Introduction

  1. May we continue to be faithful in performing such ordinances, not only for ourselves but also for our deceased loved ones who are unable to do so for themselves.
  2. Thank you, as well, for your faithfulness in paying your tithes and offerings and for your generosity in contributing to the other funds of the Church.
  3. May I suggest that if you are able, you might consider making a contribution to the General Missionary Fund of the Church.

Priesthood Session

  1. May we be worthy recipients of the divine power of the priesthood we bear.[start of talk] –> Safeguard it, treasure it, live worthy of it. [end of talk]
  2. May it [priesthood] bless our lives and may we use it to bless the lives of others.
  3. Continue reading

President Monson’s Church Handbook Story

Among the many things that could be shared about yesterday’s powerful training meeting about the new Church Handbook, I’m surprised that nobody else seems to be mentioning the great story President Monson shared about his work as an Apostle in East Germany in the 1970’s.  Hilarious. 

The government of East Germany would not allow Church materials to be taken into the country. So I was asked by President Spencer W. Kimball to memorize the new edition of what we then called the General Handbook of Instructions, to cross the border into East Germany, and then to type the handbook for the faithful Church leaders there. Although it would have been impossible for anyone to actually memorize the entire book, I did study it thoroughly and learned the concepts from cover to cover. I traveled to East Germany and asked the Church leaders there for an office, a typewriter, and a ream of paper. I commenced typing.  

An hour or two—and many pages—later, I stood up to stretch, glanced around the room, and noticed on a bookshelf behind me a copy of the new edition of the General Handbook of Instructions in the German language. Someone had obviously smuggled it across the border. Since that time, I’ve been rather knowledgeable concerning the contents of that book. 

 

UPDATE: Hello, Mormon Times readers!  If you liked this story, you should check out The Autobiography of Thomas S. Monson.

Idea For Following The Prophet

Thomas S. Monson has been president of the Church for almost two years now–where is his official biography already?  When President Hinckley came into that office, Deseret Book had his biography out in less than one year, as I recall. 

Here’s an idea I had to help fill in that big blank area, as well as to contribute to studies for improving Christlike discipleship, which President Monson may be the preeminent living example of.  This web page lists all of President Monson’s known, published addresses.  I plan to read through each one, and copy and paste the stories he uses about service that he’s rendered to others throughout his own life into a new document, in chronological order.  He loves to tell stories about his life, and has a talent for emphasizing the lives of others and the spritiual lessons he’s seen over time, while minimizing his own steady, selfless services to them.  I’ll make it my business to go back and pay attention to that part. 

After that, I’ll double check all articles by or about him from the Ensign (there will probably be a lot of duplication, but I want to be thorough).  That will illustrate how we could better be serving others, and since so much of President Monson’s life has revolved around service, it should provide a pretty decent little biography of the prophet! 

 Someday, when that study is done, I’ll post the newly arranged material here.

April 2009 General Conference: 3 Month Review

We have a tendency to take a General Conference of the Church and discuss it, analyze it, work on applying it, and cherish it in every way we know how…for about three weeks.  Then we forget it until the next Conference six months later and by then, that last Conference might as well have never happened.  So instead of posting my notes on April’s meetings along with everyone else, I want to put mine up now, three months afterwards, halfway between that Conference and the next one. 

I hope that we might all be reminded of things we missed before, or have renewed motivation to live up to the teachings given.  Just this week at a home teaching meeting, a man in my ward mentioned that President Monson had taught in the priesthood meeting that every Melchizedek priesthood holder should be studying the scriptures every day.  I didn’t remember that; it wasn’t in my notes.   I looked up the talk and there it was.  The prophet did say that.  I was grateful to my friend.

When I take notes, immediately after each talk I write a title for that talk in the right margin of the page.  This is my way of summing up the most major point or topic.  My titles for each talk are given in parentheses after each speaker’s name.  It’s always fun to compare my titles to those later published online and in the Ensign.  Here are some highlights from my notes:

Saturday Morning

Elder Hales (“Overcome Debt & Addictions w/ Provident Living”)–The most impressive thing here was just the subject.  Along with Elder Perry’s “Let Him Do It With Simplicity,” this is the second consecutive Conference to begin with a talk about providing for ourselves better by scaling back our materialism.  That fact alone speaks volumes.  Perhaps the best things here were his admonition to “joyfully” live within our means, and the subtle chastisement that debt is money that we could have used to serve others.  Application: Have I reduced my longing for physical possessions through Elder Hales’s prescribed cure of service, obedience to the commandments, tithes, fast offerings, and a family budget?

Elder Christofferson(“Covenants”)– Continue reading