I wasn’t surprised to learn of President Thomas S. Monson’s passing. I was surprised he didn’t go sooner. He didn’t look that great when we last saw him in Conference. It amazes me he lasted as long as he did.
But the Lord governs the life span of His prophets just as He governs His Church. And President Monson’s time has come.
Thousands viewed his body in the Conference Center before his Church-broadcast funeral service, also held in the Conference Center. Generous and well-deserved praise reminded us who President Monson was. His body was then taken to the cemetery for a private service with family.
All of this is most appropriate. Somehow, though, I find myself more reflective now than when President Hinckley died. Then I was a little disappointed to see President Hinckley go. I wanted him to stay just a little longer.
Now with President Monson’s passing, I’m relieved his suffering has ended. But I find myself wondering about legacy.
Those who came before
Each modern-day prophet I can remember seems to have a legacy. The earliest prophet I remember is Spencer W. Kimball. He encouraged us to“lengthen our stride” and do more today to forward the Lord’s work.
Then came Ezra Taft Benson, best known for his classic discourses on the Book of Mormon and pride. Though with us briefly, Howard W. Hunter encouraged us to make our temple recommend the great seal of our Church membership.
Then Gordon B. Hinckley wore the mantle, and was he ever versatile! It’s partly why I like the man so much.
We saw accelerated growth in the numbers of full-time missionaries and temples. Particularly impressive to me was not only the reconstruction of the Nauvoo temple but also President Hinckley’s insistence that the dedication be shared with the entire Church. And then there’s the Conference Center and the Orchestra at Temple Square.
Plus, who can forget the 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace? And I rejoiced when President Hinckley announced the Perpetual Education Fund. Having served my mission in Guatemala, I knew first hand how desperately needed that program was.
President Hinckley tried to do more in every way he could. It was as though he was the culmination of the legacy of the prophets who came before him.
The man himself
And President Monson? When I think about his legacy, what comes to mind? Honestly, when I think about President Monson, I simply see a good man.
That may not seem like much, especially by comparison. But what made him a good man? Why do I have that image of him?
Perhaps it’s because he simply loved people and did what he could to serve them. If President Monson had any theme as the Prophet, it would have to be loving service.
The Mormon Channel has placed an excellent biography of President Monson’s life on YouTube. Although produced back in 2013 and very brief, the video does effectively convey the theme of loving service which President Monson exemplified in his life.
Towards the end of the video, we see President Monson reflecting on his own life. He said something that particularly struck me.
That’s a pretty good summary of his life. How many of us would meet that standard if we were called to be measured today? I’m not sure how well I would measure up.
Those who come after
I am sure, however, the Lord’s timing is spot on. As I watched the presentations of the new First Presidency during the gathering in the Salt Lake temple annex as well as the press conference, I felt the sweet, gentle confirmation of the Spirit that Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, and Henry B. Eyring are the men the Lord wants to fill these roles at this time.
I confess I was half expecting President Nelson to call the same counselors who served under President Monson. But surprised doesn’t mean disappointed. President Oakes and President Eyring are each well-seasoned servants who have more than adequate preparation for their new callings.
And I look forward to having a more energetic Prophet in President Nelson. Can you believe he’s 93 and still goes skiing? Whether or not you believe that, certainly President Nelson hasn’t sought his new role. While watching him speak both in the Salt Lake Temple annex and the press conference, President Nelson humbly repeated over and over that this is the Lord’s Church and He is at the head guiding and directing its affairs.
President Nelson also encouraged Church members to stay on the covenant path, which may turn out to be the theme for his tenure as the Prophet. Whether or not that holds true, we’ll always be blessed when we follow the Brethren. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
I remembered what he said, but I also remembered what I felt. I felt that perhaps President Monson will not be with us much longer since he didn’t look that great. I felt the need to align my priorities more with foundational truths. I felt the need to try a little harder to be a little better.
As much as those feelings still apply today, reading President Monson’s words four months later brought to me a new feeling. I feel I’ve missed an important aspect of living one’s best life.
It’s part of the plan
Recently I’ve been addressing the theme of living your best life. It’s my only goal for 2017. I’ve recognized that living one’s best life is more about the journey than the destination. It’s about the constant struggle to improve, never settling for status quo — especially when that status quo is mediocrity.
I’ve even acknowledged the role the Lord plays in living your best life by continuing to embrace a longstanding theme of Joy in the Journey Radio. It makes perfect sense we can’t have our best life if we don’t partner with the Lord.
But President Monson’s words helped me realize I must do more than partner with the Lord and constantly seek to improve if I am to live my best life.
President Monson began his remarks by sharing an experience while on assignment at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. The Mormon Pavilion there at the fair showed the now classic Church film Man’s Search for Happiness. President Monson described his impressions of watching a group of attendees — and in particular a gentleman in his mid-30s — respond to the film. He then continued to speak about our Heavenly Father’s plan.
You can’t live your best life unless you live the truth you have.
How often I’ve begun my prayers by expressing gratitude for blessings (“Hallowed be thy name”) before rushing to detail all the help I needed in my life (“Give us this day our daily bread”). That pattern doesn’t match the Lord’s. It skips over an important element: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.”
As I recognized the pattern of prayer in the Savior’s teaching, I understood I had never prayed with the intent of putting the Lord first. The Lord had always been important, but I had never begun my prayer with “Thy kingdom come.” I had always jumped to “Give us this day our daily bread.”
I determined to align the pattern of my prayers more fully with the Lord’s teachings. As I put the Lord first by discussing my participation in His work before bringing to Him anything about His participation in my life, I began to feel closer to Him. I began to feel more like He really was a partner for my life.
Living the truth I had brought me closer to my best life.
Christ is the key
Partnering with the Lord to live our best life is our Heavenly Father’s plan for us in mortality. Christ was never intended to be with us only in those pivotal moments of our journey home. Rather the plan is for Him to be with us for each and every step of that journey.
You can’t have your best life without Christ. That’s because, in order to live your best life, you need to live the truth you have. And it’s by partnering with the Lord for His work as well as for your life that you fully live the truth you have about our Heavenly Father’s plan for all His children.
President Monson declared,
Living the truth — not just having it — and partnering with the Lord for His work — not just for your life — is what the Lord wants for all of us. When you live the truth you have, you can better live your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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