Warning His disciples against the threat of false prophets, Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves,” afterwards giving His disciples the key by which to discern the character of anyone who claimed to be a prophet: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16). In this, the Savior taught His disciples then and now that the true measure of anyone who claims to be a prophet is in the fruit that they bear, in the products of their ministry. Today, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, is God’s prophet on the earth. While I could write about the many spectacular things that he has done in his life to serve God and His children throughout this world in over fifty years of dedicated church service, I want to share here some of the more personal fruits of President Monson’s ministry, the ways in which his teachings and counsel have influenced my life for the better.
Not Taking Myself So Seriously
During my time at Brigham Young University, President Monson came to speak to the students. He stood before us and spoke about lessons he had learned from previous prophets. At one point, he described an encounter that he and then-President Kimball had had with a man who was unhappy with the missionary assignment that his son had received. The man had come to tell President Kimball, the prophet, that he had gotten the son’s assignment wrong. After they listened to the man’s complaint, he left, and President Kimball said to Thomas Monson, “Aren’t some parents unusual?” At that point in the story, President Monson looked up at the gathered audience and said, “He would not use a word I might have used, but then he wasn’t in the navy like I was! (That line is not in my prepared message!)” There was the prophet of God, eschewing any pretense of infallible righteousness, poking fun at himself for his maritime vocabulary. In that moment and in many others, President Monson has taught me that there isn’t much to be gained by taking myself too seriously. His example has helped me to understand that humor is no sin and that the gospel is best lived with a brilliant smile.
Enacting my Feelings
In one General Conference, President Monson taught:
A grateful heart, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude. Often we feel grateful and intend to express our thanks but forget to do so or just don’t get around to it. Someone has said that “feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
I’m a naturally reticent person, so, even when I feel gratitude, I’m not always been eager to express it. But,from President Monson, I’ve learned that feelings of gratitude don’t do any good unless they’re expressed. Further, I’ve learned that this principle applies to more than just gratitude. Unexpressed faith does nothing to bless others. Unexpressed sorrow denies our friends the opportunity to reach out in Christian fellowship. Unexpressed love does nothing to benefit the beloved. The feelings and matters of our hearts should not be limited to abstract attitudes. Rather, they should inform our actions and influence our relationships. The scriptures don’t say that God probably loves the world, but He keeps those feelings to Himself. No, they say, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). If God’s feelings for us were backed by action, shouldn’t our feelings be reflected in what we do?
Finding my Way
Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out the course that I want to take in life, trying to prepare as much to make a decent living as to adopt a direction that would be pleasing to the Lord. While pondering that question, I read one of President Monson’s recent addresses, a short little sermon that, I’ll confess, seemed too short to contain anything useful. But in that talk, President Monson describes the meeting between the Cheshire Cat and Alice. Alice, confronted with a fork in the road, asks the Cat which way she should go, and the Cheshire Cat replies, “That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.” That’s all well and good, I thought, but I don’t know where I want to go, where I should go—so how does this help me? In the very next sentence, President Monson quieted my anxiety and elevated my gaze, saying, “Unlike Alice, we know where we want to go, and it does matter which way we go, for the path we follow in this life leads to our destination in the next life” (emphasis added). In the time it took me to get from one sentence to the next, Thomas S. Monson cleared up my confusion, teaching me that there isn’t a single right path but that, rather, any course is valid and acceptable to God so long as it allows me to live in harmony with His will and leads me back to His presence after this life.
Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. I know it—not because I’ve seen him perform miracles—but because his counsel has blessed me and has changed me as I’ve acted on it. His words have encouraged me, inspired me, and led me to a happier, more productive life. In my experience, those are the fruits of his prophetic calling, the evidence that our Heavenly Father still speaks to His children in our day through a living prophet.