This was conference weekend, one of the weekends I most look forward to throughout the year. I love hearing the prophetic words of counsel, comfort and commandment expressed over the pulpit by a group of men and women who dedicate their lives to bettering the members of the Church, their families, and themselves.
There have been some notable moments for me over the years. In 2010, for example, Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk called ‘Safety for the Soul‘ that brought me to tears as the full import of what he was saying registered in my mind. He held aloft the Book of Mormon – the very book that Hyrum read from at his brother’s request, with the page still turned down – that was present in the upper room at Carthage Jail when Joseph and Hyrum were martyred. Many times as members of the church we contemplate the martyrdom of the Prophet of the Restoration, but never before had what this meant been made so explicitly clear. Elder Holland said:
May I refer to a modern “last days” testimony? When Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum started for Carthage to face what they knew would be an imminent martyrdom, Hyrum read…[a] few short verses from the 12th chapter of Ether in the Book of Mormon. Before closing the book, Hyrum turned down the corner of the page from which he had read, marking it as part of the everlasting testimony for which these two brothers were about to die….
As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?
Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
The first prophet of this dispensation had burdens innumerable placed upon his shoulders. And yet he held true to the end, bearing witness to his undying belief in the divinity of what he knew to be true.
This morning, we were privileged to witness another powerful moment as our current prophet bore witness – spiritually and physically – to what he knows to be true. As millions of people around the world watched, the burdens borne by our dear and beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, became apparent. As we watched, this man of strong and noble carriage, this man who always stands uprightly – literally and figuratively – slumped, stooped, and stumbled his words. As we watched, this valiant leader bravely carried on, finishing his words of spiritual comfort and support to us, when many of us just wanted so desperately to be able to physically comfort and support him.
The burdens of the world had come crashing down on our beloved prophet, allowing us a small glimpse of what this man has been through since his call to this position in 2008. At that time, he looked physically weighed down in his news conference, as his new mantle of responsibility was placed upon his shoulders. Since then, he has lost his beloved wife and said goodbye to four of his dearest friends in church leadership. The church has been under attack from the usual sources outside the church, but also from within by those who question church leadership, authority, doctrine, procedures, and history. And as if this wasn’t enough, many people fail to realize that our church leadership assumes responsibility for everyone within their geographical area, not just members within their ward or stake boundaries. The weight of the worst of all human behavior and suffering experienced by seven billion people throughout the world rests on his shoulders.
If ever there was a portrait of how strongly Satan is fighting against the plan of salvation, we saw it today.
We cannot take his burdens from him. But we, as members, can help to lighten them a little. We can serve more fully in our wards and communities. We can strengthen our own homes more deeply by following the counsel we have been given to hold family home evening, family prayers, family scriptures. We can support our local leaders more diligently by attending our meetings, offering our help, and using church resources to better fulfill our callings.
And we can pray. We can pray for ourselves, our families, our friends, our wards, our communities, our nations, and our church leadership. I once knew a man who spent several hours every Saturday evening praying for each General Authority by name. While probably not practical for most of us, we can all add general and specific prayers for our beloved prophets and apostles to our daily prayers.
If we truly believe, as did Joseph and Hyrum, that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture…. If we truly believe that Joseph was the Prophet of the Restoration…. If we truly believe that Thomas S. Monson is our living prophet on the earth today…. Then we should all be willing to take upon ourselves some of the burdens in our own sphere of influence in order to lighten the load in even the smallest way for this man who for 52 years has been an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, to offer him some comfort and support as he has done for more than five decades for us.
President Monson, we love you.