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)

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Three Favorite Stories From The Life Of President Hinckley

I read President Hinckley’s official biography, Go Forward With Faith, a few years ago, and it made a major impression on me just how hard he worked and what a great life he lived.  Here are three of my favorite anecdotes from his life:

On living apart from his wife for half a year while he worked for a railroad:

Gordon left almost immediately for Denver to assume his new responsibilities and look for housing, and Marjorie remained behind to find a renter for their home….As the weeks rolled by, Marjorie became increasingly anxious.  She was eager to join her husband in Denver before her pregnancy became so advanced that it was not feasible to make the move, and she did not want to have her baby alone.  While he waited for something to open up, Gordon lived in a small hotel and worked nearly around the clock….There was no such thing as a forty-hour work week.  After putting in a long day at the railroad yard, he rode the trains at night to learn the ropes….Gordon and Marjorie disliked their separation from each other, which stretched to nearly six months….Gordon alleviated the situation somewhat by using his Pullman pass to make the twelve-hour trip home on weekends, catching a train west as early Friday as he could get away and returning on a late-night express Sunday evening.  (pages 130-131)

On holding two very difficult callings at the same time for a few months:

Four days later, President McKay set Elder Hinckley apart as an Assistant to the Twelve….He would travel extensively–something he endured rather than enjoyed.  And his young family would have to adjust to his frequent absence….Because he continued to serve as executive secretary of the Missionary Department, his office wasn’t even changed.  Neither were circumstances adjusted immediately in the East Millcreek Stake, where he continued to serve as stake president.  He worked by day as a General Authority, held stake meetings on weekday evenings, and divided his time on weekends between his own stake and assignments to attend conferences in other areas….After a couple of months of doing double duty, Elder Hinckley called to the attention of President Joseph Fielding Smith the fact that he was holding down two very demanding jobs….Finally, on August 17, 1958, four and a half months after being sustained as a General Authority, Elder Hinckley was assigned to assist Elder Harold B. Lee in reorganizing the stake…  (pages 196-200, emphasis added)

On humility and loyalty:

For some time it had been hard for President Hinckley to avoid comments from individuals, even colleagues, who spoke openly about what they considered to be inevitable–that it was only a matter of time until he became President of the Church.  President Hinckley was impatient with (and sometimes upset about) such comments and innuendos, and he routinely cut short any conversations headed in that direction.  When Elders Faust and Ballard approached him in late February 1995 about the script for a video about his life that the Church wished to produce, President Hinckley was uncooperative.  “I told them that I would not go along with any such thing at this time,” he recorded.  “It would be totally unfitting, inappropriate, and counter to my feelings…”  (page 503)

What a hero.  I only wonder why Presidet Monson has been in office for a year and a half now and yet there’s still no authorized biography of him available. What’s the hold up there, people?

Heroes Of The Desk

Last week, I read this great post at Faith Promoting Rumor about how one person organized a desk to optimize its practical and inspirational values as an aid to scripture study.  It made me realize that my own work area is hardly conducive to maximized effectiveness in anything. 

So I moved the computer screen off to the side to give me more room in front of me, added a bookend on the far side to hold the books I’m currently reading, and where a messy pile of scratch paper had been before is now a row of the binders I frequently use: my church binder foremost, as well as my Chinese study binder, my family history binder, my goal tracking binder, and my school materials binder. 

My favorite addition has been the display of several small pictures.  Where the post linked to above favored just three role models of gospel study, since my work area serves to meet all my areas of interest and responsibility, I put up pictures of people who inspire me in multiple areas.  These aren’t just people I look up to, but people I hope to emulate in some way.  (The closest I’ve come to this in the past is when I put a picture of my family on my steering wheel, so I can always have a reminder in front of me of what’s important, though I’ve told some it’s so that, in case I’m in a horrific car crash, I can kiss them goodbye one last time as my head slams into the steering column…)

This is still a work in progress, but tells me a lot about myself.  I have 15 pictures up now, from left to right:

  1. Thomas Jefferson: America’s Renaissance man–gifted author, libertarian leader, musician, naturalist, bookworm, etc.  I’ve been inspired by occasionally dipping into the Portable Thomas Jefferson, and when I was in Washington D.C. six years ago, the Jefferson Memorial was my favorite landmark. 
  2. Bruce Lee: another renaissance man–besides being a breathtaking martial artist, he was a groundbreaking fitness entusiast, a ballroom dancing champion, an entrepreneur, a provocative author and talented sketch artist, as well as a philosophy major at UCLA.  Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story is one of my favorite movies. 
  3. Hugh Nibley, whose profound enthusiasm for teaching, study, research, cultural criticism, classicism, languages, and unwavering loyalty has strongly influenced me in those directions as well.
  4. Bruce R. McConkie, doctrinal student extraordinaire.  McConkie bashing on blogs gets on my nerves, as he was such an undeniably serious, devoted disciple of the Lord, who put his erudition to the best possible use: serving God and helping others do the same.  I’ve written about this extensively before
  5. Lance Armstrong: I loved cycling when I was younger, and desperately want to get into it again.  Not only is this guy the paragon of cycling, but his endurance–physical and emotional (he beat cancer)–is legendary. 
  6. Jesus Christ.  Duh
  7. Ronald Reagan: His “A Time For Choosing” speech in 1964 is still the best articulation of conservative principles ever.  The Great Communicator’s skill at motivating America with humor, enthusiasm, and patriotism is lovingly enshrined in memories of my childhood.
  8. Mark Steyn: The best essayist in the world today, his wit, grasp of the world’s politics, and keen stockpile of cultural references over the last hundred years makes his prose a tour de force, a joy to be reckoned with.
  9. Rafe Esquith, author of Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire; I wanted a teacher I could relate to up there, and Esquith’s standards, energy, and focus on the classics, even when I don’t do exactly what he does, still inspire me to pour on the passion. 
  10. James Joyce, my favorite author.  He embodies my love of whimsical prose, art, and all things Celtic. 
  11. All 16 presidents of the LDS Church, from Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson: how could I choose?  Do I display Joseph Smith for his realistic example of consecrated discipleship?  Spencer W. Kimball for his life of humble service?  David O. McKay as the zenith of living life to the fullest with the gospel?  So in they all go.
  12. Lord Baden-Powell, founder of Boy Scouts.  I need to get outdoors more often and build more practical skills.  I love the Scouting organization, and am grateful to be involved in it, as a parent of a Cub Scout and as a leader in our Boy Scout troop. 
  13. John Swartzwelder, reclusive libertarian author of more episodes of The Simpsons than anybody else (three seasons’ worth).  A master of ironic humor and outdated references (most good Mr. Burns episodes are his), he also penned such timeless satires as “Homer’s Enemy,” “Bart’s Comet,” “The Day The Violence Died,” and “Homer Vs. The Eighteenth Amendment.”  He hasn’t written for the show for years, since he’s been focusing on writing novels…one of many reasons why the show isn’t funny anymore.
  14. Anthony Daniels, tied with Steyn for title of world’s best living essayist.  A gifted wordsmith of unparalleled insight into current affairs, he writes under the pen name Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal, among other places. 
  15. Neal A. Maxwell.  Touching discipleship + (scholarship x alliteration) = a devout role model