Over the past week and a half, I have read so many thoughts and memories from friends, Church leaders, and other organizations about the passing of President Thomas S. Monson, prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I shared some of my initial thoughts when I first saw the Mormon Newsroom article pop up late at night a week ago Tuesday. My head filled with so many memories and so much of what a prophet of God means to me.
Maybe more for me and for my testimony, I wanted to share a few things that I have learned from this prophet and the memories I have of him.
President Monson was a man who remembered people and loved people. My grandmother, Helen Cannon Stitt, knew “Tommy Monson.” She was friends with his sister Marjorie and palled around with her for a number of years. As we grew up, my grandma always shared stories of him. And she shared how he always cared about her life. She served several missions, some of them down on Temple Square, and whenever she’d run into him, she said she wasn’t sure if he’d remember her since there were so many people he had on his mind. But he always did. I grew up knowing that this man was someone who cared about people. And that is the great legacy he left. When my grandma passed away, he even sent a condolence note to our family. He remembered people.
Even though I remember other prophets passing away, my first experience of really understanding what that meant was with President Gordon B. Hinckley. I was on my mission in Brazil when he passed. I had always loved President Hinckley’s charisma and vivacity. He was the prophet of my youth and the one who signed my mission call. It was hard for me to know or understand what it would mean to sustain a new prophet of God. But as I heard President Monson speak in that following conference, the Spirit confirmed to me that he was God’s chosen prophet. I have been impressed to hear others’ similar experiences. What a blessing it is to have the spirit confirm truths to us in uncertainty.
Shortly after that conference, in May 2008, the Curitiba, Brazil temple was dedicated in my mission. President Monson and President Russell M. Nelson came to the celebration and dedication. The mission had a special conference with President Monson and it was beautiful and powerful.
I wrote in my journal at the time: “When President Monson entered the chapel, the chapel changed. Where before there was a nice feeling, afterward there was a powerful feeling. I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt we were in the presence of a prophet of the Lord….I got to be the chorister and led all the missionaries in the first hymn, ‘We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.’ It was powerful and sweet and I was grateful for the opportunity to share my testimony through song.” It has been a blessing to re-read my notes of that conference and remember the promptings I was given to be a little better.
Curitiba is a very rainy city. As part of the open house and celebration, members had fasted that it would not rain during the open house and celebration because it would create such a mess and perhaps deter people from coming. At the celebration, the skies were dark and cloudy and we were all afraid for the weather. As President Monson arrived, he began by sharing a message. True to form, he started with a quip, but because of a language barrier, one of his jokes that was funny to me, went largely misunderstood. He said something to the effect of, “It looks like it’s going to rain, but I just saw a dove fly by. I think that’s a good sign for us. Unless it was just a pigeon.” Quippy and fun, but unfortunately in Portuguese, the word for “dove” and “pigeon” are the same–pomba. So the translator didn’t know what to make of it and said…” I just saw a [pomba] fly by….unless it was just a [pomba].” I still laugh about the oddities of language. Miraculously, it did not rain until the celebration was in its final few minutes.
And the temple dedication was holy and sanctifying. I attended the cornerstone ceremony and two dedicatory sessions (one inside the temple) where President Monson gave the dedicatory prayer both times. If I hadn’t known it before, I knew it then that he was a prophet.
I ran into President Monson two times in my Church employment. Both times I was delivering things to his building. One of the times, he was at the drinking fountain and as I approached, I thought, “Man, that sure looks like the back of President Monson’s head”…and it was. Both times he greeted me and said some funny quip or remark.
As an employee of the Church, I also had the privilege one time to help prepare a script that he needed to use for a training video we were producing. I feel so blessed to have helped sustain the prophet in this way.
Aside from all my own stories, I have felt so inspired and touched by the countless lives he blessed. I was a neighbor to Elder Glen L. Rudd for a number of years, one of President Monson’s closest friends. Elder Rudd was a welfare man and guided much of our department’s work for many years until his passing. I frequently delivered work to his home and returned work for others to do when it became too difficult for him to come downtown. He often mentioned President Monson and his daughter Ann coming to visit. I wondered, “How on earth does a prophet of God have time for so many people?” But it was because he made time, and I believe the Lord multiplied his time.
Many of his teachings have guided my life in significant ways.
President Monson once said, “The sweetest experience I know in life is to feel a prompting and act upon it and later find out that it was the fulfillment of someone’s prayer or someone’s need. And I always want the Lord to know that if He needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run that errand for Him” (On the Lord’s Errand [DVD, 2008]).
Ever since I heard that message, I have made it a prayer in my heart to follow that example. If the Lord needs an errand run, I want Him to know Liz Stitt will run that errand for Him. That goal has brought me some of the most sacred and beautiful experiences of my life. I have renewed that prayer more fervently in this past week, and the Lord has responded in full force with work for me to do. I am grateful for a prophet who helped me learn what is important in life.
And I have made it a constant goal to follow his counsel, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved” (October 2008 general conference). I sometimes have to repeat this multiple times a day. Trying to follow this counsel has helped me be more humble in my interactions with others.
This past week, I’ve begun listening to President Monson’s biography and studying his words more. I attended his viewing and his funeral. I have pondered on my feelings and searched through my notes and impressions of his teachings throughout the years. I feel blessed to know that we have a prophet of God who listens to God, who speaks for God, who loves God, and who helps other people know that God loves them. No one is perfect, but there are many who are good, just people, who go about doing good. I believe he was one of them.