Courage in meeting life's challenges

Lift burdens

Provide hope

On the 30th anniversary of his call as a General Authority, President Thomas S. Monson related experiences illustrating faith and courage, and quoted scriptures and poems demonstrating hope, comfort and love.

At general conference on Oct. 4, 1963, at age 36, he was sustained as a member of the Council of the Twelve.

As the concluding speaker at the Sunday morning session, President Monson, now second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke on the theme of meeting life's challenges.

He told of having watched a family help move a totally dependent boy back and forth in a swimming pool. The boy had been stricken as an infant with a severe illness that left him speechless and brain damaged. "This tender view of love and devotion of the family caring for the boy remained with me," President Monson said.

He spoke of another pool, Bethesda, where Jesus healed a man who waited to enter its healing waters. (John 5:2-9.)

President Monson then described another scene of suffering and sorrow, a painting in the famous Tate Gallery in London, England. The painting portrays a group of happy, healthy children frolicking and showing their amusement at the antics of an organ grinder's monkey, while in the background is a small, pale-faced boy confined to a wheelchair. "Feelings of empathy and silent tears of sadness overcome those who gaze upon the scene and sense the unspoken feelings of the sick boy's heart," President Monson said.

"Who can count the boys and girls, the men and women where sickness has left its mark, rendering strong limbs lifeless and causing loved ones to shed tears of joy and sorrow and offer prayers of faith for them."

He said illness is not the only culprit that alters lives; accidents can in an instant inflict pain, destroy happiness and curtail future activities. He spoke of two victims of accidents. He described some of the trials faced by Robert Hendricks, who was left with brain damage, limited use of his limbs and impaired speech following an accident three years ago. He then spoke of Roger S. Olson, a husband and the father of six children, who was killed recently in a helicopter crash.

President Monson said at times there appears to be no light at the tunnel's end - no dawn to break the night's darkness. "We feel surrounded by the pain of broken hearts, the disappointment of shattered dreams and the despair of vanished hopes. . . We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We feel abandoned, heart broken, alone.

"To all who so despair, may I offer the assurance of the Psalmist's words: `Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.' (Ps. 30:5.)

"Whenever we are inclined to feel burdened down with the blows of life's fight, let us remember that others have passed the same way, have endured and then have overcome."

President Monson shared a current-day example of faith, courage, compassion and victory that illustrates how it is possible to meet life's challenges head on. He spoke of Wendy Bennion of Sandy, Utah, and Jami Palmer of Park Valley, Utah. Both are teenagers and have borne similar afflictions, and their situations run almost parallel, he said. He talked about Wendy, since her battle has been of longer duration.

He related how Wendy, stricken with cancer, has persevered valiantly. He said a balloon-launching party was held in her honor after she completed 18 months of chemotherapy.

"One of the many balloons launched that day was found miles away by Jayne Johnson," President Monson related. "It had landed in her back yard, and she discovered it just as she was starting her own chemotherapy treatments. She wrote to Wendy, indicating she had been feeling sad and frightened but that finding the balloon and note inside - which told of Wendy, her cancer and the completion of her treatments - had given her strength and that Wendy was a real inspiration to her. Wendy said, `I think that she was supposed to find that balloon so that she would know that it's not the end of the world and that people do get better.' "

President Monson further said: "There is one life that sustains those who are troubled or beset with sorrow and grief - even the Lord Jesus Christ." He quoted Isaiah 53:2-5, which, in part, describes the Savior as "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief."

"Yes," said President Monson, "our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is our Exemplar and our strength. He is the light that shineth in darkness. He is the Good Shepherd. Though engaged in His majestic ministry, He embraced the opportunity to lift burdens, provide hope, mend bodies and restore life."

After recounting the biblical account of the Savior having compassion on the widow at Nain whose son had died and who subsequently had been restored to life by the Lord (Luke 7:11-15), President Monson said, "What power, what tenderness, what compassion did our Master thus demonstrate! We, too, can bless if we but follow His noble example. Opportunities are everywhere. Needed are eyes to see the pitiable plight and ears to hear the silent pleadings of a broken heart. Yes, and a soul filled with compassion, that we might communicate not only eye to eye or voice to ear, but, in the majestic style of the Savior, even heart to heart."

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