Priesthood commemoration: President Monson gives four guidelines for successful living

Serving God and others through the priesthood and being worthy to attain eternal life were prominent themes at the annual Priesthood Restoration Commemoration Fireside originating from the Salt Lake Tabernacle Sunday, May 2.

The fireside was transmitted via satellite to meetinghouses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, West Indies and Haiti.President Ezra Taft Benson watched the proceedings in his apartment, according to President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, who conducted the meeting.

Addressing the priesthood holders were President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Council of the Twelve; and Eddie Gene Gonzales Jr., a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood and a member of the Sonora Ward, Tucson Arizona Stake.

A combined Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood chorus from the Jordan and Oquirrh Utah regions provided music, directed by Donald Findlay and accompanied by organist Clay Christiansen.

Speaking primarily to Aaronic Priesthood youth, President Monson gave four guidelines to ensure success in every endeavor: grow in wisdom, walk by faith, teach through testimony and serve with love.

Regarding the first guideline, he retold the account in Luke 2:45-49, 52, about the boy Jesus' experience with the learned men in the temple.

"I think it most interesting that Jesus was 12 years old when this event transpired, - the identical age when you were ordained deacons," President Monson commented.

He suggested priesthood holders follow the pattern of the sons of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon who "waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth," having searched the scriptures and "given themselves to much prayer, and fasting." (Alma 17:1-3.)

President Monson illustrated the second guideline, "walk by faith," with the experience of a deacon, Aaron Daniel Bower, who died Jan. 26 from spina bifida and leukemia. Aaron treasured the Aaronic Priesthood which he held, President Monson said, and although it was difficult for him to get around, he accepted assignments to pass the sacrament, as other deacons would seek for the privilege of wheeling his wheelchair around during the sacrament.

"He was a model, fashioned by courage and faith, worthy for others to follow," President Monson noted.

He referred to the Liahona, the instrument the Lord provided to guide Lehi and his followers in the wilderness, and compared it to the patriarchal blessing that every worthy Church member is entitled to receive.

Pertaining to the guideline "teach through testimony," President Monson told of attending a stake conference where Elder Delbert L. Stapley, a member of the Council of the Twelve now deceased, had served as a missionary in his youth. After the conference, a woman gave Elder Monson, then of the Council of the Twelve, a copy of the Book of Mormon in which Elder Stapley as a missionary had signed his name. She asked Elder Monson to take the book to Elder Stapley and to give her family's love to him with the message that the book had guided her entire family to become members of the Church.

At an appropriate opportunity, he gave the book to Elder Stapley. "As he read the inscription he had written on the title page of the book and saw his name, great tears came to his eyes and coursed down his cheeks. Teaching through testimony had brought to him indescribable joy and profound gratitude."

Regarding the guideline "serve with love," President Monson counseled bishops to guide Aaronic Priesthood youth so they understand the sacred nature of their callings.

With tender emotion, President Monson related an experience from his youth. As a deacon, he was asked by his bishop to take the sacrament to a man who was a shut-in who lived about a half-mile from the meetinghouse.

"That special Sunday morning, as I knocked on the door of Brother Wright's humble home, I heard his feeble reply, Come in.' I entered not only his cottage but also a room filled with the Spirit of the Lord. I approached his bedside and carefully placed a piece of the bread to his lips. I then held the cup of water, that he might drink. As I departed, I saw him smile. He moved his fingers through my blond hair and said,God bless you, my boy.' And God did bless me with an appreciation which continues even today for the sacred emblems."

He told of attending a sacrament service in a small branch that consisted of patients in a nursing home. He said that during the service, a sister called out, "I'm cold; I'm cold!" Without hesitation, he recounted, one of the priests at the sacrament table arose, walked over to the sister and placed his suit coat around her shoulders. Later, the priest apologized to President Monson for officiating without his suit coat.

"Quietly, I said to him that he was never more appropriately dressed than he was that day when a dear widow was uncomfortably cold and he provided the warmth she needed by placing his jacket around her shoulders. A simple act of kindness? Yes, but much more - a genuine love and concern for others."

Elder Maxwell spoke primarily to fathers, applying the words of the prodigal son from Luke 15:18.

"We know who we are and where our home' really is," Elder Maxwell remarked. "Hence, life, when properly lived, is really a journeyback home.' In this narrow sense, we are somewhat like the prodigal son. As we come to ourselves, we, too, with determination, will say, `I will arise and go to my father.' "

In addition to leading their families back home, priesthood holders are to seek first to build up the Kingdom of God, and establish His righteousness, as instructed in the Joseph Smith translation of Matt. 6:38, Elder Maxwell noted. "We will never know the Keeper of the Celestial Gate's welcoming embrace if we now embrace, instead, the things of the world!"

As the designations "carpenter's son" and "Jesus of Nazareth" did not reflect Christ's full and true identity as Lord of the universe, one's temporary vocation in life such as plumber or physician does not describe one's eternal identity as a faithful husband and father, Elder Maxwell commented.

"However, even when you and I come to understand our true identities, God loves us too much to let us be content with what we have achieved spiritually up to now, because He is a perfect Father," he added. "He knows what we have the power to become, and He has His special ways of being lovingly insistent."

Developing divine traits, he said, includes becoming submissive, meek and humble. "If we would but place an ego-screen over all our thoughts, words and actions before they hurt others or embarrass us! If we are steadily becoming more and more the man of Christ, the mesh in that ego screen will become finer and finer, and fewer and fewer things will slip through to harm."

Elder Maxwell declared there is no real manhood without real respect for womanhood. "No man can be exalted who demeans women," he said. He explained that to value women includes respecting their insights. "Valuing requires respectful but not condescending listening, not only in our families, but in ward and stake councils."

Urging priesthood brethren to be true to what they were foreordained to achieve, Elder Maxwell warned that there may be dark days. "Mine occurred on the island of Okinawa as a not-very-skilled and not-very-brave soldier. But in the foxhole I blessed my sacrament as I'd been taught to do, using a biscuit out of my C-rations. I wasn't always sure when it was Sunday. But I'd been trained and I'd been taught. And my congregation was a congregation of one. Carried with me in my pack was a smudged copy of my patriarchal blessing, which I would read from time to time for inspiration and reassurance."

At such times, Elder Maxwell noted, "we can know that God loves us. Of that love I testify. May it beckon all of us back home. . . ."

Eddie Gonzales, 16, spoke of having the privilege to render service, both as a holder of the Aaronic Priesthood and at home as a member of his family.

"I think a major challenge in these times is being morally clean and respectful to yourself and to others," he said.

Preparation for full-time missionary service began for him at age 5, he said. He described how he had gone to Church with his grandparents, and insisted his mother go with him. As a result, his mother became active in Church, and together, they influenced his father's eventual conversion to the Church. He said his family went to the Arizona Temple in March 1987 for their sealing ordinances.

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