Lord sent Church presidents 'whom we can have as guides'

In what he described as a "personal and friendly chat," President Thomas S. Monson spoke to students and faculty Feb. 15 in a Brigham Young University devotional.

President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, noted that the nation and the world probably have never been beset with a greater variety of problems and challenges to meet. But he reassured the students, who he said are among those "destined to meet the challenges and solve the problems," that the Lord will provide the help they need.Speaking of one problem, welfare in America, he read a paragraph from an Associated Press report that day: " `One in seven children is on welfare, more than one in 10 Americans buy groceries with food stamps and the number of births to unwed mothers is climbing toward one in three.'

"There, indeed," said President Monson, is a crisis. "That's just one major problem. There are so many. So it has ever been it seems, regardless of the period of history. I love that passage from the Book of Acts where we read of the confrontation between a man and Philip of old, and the inquirer was asked if he understood the words of scripture, and he replied to Philip: `How can I, except some man should guide me?' (Acts 8:31.) Of course, Philip sat with him and guided him in his understanding."

President Monson then spoke of those who stand as guides, the presidents of the Church. He said that on the previous evening he had been in the First Presidency room in the temple and that as he had gazed at the portraits of Church presidents in that room, he thought, "We have had great presidents of this Church, and we have a marvelous president today. And each one has been present to guide us, and his writings have stimulated us, and his messages have inspired us. We have those whom the Lord has provided to guide us."

He then spoke personally of each Church president he has known:

Heber J. Grant.

President Monson noted several characteristics and accomplishments for which President Grant was known, among which was his business acumen.

He spoke of some personal accomplishments of President Grant, such has how he practiced until he brought his penmanship from poor to excellent. In describing how President Grant was a "friend to those who most needed a friend," President Monson told how the Church leader bought numerous water color paintings from an artist when economic conditions were difficult. He gave the paintings to friends "so one would have work and others would have the joy of artistry in their homes."

George Albert Smith.

"What a wonderful Christian was George Albert Smith," President Monson told the students. "He was a man who would leave a message with you young people, Stay on the Lord's side of the line.' He always differentiated between the evil one and the Lord, and he said,There is a great tug-of-war going on. Don't get on the edge. Stay safely on the Lord's side of the line."'

He mentioned that President Smith was a great Scouter, and an inspired emissary to those who were not Latter-day Saints. "He was a friend to all," President Monson said.

President Monson spoke of how President Smith, after World War II, met with U.S. President Harry Truman to arrange for welfare supplies to be sent to Europe.

President Monson told of a friend who spoke of President Smith's charity, how he removed his coat and gave it to a street department worker. The worker had no coat to wear while removing ice from the street across from the Church Administration Building. "Received was a gesture of kindness. We can all learn from George Albert Smith."

David O. McKay.

President Monson referred to President McKay as an educator and a patron of the arts who loved literature, particularly the poetry of Robert Burns.

President McKay, he said, had the very appearance of a prophet, so much so that a non-member commented: "He looks like a prophet, he speaks like a prophet, he acts like a prophet." To which President Monson replied, "That's because he is a prophet."

President Monson described President McKay as "a tender, gracious servant of the Lord," who stressed "Every member a missionary."

Joseph Fielding Smith.

"Here was a scholar, a historian," President Monson declared.

He said President Smith set an example when he, even in his advanced years, would say, "Heavenly Father, help us be true and faithful to the end."

He spoke of President Smith's kindness, and how he took time to write him a letter when he [President MonsonT was on a lengthy assignment in the South Pacific. "What a nice and thoughtful thing to do," President Monson added. "In our haste to get our degrees, in our desire to find our eternal mate, in all that is important to us at this time in our lives, let us remember to be thoughtful, to be courteous, to `think to thank.' It shall place us in good stead for the Lord to guide our footsteps."

Harold B. Lee.

"An authority on Church government, a great advocate and director of the welfare effort, a marvelous educator, and a man who was truly a seer of the Lord," was how President Monson described President Lee. "He was a man for every season." He referred to him as "a dear personal friend, a tutor, a mentor."

President Monson quoted some of President Lee's favorite statements: "When you are on the Lord's errand, you are entitled to the Lord's help." "Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies."

Spencer W. Kimball

"Here was a man where obstacles became his opportunities. He was totally dedicated, a worker like you've never seen. He cared little about personal aggrandizement," said President Monson. "He was known for his statement, when people told him to slow down: `My life is like my shoes; to be worn out in the service of the Lord.'

" Do it,' he would say.Think big.' And he did. The work advanced under this noble leader."

Ezra Taft Benson.

"What a generous leader," President Monson emphasized. "He is a man who loves children. If I tell him that children continue to write great streams of letters to him, particularly for Valentine's Day, and they tell him, I love you, President Benson,' orI want to follow you,' he always weeps."

Speaking further of President Benson, President Monson said: "As we think of him, we think of the Book of Mormon. More people have read the Book of Mormon through the encouragement of President Ezra Taft Benson, I believe, than any other living soul, and they have been converted to the gospel, they've been converted to the truth, they've turned from their ways of error and have come under the influence of the light of Jesus Christ.

"He loves his family. What a noble example he sets there.

"He loves temples," President Monson continued. "When Sister Flora Benson was alive, they attended every Friday. What an influence for temple work. What an influence for family. What an influence of honesty, love of country, love of the Book of Mormon."

President Monson related the experience of when he was in Germany dedicating a meetinghouse a few years ago, and a man came up to him and requested, "Please tell President Benson that he saved my life." President Monson said the man described how President Benson went to war-torn Europe to distribute the welfare supplies arranged by President George Albert Smith. "Lives were spared. Starvation was averted," President Monson declared.

He added: "He is a prophet of God, like each of the others whom I have mentioned. What can we learn from the presidents whom I have known and about whom I've talked with you this day? We can learn that they've never wavered, that they're men of God, that they have great compassion, that they know each one of us can do better than each one of us has."

President Monson told the students: "This is a joyous time of your lives. Don't let old, gloomy depression get you. . . . Stay on the Lord's side of the line. Stay close to the teachings of the presidents of the Church."

With some emotion in his voice, President Monson continued: "Honor your mothers and your fathers; they're on their knees praying for you, they sacrifice for you. I always get choked up when I see the parents of students, the parents of missionaries buying new clothing for a son or daughter, and then these parents walk out in an old suit and worn shoes. Be kind to them. Honor them, and let them be proud of you, for your testimonies of the gospel, for your adherence to the principles of the gospel, and for your achievements here at Brigham Young University.

"God bless you, and remember there is another whom you can follow, even the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, Come, follow me.' Let's follow Him because He has sent presidents of the Church, whom we can have as guides and whom we can follow, yet He, Himself extended that kind, generous, personal invitation, when He said,Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.' " (Rev. 3:20.)

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