The faithful labor beyond the grave

Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants brings reassurances that promises extend beyond the grave.

President Thomas S. Monson, now first counselor in the First Presidency, illustrated this as he spoke at the April 1990 general conference of a missionary, Elder Thomas Michael Wilson from Lafayette, Ala., who died Jan. 3, 1990.President Monson spoke of how the young man had contracted cancer before he and his family joined the Church. Because of the illness, the family realized that life not only is precious but also short. As they began to look for a religion to help them through their time of tribulation, they learned of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some members of the family were baptized, including the young man. After having undergone painful treatments, with the cancer in remission, he received a call to serve in the Utah Salt Lake City Mission. However, the cancer returned after 11 months, and amputation of his arm and shoulder was required. Yet Elder Wilson persisted in his missionary labors.

"Elder Wilson's courage and consuming desire to remain on his mission so touched his non-member father that he investigated the teachings of the Church and also became a member," President Monson said.

"I learned that an investigator whom Elder Wilson had taught was baptized at the baptistry on Temple Square but then wanted to be confirmed by Elder Wilson, whom she respected so much. She, with a few others, journeyed to Elder Wilson's bedside in the hospital. There, with his remaining hand resting upon her head, Elder Wilson confirmed her a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Elder Wilson continued month after month his precious but painful service as a missionary. Blessings were given; prayers were offered. The spirit of his fellow missionaries soared. Their hearts were full. They lived closer to God.

"Elder Wilson's physical condition deteriorated. The end drew near. He was to return home. He asked to serve but one additional month. What a month this was! Like a child trusting implicitly its parents, Elder Wilson put his trust in God. He whom Thomas Michael Wilson silently trusted opened the windows of heaven and abundantly blessed him. His parents, Willie and Julia Wilson, and his brother Tony came to Salt Lake City to help their son and brother home to Alabama. However, there was yet a prayed-for, a yearned-for, blessing to be bestowed. The family invited me to come with them to the Jordan River Temple, where those sacred ordinances which bind families for eternity, as well as for time, were performed.

"I said good-bye to the Wilson family. . . . He said, `It doesn't matter what happens to us in this life as long as we have the gospel of Jesus Christ and live it.' What courage. What confidence. What love. The Wilson family made the long trek home to Lafayette, where Elder Thomas Michael Wilson slipped from here to eternity.

"President Kevin K. Meadows, Elder Wilson's branch president, presided at the funeral services. The words of his subsequent letter to me I share with you today:

" On the day of the funeral, I took the family aside and expressed to them, President Monson, the sentiments you sent to me. I reminded them of what Elder Wilson had told you that day in the temple, that it did not matter whether he taught the gospel on this or the other side of the veil, so long as he could teach the gospel. I gave to them the inspiration you provided from the writings of President Joseph F. Smith - that Elder Wilson had completed his earthly mission and that he, as allfaithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead.' (D&C 138:57.) The Spirit bore record that this was the case. Elder Thomas Michael Wilson was buried with his missionary name tag in place.' "

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