LOGAN, Utah — “President Thomas S. Monson’s greatest contribution was as a special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “He testified of His reality, His divine mission and Resurrection, and the restoration of the Savior’s gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. In all President Monson said and did, he witnessed of our Savior and Redeemer.”
As his leader and then colleague in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Monson’s teachings and example have impacted the way Elder Andersen serves, especially in “caring for the one.”
Just a few days after the prophet’s death, Elder Andersen shared with youth from five stakes in Logan, Utah, what the prophet meant to him. Held on Jan. 6 in the Logan Tabernacle, Elder Andersen spoke of the influence President Thomas S. Monson had on his own life, as well as the lives of others.
Highlighting President Monson’s ability to love and care for individuals, Elder Andersen shared a personal story of the prophet’s interactions with Bryan Burningham, a man who was in attendance with his family at the meeting.
In the fall of 1993, President Monson received word of a 13-year-old boy from Logan, Utah, who, through an unfortunate and tragic event, had been seriously injured. With a gun discharging and a bullet traveling through his face, the young boy was left missing much of his chin, mouth, nose and his right eye socket. Because of the disfiguration, he would eventually go through more than 50 surgeries in an effort to rebuild his face.
President Monson asked Elder Andersen and Elder D. Todd Chrisofferson — two new General Authorities — to visit the boy and offer a blessing on the prophet’s behalf.
“There was great spiritual power in the Lord’s blessing to Bryan that day,” Elder Andersen said of the experience.
Although President Monson wasn’t there for the initial blessing, as Bryan continued to go through surgeries, President Monson came to know the Burningham family.
“He befriended Bryan,” Elder Andersen said.
Elder Andersen told of how years later, he received a call from Lee Burningham, Bryan’s father. Brother Burningham expressed Bryan’s desire to serve a mission, and his willingness to serve in whatever capacity he was called, whether it be full time, on a farm or at a Deseret Industries.
“President Monson called me to his office,” Elder Andersen said. “He had been praying about Bryan. He told me that while many in Bryan’s situation would be excused from missionary service, he felt the Lord wanted Bryan to serve a mission. Bryan was called to the [Canada Vancouver Mission].”
Elder Andersen remembered attending Bryan’s talk prior to him reporting to the mission field. He recalls pulling into the parking lot and being greeted by a stake president.
“I said to Kathy, ‘How kind of that stake president to be out here waiting for us,’” he recalled. “But as I started to pull in, the stake president quickly motioned for me to move to another spot. Who should be right behind me coming to the sacrament meeting? President Thomas S. Monson.”
Elder Andersen said he will never forget the spirit of that meeting when President Monson, knowing how many facial surgeries Bryan had experienced and the challenges before him, gave the young man a beautiful promise from the Lord that “whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your heart, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:88).
After sharing this story during the devotional, Elder Andersen invited Bryan Burningham — now a husband and father — to the pulpit to share his testimony of how the Savior and President Monson cared for him.
“President Monson exemplified caring for the individual,” Brother Burningham said. “I am not a person of great consequence, and yet he cared for me and my family. He treated everyone with the ideal that the worth of every soul is great in the sight of God.”
Brother Burningham shared about a time when he visited President Monson in his office in the Church Administration Building.
“President Monson invited my whole family to visit him in his office,” he said. “In that visit, he spent time getting to know each member of my family and even gave blessings to those that needed it. To me, President Monson’s legacy is one of love and priesthood service. So much of his service will never be seen in the public eye, but it will live forever in the hearts of the lives he has blessed. He was an incredible example of the Savior’s pure love.”
During the devotional Sister Kathy Andersen spoke of her personal experiences with President Monson and shared about his kindness and thoughtfulness to her and to the Andersen family. She talked about how, after the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley, she gained her own witness of President Monson as the Lord’s prophet after intensely studying his talks from past years.
Other speakers during the event honored the late prophet by sharing memories and teachings of President Monson.
Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., a General Authority Seventy, spoke about the powerful impact President Thomas S. Monson’s teachings have had in his life, beginning when Elder Curtis was a teenager. “But just as powerful as those teachings were, was the example that I saw of his personal ministering to those around him, particularly to the elderly and those in need.”
Elder Steven O. Laing, an Area Seventy, testified of President Monson’s last teachings and witness to the Seventies and General Authorities in April of 2017.
Youth in attendance appreciated Elder Andersen’s talk, which caused them to reflect on their own testimony of living prophets.
“It was exciting to hear [Elder Andersen], a special witness, and to be challenged to gain a testimony of our new prophet [that will be called in the near future],” said Heather Rosskelley, 17, from the Logan Utah East Stake.
“It was so great to remember President Monson tonight,” said Owen Lambert, 13, from the Logan Utah Cache Stake. “He was so kind.”