Relating faith-promoting stories, President Thomas S. Monson inspired BYU students and faculty at the annual First Presidency devotional assembly Oct. 15.
President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, maintained a warm rapport with the assembly, "speaking heart to heart and communicating spirit to spirit" with the nearly 12,000 attending in the Marriott Center.He based his address on "important words pertaining to the university experience: fun, friends, family, future and faith."
"Surely, there is time for proper fun," President Monson said. "As we frequently visit our cabin at Vivian Park in Provo Canyon, I observe many of you, particularly on a Monday evening, having an enjoyable time playing volleyball, exchanging experiences around a campfire, and otherwise enjoying wholesome fun.
"In the events and activities in our lives we must beware of the type of fun that would destroy our ideals and would cause us heartbreak. We can certainly participate in that fun which will bring joy to our hearts and souls and prepare us for our future activities and responsibility."
Concerning the topic of friends, President Monson said: "This is a day for developing friendships. New friends are silver but the old are gold. How do you find old friends? You make new friends."
He encouraged students to ensure that no one at BYU is friendless. He urged them to reach out to students who come from other countries, from rural areas, from sheltered lives and who are shy.
"The Lord said, `Lift up the hands which hang down and strengthen the feeble knees.' (D&C 81:5.) There are times when every student has hands that hang down and knees that are feeble, [whoT needs that clasped hand of friendship and assurance that each one is important and vital."
He spoke of going to Salzburg, Austria, and attending a priesthood leadership meeting at which the regional representative, Johann Wondra, was speaking. "He [Elder WondraT looked into the front row of the congregation and spotted the missionary who had many years ago brought to him and his wife the gospel of Jesus Christ," President Monson related. "In a touching expression, he focused on a returned missionary and, calling him by name, said,
There has never been a day since my wife and I met you that we have not dropped to our knees and thanked our Heavenly Father for your testimony and for your teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.' Then he concluded,You, my brother, are our best friend.'
"We can develop those kinds of friendships here at BYU," President Monson noted.
In speaking of the students' families, President Monson commented specifically on their parents. "I've been in their homes," he said. "I've knelt with them in prayer, at stake conferences and other activities. You are their hopes and you are their aspirations and you are their dreams. They are on their knees praying for you every morning and every night, and when you realize that, I'm confident that your activities and, indeed, your actions will reflect the faith that you know your parents have in you."
He reminded the students they are role models for younger brothers and sisters and other youngsters who look up to them and follow their examples. President Monson emphasized: "Your conduct on this campus is an extension of your family training. Your principles are on trial."
Speaking of the future, President Monson cited a favorite phrase: "When the time for decision arrives, the time for preparation is past."
"This is your time to prepare," he counseled the students. "This is the day to decide, for decisions literally determine destiny. `You are the one who has to decide, whether you'll do it or toss it aside. Whether you'll seek for the goal that's afar, or just be content to stay where you are.' "
He told the students they never know when they will be called upon to give an accounting of their personal beliefs. He recounted that before he became a General Authority he spoke at a publishers convention in Dallas, Texas, after which he took a bus tour of the city. The driver, after pointing out many beautiful churches, said, "And in the red brick building on the hill is where the Mormons meet."
A woman on the bus wanted to know more about the Mormons. The driver said all he knew about the Mormons was that they met in that red brick building. He then asked if anyone on the bus could tell the lady about the Mormons.
"I was silent," President Monson recounted. "I waited to see if anyone would proffer a comment. That's when I learned that when the time for decision arrives the time for preparation is past. I said,
I know something about the Mormons and their beliefs.' I took a few moments to express my testimony to them. I hope that I satisfied the apostle Peter, who counseled,Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you. . . .' " (1 Pet. 3:15.)
President Monson continued, "This is your day of decision and, oh, my young brothers and sisters, think and ponder and pray about the decisions in your life. Very few are trivial. Most of them have far-reaching consequences."
He reiterated counsel he gave missionaries who served under him in the Canadian Mission as they prepared to return home. He counseled them to prepare for their life's work, telling them to be the best teacher or best accountant or best in whatever occupation they chose. He also counseled them to marry in the temple, and to always remain active in the Church.
"I will give you a formula which will help to guarantee to a large extent your success in fulfilling that commitment to remain active," President Monson said. "It's simple. It consists of just three words: `Pay your tithing.' "
He said every bishop can testify from his personal experience that when the membership of the Church pays tithing honestly and faithfully, they have very little difficulty keeping the other commandments of God. "It is a bench mark commandment," he observed.
The final topic President Monson addressed was that of faith.
"The apostle Paul, in writing to his disciple Timothy, made a statement that I love: `Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.' (1 Tim 4:12.)
"What a challenge, what an opportunity, to be literally an example unto the believers. That's the charge I would leave with you, to be such an example."
He spoke of Juliusz and Dorothy Fussek who served five consecutive years as missionaries in Poland. Brother Fussek was a native of Poland who settled in Salt Lake City before he returned to his home country as a missionary.
President Monson described the faith and commitment demonstrated by the Fusseks as they served as the only missionary couple in Poland at that time, and said they helped to bring about the progress of the work in Poland.
In concluding his address, President Monson referred to the Broadway musical play, "Fiddler on the Roof," in which the main character, Tevye, tried to communicate with his daughters by declaring "Oh, remember my daughters, that in Anatevka [their home villageT each of you knows who your are and what God expects you to become."
"There's a sermon in that statement," President Monson said. "You, my brothers and sisters, are sons and daughters of a loving, caring Heavenly Father."