First Vision — an example of finest in communication

Young Joseph Smith's earnest prayer in the Sacred Grove for wisdom is one of history's greatest examples of effective communication, stated President Thomas S. Monson.

Joseph's prayer, prompted by the writings of James, was answered by an appearance of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Their divine counsel was communication at its finest, a response to earnest yearning, noted President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency.

"A testimony from the heart is perhaps the best communication we can extend to others," he added.

President Monson's comments came Nov. 10 as he accepted from the Latter-day Saints Public Relations Society the Joseph and Hyrum Smith Award, "Communicator of the Year."

President Monson's remarks confirmed to the group why he had received the award. Making use of several anecdotes and scriptural passages, he focused on the three C's of communication:

  • Being clear.
  • Being concise.
  • Confirming what has been communicated.

Clarity is essential to effective communication, President Monson reflected. The Church leader recalled once inviting a man to participate with him in an 8:30 meeting. Although the man accepted, he could not be found when the morning meeting began. That evening, the man called President Monson at home and asked why no one else was at the meetinghouse for the 8:30 p.m. gathering.

"Didn't I tell you the meeting was at 8:30 a.m.?" asked President Monson.

"No," the man answered. "You just said 8:30."

President Monson referred to Jesus Christ as the "Master Communicator," praising the Savior's use of parables to communicate clearly.

The apostle Paul, President Monson added, was also a great communicator. Paul taught the Lord's followers to speak clearly so others could be edified, exhorted and comforted.

"For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For ye shall speak into the air." (1 Corinthians 14:8,9.)

"To be concise," stated President Monson, "means to express much in a few words."

To illustrate his point, President Monson spoke of a general Church meeting held on Sunday morning, Nov. 30, 1856, shortly after President Brigham Young learned that the survivors of the ill-fated Martin Handcart Company were entering the Salt Lake Valley. President Young extended his instructions to both the bishops and the people when he said, "The afternoon meeting will be omitted, for I wish the sisters to go home and prepare to give those who have just arrived a mouthful of something to eat, and to wash them and nurse them up. . . . Were I in the situation of those persons who have just come in, . . . I would give more for a dish of pudding or a baked potato and salt . . . than I would for all your prayers; though you were to stay here all afternoon and pray. Prayer is good, but when baked potatoes and milk are needed, prayer will not supply their place."

"Finally," said President Monson, "it is necessary to confirm what you have taught. Men and women can communicate who they are through their actions."

President George Albert Smith exemplified this style of communication, President Monson observed. President Smith once spotted a man working outside in the winter's cold near the Church Administration Building. The man was not wearing a coat, for he did not own one. So President Smith slipped off his warm wool coat, gave it to the man, and went on his way.

"President Smith communicated what he was so effectively, without saying much more than, 'Here is a coat; it will keep you warm,' " observed President Monson.

"Remember," he added, "the Savior communicated to us, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' " (Matthew 25:40.)

Effective communication can help people find ways to help others. President Monson related the account of a hungry young boy who entered a restaurant and asked a busy waitress for the price of an ice cream sundae. The waitress was very impatient with the boy as she told him that a sundae would cost 50 cents. He dug some change out of his pocket, counted it, and then asked what a plain dish of ice cream would cost. The waitress snapped, "Thirty-five cents!" The little boy looked again at his coins and said, "I'll have a plain dish of ice cream." After the boy had left, the waitress found that he had left behind a 15-cent tip — the difference between the sundae and his scoop of ice cream.

That small tip must have burned a hole in the waitress' conscience, President Monson reflected. "We have to be alert to opportunities to communicate."

President Monson concluded, "When we let the Lord be our guide in developing communication skills, He can help us to be humble, to present ourselves to the right people at the proper time and in an atmosphere where we will be trusted and worthy of a listening ear.

"When communication skills are accompanied by spirituality, the Lord can work through His servants to accomplish His purposes. Hundreds of thousands of newly baptized members of the Church, and the many missionaries who taught them the gospel, provide a living testimony of effective communication."