As you may know, I’ll be leaving the Danville Stake shortly. I wanted to thank everyone in the stake who have all helped my family and me through some pretty tough times and I thought that the best way to do that would be to share my testimony… When asked how long I’ve been a member of the church, I often answer that I’ve been a member of the church for 4-5 years but I’ve been in the Danville stake for 20 years.
I think I’ve worn out more missionaries over the years answering my questions about the church & everything. But my epiphany occurred one day about 5 years ago while I was sitting in the passenger seat of our van watching Scott Halverson trying to save our dying battery. Watching Scott during the many, many years he had been our home teacher, I knew how good a person Scott is and that day I realized I wanted to be like him and the best way to do that is to hang out where he and others like him hang out. Thus my journey to the Plan of Happiness turned a corner… I can’t say that I’ve reached Scott’s level but I can tell that I’m in a better place…
Lessons on the Plan of Happiness emphasize how everything will be wonderful if you follow it; Sunny days and pretty flowers. But that doesn’t happen over-night. Rainy days still happen and I can see a number of them ahead. As I anticipate the wet & cold, I remember a quote that I heard recently- Rainbows are beautiful but you can’t have a rainbow without the rain. So if you love rainbows, you have to also embrace the rain.
The First Presidency’s message for February was written by President Eyring about how conversion is much more than having a testimony. To teach from this message, he referenced a General Conference talk Elder Bednar gave that used the “parable of the pickle” to teach that conversion is a long process requiring full immersion in the gospel to be successful.
Much like you have to carefully clean and prepare a cucumber and then completely immerse it in the salt rind to pickle it, we have to be cleaned and prepared and then filly immersed in the gospel to attain successful conversion. We can’t just go to church on Sundays and follow the commandments and expect to become Christ-like. We must fully dive into the gospel and make it every part of our life. That’s when conversion happens.
The First Presidency message for January is written by President Monson about a crucial turning point in his life between World War II and the Korean War. President Monson found himself in a situation that I imagine many men found themselves in at that time. My father has told me of his fears of being pulled back into the infantry and sent to the front lines in Korea so I can empathize with President Monson and the mindset he was in at that time.
Seeing war looming in Korea, President Monson was doing everything he could to qualify for an officer’s commission in the Navy. Serving as an officer is vastly better than as a non-commissioned officer or sailor. After much effort, he received the letter offering him as an ensign in the Naval Reserve. Shortly thereafter, President Monson was called as a councilor in his ward’s bishopric. Knowing that he couldn’t serve both his calling and the Naval Reserve, he wrestled with the decision for some time. Eventually he consulted with Elder Harold B Lee, who had been his stake president and now was in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. President Monson shared how much he valued the commission and his difficulty deciding whether to choose the bishopric or the Naval Reserve.
I am surprised at how clear and definite Elder Lee’s counsel to President Monson was. Elder Lee said “Here’s what you should do, Brother Monson. You write a letter to the Bureau of Naval Affairs and tell them that because of your call as a member of the bishopric, you can’t accept that commission in the US Naval Reserve. Then write to the commandant of the Twelfth Naval District in San Francisco indicating that you would like to be discharged from the reserve.”
Brother Monson followed Elder Lee’s counsel and declined the commission and requested a discharge from the reserve. President Monson’s discharge from the Naval Reserve was in the last group processed before the outbreak of the Korean War. His headquarters outfit was activated. Six weeks after he was called to be a counselor in the bishopric, he was called as bishop of his ward.
President Monson is certain he would not be President today if he hadn’t prayed about that decision and not come to appreciate that the wisdom of God often appears as foolishness to men. But the greatest single lesson we can learn in our mortal lives is that when God speaks and his children obey, they will always be right.
Not many church members have the opportunity to receive one-on-one from an Apostle as President Monson did. But we have many opportunities to hear the prophets teach. The Church has many programs to spread the words of the prophets, including monthly messages from the First Presidency such as this one to broadcasts and recordings of the semi-annual Church conferences and other events that Apostles speak at.