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.