Like many members of the Church, I miss Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley greatly. He is, I think, one who will be remembered as great, even among prophets. He carried the Church through periods of tremendous change, opened its message up to more of the world, and confronted directly those critics who would deride the Church without understanding it. So I was sad that he was no longer there to give us counsel (I think, perhaps, that he was less sad, being reunited as he was with his beloved wife).
But I did not doubt Pres. Monson’s calling. I did not doubt that he was the man the Lord had chosen to lead His Church in perhaps even darker times than those we have seen. Who better to lead in the darkness than that man who is himself as a bright ray of sunshine, constantly cheerful, always stooping to lift the weak and weary, bringing joy to all those around him.
And even with all that, it would seem I somehow missed something very important in his first general address. I’d like to quote Elder Jeffrey R. Holland from this last conference:
President Monson, may I claim a moment of personal privilege?
As the first of the Brethren invited to speak following your singular message to the Church this morning, may I say something on behalf of all your Brethren of the General Authorities and indeed on behalf of all the Church.
Of the many privileges we have had in this historic conference, including participation in a solemn assembly in which we were able to stand and sustain you as prophet, seer, and revelator, I cannot help but feel that the most important privilege we have all had has been to witness personally the settling of the sacred, prophetic mantle upon your shoulders, almost as it were by the very hands of angels themselves. Those in attendance at last night’s general priesthood meeting and all who were present in the worldwide broadcast of this morning’s session have been eyewitness to this event. For all the participants, I express our gratitude for such a moment. I say that with love to President Monson and especially love to our Father in Heaven for the wonderful opportunity it has been to be “eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16), as the Apostle Peter once said.
I was not surprised to hear Elder Holland speak of witnessing the settling of the prophetic mantle on Pres. Monson. I have seen that myself. It is truly a miracle. But I must admit that I was mildly surprised to hear Elder Holland—a man of intensity and gravity—speak of Pres. Monson’s “singular message” that morning. Honestly, at the time, I could not have told you what Pres. Monson had spoken about. I remember it was a nice talk, and I remember he told good stories, and I remember it was uplifting and optimistic, which to me made it essentially like every talk Pres. Monson had ever given in my entire life.
Obviously, that talk had impressed Elder Holland much more deeply than it had me. I could not miss the point that if it were so, the problem was with me, not with the message.
So I went back and read Pres. Monson’s Sunday morning talk, looking for that “singular message” Elder Holland had so gravely spoken of. Having done that, I also reviewed his talk from the Priesthood session. And having done that, I must still take issue somewhat with Elder Holland for speaking in the singular. Elder Holland taught me something, for he was able to see the importance of Pres. Monson’s message while the rest of us were just cheerily grinning at his stories.
On review, I think what impressed me most was his testimony. It was easy to miss at the time, for he hardly inflected his voice to emphasize it, but he spoke in terms of absolutes. He made it very clear that he is as the Brother of Jared, who “had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.” (Ether 3:19).
Another thing that impressed me was Pres. Monson’s humble witness of the calling of a Prophet of God. He manages to speak with meek confidence of the prophetic calling and how the Lord Himself has prepared him for it. And so much more. This talk, that is so easy to just pass over if you listen to it casually, is so full of hope, promise and instruction! And I feel like I am barely scratching the surface of it. He teaches, it seems, with an urgency. There is so much to say, that he can hardly confine his talk to one subject. This is prophetic instruction indeed! And I have not yet even addressed his talk in the Priesthood session.
So I am not surprised by Elder Holland’s remarks. And how sincerely I thank Elder Holland for saying it, for it helped me to realize that I had been utterly lacking; that I had missed something he had seen. Having reviewed it, I have learned that there is much yet to learn from Pres. Monson. With all the gratitude I have that the Lord sent us Gordon B. Hinckley as a prophet, I also thank Him that He has appointed Thomas S. Monson as his successor.