Sunday, May 20, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on dealing with challenges and handicaps

President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1963. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency with Presidents Benson, Hunter, and Hinckley and then became Church president in 2008. He led the Church for almost a decade until his passing in January 2018.
"In our lives, sickness comes to loved ones, accidents leave their cruel marks of remembrance, and tiny legs that once ran are imprisoned in a wheelchair.
"Mothers and fathers who anxiously await the arrival of a precious child sometimes learn that all is not well with this tiny infant. A missing limb, sightless eyes, a damaged brain, or the term 'Down’s syndrome' greets the parents, leaving them baffled, filled with sorrow, and reaching out for hope.
"There follows the inevitable blaming of oneself, the condemnation of a careless action, and the perennial questions: 'Why such a tragedy in our family?' 'Why didn’t I keep her home?' 'If only he hadn’t gone to that party.' 'How did this happen?' 'Where was God?' 'Where was a protecting angel?' If, why, where, how—those recurring words—do not bring back the lost son, the perfect body, the plans of parents, or the dreams of youth. Self-pity, personal withdrawal, or deep despair will not bring the peace, the assurance, or help which are needed. Rather, we must go forward, look upward, move onward, and rise heavenward....
"To all who have suffered silently from sickness, to you who have cared for those with physical or mental impairment, who have borne a heavy burden day by day, year by year, and to you noble mothers and dedicated fathers—I salute you and pray God’s blessings to ever attend you. To the children, particularly they who cannot run and play and frolic, come the reassuring words: 'Dearest children, God is near you, Watching o’er you day and night.' (Hymns, 1985, no. 96.)"
- Thomas S. Monson, "Miracles—Then and Now," General Conference October 1992
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Monson was a young counselor in the First Presidency when he shared these remarks in general conference. Throughout his ministry he displayed a sensitivity and awareness of those who face special challenges and difficulties in life. This excerpt is a great example of that. Note that he speaks not just to those who are suffering from handicaps or injuries, but also to those who care for them, and to those who might have had some involvement in accidents or incidents that led to the injuries. All of those people carry weights and struggle with challenges due to the handicaps.

We can't "second-guess" the decisions and actions of the past. We can't un-do the consequences of anything that occurred previously. President Monson warns about dwelling too much on those unanswerable questions. He instead invites us, in language that was so typical of his expressions of hope and love, to "go forward, look upward, move onward, and rise heavenward.."

President Monson doesn't minimize the challenges and difficulties of those who deal with these challenges. He "salutes" them in recognition of their sacrifices and faith, and adds his prayers of faith for God's continued blessings of support and hope for a glorious future.

Truly, sometimes the miracle we are blessed with is not the correction of what we perceive as a great sorrow or challenge; but instead the strength to endure, the faith to trust in God, and the hope for a better time.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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