Thomas S. Monson, the Mormon prophet, loves teenagers. He often tells stories that show us teens are often wonderful, despite the frequent efforts by the press to show otherwise. He also likes to show adults how teenagers can be influenced by uplifting experiences and wise leaders. Following are some of his often told stories about teens.
(Note: The Mormon priesthood begins for boys at age twelve. The priest, mentioned here, is not like a Catholic priest. Rather, it is a level of priesthood a young man can achieve at age sixteen. One duty of these teenage priests is to say a prayer over the sacramental bread and water (similar to communion) to bless it. The young man in the story would most likely be sixteen or seventeen years old.)
Albert Schweitzer, the noted theologian and missionary physician, declared: “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
I witnessed such an act of service one Sunday as I attended the sacrament meeting of a small branch which consisted of patients in a nursing home. Most of the members were elderly and somewhat incapacitated. During the meeting, a sister called out aloud, “I’m cold! I’m cold!” Without a moment’s hesitation, one of the priests at the sacrament table arose and walked over to this sister, removed his own suit coat, placed it around her shoulders, and then returned to his duties at the sacrament table.
After the meeting, this young man came to me and apologized for blessing the sacrament without his suit coat. Quietly I said to him that he was never more appropriately dressed than he was that day when a dear widow was uncomfortably cold and he provided the warmth she needed by placing his jacket around her shoulders. A simple act of kindness? Yes, but much more: a genuine love and concern for others.
Thomas S. Monson, “Three Gates Only You Can Open,” New Era, Aug 2008, 2–6
My message to the young men and women of the Church is begin now to learn in your youth the joy of service in the cause of the Master.
Following Thanksgiving time some years ago, I received a letter from a widow whom I had known in the stake where I served in the presidency. She had just returned from a dinner sponsored by her bishopric. Her words reflect the peace she felt and the gratitude which filled her heart:
“Dear President Monson,
“I am living in Bountiful now. I miss the people of our old stake, but let me tell you of a wonderful experience I have had. In early November all the widows and older people received an invitation to come to a lovely dinner. We were told not to worry about transportation since this would be provided by the older youth in the ward.
“At the appointed hour, a very nice young man rang the bell and took me and another sister to the stake center. He stopped the car, and two other young men walked with us to the chapel where the young ladies took us to where we removed our wraps—then into the cultural hall, where we sat and visited for a few minutes. Then they took us to the tables, where we were seated on each side by either a young woman or a young man. Then we were served a lovely Thanksgiving dinner and afterward provided a choice program.
“After the program we were given our dessert—either apple or pumpkin pie. Then we left, and on the way out we were given a plastic bag with sliced turkey and two rolls. Then the young men took us home. It was such a nice, lovely evening. Most of us shed a tear or two for the love and respect we were shown.
“President Monson, when you see young people treat others like these young people did, I feel the Church is in good hands.”
I reflected on my association with this lovely widow, now grown old but ever serving the Lord. There came to mind the words from the Epistle of James: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
I add my own commendation: God bless the leaders, the young men, and the young women who so unselfishly brought such joy to the lonely and such peace to their souls. Through their experience they learned the meaning of service and felt the nearness of the Lord.
Thomas S. Monson, “The Joy of Service,” New Era, Oct 2009, 2–6
Changing Hearts Through Example
A friend told me of an experience she had many years ago when she was a teenager. In her ward was a young woman named Sandra who had suffered an injury at birth, resulting in her being somewhat mentally handicapped. Sandra longed to be included with the other girls, but she looked handicapped. She acted handicapped. Her clothing was always ill fitting. She sometimes made inappropriate comments. Although Sandra attended their Mutual activities, it was always the responsibility of the teacher to keep her company and to try to make her feel welcome and valued, since the girls did not.
Then something happened: a new girl of the same age moved into the ward. Nancy was a cute, redheaded, self-confident, popular girl who fit in easily. All the girls wanted to be her friend, but Nancy didn’t limit her friendships. In fact, she went out of her way to befriend Sandra and to make certain she always felt included in everything. Nancy seemed to genuinely like Sandra.
Of course the other girls took note and began wondering why they hadn’t ever befriended Sandra. It now seemed not only acceptable but desirable. Eventually they began to realize what Nancy, by her example, was teaching them: that Sandra was a valuable daughter of our Heavenly Father, that she had a contribution to make, and that she deserved to be treated with love and kindness and positive attention.
By the time Nancy and her family moved from the neighborhood a year or so later, Sandra was a permanent part of the group of young women. My friend said that from then on she and the other girls made certain no one was ever left out, regardless of what might make her different. A valuable, eternal lesson had been learned.
Thomas S. Monson, “May You Have Courage,” Liahona, May 2009, 123–27
In Europe, at a time when there was still a curtain of iron and a wall called Berlin, I visited, with a handful of Latter-day Saints, a small cemetery. It was a dark night, and a cold rain had been falling throughout the entire day. We had come to visit the grave of a missionary who many years before had died while in the service of the Lord. A hushed silence shrouded the scene as we gathered about the grave. With a flashlight illuminating the headstone, I read the inscription:
Joseph A. Ott
Born: 12 December 1870—Virgin, Utah
Died: 10 January 1896—Dresden, Germany
Then the light revealed that this grave was unlike any other in the cemetery. The marble headstone had been polished, weeds such as those which covered other graves had been carefully removed, and in their place was an immaculately edged bit of lawn and some beautiful flowers that told of tender and loving care. I asked, “Who has made this grave so attractive?” My query was met by silence.
At last a twelve-year-old deacon acknowledged that he had wanted to render this unheralded kindness and, without prompting from parents or leaders, had done so. He said that he just wanted to do something for a missionary who had given his life while in the service of the Lord. I thanked him, and then I asked all there to safeguard his secret, that his gift might remain anonymous.
Thomas S. Monson, “‘See Thou Tell No Man’,” Ensign, Jun 1992, 2