Sunday, June 20, 2010

Inspiring Experiences That Build Faith

Joy got this book for Christmas and I just finished reading it today. Inspiring Experiences That Build Faith: From the Life and Ministry of Thomas S. Monson is a collection of Pres. Monson [who?] anecdotes organized by general topic. The two most plentiful are service and missionary work. Other sections include faith, prayer, testimony, stories about other people (aka examples of the believers), and humor. People who have paid attention to him will recognize many of the stories, but given the number I could rattle off that weren't included, it's still only a small sampling of his wit and wisdom. Rather than describe his stories, I wanted to share a few of the reactions and things I learned in them.

As I made my way through the service section, I had two questions that kept coming predominantly to my mind: Why don't *I* have experiences like that? and Why *don't* I have experiences like that? :)

One answer from the Spirit reminded me that in all of his stories, there are at least two people. Even if I couldn't see myself in Pres. Monson's shoes, I could readily see myself in the hospital bed, the priest in the grease pit, or the widow in the rest home, all visited by God's tender mercies. He has often been mindful of me and, in special ways, let me know He was aware of me. These stories aren't about what a great guy Pres. Monson is, but rather how God knows each of His children and loves them. Gratitude replaced guilt and ended envy ... or at least moved the emphasis in my question from myself to a sincere question.

Another answer came from reading a story where, rather than simply being instructed to stop his car at someone's home or having a phone call come to him from someone in the distant past, he mentioned how much he had prayed for and about the family he had visited. The question came to me: How often have you prayed about your sheep? Not nearly often enough. I've been repenting.

One of the stories he told from the mission over which he presided reminded me of difficult days from my mission. Though I had loved the people in that area, I loved them to sorrow as strife, hurt feelings, and apostasy slowly tore the unit - and families - apart. I have been reluctant to think about that area in the years in between, preferring to reminisce about my first area where I loved the people to rejoicing. His story helped me reach out again, though, to learn what has happened to the people I prayed and wept over. Though the news hasn't been good so far, Pres. Monson's stories helped me to rekindle love and feel the healing that has happened over the years.

Most of the stories are from his own life and are in roughly chronological order, so this can be a good reference tool for teachers. The number one thing I missed was a collection of his sermons about death and resurrection. As perhaps the Church's most requested funeral orator, he has spent a lot of time pondering and preaching about these most important topics.

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