Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"To Shed a Holy Light Around Our Way": Standing by President Thomas S. Monson, General Conference, October 2013

Pioneer Jacob Gibson and family, responding to the call of Church leadership to leave the fractious Latter-day Saint branch in the Delaware Valley and come to Nauvoo, journeyed with a small company, which included Jedediah M. Grant, "and arrived about the [blank] of May [1844], all hearty and happy. The Prophet and others came down to the boat on our arrival. Then for the first time I saw him of whom I had [heard] so much."

After a few days Jacob Gibson met the Prophet again. "We then traveled round and seen the place. I was much pleased. Met a number of our old brethren and sisters, went down to the Mansion House, was introduced to the Prophet. He spoke very pleasant, turned and took a look in my face and remarked 'From Phila [Philly]' and 'Brethren stick to me or by me and you shall alway have light.' Which saying I have often proved true."

Jacob Gibson's encounter with a living prophet of God matches the stories told by so many others. Very pleasant talk suddenly meets the prophetic moment--a turn, a look full in the face, a pregnant comment or question (Philadelphia was a fractious branch)--followed by an invitation, in scriptural idiom, to come unto Christ.

"Brethren, stick to me, and you shall alway have light":

"Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:20).

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105).

"I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end" (Psalm 119:112: the wording clearly dependent on the translation of Matthew 28:20).

Brother Joseph's earnest words reflect no egotism; they reflect the revelations of the Lord:

"Therefore be diligent; stand by my servant Joseph, faithfully, in whatsoever difficult circumstances he may be for the word's sake" (Doctrine and Covenants 6:18, revelation to Oliver Cowdery).

"Again, let my servant John C. Bennett help you. . . and stand by you, even you my servant Joseph Smith, in the hour of affliction" (Doctrine and Covenants 124:16).

Yet in the swirl of circumstance, Oliver failed to stand by; in Nauvoo's hour of affliction, Bennett betrayed the Prophet's trust.

What the Lord says unto one He says unto all: "Stand by my servant Joseph" (see Doctrine and Covenants 93:49). And what the Lord says of one prophet, He says of all the prophets. Here is counsel not for one time and place--Joseph and Nauvoo--, but for all the seasons of mortality. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, teaches, we have the opportunity to become "Saints for All Seasons."

General Conference never stops coming round and, as it does, it marks the times and seasons of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At times, like Gibson's little company, we feel "all hearty and happy," but, inevitably, there also come "difficult circumstances" "for the word's sake." Then, "in an hour when ye think not," comes the moment of trial (see Luke 12:40). Less than two months after the arrival, "all hearty and happy," came the appointed hour of Martyrdom. And so roll on the times and seasons of the Latter-day Saints.

At this season, sometime light, sometime dark, we look to the living Prophet of God, Thomas S. Monson. Conference time is here again; and again, as always, the Prophet will teach and testify to us "whatsoever things the Lord [will] put into his heart" (Helaman 13:4). And, as always, "sticking by" the Prophet will be counselors in the First Presidency, Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf. We will also be blessed with their counsel. Neither Christ nor his prophets have abandoned the Saints: "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:20).

Why a Prophet? Why the need for the bright sunlight? "Without visible landmarks, human beings tend to walk in circles. Without spiritual landmarks, mankind wanders as well" (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, First Presidency Message: "Walking in Circles," Ensign, June 2013). It is not with arrogant tone, but with an earnest look turned to the face of each child of God, that the words are spoken: "Stick to me, and you shall always have light."

"Mists of darkness," in every season, press in upon the journeying Saints. We look to God's Prophet for light in our crowded moment. Yet he himself even now passes through "the hour of affliction." We have lost our beloved sister, Frances Beverly Monson.

Now is the time, now, as never before, "to stand by my servant Thomas Spencer Monson." Now is the time to forget about ourselves, to forgo selfishness, to diminish our own sense of need. Now is the time for the meekness of a child. At this conference time, may we all sing with one voice, "as the children's prayer": "We Ever Pray for Thee, Our Prophet Dear."

"As the advancing years furrow thy brow/, Still may the light within shine bright as now."

And it does so shine, and it will.

Brothers and Sisters, stick to the Prophet, and you shall always have light.

Oliver Cowdery, after a decade of darkness, returned to Christ. The Gibson family, though tested in the blinding "mists of darkness," "stuck to," and crossed the plains under the sacred leadership of Wilford Woodruff and, thereby, found the light: "we [got] in to the vally on 14 of Octobr [1850] glad and thankfull to God." Some of my own family also came to Zion in that bright company.


President Thomas S. Monson, Sunday Morning Conference Address, October 2013

President Monson's opening remarks, October 2013

For more about modern prophets, please see "Honoring God's Living Prophets":

Philadelphia Saints: Stephen J. Fleming, "Discord in the City of Brotherly Love: The Story of Early Mormonism in Philadelphia," MHS, Spring 2004. Jedediah M. Grant later served as second counselor to Brigham Young in the First Presidency. His son, Heber Jeddy Grant, was a prophet of God.

Arrival in Nauvoo: Mark McConkie, Remembering Joseph, CD-Rom, "Jacob Gibson," gives a rough transcription based on the typescript copy of The Book of the Generations of Jacob Gibson 1849-1881, Church History Library. McConkie, following the typed copy, reads: "looked a look in my face," which should read "took a Look in my face." An early editor within the Gibson family, smooths out the phrase: "giving me an earnest look."

An examination of both the manuscript and the typescript copy (MS 4704) shows some differences. There are also handwritten changes made in the typescript, written above the typed line; words have also been underlined by the same hand.

"We then traveled around and saw the place. . . went down to the mansion house, and were introduced to the Prophet, who spoke very pleasantly and turned and looked a look in my face [giving me an earnest look], and remarked "From Philadelphia?" and said [also adding], 'Brethen stick to me or by me, and you shall always have light.' Which saying I have often proved true."

The manuscript journal of Jacob Gibson (Book of the Generations of Jacob Gibson, MS 1493) reads:

"we then travld round and Sean the Place I was much Pleased met a number of our old Brethern and Sisters went down to the mantion House was introdust to the Profit he Spoke verry pleasant turnd and took a Look in my face and remarkt from Phila and Said Brethren Stick to me or By me and you shall alway have Light. which I have often proved trew."

When quoting Gibson in the above essay, I added light punctuation and corrected spelling.

"Saints for All Seasons": First Presidency Message: President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Ensign and Liahona Magazines, September 2013; "Walking in Circles," June 2013.

"We Ever Pray for Thee":

Pioneer Overland Travel Website (history.lds.org), Trail except, Jacob Gibson, Book of the Generations of Jacob Gibson 1849-1881). Wilford Woodruff later became President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even a prophet of the Lord. My own ancestors in that company: Sarah Brackett Carter Foss, Rhoda Harriett Foss.

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