In times of crisis, the soul of man seems to look heavenward, yearning for a divine response to life's greatest questions, observed President Thomas S. Monson Sunday morning.
"Where did we come from?" asked the second counselor in the First Presidency. "Why are we here? Where do we go when we leave this life?"Such questions and their answers will not be found between the covers of academia's textbooks, nor will they be found by dialing information or flipping a coin or through random selection of multiple choice responses, because such questions and their answers transcend mortality. They embrace eternity."
President Monson said the first question Where did we come from? is on the minds of, or has been asked by, every parent or grandparent upon hearing a newborn child's first uttered cry.
"When Paul on Mars Hill spoke to the Athenians, he said that we are the offspring of God," President Monson said. "Since we know that our human bodies are the offspring of our mortal parents, we must probe the meaning of Paul's statement. The spirit and the body represent the soul of man. It is the spirit which is the offspring of God. The writer of Hebrews declared that God is `the father of spirits.'
"As parents," he said, "when we look at the sleeping child or take by the hand the little boy or the little girl, we ponder our responsibilities to teach, to inspire, to direct."
While parents ponder these duties, he said, children, particularly the youth, ask the next question, "Why are we here?"
"How grateful we should be that a wise Heavenly Father fashioned this beautiful earth and placed us here to dwell, with the veil of forgetfulness separating us and our pre-existent life," he said. "We've been given a time of testing, a chance to prove ourselves, to qualify for all God has prepared for us to receive."
Another reason for God's spirits to come to earth was to gain bodies of flesh and bone, President Monson explained. Here mankind makes decisions, learns from experience to differentiate between good and evil and discovers that decisions determine destiny.
Mankind is pointed in the ways of perfection by Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, he explained. "They want us to be perfect even as they are perfect."
President Monson related how a lawyer had asked the Savior which of the commandments was the greatest of all. "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Matt. 22:37-39.)
President Monson, who reported that Paul likened life to a great race, said that as the race of life is run, the advice in Eccl. 9:11 shouldn't be overlooked "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong."
"Actually, the prize belongs to he who endures to the end," President Monson affirmed.
He then recalled, when he was about 10, how he and his friends used to make toy boats and float them in the Provo River. On one occasion, he said one of the boats was caught in a whirlpool and quickly capsized.
"The toy boats of childhood had no keel for stability, they had no rudder to give them direction, they had no source of power, and invariably their direction was one and the same downstream," he explained. "Unlike toy boats, our Heavenly Father didn't launch us on our mortal voyage without giving us heavenly attributes. We have the capacity to think, to reason, to achieve.
"Our Heavenly Father sent us forth with the ability to communicate with Him, and He with us, so that we might find our way back to His eternal presence," President Monson continued. "I speak of prayer, I speak of the whisperings of the still, small voice, and I speak of the holy scriptures, written in part by mariners who sailed successfully the seas we, too, must cross."
For the last of life's great questions, President Monson quoted Job 14:14 "If a man die, shall he live again?"
"Try as we may to put the question out of our thoughts, it always returns. [Death] comes to the elderly as they walk on faltering feet, its summons are heard by those who are yet midway in life's journey and often time it hushes the laughter of little children."
A young man, lying in a hospital bed and dying of cancer, asked President Monson what would become of his spirit when it left his body.
President Monson read from Alma 40:11-12, which explains how the spirits of the righteous are received in states of happiness, paradise, peace and rest from all troubles, care and sorrow.
"After the body of Jesus had lain in the tomb for three days, the spirit again entered the body, and the risen Redeemer waled forth clothed in an immortal body of flesh and bones," President Monson related. The New Testment, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Convenants, which include the testimony of Joseph Smith, are witnesses to Christ's resurrection.
"As Christ was resurrected, so shall all manking be resurrected. This is the redemption of the soul," President Monson said.
He again quoted Paul, who said there are celestial and terrestrial bodies, with different glories. "It is the celestial glory that we seek. It is in the presence of God where we desire to dwell. It is as a part of the forever family that occupies our thoughts and our desires, but such blessings must be earned."