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Go forward

- Look upward- Rise heavenward

Speaking on "miracles then and now," President Thomas S. Monson focused much of his Sunday morning conference address on the teachings and life of the Savior and related stories about several people who follow those teachings and His examples.

President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, recalled that almost 40 years ago he visited with President J. Reuben Clark Jr., then a counselor in the First Presidency, who was working on producing a harmony of the gospels titled Our Lord of the Gospels.

During that visit, President Monson read to President Clark the account of a man the Savior cured of leprosy. (Luke 5:12-13.) He read of the man afflicted with palsy, whose friends lowered him from the housetop into the presence of Jesus. (Luke 5:18-20.)

"My heart fills with gratitude to the Lord for His divine intervention to relieve the suffering, heal the sick and raise the dead," President Monson said. "I grieve, however, for the many, similarly afflicted, who knew not how to find the Master, to learn of His teachings and to become the beneficiaries of His power.

"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 syndrome' greets the parents, leaving them baffled, filled with sorrow and reaching out for hope.

"There follows the inevitable blaming of one's self, 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.

"It is imperative that we recognize that whatever has happened to us has happened to others. They have coped and so must we. We are not alone. Heavenly Father's help is near."

President Monson related accounts of individuals and families who discovered "joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5) after a night of sorrow.

He told of Eve Gail McDaniel, 28, of Reedsport, Ore., who cannot read because of brain damage. Yet, she copied by hand the entire Book of Mormon. "Eve reflected the joy of accomplishment, even the smile of success," said President Monson, who received the copy on behalf of the Church. "Her parents rejoiced in her gladness of heart and buoyancy of spirit."

He recalled meeting children with disabilities who sang songs for him in the Church Office Building. "There was such an angelic expression on their faces and such a simple trust expressed in their comments that I felt I was on sacred ground," he reflected.

In another account, President Monson spoke of Sarah Bagley Shumway. In 1948, she married H. Smith Shumway, "her friend and sweetheart of nine years," who was blinded and severely injured in a land-mine explosion during World War II. During his long rehabilitation, she learned Braille so she could correspond with him in privacy.

The congregation laughed as President Monson repeated Smith Shumway's proposal to the young Sarah: " `If you will drive the car and sort the socks and read the mail, I will do the rest.' She accepted the offer."

Years of study led to a successful career, eight accomplished children, a host of grandchildren and lives of service, President Monson said. "The Shumways, along life's pathway, have faced problems of a child with severe deafness, a missionary son developing cancer and a twin granddaughter injured at birth."

Today, Brother Shumway is a patriarch; his wife learned typing so she could type the many blessings he gives.

President Monson commented, "Smith and Sarah Shumway and their family are examples of rising above adversity and sorrow, overcoming the tragedy of war-inflicted impairment and walking bravely the higher roadway of life."

President Monson related the story of Melissa Engle of West Valley City, Utah, who was featured in the August 1992 issue of the New Era. She was born with only a thumb on her right hand. Her father, wanting to find something she could do to strenghen her hand and make it useful, steered her toward learning to play the violin, which she has done for about eight years. She was accepted to attend Interlochen, one of the best music camps in the world for youth, but did not have the money - several thousand dollars - necessary to attend. Knowing she couldn't earn that amount of money, she prayed for help.

She received a grant set aside for someone with a handicap who was pursuing the arts.

President Monson added, "He that notes a sparrow's fall had fulfilled a child's dream, answered a child's prayer."