I have believed my whole life there is a prophet on the earth today, but I think I often take that belief for granted. If I didn’t believe there was a prophet, I think I would read the scriptures and wonder what a prophet would teach if there were one as in the stories we read in the Bible. Last week, President Thomas S. Monson, the president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died, and since his passing I’ve been thinking a lot about what he taught and why he chose to teach those things.
As scholar and LDS member David Holland said, “If you asked most Latter-day Saints what they will remember about President Monson, more often than not you will hear some version of the same response: He asked everyone to live close enough to the Spirit of God and close enough to their neighbors that we can hear and respond to the cry of distress when it is raised, even when it issues from the silence of a suffering heart.”
And it’s true. In the decade that he served as president of the LDS Church, President Monson faced and presided over many important decisions, but that wasn’t what he chose to teach in the many talks he gave throughout his 55 years as an apostle and prophet.
I’ve come to the realization that the biggest thing he taught me was that this human experience is a group effort and that we’re meant to help each other return to live with God.
“My brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness — be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers,” President Monson taught. “We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift his children. He is dependent upon each of us.”
In answer to Cain’s famous inquiry, President Monson once said, “Yes! We are our brother’s keeper.” This message was so important that in a world filled with many other issues, this message of serving, being there, being a friend and showing up is found again and again in the messages delivered by President Monson.
Earlier this week, The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins, a member of the LDS Church, wrote, “But ask the average Mormon to paint a picture of their prophet, and what you’ll hear first are stories that stress his commitment to personal ministry: those of the perennial widow-visitor; the bear-hugging bedside minister; the man who was known to drop everything on a busy day so he could sit in the hospital room of an ailing friend who needed someone to talk to.”
He understood that as the Bible says, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” and that is what he taught a generation, his generation, of young adults. We need each other, and I don’t think that applies only in marriage. We are here on this earth to help one another, to be there for each other in times of joy and in times of pain. And as I thought about this, I was led to consider my time as a young single woman.
I often joke that at this point, being single is a team sport. We’re all in it together, and a win for one of us is a victory for all of us.
Over Christmas break, after answering "no" to whether I was dating someone, a very well-meaning family member replied, “I am so sorry.” I’ve found that response resounding in my mind, and while it did motivate me to re-download a dating app, it has actually caused me to think about how thankful I am for this stage in my life. This is actually not a new thought. I often find myself sitting in church on Sunday thinking about how blessed I feel to be in a chapel filled to overflowing with young single adults.
We, my single friends and I, are at an interesting time in our lives, no doubt. It’s a phase where it is very easy to sink into selfishness. We have literally no one we’re responsible for other than ourselves, and, in my case, that’s been the situation for a good decade now.
And yet, I find myself frequently the recipient of acts of kindness by my friends, whether it’s my roommates leaving a note or my favorite snacks from the grocery store on my bed, a friend bringing me bread when I was sick or someone offering to help me move.
Perhaps it’s just a complex in my mind, but I think people around me often ask a number of questions when they look at young single adults my age: “Why is he (or she) not married? Something must be wrong with him.” “Is she (or he) just too picky?” “Maybe they’re just happy being single.” And while there may be some who are content being single or others who are just too picky, I do know that, for me, this was never the plan. There was actually a time when I was 16 that I thought I was in love with a boy and honestly thought I’d get married at 18. Twelve years later, here we are.
I also know I taught a lesson in church a few months ago and asked the girls in my class to raise their hands if their lives are not what they imagined they would be. Every hand in the class went up. So I’m not alone.
But still, despite that these people I share a life circumstance with have, in many cases, had their hearts broken a few too many times, they continue to give love and to bless the lives of all who come in contact with them. So here’s to them:
To the ones who are kind enough to let you borrow their car for an entire week when the rental cars are all gone thanks to an essential-oils conference.
The ones who text you after every hangout just to express gratitude for your friendship.
The ones who seem always to be striving to be better.
The ones who overcome trials without a spouse and with their families hundreds of miles away.
The ones who celebrate the joy and happiness of others, who throw bridal and baby showers despite having no wedding or babies of their own and who are genuinely happy for each other.
The ones who have read and studied every general conference talk since 1850 ... oh, wait, there’s probably only one of those. Sam Wright, I’m talking to you.
The ones who serve faithfully in every responsibility they are given.
The ones who always make sure to tell you that you are loved.
The ones who somehow have a special spidey sense for when you need a pick-me-up and send a text just to say hi.
The ones who are always looking for service opportunities and who genuinely care about making a difference in the world.
The ones who continue to treat their dates with respect, even if it’s their 975th first date.
The ones who go out of their way to be kind to people with disabilities.
The ones who forgive and don’t judge, who pull each other through times of doubt and struggle.
The ones who go through unbelievably hard things but who continue to trust in God.
The ones who are always willing to talk anytime you need it and who are always down for a little walk or a long walk.
So don’t get me wrong: When the time comes, I will gladly bid this season of my life a fond farewell, but I will also be filled with gratitude for the beauty of humanity and the power of friendship that this time has taught me.
I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t think President Monson’s counsel fell on deaf ears. I think it shaped a generation that is much better than it is given credit for. President Monson has served as a prophet since my freshman year of college, and in the decade since, I have been blessed by friends who listened to and lived his counsel. He shaped them and they shaped me, and for that, I am forever grateful.