Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, center, with President Henry B. Eyring, left, and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf at Monday's announcement of the new First Presidency in Salt Lake City.

One weekend in August 1974, an unexpected change of conference assignments came, sending Elder Thomas S. Monson to the Shreveport Louisiana Stake. The Saturday afternoon schedule was filled with many meetings. Rather apologetically, the stake president asked Elder Monson if he had enough time to give a blessing to 10-year-old Christal Methvin, who was afflicted with cancer.

Elder Monson said he would be pleased to do so and then asked if she would be coming to the conference meetings or if she were confined to a Shreveport hospital. Almost reluctantly, the stake president said Christal was unable to leave her home.

Elder Monson examined the meeting schedule and found that there simply was no available time. As an alternative, he suggested that she be remembered in the public prayers.

Prior to the stake conference, and unbeknown to Elder Monson, Christal had lost her leg to surgery, only to discover later that the cancer had spread to her tiny lungs. A trip had been planned to Salt Lake City, where she might receive a blessing from one of the general authorities. The Methvins knew none of the brethren personally, so they placed before Christal a picture of all the church leaders. She pointed to the photograph of Elder Thomas S. Monson and said, "I would like him to give me a blessing."

But Christal's condition had deteriorated so rapidly that the flight to Salt Lake City had to be canceled. She was growing weaker in body but not in faith. She said, "Since a general authority is coming to our stake conference, why not Brother Monson? If I can't go to him, the Lord can send him to me."

At about the same time, Elder Monson received the unexpected change in his assignment, sending him to Shreveport.

After receiving word from the stake president that Elder Monson would be unable to visit Christal, the Methvins were understandably very disappointed. They knelt again around Christal's bedside, pleading for a final favor for her.

"At the very moment the Methvin family knelt in prayer, the clock in the stake center showed the time to be 7:45," Elder Monson said. "The leadership meeting had been inspirational. I was sorting my notes, preparing to step to the pulpit, when I heard a voice speak to my spirit. The message was brief, the words familiar: 'Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God' (Mark 10:14). My notes became a blur. My thoughts turned to a tiny girl in need of a blessing. The decision was made. The meeting schedule was altered. After all, people are more important than meetings. I turned to Bishop James Serra and asked that he leave the meeting and advise the Methvins.

"The Methvin family had just arisen from their knees when the telephone rang and the message was relayed that early Sunday morning — the Lord's day — in a spirit of fasting and prayer, we would journey to Christal's bedside.

"I shall ever remember and never forget that early-morning journey to a heaven the Methvin family calls home. I have been in hallowed places — even holy houses — but never have I felt more strongly the presence of the Lord than in the Methvin home ...

"The family surrounded Christal's bedside. I gazed down at a child who was too ill to rise — almost too weak to speak. Her illness had now rendered her sightless. So strong was the spirit that I fell to my knees, took her frail hand in mine, and said simply, 'Christal, I am here.' She parted her lips and whispered, 'Brother Monson, I just knew you would come.' ...

"Four days later ... the pure spirit of Christal Methvin left its disease-ravaged body and entered the paradise of God."

November 1975 Ensign