"During the final phases of World War II, I turned 18 and was ordained an elder one week before I departed for active duty with the Navy. A member of my ward bishopric was at the train station to bid me farewell. Just before train time, he placed in my hand a book which I hold before you tonight. Its title, the Missionary Handbook. I laughed and commented, 'I'm not going on a mission.' He answered, 'Take it anyway. It may come in handy'
"It did. During basic training our company commander instructed us concerning how we might best pack our clothing in a large sea bag. He advised, 'If you have a hard, rectangular object you can place in the bottom of the bag, your clothes will stay more firm.' I suddenly remembered just the right rectangular object the Missionary Handbook. Thus it served for 12 weeks.
"The night preceding our Christmas leave our thoughts were, as always, on home. The barracks were quiet. Suddenly I became aware that my buddy in the adjoining bunk a Mormon boy, Leland Merrill was moaning with pain. I asked, 'What's the matter, Merrill?'
"He replied, 'I'm sick. I'm really sick.'
"I advised him to go to the base dispensary, but he answered knowingly that such a course would prevent him from being home for Christmas.
"The hours lengthened; his groans grew louder. Then, in desperation, he whispered, 'Monson, Monson, aren't you an elder?' I acknowledged this to be so; whereupon he asked, 'Give me a blessing.'
"I became very much aware that I had never given a blessing. I had never received such a blessing; I had never witnessed a blessing being given. My prayer to God was a plea for help. The answer came: 'Look in the bottom of the sea bag.' Thus, at 2 a.m. I emptied on the deck the contents of the bag. I then took to the night light that hard, rectangular object, the Missionary Handbook, and read how one blesses the sick. With about 60 curious sailors looking on, I proceeded with the blessing. Before I could stow my gear, Leland Merrill was sleeping like a child.
"The next morning Merrill smilingly turned to me and said, 'Monson, I'm glad you hold the priesthood.' His gladness was only surpassed by my gratitude."
April 1978 general conference