Through the years, President Thomas S. Monson has felt a special kinship with President Wilford Woodruff, the fourth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"Not only have we each served in the Council of the Twelve Apostles, he being the 15th Apostle ordained in this dispensation and I the 77th, but we share other things in common as well, including a love for fly fishing," President Monson wrote. "In August 1892, he wrote to Forest and Stream magazine about a fishing trip on the Weber River where he caught 20 trout in four hours, four of which weighed over 4 pounds!"
President Woodruff also presided over the Latter-day Saints in the eastern United States and Canada. President Monson was president of the Canadian mission, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, from 1959-1962. "There I walked where he had walked before me," President Monson wrote.
President Monson's thoughts on President Woodruff are part of an essay he wrote for a book titled "Heroes of the Restoration," published in 1997 by Deseret Book. President Monson was one of 18 LDS general authorities to write a tribute to one of the early figures of LDS Church history, illustrating admirable qualities, characteristics, lessons and gospel principles.
The following 10 excerpts from "Heroes of the Restoration" are used with permission from Deseret Book.
President Hinckley and Joseph Smith
LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote that "the wonder of the story of Joseph Smith is that it has all come to pass."
"Can anyone who is acquainted with his life and who has drawn inspiration from his writings doubt that the hand of the Almighty was manifest in his tutoring and in his ministry?" President Hinckley wrote. "His life was filled with events which molded a man into a prophet."
Despite limited educational opportunities and coming to know at a young age the meaning of physical suffering, including mob violence, imprisonment and poverty, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, established the church and accomplished "more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it" (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3), President Hinckley wrote.
"I stand humbly in his lengthened shadow, 15th in line to hold the keys first given him in these latter days," President Hinckley wrote. "He stands as my leader, my model, my prophet, my seer and revelator. I am overwhelmed. I am humbled. I am profoundly and deeply grateful. God be thanked for His chosen servant."
President Nelson and Orson Hyde
Like Abraham, Elder Orson Hyde was foreordained for the ministry he performed. He also endured many trials and tests of obedience, wrote President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
"I have concluded that this remarkable man did indeed fulfill the purpose for which he was sent to Earth, and that he did it with courage and faith," President Nelson wrote.
Orphaned at age 14, Elder Hyde served several missions, dedicated the land of Palestine for the gathering of the Jews, and lived a faithful life. President Nelson gained four lessons from studying his life, he wrote.
First, Elder Hyde came into the world with an intrinsic love of the Lord. Second, the Lord knew and loved him and managed to move him where he needed to be. Third, hard work and the overcoming of incredible challenges were his lot in life. And fourth, obedience, consecration and sacrifice were hallmarks of his service, President Nelson wrote.
Elder Hales and Oliver Cowdery
The fact that Oliver Cowdery crossed paths with the Prophet Joseph Smith was not a coincidence or happenstance; it was a result of two men being directed by the Spirit, wrote Elder Robert D. Hales, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Although he later became estranged from the LDS Church for 10 years, Cowdery played an essential role in the restoration of the gospel. He served as Joseph Smith's scribe in translating the Book of Mormon, was second to receive the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, handled the golden plates as one of the three witnesses, and took part in heavenly visitations at the Kirtland Temple. Four years after Joseph's martyrdom, Cowdery humbly returned to the church. Throughout his life, he never denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon.
"Oliver Cowdery's history teaches a lesson for each member of the church: to express gratitude each day for the blessings we have received from having the gospel in our lives,” Elder Hales wrote. “In our prayers, we need to ask the Lord to strengthen us that we will not waver in our times of persecution or tribulation, that we can rise above the wrongs and differences and trials of mortality, and that we may hold true to our covenants so that we will be able to testify and to be witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ and the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in these latter days."
Elder Holland and Heber C. Kimball
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, wrote that he sees Heber C. Kimball as "one of the greatest of the men raised up by God to establish His work in those early, crucial years of the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days."
Elder Kimball, the rocklike apostle and eventual first counselor in the First Presidency, was blessed with unusual gifts of the Spirit, receiving many dreams and visions; he remained 100 percent loyal to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young; he was a dedicated missionary; and he maintained a high degree of integrity, Elder Holland wrote.
Elder Holland summarized Elder Kimball’s life with the words of another apostle, Elder Orson F. Whitney, who wrote: “He was a diamond in the rough, but a diamond nevertheless. He was best-adapted for the divine purpose, the career marked out for him by the finger of Deity.”
President Faust and Edward Partridge
Edward Partridge was called as the first bishop of the LDS Church and presided over the affairs of the church in Jackson County, Missouri. One night, he was dragged into the street by a mob and asked to renounce his faith or be beaten, tarred and feathered. Partridge didn't hesitate to defend his faith.
"If I must suffer for my religion, it is no more than others have done before me," Partridge said, according to B.H. Roberts' "A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Partridge survived other persecutions and served faithfully throughout his life. The late President James E. Faust, a counselor in the First Presidency, bore witness of the nobility, sacrifice, devotion and example of this humble, great servant of the Lord by quoting the journal of President Wilford Woodruff:
"Bishop Partridge was one of the wisest and best men of the last generation," President Woodruff wrote. "Like Nathaniel of old, in him there was no guile. He had passed through much persecution with the Saints, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus."
Elder Ballard and Hyrum Smith
It was the nature of Joseph Smith's older brother Hyrum to keep a low profile. Yet his contributions to the early LDS Church were invaluable, wrote Hyrum's three-times great-grandson, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
"Love, integrity, and humility were the attributes that guaranteed his greatness as one of the firm pillars of the Restoration," Elder Ballard wrote, "greatness that was cemented by a martyr's death in Carthage at the side of his prophet-brother."
Hyrum Smith and his family endured severe afflictions while supporting Joseph, leaving an unmatched legacy of loyalty. When given the chance to guide his family to safety or stay with his brother, Hyrum refused to leave, Elder Ballard wrote.
"Hyrum Smith truly is a hero of our dispensation," Elder Ballard wrote. "Having given all, his life and testimony now stand as a hero's monument."
Elder Perry and John Taylor
Following President John Taylor's death, his counselors in the First Presidency, George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith, wrote this description of him in the Deseret News:
"A faithful, devoted and fearless servant of God, the church in his death has lost its most conspicuous and experienced leader. Steadfast to and immovable in truth, few men have ever lived who have manifest such integrity and such unflinching moral and physical courage as our beloved president. He never knew the feeling of fear connected with the work of God. The title of 'Champion of Liberty,' which he received at Nauvoo, was always felt to be most appropriate for him to bear."
The late Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles focused on three words that he thought epitomized the life of President Taylor, the third president of the LDS Church: "converted, loyal and articulate."
"How blessed we are to have been taught by great prophets of God, each with his own unique abilities and experience," Elder Perry wrote. "Each has delivered to us in his own way the fundamental doctrines and precepts we need to guide us through life and prepare us for the eternities to come. May we study their lives and apply in each of our own lives the principles they have taught."
Elder Wirthlin and Newel K. Whitney
Bishop Newel K. Whitney experienced triumph and trial, prosperity and adversity, and was a faithful steward and steadfast Latter-day Saint during his 55-year life, wrote the late Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
"Bishop Whitney served with love and compassion," Elder Wirthlin wrote. "His understanding of the gospel was enlightened by his study, by his willingness to be instructed by those in authority over him, and by the Spirit, which he sought constantly and prayerfully to guide his life. He was faithful and loyal. He was diligent and persistent in seeking always to do the Lord's will."
President Monson and Wilford Woodruff
As a teenager, President Monson became fascinated with the life of President Wilford Woodruff by reading his autobiographical works.
From President Woodruff’s conversion to his many successful missions and years as a church leader, President Monson was especially impressed with how President Woodruff responded to promptings from the Holy Ghost, he wrote.
"Throughout his life, Wilford Woodruff was protected and guided and prepared for the time when he would preside over the Lord's church," President Monson wrote. "His life was spared on countless occasions."
Among many qualities and accomplishments, President Woodruff was a champion of journal-keeping, family history and temple work. He also had a great ability to get things done and was friendly toward people of other faiths, President Monson wrote.
"It is an honor to pay tribute to one for whom I have such deep admiration — President Wilford Woodruff," President Monson wrote. "Though he died 29 years before I was born, his life has touched mine and has left me the better for it."
Elder Maxwell and Brigham Young
In his essay about Brigham Young, the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles referenced samples of Brigham Young’s sermons that illustrate his gifts as a "seer and profound teacher of gospel doctrines and principles," Elder Maxwell wrote.
Elder Maxwell drew from President Young's sermons on the Prophet Joseph Smith, the plan of salvation and loving one’s fellow man.
"One salutes President Young for his careful, thoughtful ponderings of the things that matter most," Elder Maxwell wrote. "Truly, President Brigham Young was remarkable, and I thank him for his deep influence upon me!"
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