We all know President Thomas S. Monson cared deeply for the widows of his ward when he served as bishop. There were many, and he continued to show them kindness throughout all their lives. This Christ-like love seems to come easy for President Monson; however, he also learned how to love from great men that came before him.
In this segment of Leader to Leader we hear President Monson in 1980 (The Bishop–Center Stage in Welfare) relate a story about learning from Harold B. Lee, Marion G. Romney, and J. Reuben Clark:
My teachers were heaven-sent. May I mention but a few: our former stake president, Harold B. Lee; President Marion G. Romney; and President J. Reuben Clark.
Brother Lee attended our stake conference the year I was appointed as a bishop. Looking over the priesthood leadership congregation on Saturday evening, he stepped from the pulpit, called for a chalkboard, came down from the stand, stood among us, and, as the master teacher, taught us our duty. He drew five circles under the heading “The Responsibilities of a Bishop.” He then gave to each circle a designation such as “The Father of the Ward,” “The President of the Aaronic Priesthood,” “The Common Judge in Israel,” and then placed emphasis on the bishop’s role in welfare. He cautioned us to seek after the poor, to care for them, and to do so in a spirit of love, kindness, and confidentiality.
Brother Romney was a frequent visitor to our stake and region. One evening he taught us the principle of faith by retelling the inspiring account of Elijah and the widow at Zarephath (see 1 Kgs. 17:8–16). He liken her circumstances to those of some widows in our area. As he taught welfare precepts from the handbook and responded to questions, one brother asked him, “Brother Romney, why do you seem to know whatever’s in that handbook?” to which Brother Romney, with that twinkle in his eye and smile upon his lips, responded, “I wrote it!”
President Clark too was a master teacher. It was my privilege during those years to assist him in the preparation of his manuscripts that they might find their way into printed volumes. What a unique and profitable experience to be with him frequently. Knowing that I was a new bishop presiding over a difficult ward, he emphasized the need for me to know my people, to understand their circumstances, and, in the spirit of tenderness, to minister to their needs. One day he recounted the example of the Savior as recorded in Luke, chapter seven, verses eleven through fifteen:
“And it came to pass … that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him. …
“When he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. …
“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.
“And he came and touched the bier. … And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
“And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.” [Luke 7:11–15]
When President Clark closed the Bible, I noticed that he was weeping. In a quiet voice he said, “Tom, be kind to the widows, and look after the poor.”
Leader to Leader is a segment where we share what leaders of the church have learned from other leaders of the church. This might include stories from general conference, accounts of one leader attending a stake conference with another leader, or simply recollections one leader’s interaction with someone they respected. There are great leadership skills one can learn by pondering these interactions. Read other stories in this series HERE.