It was just prior to a General Conference weekend and all of the senior leadership of the Church were gathered together to be instructed by the First Presidency. As they waited for the meeting to begin the 9 o’clock hour came and went. This was unusual and the brethren began to worry.
“Someone walked out a side door to check if some assistance might be needed. On his re-entrance to the room we were told President Monson would join us shortly. About 15 minutes after the meeting was to have started President Monson entered the room. Out of respect we stood as he entered. We were happy to see him and pleased that he looked well and it didn’t appear that there was any obvious reason why he would have been late. President Monson went strait to the pulpit and said ‘Brethren, I’m sorry to be late but my wife needed me this morning.’ I was deeply impressed and humbled and couldn’t stop thinking about President Monson’s words. This was a very important meeting. The entire senior leadership of the Church was assembled but President Monson set the example for us all. His wife needed him and he took the time necessary to care for her. It was a great sermon.”
As I sat there a little stunned at the beauty and truth of that statement it became clear to me that President Monson and his lovely wife Frances have spent a lifetime modeling that very idea. It is worthy of emulation.
In a conference talk called Hallmarks of a Happy Home President Monson spoke of a framed expression that his Aunt had embroidered which hung on the kitchen wall of his boyhood home. It carried a world of practical application:
Choose your love; love your choice.
That expression was put into practice early on as heavy responsibilities came shortly after their marriage. As Bishop, Mission President, and other callings came to the remarkably young and talented Monson Frances was unwaveringly supportive.
“It has never been a sacrifice to see my husband doing the Lord's work. It has blessed me, and it has blessed our children. He always knew that if it was for the Church, I expected him to do what he had to do.”This support was received with thankfulness and love.
“I have never known Frances to complain once of my Church responsibilities,’ he says. ‘I have been gone many days and many nights, and I have rarely been able to sit with her in the congregation. But there is no one like her—absolutely no one. She is in every way supportive and is a woman of quiet and profoundly powerful faith”
“I thank my Father in Heaven for my sweet companion, Frances. … I could not have asked for a more loyal, loving, and understanding companion”There has been a sense of fun in their relationship as well. Both are good-natured and able to see the humor in even difficult situations. President Monson related the following.
“My sweet Frances had a terrible fall a few years ago. She went to the hospital. She lay in a coma for about 18 days. I sat by her side. She never moved a muscle. The children cried, the grandchildren cried, and I wept. Not a movement.
And then one day, she opened her eyes. I set a speed record in getting to her side. I gave her a kiss and a hug, and I said, ‘You’re back. I love you.’ And she said, ‘I love you, too, Tom, but we’re in serious trouble.’ I thought, ‘What do you know about trouble, Frances?’ She said, ‘I forgot to mail in our fourth-quarter income tax payment.
Now with Sister Monson’s passing and as we bid her farewell for a time it seems appropriate to ponder the example she and President Monson have set.I said to her, ‘Frances, if you had said that before you extended a kiss to me and told me you love me, I might have left you here”
Unconditional love, gratitude, support, and humor, all of these actions took effort. Truly love without works is dead and the Monson’s have been a magnificent example to all of us of the vibrant happiness that comes from that determination.
“Brethren, let’s treat our wives with dignity and with respect. They’re our eternal companions. Sisters, honor your husbands. They need to hear a good word. They need a friendly smile. They need a warm expression of true love.”
May we all take those words to heart and do the work of love by loving our choice a little more today.