'And a little child shall lead them'
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Drawing from an example of the Savior's love for children exhibited during His Galiean ministry, President Thomas S. Monson spoke Sunday morning of the universal need to love, care for and protect today's children.
"When we realize just how precious children are, we will not find it difficult to follow the pattern of the Master in our association with them," said President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, in reference to the Savior's example of love for children.President Monson decried the abuse and mistreatment of children, who have so recently come from the presence of a loving Heavenly Father.
"Who among us has not praised God and marveled at His powers when an infant is held in one's arms?" he asked. "That tiny hand, so small yet so perfect, instantly becomes the topic of conversation. No one can resist placing his little finger in the clutching hand of an infant."
President Monson referred to associations the Savior had with children. "When the disciples of Jesus attempted to restrain the children from approaching the Lord, He declared, `Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter herein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.' (Mark 10:14-16.) What a magnificent pattern for us to follow."
He commended doctors, dentists and others who leave for a time their own private practices to journey to distant lands to minister to children, repairing cleft palates and other deformities. He spoke also of sacrifices made by parents who donate a kidney or part of a liver to save the life of a beloved child.
Speaking of a report on orphans in Romania, of which there are perhaps 30,000 in Bucharest alone, President Monson said Elder Russell M. Nelson arranged that the Church might provide vaccine, medical dressings and other urgently needed supplies. "Certain couples will be identified and called to fill special missions to these children," President Monson said. "Personally, I can think of no more Christlike service than to hold a motherless child in one's arms or to take a fatherless boy by the hand.
"We need not be called to missionary service, however, in order to bless the lives of children. Our opportunities are limitless. They are everywhere to be found - sometimes very close to home."
President Monson told of a young family who visited Temple Square. Following the father and two other sons, a young mother and her 3-year-old began walking up the ramp in the visitors center that houses Thorvaldsen's sculpture, the Christus.
"Tiny Tyler bolted from his mother and ran to the base of the Christus, while exclaiming, `It's Jesus! It's Jesus!' As Mother attempted to restrain her son, Tyler looked back toward her and his father and said, `Don't worry, He likes children.' "
Later, Tyler's father asked the boy how he knew that Jesus liked him. "Tyler, with a most serious expression on his face, looked up at his father's eyes and answered, `Dad, didn't you see His face?' Nothing else needed to be said.
"As I read this account," President Monson said, "I thought of the statement from the Book of Isaiah, `And a little child shall lead them.' " (Isaiah 11:6.)
President Monson then shared the story of a missionary, Elder Thomas Michael Wilson of Lafayette, Ala., who "never lost the faith of a child."
"When he was but a teenager, and he and his family were not yet members of the Church, he was stricken with cancer, followed by painful radiation therapy and then blessed remission. This illness caused his family to realize that not only is life precious but that it can also be short. The family began to look to religion to help them through this time of tribulation. Subsequently, they were introduced to the Church and baptized."
The young man yearned to serve a mission and was thrilled to receive a call to the Utah Salt Lake City Mission. "Elder Wilson's missionary companions described his faith as like that of a child - unquestioning, undeviating, unyielding. He was an example to all. After 11 months, illness returned. Bone cancer now required the amputation of his arm and shoulder. Yet he persisted in his missionary labors."
Elder Wilson persisted to the end, President Monson noted. His parents and brother came from Alabama to take him home. However, before leaving Utah, the family was sealed in the Jordan River Temple.
Elder Wilson died Jan. 13, 1990.
"I said goodbye to the Wilson family," recounted President Monson. "I can see Elder Wilson yet as he thanked me for being with him and his loved ones. He said, `It doesn't matter what happens to us in this life as long as we have the gospel of Jesus Christ and live it.' What courage. What confidence. What love.
"When Elder Wilson's mother and his father visit that rural cemetery and place flowers of remembrance on the grave of their son, . . . when emotions are close to the surface and tears cannot be restrained, they will again thank God for their missionary son who never lost the faith of a child and then ponder deep within their hearts the Master's words, `And a little child shall lead them.' "