By Susan Knight
Some people say “coincidence.” I say “Providence.”
For some reason, I received an email from my singles group announcing an Education Weekend the day before it was supposed to happen. I thought, “Why didn’t I get this email sooner?”
The keynote speaker last Friday night was to be Heidi Swinton, author of President Thomas S. Monson’s biography. Since her son used to be in my ward back east, and I know she writes beautiful “Music and the Spoken Word” narrations, I decided to go, even though it was short notice.
When I arrived at the stake building in Salt Lake City, I found out this was not a singles event. The program announced it was for “Adults and Youth.” I figured, I’m an adult. So I stayed.
Providence, I tell you.
I figured she would tell the story of writing the biography of President Monson. Sister Swinton delved deeply into her experience, beginning with “the phone call” she got while serving as Mission President’s wife in the South London Mission. Unbelievable.
She said President Monson always asks, “How are you doing?” before he begins any conversation or business. “And he really means it,” we were told. “He wants to know how you are.”
President Monson spoke to her for a good half hour on the phone, long distance from Salt Lake City to London, before he came to the real reason for his call--to ask her to write his biography. She said, until then, she thought maybe he called mission president’s wives on Wednesdays.
Sister Swinton painted a perfect picture of our prophet for the audience in attendance that night. I came to know the man as one who heeds impressions and promptings from the Holy Ghost.
The stories she told were familiar. I’d heard them in General Conference. However, looking into her eyes, and hearing her own words, more poignantly touched my awareness. The Spirit was so strong it filled the chapel. If there were windows, they would have burst.
A turning point in the prophet’s life, according to Sister Swinton, was when he was a 22-year-old bishop. An elderly man was in the hospital and didn’t have much time left. President Monson promised the dying man he would come to see him right after Stake Conference. He was a new bishop and new bishops had to sit on the stand that evening.
During the first speaker’s talk, President Monson heard an urgent voice say, “Go the hospital now.”
Being only 22, he didn’t know what to do. He thought, “Should I go? But how would that look?”
He received the same prompting, with more force, as the second speaker took the stand. Again, “Should I go?”
As the closing hymn began, he rushed out the door, sped to the hospital, and got to the room just as the nurse stepped into the hallway to stop him from entering. “You must be Bishop Monson,” she said.
“Yes, I am.”
“He was asking for you right before he passed away.”
Sister Swinton said, the phrase, “That lesson was not lost on me,” was one she heard many times in her conversations during interviews. There were oh, so many more stories she told to add to the Spirit that night.
We all know, from the stories the prophet tells, that he heeds promptings. He is a ministering angel. I chastised myself. “The Holy Ghost knows not to prompt me. I never listen.”
How many times have I heard the still, small voice, yet did not act? I’ve lost count. Imagine how that man, plotting to take his own life, felt as President Monson showed up, out of the blue, to rescue him as he sat in a wheelchair at the deep end of the swimming pool.
Yes, he learned that lesson well. It was not lost on him. Nor were his other life lessons missed.
Sister Swinton said many times how Christlike “Tommy” is. I felt a prompting. I heard the Spirit say to me, “Christ is like Thomas S. Monson.” A thought came to my mind that, when Christ walked on the earth, perhaps his personality was like our prophet’s. After all, Thomas S. loves to tell stories. Our Savior told parables to get his points across.
In fact, Sister Swinton said, our prophet doesn’t think in linear time. She would ask interview questions about when certain events happened and he would always answer, “Let me tell you a story.” Who does that sound like? When questions were asked of Him, he answered, “There was a certain man who. . .”
She said he thinks in celestial terms, not in earth time. I can’t explain it very well, but she did.
I exhort you all, if you ever have a chance to hear Heidi Swinton speak, make no excuses and go--quickly--to wherever she is. She didn’t use notes but spoke from the heart and spirit. Her delivery was sure. Her eyes scanned the congregation and met mine quite a few times.
She probably thought, “Who is that crazy lady down there crying so much?”