(Header Photo Courtesy of Scott Sommerdorf for the Salt Lake Tribune)
In the scriptures, the Lord often discusses how he feels about weakness.
He told the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni that He “gives unto men weakness that they may be humble…for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
Similarly Paul, in his epistle to the saints in Corinth, reminded them that the Lord had “chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”
For the Latter-day Saints who witnessed the physical weakness of prophet Thomas S. Monson as he stood at the pulpit during the Sunday Morning Session of General Conference, it was an important reminder that whom the Lord calls, He qualifies.
While we are used to seeing strong and sturdy prophets and apostles these last few years, there have been many instances throughout ancient and modern history where the leaders of the Church have experienced moments of frailty and continued to serve with faith. Below are just five examples.
Aaron and Hur Holding Up the Hands of Moses
Aside from wandering, Moses and the people of Israel encountered warfare on their 40-year-journey to the promised land. The first of these violent attacks occurred when Joshua had to lead the people in battle against the Amalekites. Moses, his brother Aaron, and friend Hur, watched from a nearby hill. Moses found that when his arms were raised, Israel succeeded. When he lowered them, they began to lose. So Moses raised his arms so the people might win. However, this was no easy feat as the battle went on.
Exodus 17:12 says, “But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.”
When many people think of Moses, they think of a mighty man who split the sea and led a people through a great Exodus. This is all true. But he was also a man who experienced human weakness, was “slow of speech, and of a slow tongue,” and needed the help of others.
Jesus Christ Comforted By an Angel
Christ was perfect. He never experienced the pain of sin or the weakness of human error from any fault or mistake of His own creation. Yet He did know what it was like to hunger and to thirst. He chose to descend below all things and live through a mortal life. And in the greatest moment of all eternity, when Christ took our sins and pains upon Himself, Christ received heavenly help in order to complete His mission.
In the account of Luke, when Christ asks if the cup might be removed from Him, an angel appears in answer.
“And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.”
If Christ received help during his greatest trial, it is no wonder that we need help during ours.
President Howard W. Hunter Falls During Conference
President Hunter, it would later be revealed, broke three ribs in the fall. However, with President Packer’s help, he continued his talk as if nothing had happened.
Elder David B. Haight Waves to the Crowd
I stand here with a humble heart—a heart that is full of love for this work, for you people who are here and who are listening. At our last conference six months ago as I stood here by President Gordon B. Hinckley, he encouraged me to wave to you, and I used all the energy that I had. I’ve heard from some people who thought I was waving a farewell. But I’ve come here today to indicate to you and to tell you I’m back. And I don’t have anyone else pushing my arm for me.
I understand the power of prayer and of faith and devotion, and I acknowledge precious witnesses from heaven. And so I stand here today just to bear my testimony and say hello to you. I’m hoping that by another conference I’ll be totally healed and able to do what I’m asked to do.
President Russell M. Nelson Steadies Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
Elder Wirthlin was able to finish his talk on charity and was helped back to his seat. In an interview this past month with Deseret News, a picture of the moment could be seen in President Nelson’s office.
It can be hard to watch leaders suffering physical or emotional trials. But what great examples we have of acting through such times. Elder David A. Bednar said it best in his most recent General Conference talk:
At one point I asked Elder Hales, “You have been a successful husband, father, athlete, pilot, business executive, and Church leader. What lessons have you learned as you have grown older and been constrained by decreased physical capacity?”
Elder Hales paused for a moment and responded, “When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.”