Example of Dedicated Missionary Service
Excerpt from the talk titled: Example of Righteousness by Thomas S. Monson
Many years ago I spoke of one who took his example from the Savior, one who stood firm and true, strong and worthy through the storms of life. He courageously magnified his priesthood callings. He provides an example to each of us. His name was Thomas Michael Wilson, the son of Willie and Julia Wilson of Lafayette, Alabama.
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. They began to look to religion to help them through this time of tribulation. Subsequently, they were introduced to the Church, and eventually all but the father were baptized. After accepting the gospel, young Brother Wilson yearned for the opportunity of being a missionary, even though he was older than most young men when they begin their missionary service. At the age of 23, he received a mission call to serve in the Utah Salt Lake City Mission.
Elder Wilson’s missionary companions described his faith as unquestioning, undeviating, and unyielding. He was an example to all. However, after 11 months of missionary service, illness returned. Bone cancer now required the amputation of his arm and shoulder. Yet he persisted in his missionary labors.
Elder Wilson’s courage and consuming desire to remain on his mission so touched his nonmember father that he investigated the teachings of the Church and also became a member.
I learned that an investigator whom Elder Wilson had taught was baptized but then wanted to be confirmed by Elder Wilson, whom she respected so much. She, with a few others, journeyed to Elder Wilson’s bedside in the hospital. There, with his remaining hand resting upon her head, Elder Wilson confirmed her a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Elder Wilson continued month after month his precious but painful service as a missionary. Blessings were given; prayers were offered. Because of his example of dedication, his fellow missionaries lived closer to God.
Elder Wilson’s physical condition deteriorated. The end drew near, and he was to return home. He asked to serve but one additional month, and his request was granted. He put his faith in God, and He whom Thomas Michael Wilson silently trusted opened the windows of heaven and abundantly blessed him. His parents, Willie and Julia Wilson, and his brother Tony came to Salt Lake City to help their son and brother home to Alabama. However, there was yet a prayed-for, a yearned-for blessing to be bestowed. The family invited me to come with them to the Jordan River temple, where those sacred ordinances which bind families for eternity, as well as for time, were performed.
I said good-bye to the Wilson family. 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. It doesn’t matter whether I teach the gospel on this or the other side of the veil, so long as I can teach it.” What courage. What confidence. What love. The Wilson family made the long trek home to Lafayette, where Elder Thomas Michael Wilson slipped from here to eternity. He was buried there with his missionary tag in place.
My brethren, as we now leave this general priesthood meeting, let us all determine to prepare for our time of opportunity and to honor the priesthood we bear through the service we render, the lives we bless, and the souls we are privileged to help save.