Viewpoint: “We Ever Pray for Thee, Our Prophet Dear”

Contributed By the Church News

  • 21 August 2017

A six-year-old boy tries to hug a picture of President Thomas S. Monson on the television screen during the Saturday session of the April 2017 general conference.

Article Highlights

  • We can observe President Thomas S. Monson’s 90th birthday by praying for the Church leader and following his example of service to others.

March 1, 1897, was a joyous moment in Mormon history.

Thousands filled the Salt Lake Tabernacle to celebrate President Wilford Woodruff’s 90th birthday. None of President Woodruff’s three prophetic latter-day predecessors had reached even their 80th birthday—so his passage into a 10th decade prompted gratitude and celebration.

As a tribute to the Church’s fourth President, Mormon Tabernacle Choir director Evan Stephens wrote the words to a new hymn entitled “We Ever Pray for Thee”:

We ever pray for thee, our prophet dear,
That God will give to thee comfort and cheer;
As the advancing years furrow thy brow,
Still may the light within shine bright as now,
Still may the light within shine bright as now.
(“We Ever Pray for Thee,” Hymns, no. 23)

Those heartfelt words—penned over a century ago—seem relevant at this moment in the Church. One of President Woodruff’s successors, President Thomas S. Monson, marks his own 90th birthday on August 21. (See related story.)

Every day countless Latter-day Saints say a prayer for their “prophet dear.” They too ask God to bless President Monson with “comfort and cheer.”

President Monson’s long life has been defined by Christlike service. He was called as a bishop at age 22, a mission president at 31, and an Apostle at 36. Since then, he has visited the globe’s many climes, testifying of Jesus Christ and bringing comfort, hope, and direction to legions.

Now in his 10th year as the Church’s leader, President Monson knows well the advancing years that furrow his own brow. And, as the hymn implores, we too hope for light to shine bright from within this beloved nonagenarian.

So what would President Monson wish for on his 90th birthday?

During a Church News interview on the occasion of his 81st birthday, he was asked what he would consider the ideal gift that members worldwide could give him.

“Do something for someone else on that day to make his or her life better,” he replied. “Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely and do something for them. That’s all I would ask” (Church News, Aug. 23, 2008).

In an April 2010 general conference address, President Monson expressed gratitude for Latter-day Saints who show their love for the Lord—and His prophets—through their prayers and actions.

“I thank you for your faith and devotion to the gospel. I thank you for the love and care you show one to another. I thank you for the service you provide in your wards and branches and in your stakes and districts. It is such service that enables the Lord to accomplish many of His purposes here upon the earth.

“I express my thanks to you for your kindness to me wherever I go. I thank you for your prayers in my behalf. I have felt those prayers and am most grateful for them” (“As We Gather Once Again”).

A year later, President Monson reflected on his half-century of apostolic service, the unavoidable trials of age, and his certainty that Christ forever guides His Church:

“Age eventually takes its toll on all of us,” he said. “However, we join our voices with King Benjamin, who said, … ‘I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen … and consecrated by my father, … and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me’ (Mosiah 2:11).

“Despite any health challenges that may come to us, despite any weakness in body or mind, we serve to the best of our ability. I assure you that the Church is in good hands. The system set up for the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve [Apostles] assures [us] that it will always be in good hands and that, come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm” (“Reach Out to Rescue,” LDS.org, February 2013).

Coupled with daily prayer, we can offer another gift to President Monson and his fellow Apostles by sustaining Christ’s divinely appointed leaders.

How do we sustain a prophet? Listen to the words that President Joseph F. Smith articulated long before he became a Church President: “It is an important duty resting upon the Saints who … sustain the authorities of the Church, to do so not only by the lifting of the hand, the mere form, but in deed and in truth” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 211).

At the October 2014 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the Restoration of the gospel shattered any notion that God has stopped speaking to His children.

“When we sustain prophets and other leaders, we invoke the law of common consent, for the Lord said, ‘It shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church’ (D&C 42:11)” (“Sustaining the Prophets”).

Happy birthday, President Monson. We love you. We sustain you. And as the hymn timelessly declares:

We ever pray for thee with all our hearts,
That strength be given thee to do thy part,

To guide and counsel us from day to day,
To shed a holy light around our way,
To shed a holy light around our way.
 

We ever pray for thee with fervent love;
And as the children’s prayer is heard above,
Thou shalt be ever blest, and God will give
All that is meet and best while thou shalt live,
All that is meet and best while thou shalt live.
(“We Ever Pray for Thee”)