In the April 1974 conference, President Monson spoke movingly of the example of the savior and “the capacity of the Redeemer to change men’s lives.” His description of the power of the savior to change others is memorable:
“We discover he is more than the babe in Bethlehem, more than the carpenter’s son, more than the greatest teacher ever to live. We come to know him as the Son of God. He never fashioned a statue, painted a picture, wrote a poem, or led an army. He never wore a crown or held a scepter or threw around his shoulder a purple robe. His forgiveness was unbounded, his patience inexhaustible, his courage without limit. Jesus changed men. He changed their habits, their opinions, their ambitions. He changed their tempers, their dispositions, their natures. He changed men’s hearts.”
But what stood out to me most in President Monson’s talk was his discussion regarding Paul. President Monson describes Saul of Tarsus as a ” scholar, familiar with the rabbinical writings.” We don’t often think of Saul as a scholar but this is a fair description given his study under the tutelage of the great rabbi Gamaliel. Yet as President Monson notes “these writings did not reach Paul’s need, and he kept on crying, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24.)
This is an unusual way to use Paul’s declaration of Romans. But ultimately it goes a long way towards explaining Saul’s miraculous conversion. Even though Paul was faithfully observing his faith, he felt a certain lacking or discomfort. Ultimately, I believed that we all feel that sense of discomfort when we are not living according to the teachings of Christ and his Church. We feel a longing for something more. And that longing keeps us searching, hoping, and praying.
For me, no matter how often I studied or worshiped I felt something missing. The deepest philosophical teachings on the world provided only cold comfort. At times, I was not even aware of the longing. But when I first encountered the teachings of Christ, it filled a hole I didn’t know was there.
President Monson’s talk connected me to Paul and to his conversion. With Saul/Paul I can also say that “one day [I] met Jesus, and behold, all things became new.”