Reflections of My Father, Thomas S. Monson
One of the ways that my father really found his happiness and joy in this life was by serving others. Service was always a part of our life. He was a bishop when I was a child, a mission president when I was four, and then an Apostle when I was nine. So, his service, even when he was called to be an Apostle, didn't seem as though there was much of a change. It seemed like he always served.
When I was young, I would sometimes go with my father on visits, often to the 85 widows he ministered to as a bishop. I was not very comfortable in that setting. I remember sometimes thinking, “It’s too hot in here,” and they’d keep talking. They would bring out refreshments so I would think we were almost done, and then he would ask another question. I’d be thinking, “Oh, how long is this going to last?” As I grew older, though, I came to recognize the value of what my father and mother were teaching me, and I came to recognize just how valuable a personal visit was. My father was so good to spend time with people, to bless each in their own way. It was something that he always did.
About a year ago I was at my dad’s office and his secretary looked up a day from probably 20 years ago. That day, he went to Denver, then he came back to Salt Lake City for some meetings and gave someone a blessing, then he flew to California and gave a blessing there, and then he came back. He was always very, very busy—very involved—with a great deal of energy. Wherever the Lord needed him, that’s where you found my father.
Some of my favorite memories with my father and our family are of going to his cabin in Provo Canyon and listening as he and relatives shared stories of their childhood. That was always a pleasant and happy time.
When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity of going with him and my mother on several trips where he was conducting conferences and mission tours. That was certainly eye‑opening and very special.
Even though my father traveled a lot and was busy, he was involved with the family. When he was home, he was taking care of his birds and mowing the lawn, just doing those everyday activities.
After he came home from a trip, it was always fun to hear his stories. He would watch television downstairs with us, and he'd have his briefcase open and go through letters saying, "Oh, let me share this one with you. Let me share this one." He would share about the people he met, their concerns and what they've sacrificed and overcome, what their hopes were, how their testimonies had been strengthened and how his testimony was strengthened as he met with them, and how he felt the Spirit as he met with these people. It was very faith promoting for me to hear about his experiences with the Spirit.
One of my favorite experiences has been in the last few years when I’ve had the opportunity to accompany him on personal visits and as he's given blessings to individuals. I felt I was truly in a sacred place when he expressed his love to others, and they to him. And he would always say, "I could be anywhere in the world, but I've chosen to be with you." It was always very sweet to see their reactions.
His Gift to Remember
One time I was on a Young Women assignment in Canada, and a leader's husband told me about when his father had met my father in Australia when my father was a new Apostle, over 50 years ago. This man said our fathers were in Perth, Australia, and had a brief conversation while my father was there for a meeting. He said 25 years went by and my father and his father were in Alberta, Canada. He said, “President Monson saw my father out of the corner of his eye and said, ‘Isn't that Graham Enos from Perth, Australia?’” He said that it was. And then the son went on to tell me, “Here it was a couple of decades later, on a different continent. At the time when my father met your father the first time, he had a full beard. And now he was clean‑shaven." Yet, he remembered him.
After the experience, I shared it with my father and laughed about it. I said, "You could've had a career in the Secret Service."
And he said, "Sometimes you just get lucky."
But all joking aside, when someone has that experience of being remembered, being known, it makes them feel as though they're valued, remembered, and not just by President Monson or Elder Monson, but by the Lord Himself. You really can sense that. It's kind of a humbling thing to witness. Everyone wants to feel loved and remembered.
Legacy of Service
My father served God and his fellow man his whole life, but he wouldn’t have been able to be who he was or do what he did without my mother. She was always supportive. In an interview once my mother was asked about his continual service and she said, “That’s just kind of what we grew up with. That’s what we did, and that's what we've always done."
She was just like him, serving her whole life. She was his confidant and would offer suggestions, saying things like, "Well, have you considered this, Tom?"
He would listen to her as she shared her feelings and say, "You know, I hadn't thought of it that way." I watched that interaction and how my mother and our family were blessed through their service in different ways.
Although my father was in the forefront because of his service as God’s prophet on the earth, he was still a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, and a man. One time a woman from Africa visiting Utah said to me, “Oh, it must be wonderful to have had President Monson as your father and to have a perfect family." I expressed that we’re not perfect. Each of us have our joys and our sorrows, our happiness and our trials, our mistakes and our victories. Even my father. If that weren't so, how would he ever learn compassion? How would he ever understand empathy and be able to strive to teach as the Savior would teach and minister?
We’re all striving to become like the Savior. Each of us works with our talents and continues to try to overcome. That's how we become consecrated in the Lord and become who He knows we can be.
All of these stories and examples blessed our family and strengthened my testimony. I’m grateful my father has always chosen to fulfill his priesthood duty.