Part 4: President Monson Served Decades in the First Presidency

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News associate editor

  • 3 January 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley laughs with his counselors, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, at the closing of the Sunday afternoon session of general conference on April 4, 1999.  Photo by Boone Chen.

Several momentous dates and occasions have marked President Thomas S. Monson’s life. November 5, 1985, could surely be listed near the top of such life-altering days.

On that date Thomas S. Monson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, learned that the Church’s 12th President, President Spencer W. Kimball, had died at his apartment at the Westin Hotel Utah in Salt Lake City.

President Kimball’s passing triggered a series of events that would have a deep impact on Elder Monson, who would ultimately be counted among President Kimball’s presidential successors.

On November 10, 1985, in the Salt Lake Temple, Ezra Taft Benson was ordained and set apart as the President of the Church. The new prophet selected President Gordon B. Hinckley as his First Counselor. His Second Counselor would be Thomas S. Monson, a veteran Apostle who was still two years short of his 60th birthday. He became the youngest counselor called to the First Presidency in more than a century.

President Ezra Taft Benson, center, and his counselors, President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson, participate in the cornerstone ceremony at the Portland Oregon Temple. Photo by Gerry Avant, Church News.

From that day on, President Monson became one of the most visible priesthood leaders in the history of the Church. Elder Francis M. Gibbons, a former Seventy and former secretary to the First Presidency, had kind words for President Monson following his calling to the First Presidency:

“The mantle of the First Presidency fit very well indeed,” he wrote in a letter. “Your openness, your enthusiasm, and your spirituality are sources of inspiration to us all.”

On January 5, 1986, President Monson performed one of his first pivotal assignments since his calling to the First Presidency when he dedicated the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple. It would be the first of many temples the beloved leader would dedicate.

First Presidency duties kept President Monson busy in the day-to-day administration of the Church in Salt Lake City. But he remained a “world citizen,” traveling to perform various duties across the globe.

A lifelong champion of Scouting, President Monson continued to serve the storied program for boys during his years in the First Presidency. A recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award, Scouting’s highest honor, President Monson continued with his duties as a member of the organization’s National Executive Board.

His long-term tenure as a counselor in the Church’s governing presidency would prove invaluable when he, too, accepted the prophetic mantle worn by the President of the Church.

As a member of the First Presidency, he would serve under three Presidents—President Benson, President Howard W. Hunter, and President Hinckley.

President Gordon B. Hinckley with his counselors, President Thomas S. Monson (left) and President James E. Faust, in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 11, 2005. Photo by Tom Smart, Deseret News.

The First Presidency at a temple dedication in 1989: President Gordon B. Hinckley, left, President Ezra Taft Benson, and President Thomas S. Monson. Photo courtesy of Deseret News Archives.

President Thomas S. Monson, center, as the new President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Left is his First Counselor, President Henry B. Eyring, and on his right is his Second Counselor, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, at a news conference at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February 4, 2008. Photo by
August Miller, Deseret News.

President Thomas S. Monson salutes as the University of Utah unveils the newly refurbished Enos A. Wall Mansion, renamed the Thomas S. Monson Center, in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, August 24, 2016. The mansion will become home to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. President Monson’s counselors, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and President Henry B. Eyring, and his daughter, Ann Dibb, also attended the event. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

President Thomas S. Monson smiles at the unveiling of the the newly refurbished Enos A. Wall Mansion, renamed the Thomas S. Monson Center, in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, August 24, 2016. The mansion will become home to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. President Monson’s counselors, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and President Henry B. Eyring, also attended the event. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.