Highlights in the Life of Thomas S. Monson
He was born on August 21, 1927, in Salt Lake City, Utah, to G. Spencer and Gladys Condie Monson.
He worked part-time with his father at Western Hotel Register Company, a printing firm. This job became a forerunner to his career in the printing industry.
He enrolled as a freshman at the University of Utah (fall, 1944).
He entered basic training with the United States Naval Reserve (October 6, 1945).
He returned home and continued his education.
He graduated cum laude from the University of Utah with a degree in business management. He began working for the Deseret News. He married Frances Beverly Johnson in the Salt Lake Temple (October 7, 1948).
He was sustained as bishop of his boyhood ward in Salt Lake City (May 7, 1950).
He was named assistant general manager of the Deseret News Press.
He was called as a counselor in the presidency of the Temple View Stake in Salt Lake City (June 16, 1955).
He was called as president of the Canadian Mission, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (February 21, 1959).
Upon completing his service as mission president, he returned to Salt Lake City. He was named general manager of the Deseret Press. During this time he also served on the Adult Correlation Committee.
He was ordained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (October 10, 1963).
He served as a member of the National Executive Board of Boy Scouts of America (1969). He continues to serve as a member of this board.
His first book, Pathways to Perfection, was published (1973).
He dedicated the land of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) for the advancement of the work of the Lord (April 27, 1975).
He was named president and chairman of the board of Deseret News Publishing Company.
He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve on the President’s Task Force for Private Sector Initiatives (December 1981).
He presided over the groundbreaking and site dedication for the Freiberg Germany Temple (April 23, 1983).
He was called as a counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson (November 10, 1985).
He, along with other Brethren, met with Erich Honecker, general secretary for the German Democratic Republic, where permission was granted for missionaries to serve in and to serve from that country (October 28, 1988).
He was called as a counselor to President Howard W. Hunter (June 5, 1994).
He was called as a counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley (March 12, 1995).
He became President of the Church (February 3, 2008).
He celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary with his wife, Frances; he dedicated the new Church History Library.
He announced a change in missionary age—young men eligible at age 18 and young women at age 19 (October 2012).
His wife, Frances J. Monson, died (May 17, 2013).
He Received a Legacy of Pioneer Faith [16.1]
President Thomas S. Monson shared the following account of his pioneer heritage:
“In the spring of 1848, my great-great-grandparents, Charles Stewart Miller and Mary McGowan Miller, who had joined the Church in their native Scotland, left their home in Rutherglen, Scotland, and journeyed to St. Louis, Missouri, with a group of Saints, arriving there in 1849. …
“While the family was in St. Louis working to earn enough money to complete their journey to the Salt Lake Valley, a plague of cholera swept through the area, leaving death and heartache in its wake. The Miller family was hard hit. In the space of two weeks, four of the family members succumbed. The first, on June 22, 1849, was 18-year-old William. Five days later Mary McGowan Miller, my great-great-grandmother and the mother of the family, died. Two days afterward, 15-year-old Archibald passed away, and five days after his death, my great-great-grandfather, Charles Stewart Miller, the father of the family, succumbed. The children who survived were left orphans, including my great-grandmother Margaret, who was 13 years old at the time. …
“Little is recorded of the heartache and struggles of the nine remaining Miller children as they continued to work and save for that journey their parents and brothers would never make. We know that they left St. Louis in the spring of 1850 with four oxen and one wagon, arriving finally in the Salt Lake Valley that same year.
“Others of my ancestors faced similar hardships. Through it all, however, their testimonies remained steadfast and firm. From all of them I received a legacy of total dedication to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of these faithful souls, I stand before you today” (“Looking Back and Moving Forward,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2008, 88–89).
He Was Grateful for the Faith of His Missionary Grandfather [16.2]
Elder Thomas S. Monson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, expressed gratitude for his missionary heritage by recalling two entries in his grandfather’s journal: “I love to read my own grandfather’s missionary journal. His first entries are classics. He wrote: ‘Today I married in the Salt Lake Temple the girl of my dreams.’ The very next night the journal entry read: ‘Tonight the bishop called at our house. I have been asked to return to Scandinavia for a two-year mission. Of course I will go, and my sweet wife will remain at home and sustain me.’ I am grateful for a missionary heritage” (“The Aaronic Priesthood Pathway,” Ensign, Nov. 1984, 41).
He Developed Compassion in His Youth [16.3]
Elder Thomas S. Monson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, shared the following example of his mother’s influence in helping him develop compassion for others:
“In about my tenth year, as Christmas approached, I yearned as only a boy can yearn for an electric train. My desire was not to receive the economical and everywhere-to-be-found wind-up model train, but rather one that operated through the miracle of electricity.
“The times were those of economic depression, yet Mother and Dad, through some sacrifice, I am sure, presented to me on Christmas morning a beautiful electric train. For hours I operated the transformer, watching the engine first pull its cars forward, then push them backward around the track.
“Mother entered the living room and said to me that she had purchased a wind-up train for Widow Hansen’s boy, Mark, who lived down the lane. I asked if I could see the train. The engine was short and blocky—not long and sleek like the expensive model I had received.
“However, I did take notice of an oil tanker car which was part of his inexpensive set. My train had no such car, and pangs of envy began to be felt. I put up such a fuss that Mother succumbed to my pleadings and handed me the oil tanker car. She said, ‘If you need it more than Mark, you take it.’ I put it with my train set and felt pleased with the result.
“Mother and I took the remaining cars and the engine down to Mark Hansen. The young boy was a year or two older than I. He had never anticipated such a gift and was thrilled beyond words. He wound the key in his engine, it not being electric like mine, and was overjoyed as the engine and two cars, plus a caboose, went around the track.
“Mother wisely asked, ‘What do you think of Mark’s train, Tommy?’
“I felt a keen sense of guilt and became very much aware of my selfishness. I said to Mother, ‘Wait just a moment—I’ll be right back.’
“As swiftly as my legs could carry me, I ran to our home, picked up the oil tanker car plus an additional car of my own, ran back down the lane to the Hansen home, and said joyfully to Mark, ‘We forgot to bring two cars which belong to your train.’
“Mark coupled the two extra cars to his set. I watched the engine make its labored way around the track and felt a supreme joy difficult to describe and impossible to forget” (“Your Jericho Road,” Ensign, May 1977, 72–73).
On another occasion, Elder Monson related how his grandfather’s example of kindness also influenced him as a boy:
“[Old Bob] was a widower in his eighties when the house in which he was living was to be demolished. I heard him tell my grandfather his plight as the three of us sat on the old front porch swing. With a plaintive voice, he said to grandfather, ‘Mr. Condie, I don’t know what to do. I have no family. I have no place to go. I have no money.’ I wondered how grandfather would answer. Slowly grandfather reached into his pocket and took from it that old leather purse from which, in response to my hounding, he had produced many a penny or nickel for a special treat. This time he removed a key and handed it to Old Bob. Tenderly he said, ‘Bob, here is the key to that house I own next door. Take it. Move in your things. Stay as long as you like. There will be no rent to pay and nobody will ever put you out again.’
“Tears welled up in the eyes of Old Bob, coursed down his cheeks, then disappeared in his long, white beard. Grandfather’s eyes were also moist. I spoke no word, but that day my grandfather stood ten feet tall. I was proud to bear his given name. Though I was but a boy, that lesson has influenced my life” (“The Long Line of the Lonely,” Ensign, May 1981, 48).
He Learned from an Influential Primary President [16.4]
President Thomas S. Monson learned from a Primary leader that love can provide a solution for difficult situations:
“One winter day, I thought back to an experience from my boyhood. I was just eleven. Our Primary president, Melissa, was an older and loving gray-haired lady. One day at Primary, Melissa asked me to stay behind and visit with her. There the two of us sat in the otherwise-empty chapel. She placed her arm about my shoulder and began to cry.
“Surprised, I asked her why she was crying.
“She replied, ‘I don’t seem to be able to encourage the Trail Builder boys to be reverent during the opening exercises of Primary. Would you be willing to help me, Tommy?’
“I promised Melissa that I would. Strangely to me, but not to Melissa, that ended any problem of reverence in that Primary. She had gone to the source of the problem—me. The solution was love.
“The years flew by. Marvelous Melissa, now in her nineties, lived in a nursing facility in the northwest part of Salt Lake City. Just before Christmas I determined to visit my beloved Primary president. …
“I found Melissa in the lunchroom. She was staring at her plate of food, teasing it with the fork she held in her aged hand. Not a bite did she eat. As I spoke to her, my words were met by a benign but blank stare. I took the fork in hand and began to feed Melissa, talking all the time I did so about her service to boys and girls as a Primary worker. There wasn’t so much as a glimmer of recognition, far less a spoken word. Two other residents of the nursing home gazed at me with puzzled expressions. At last they spoke, saying, ‘Don’t talk to her. She doesn’t know anyone—even her own family. She hasn’t said a word in all the years she’s been here.’
“Luncheon ended. My one-sided conversation wound down. I stood to leave. I held her frail hand in mine, gazed into her wrinkled but beautiful countenance, and said, ‘God bless you, Melissa. Merry Christmas.’
“Without warning, she spoke the words, ‘I know you. You’re Tommy Monson, my Primary boy. How I love you.’ She pressed my hand to her lips and bestowed on it the kiss of love” (“A Doorway Called Love,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 69).
He Learned from Passing the Sacrament [16.5]
Thomas S. Monson looked forward to receiving the Aaronic Priesthood and being ordained a deacon. The following account illustrates an early priesthood experience he had:
“I recall the time when I was ordained a deacon. Our bishopric stressed the sacred responsibility which was ours to pass the sacrament. Emphasized were proper dress, a dignified bearing, and the importance of being clean inside and out. As we were taught the procedure in passing the sacrament, we were told how we should assist Louis McDonald, a particular brother in our ward who was afflicted with a palsied condition, that he might have the opportunity to partake of the sacred emblems.
“How I remember being assigned to pass the sacrament to the row where Brother McDonald sat. I was fearful and hesitant as I approached this wonderful brother, and then I saw his smile and the eager expression of gratitude that showed his desire to partake. Holding the tray in my left hand, I took a small piece of bread and pressed it to his lips. The water was later served in the same way. I felt I was on holy ground. And indeed I was. The privilege to pass the sacrament to Brother McDonald made better deacons of us all” (“Do Your Duty—That Is Best,” Ensign and Liahona, Nov. 2005, 56).
He Saved a Young Woman’s Life [16.6]
At an early age Thomas S. Monson saw how the hand of God could move in his life. He shared the following experience from his youth of floating a river:
“I learned to swim in the swift-running currents of the Provo River in beautiful Provo Canyon. The ‘old swimming hole’ was in a deep portion of the river, formed by a large rock which had fallen into the river. … The pool was dangerous, what with its depth of sixteen feet, its current, which moved swiftly against the large rock, and the sucking action of the whirlpools below the rock. It was not a place for a novice or the inexperienced swimmer.
“One warm summer afternoon when I was about twelve or thirteen, I took a large, inflated inner tube from a tractor tire, slung it over my shoulder, and walked barefoot up the railroad track which followed the course of the river. I entered the water about a mile above the swimming hole, sat comfortably in the tube, and enjoyed a leisurely float down the river. The river held no fear for me, for I knew its secrets. …
“As my inflated tube bobbed up and down, I was about to enter the swiftest portion of the river just at the head of the swimming hole when I heard frantic cries, ‘Save her! Save her!’ A young lady swimmer, accustomed to the still waters of a gymnasium swimming pool, had fallen from the rock into the treacherous whirlpools. None of the party could swim to save her. Suddenly I appeared on the potentially tragic scene. I saw the top of her head disappearing under the water for the third time, there to descend to a watery grave. I stretched forth my hand, grasped her hair, and lifted her over the side of the tube and into my arms. At the pool’s lower end, the water was slower as I paddled the tube, with my precious cargo, to her waiting relatives and friends. They threw their arms around the water-soaked girl and kissed her, crying, ‘Thank God! Thank God you are safe!’ Then they hugged and kissed me. … I realized that I had participated in the saving of a life. Heavenly Father had heard the cries, ‘Save her! Save her,’ and permitted me, a deacon, to float by at precisely the time I was needed. That day I learned that the sweetest feeling in mortality is to realize that God, our Heavenly Father, knows each one of us and generously permits us to see and to share His divine power to save” (“Who Honors God, God Honors,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 48–49).
He Was Given a Lesson in Priesthood Leadership [16.7]
President Thomas S. Monson recalled how an Aaronic Priesthood adviser helped him learn as a young man the importance of reaching out in love to help others return to Church activity:
“Not long after my ordination as a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood, I was called to serve as president of the quorum. Our adviser, Harold, was interested in us, and we knew it. One day he said to me, ‘Tom, you enjoy raising pigeons, don’t you?’
“I responded with a warm, ‘Yes.’
“Then he proffered, ‘How would you like me to give you a pair of purebred Birmingham Roller pigeons?’
“This time I answered, ‘Yes, Sir!’ You see, the pigeons I had were just the common variety, trapped on the roof of the Grant Elementary School.
“He invited me to come to his home the next evening. The following day was one of the longest in my young life. I was awaiting my adviser’s return from work an hour before he arrived home. He took me to his pigeon loft, which was in the upper area of a small barn located at the rear of his yard. As I looked at the most beautiful pigeons I had yet seen, he said, ‘Select any male, and I will give you a female which is different from any other pigeon in the world.’ I made my selection. He then placed in my hand a tiny hen pigeon. I asked what made her so different. He responded, ‘Look carefully, and you’ll notice that she has but one eye.’ Sure enough, one eye was missing, a cat having done the damage. ‘Take them home to your loft,’ he counseled. ‘Keep them in for about 10 days, and then turn them out to see if they will remain at your place.’
“I followed Harold’s instructions. Upon his release, the male pigeon strutted about the roof of the loft, then returned inside to eat. But the one-eyed female was gone in an instant. I called Harold and asked, ‘Did that one-eyed pigeon return to your loft?’
“‘Come on over,’ he said, ‘and we’ll have a look.’
“As we walked from his kitchen door to the loft, my adviser commented, ‘Tom, you are the president of the teachers quorum.’ This, of course, I already knew. Then he added, ‘What are you going to do to activate Bob, who is a member of your quorum?’
“I answered, ‘I’ll have him at quorum meeting this week.’
“Then he reached up to a special nest and handed me the one-eyed pigeon. ‘Keep her in a few more days and try again.’ This I did, and once more she disappeared. Again the experience: ‘Come on over, and we’ll see if she returned home.’ Came the comment as we walked to the loft: ‘Congratulations on getting Bob to priesthood meeting. Now what are you and Bob going to do to activate Bill?’
“‘We’ll have him there next week,’ I volunteered.
“This experience was repeated over and over again. I was a grown man before I fully realized that indeed Harold, my adviser, had given me a special pigeon, the only pigeon in his loft he knew would return every time she was released. It was his inspired way of having an ideal personal priesthood interview with the president of the teachers quorum every two weeks. I owe a lot to that one-eyed pigeon. I owe more to that quorum adviser. He had the patience and the skill to help me prepare for the responsibilities which lay ahead” (“Anxiously Engaged,” Ensign and Liahona, Nov. 2004, 56–57).
He Was Called Upon to Use the Priesthood While Serving in the Military [16.8]
Upon reaching his 18th birthday, Thomas S. Monson joined the United States Naval Reserve and was stationed in San Diego, California. His daughter related her father’s honorable character at this particular time in his life: “This was a time when, as a young man, he chose to stand firm against every temptation of the adversary. … He chose to stand tall, and sometimes alone, and be numbered as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. He did not visit Tijuana[, Mexico,] with the other young men; he did not swear or gamble; he obeyed the Word of Wisdom; he did his work well; he attended church. … He honored and used his priesthood. He made the choice to keep the Lord’s commandments” (Ann M. Dibb, “My Father Is a Prophet” [Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional, Feb. 19, 2008], www.byui.edu/Presentations/Transcripts/Devotionals/2008_02_19_Dibb.htm).
President Monson recalled an experience in exercising priesthood power during basic training while stationed near San Diego, California:
“The night preceding our Christmas leave, our thoughts were, as always, on home. The barracks were quiet. Suddenly I became aware that my buddy in the adjoining bunk—a member of the Church, Leland Merrill—was moaning in pain. I asked, ‘What’s the matter, Merrill?’
“He replied, ‘I’m sick. I’m really sick.’
“I advised him to go to the base dispensary, but he answered knowingly that such a course would prevent him from being home for Christmas. I then suggested he be quiet so that we didn’t awaken the entire barracks.
“The hours lengthened; his groans grew louder. Then, in desperation, he whispered, ‘Monson, aren’t you an elder?’ I acknowledged this to be so, whereupon he pleaded, ‘Give me a blessing.’
“I became very much aware that I had never given a blessing. I had never received such a blessing; I had never witnessed a blessing being given. My prayer to God was a plea for help. The answer came: ‘Look in the bottom of the seabag.’ Thus, at 2:00 a.m. I emptied on the deck the contents of the bag. I then took to the night-light that hard, rectangular object, The Missionary’s Hand Book, [which had been placed at the bottom of the bag to help keep his clothes firm,] and read how one blesses the sick. With about 120 curious sailors looking on, I proceeded with the blessing. Before I could stow my gear, Leland Merrill was sleeping like a child.
“The next morning, Merrill smilingly turned to me and said, ‘Monson, I’m glad you hold the priesthood!’ His gladness was only surpassed by my gratitude—gratitude not only for the priesthood but for being worthy to receive the help I required in a time of desperate need and to exercise the power of the priesthood” (“The Priesthood—a Sacred Gift,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2007, 58).
He Courted Frances Johnson [16.9]
Thomas S. Monson received an unexpected reception from his future in-laws when he began to court Frances Johnson. He explained:
“The first day I saw Frances, I knew I’d found the right one. The Lord brought us together later, and I asked her to go out with me. I went to her home to call on her. She introduced me, and her father said, ‘“Monson”—that’s a Swedish name, isn’t it?’
“I said, ‘Yes.’
“He said, ‘Good.’
“Then he went into another room and brought out a picture of two missionaries with their top hats and their copies of the Book of Mormon.
“‘Are you related to this Monson,’ he said, ‘Elias Monson?’
“I said, ‘Yes, he’s my grandfather’s brother. He too was a missionary in Sweden.’
“Her father wept. He wept easily. He said, ‘He and his companion were the missionaries who taught the gospel to my mother and my father and all of my brothers and sisters and to me’” (“Abundantly Blessed,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2008, 111).
His Wife, Frances, Has Been a Constant Support [16.10]
The romance between Thomas Monson and Frances Johnson flourished, and they were married in the Salt Lake Temple on October 7, 1948. Sister Monson described how she supported her husband’s Church service from the early years of their marriage: “Tom was serving as ward clerk, then as superintendent of the YMMIA [Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association] when we were first married, and he has gone from one assignment to another since then. … Some have asked how a new bride adjusts to that, but it has never been a sacrifice to see my husband doing the Lord’s work. It has blessed me, and it has blessed our children. He always knew that if it was for the Church, I expected him to do what he had to do” (quoted in Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Thomas S. Monson: Man of Action, Man of Faith, Always ‘on the Lord’s Errand,’” Ensign, Feb. 1986, 14).
Because of her husband’s Church callings, which began very early in their marriage, Sister Monson has rarely sat next to her husband during 60 years of Church meetings. “But,” President Monson noted, “never once has she complained. … Never once. Not in our entire married life has she done anything to keep me from any aspect of my service. I have never received anything but support and encouragement from Frances” (quoted in Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Thomas S. Monson: Finishing the Course, Keeping the Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 1994, 16).
Speaking of her mother’s influence, Ann Monson Dibb stated: “As we were growing up, my father’s responsibilities as a member of the Council of the Twelve often took him away from home. Many times Dad would be touring missions around the world, gone for five or six weeks at a time. Mother conveyed to us that he was doing his duty and that we would be watched over and protected whenever he was away. She communicated this message to us not only with words but by her quiet manner of making sure everything which needed to be done was always accomplished. My mother is unlike many of the women of today’s generation. Instead of looking for the recognition of the world, she has always received her acknowledgment of worth from such things as the happy smile of a son or the outstretched hand of a grandchild. … As I reflect upon the many blessings which I have received as the daughter of an Apostle of the Lord, the one which means the most to me is the gift and blessing of the woman he married, my mother” (quoted in Holland, “President Monson: Finishing the Course,” 16).
He Was an Attentive Father [16.11]
“Even though their father has been very busy all of their lives, the three Monson children do not see themselves as having been slighted. ‘Other children’s fathers seemed to be home more than our dad was,’ they remembered, ‘but they didn’t seem to do as much with their children as Dad did with us. We were always doing something together, and we cherish those memories.’
“The Monsons’ oldest son, Tom, said he hardly ever had free time with his dad during those demanding years in the Canadian Mission (the Monsons had three days in three years when they ate alone as a family, exclusive of missionaries or other mission guests). Nevertheless, every night before young Tommy went to bed, he would go upstairs to his father’s office and whatever his dad was doing would be put aside in deference to a game of checkers. ‘In its own way, that memory is as sweet to me as the one I have of my father flying all the way to Louisville, Kentucky, years later to give me a blessing against the pneumonia I had contracted during my military basic training there,’ Tom said.
“Ann remembers that … he made his children feel part of his ministry and invariably shared spiritual experiences from his assignments. ‘My fondest memories,’ she says, ‘are of him coming home Sunday evenings after a stake conference assignment or mission tour and hearing him tell of the special inspiration he had in calling a patriarch or of the faith-promoting experiences he had interviewing missionaries.’ There were plenty of such stories for the Monson children to enjoy because daily, weekly, monthly their father was having special impressions and inspired promptings regarding calls to be extended and actions to be taken.
“Clark was deeply touched when, on a typically marvelous Monson fishing experience, his father asked him to reel in his line for a moment. When the lines were in and the rods set aside in the boat, Brother Monson said, ‘In about five minutes your brother Tom will be sitting down to take the bar exam admitting him to the practice of law. He has worked hard through three years of law school for this and he will be a little apprehensive. Let’s just kneel here in the boat. I’ll offer a prayer for him, and then you offer one.’
“‘That was one of the greatest experiences of my life,’ Clark later reported. He was also deeply touched years later when his father turned the car around and drove forty miles out of his way to let Clark get a good look at a hawk’s nest located near Randolph, Utah. ‘I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that he would do that. It’s exactly the kind of thing he has done all his life for those he sees in need’” (Holland, “President Monson: Man of Action,” 16–17).
Years later, President Thomas S. Monson said to fathers, “I would encourage you to be available to your children. I have heard it said that no man, as death approaches, has ever declared that he wished he had spent more time at the office.” He then counseled, “My brothers and sisters, time with your children is fleeting. Do not put off being with them now” (“Constant Truths for Changing Times,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2005, 20–21).
He Was a Man of Faith [16.12]
Ann Monson Dibb shared an account of her father’s faith:
“A powerful example of my father’s faith took place after my mother experienced a severe injury. She had fallen, hit her head, and was in a coma for three weeks. My father was very concerned and prayed continually. He was given a small room at the hospital, called a Comfort Room, and had all of his work sent to him. He visited my mother every hour and spoke to her. His faith and prayers were answered. She awoke from the coma.
“Not long afterwards, her doctor started explaining to my father and me what we could expect in terms of a recovery. He was not very optimistic. My father interrupted the doctor in mid-sentence and asked, ‘Doctor, do you have faith? Do you believe in miracles?’ The doctor stammered and did not know how to respond. Then my father continued, ‘Well, I do. We’re going to continue in our faith. We are going to pray. Frances will be in the Lord’s hands, and along with all of the capable medical help, we believe the Lord will help her recover.’
“With diligent care, therapy and time, my mother did make a remarkable recovery. Seeing this, several medical professionals acknowledged that my mother’s recovery was a miracle” (“My Father Is a Prophet”).
He Showed Compassion to the Less Fortunate [16.13]
Ann Monson Dibb shared the following example of learning compassion from her father:
“My father’s friends come from all walks of life. I’d like to tell you about one of my father’s friends who would have been considered by others to be ‘one of the least of these my brethren.’ His name was Ed Erickson. He was almost twenty years older than my father. Ed was born prematurely and experienced some of the complications that accompanied premature births almost a century ago. Ed couldn’t see very well, and he never had the opportunity to study and learn at a university. Yet, my father said Ed always had the scriptures open by his reading chair. He went to work at an early age to help support his widowed mother. He worked for the street department of Salt Lake City doing manual labor his entire working career. He never married, he never drove a car, and even when he was 90 years old, he would walk everywhere he went—usually about eight miles every day. …
“My father was a loyal friend and actively sought to find ways for Ed to feel valued. Dad frequently hired Ed to help him clean his pigeon coops and do manual chores in our large yard. I must say that I didn’t always feel comfortable around Ed. He was a big man, he looked different, and he didn’t talk very much. Ed just did his work, ate dinner with us, and then Dad would take him home. This happened several times each year. In later years, when my father would get tickets to take his grandchildren to the circus or to the rodeo, Ed always came, too, sharing our popcorn and drinks.
“I was so amazed when Salt Lake City Magazine ran a feature on my father and Ed Erickson was quoted in the article. He stated the highest tribute I’ve ever read concerning my father. He said:
“‘If the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ himself had chosen an apostle, he wouldn’t have done a better job than Brother McKay did when he chose Tom Monson’” (“My Father Is a Prophet”).
Elder Thomas S. Monson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught in a general conference of the Church, “As we resolve to minister more diligently to those in need, let us remember to include our children in these learning lessons of life” (“The Long Line of the Lonely,” 47).
As a Caring Bishop, He Searched Out the Less Active [16.14]
At the age of 22, after less than two years of marriage, Thomas S. Monson was sustained as bishop of his ward. Just as he had done as a young Aaronic Priesthood holder, he sought out the less active to bring them back into the fold. He described seeking out a young priest in his ward who was absent from priesthood quorum meeting:
“When I served as a bishop, I noted one Sunday morning that one of our priests was missing from priesthood meeting. I left the quorum in the care of the adviser and visited Richard’s home. His mother said he was working at the West Temple Garage.
“I drove to the garage in search of Richard and looked everywhere, but I could not find him. Suddenly I had the inspiration to gaze down into the old-fashioned grease pit situated at the side of the station. From the darkness I could see two shining eyes. Then I heard Richard say, ‘You found me, Bishop! I’ll come up.’ After that he rarely missed a priesthood meeting.” President Monson went on to tell that since that time in the grease pit, Richard went on to serve a full-time mission in Mexico and later served as a bishop. (“They Will Come,” Ensign, May 1997, 46.)
He Learned to Respond to the Promptings of the Spirit [16.15]
Thomas S. Monson learned the importance of hearkening to the whisperings of the Spirit:
“Twenty-three-year-old Tom Monson, relatively new bishop of the Sixth-Seventh Ward in the Temple View Stake, was uncharacteristically restless as the stake priesthood leadership meeting progressed. He had the distinct impression that he should leave the meeting immediately and drive to the Veterans’ Hospital high up on the Avenues of Salt Lake City. Before leaving home that night he had received a telephone call informing him that an older member of his ward was ill and had been admitted to the hospital for care. Could the bishop, the caller wondered, find a moment to go by the hospital sometime and give a blessing? The busy young leader explained that he was just on his way to a stake meeting but that he certainly would be pleased to go by the hospital as soon as the meeting was concluded.
“Now the prompting was stronger than ever: ‘Leave the meeting and proceed to the hospital at once.’ But the stake president himself was speaking at the pulpit! It would be most discourteous to stand in the middle of the presiding officer’s message, make one’s way over an entire row of brethren, and then exit the building altogether. Painfully he waited out the final moments of the stake president’s message, then bolted for the door even before the benediction had been pronounced.
“Running the full length of the corridor on the fourth floor of the hospital, the young bishop saw a flurry of activity outside the designated room. A nurse stopped him and said, ‘Are you Bishop Monson?’”
“‘Yes,’ was the anxious reply.
“‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘The patient was calling your name just before he passed away.’
“Fighting back the tears, Thomas S. Monson turned and walked back into the night. He vowed then and there that he would never again fail to act upon a prompting from the Lord. He would acknowledge the impressions of the Spirit when they came, and he would follow wherever they led him, ever to be ‘on the Lord’s errand’” (Holland, “President Monson: Man of Action,” 11).
“They All Knew He Would Come, and He Always Did” [16.16]
Thomas S. Monson practiced “pure religion,” as described in James 1:27; he gladly accepted the responsibility to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” As a young bishop of a ward with more than 1,000 members, he cared for 87 widows (see “Do Your Duty,” 59). From the first year of his calling until the last of the widows died, he and his wife visited each of them at Christmastime, always taking a personal gift to each one of them. “For the first several years the gift he would take them was one of the Barred Plymouth Rock or Rhode Island Red hens raised and dressed out by him in his own poultry coops” (Holland, “President Monson: Man of Action,” 12).
“His lifelong friend John Burt says, ‘Tom’s care of the widows who lived in his ward—eighty-seven of them—is an example of his loyalty and devotion to people. When the rest of us were released as bishops, we just kind of moved on to the next task and left the widows to our successors. Not Tom. He somehow found time to keep visiting them [even after he was released]. He is the most loyal man I know.’ …
“… In one of the many Salt Lake City rest homes he has come to know so intimately, he found one of his ward members, alone and silent in the darkened room of a world made even darker by the onset of blindness. As President Monson made his way to this sweet sister’s side, she reached out awkwardly, groping for the hand of the only visitor she had received in the whole of the Christmas season. ‘Bishop, is that you?’ she inquired. ‘Yes, dear Hattie, it is I.’ ‘Oh, Bishop,’ she wept through sightless eyes, ‘I knew you would come.’ They all knew he would come, and he always did” (Holland, “President Monson: Finishing the Course,” 13–14).
“Have Courage, My Boy, to Say Yes” [16.17]
President Thomas S. Monson shared the following experience of his calling to be a counselor in the presidency of the Temple View Stake:
“I was serving as a bishop at the time. The general session of our stake conference was being held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Our stake presidency was to be reorganized. The Aaronic Priesthood, including members of bishoprics, were providing the music for the conference. As we concluded singing our first selection, President Joseph Fielding Smith, our conference visitor, stepped to the pulpit and read for sustaining approval the names of the new stake presidency. He then mentioned that Percy Fetzer, who became our new stake president, and John Burt, who became the first counselor—each of whom had been counselors in the previous presidency—had been made aware of their new callings before the conference began. However, he indicated that I, who had been called to be second counselor in the new presidency, had no previous knowledge of the calling and was hearing of it for the first time as my name was read for sustaining vote. He then announced, ‘If Brother Monson is willing to respond to this call, we will be pleased to hear from him now.’
“As I stood at the pulpit and gazed out on that sea of faces, I remembered the song we had just sung. It pertained to the Word of Wisdom and was titled ‘Have Courage, My Boy, to Say No.’ That day I selected as my acceptance theme ‘Have Courage, My Boy, to Say Yes.’ The call for courage comes constantly to each of us—the courage to stand firm for our convictions, the courage to fulfill our responsibilities, the courage to honor our priesthood” (“The Priesthood,” 57).
He Was Called to Be a Mission President [16.18]
Thomas S. Monson’s “early career in advertising sales and management … was interrupted by service as president of the Canadian Mission from 1959 to 1962. The mission covered a very large geographical area, with no stakes and few adequate buildings.
“‘He had a dramatic impact on that mission,’ remembers former missionary F. Wayne Chamberlain. ‘Here he was, younger than some of the full-time elders. But the minute he arrived in Toronto he was in charge. In one quick tour of the mission he knew every missionary’s name and many of the members. He lifted everyone, everywhere he went—he completely energized the entire mission. With what I saw there, I truly believe he could have become the successful chief executive officer of any major corporation in the world.’ Needless to say, the work of the Church flourished in eastern Canada under this young president’s direction” (Holland, “President Monson: Man of Action,” 14).
He Was Called to Be an Apostle [16.19]
Called to be an Apostle by President David O. McKay at the age of 36, Thomas S. Monson was 17 years younger than the next youngest member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In his first address at a general conference of the Church he said:
“Some years ago I stood at a pulpit and noticed a little sign that only the speaker could see, and the words on that sign were these: ‘Who stands at this pulpit, let him be humble.’ How I pray to my Heavenly Father that I might never forget the lesson I learned that day! …
“My sincere prayer today, President McKay, is that I might always obey you and these, my brethren. I pledge my life, all that I may have. I will strive to the utmost of my ability to be what you would want me to be” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1963, 14).
His Ministry Was Characterized by Following the Promptings of the Spirit in Serving the One [16.20]
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared the following experience illustrating President Monson’s commitment to follow the promptings of the Spirit and to reach out in compassion to the individual:
“A telephone call came to President Monson’s office from the son of an 82-year-old woman who was nearing death. The mother’s final and only request was that she might meet her ‘favorite General Authority’ before she passed away. … One of the secretaries [took] this particular call, carefully noting the details and promising to relay the message to President Monson. She also courteously mentioned that President Monson’s time commitments were overwhelming, so the elderly sister would certainly be in President Monson’s prayers even if he were not able to make a personal visit. The faithful son hung up the telephone, very grateful for and fully satisfied with the response he had received.
“The message was relayed. The schedule, overflowing as always, precluded a visit. A day went by, and President Monson began to be restless. That night he was more restless still. On the second day, he could not resist. He got into his car and headed for an unfamiliar address to visit a dying woman he had never met.
“Wending his way through streets and side roads and neighborhoods totally unfamiliar, President Monson eventually arrived at his destination. Knocking at the door, he introduced himself to that very surprised son and handed him a green planter purchased for the visit. He was then ushered into a modest bedroom where a newfound friend was entering a comatose state, hovering between life and death. Quietly President Monson sat on the edge of the bed and held her hand. He talked softly and lovingly to her at great length about a wide variety of gospel principles. … A blessing was given, and then President Monson, noting but not mentioning a framed picture of himself on the modest mantelpiece, excused himself from the room. The sweet sister died nine hours later, having realized the one final wish she had in this life. … Following such spiritual promptings, often in the briefest and most crucial window of opportunity, has become one of the most important hallmarks of Thomas S. Monson’s life and ministry” (“President Monson: Finishing the Course,” 14).
He Always Cared for the Sick and Afflicted [16.21]
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency shared an experience illustrating President Thomas S. Monson’s love and compassion:
“Some years ago, President Monson came to a regional conference in Hamburg, Germany, and it was my honor to accompany him. President Monson has a remarkable memory, and we talked about many of the Saints in Germany—I was amazed that he remembered so many so well.
“President Monson asked about Brother Michael Panitsch, a former stake president and then a patriarch, who had been one of the stalwart pioneers of the Church in Germany. I told him that Brother Panitsch was seriously ill, that he was bedridden and unable to attend our meetings.
“President Monson asked if we could pay him a visit.
“I knew that shortly before his trip to Hamburg, President Monson had undergone foot surgery and that he could not walk without pain. I explained that Brother Panitsch lived on the fifth floor of a building with no elevators. We would have to climb the stairs to see him.
“But President Monson insisted. And so we went.
“I remember how difficult it was for President Monson to climb those stairs. He could take only a few at a time before needing to stop and rest. He never uttered a word of complaint, and he would not turn back. …
“Once there, we had a wonderful visit. President Monson thanked [Brother Panitsch] for his life of dedicated service and cheered him with a smile. Before we left, he gave him a wonderful priesthood blessing. …
“President Monson could have chosen to rest between our long and frequent meetings. He could have asked to see some of the beautiful sights of Hamburg. I have often thought of how remarkable it was that of all the sights in that city, the one he wanted to see more than any other was a feeble and ailing member of the Church who had faithfully and humbly served the Lord.
“President Monson came to Hamburg to teach and bless the people of a country, and that is what he did. But at the same time, he focused on the one, name by name. His vision is so broad and far-reaching to grasp the complexities of a worldwide Church, yet he is also so compassionate to focus on the one” (“Faith of Our Father,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2008, 69–70).
He Worked on the Latter-day Saint Editions of the Scriptures [16.22]
As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Thomas S. Monson was the chairman of the Scriptures Publication Committee that oversaw the development of the LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible. With his many years in the printing and publishing business, Elder Monson played a key role on this committee. Published for the first time in 1979, this edition of the King James Bible was cross-referenced with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Features also included a new, innovative system of footnoting, a topical guide, a Bible dictionary, maps, and new chapter headings. More than 600 passages from the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible were also included in this edition of the Bible.
During the October 1982 general conference, Elder Boyd K. Packer, before he became President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, made the official announcement that publication of the new editions of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price had begun in 1981 and that the subtitle “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” was added to the Book of Mormon (see “Scriptures,” Ensign, Nov. 1982, 53).
These new editions brought renewed attention to the scriptures and helped change the way Church members studied them. Of his work on the committee, President Monson later wrote in his journal, “This is one of the major contributions during my service as a general authority.” And later he said, “The work was prodigious. I think it’s one of the finest projects I’ve ever seen” (quoted in Ted Walch, “New Edition of Scriptures Was Unifying Force,” Deseret News, Feb. 26, 2005, B4).
He Served the Church in the German Democratic Republic [16.23]
In 1968, East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic, was under communist rule. Religion was repressed throughout the country. During that year Elder Thomas S. Monson made his first visit to that country to meet with Church members. He later recalled:
“We assembled in a small and ancient building. As the members sang the hymns of Zion, they literally filled the hall with their faith and devotion.
“My heart was filled with sorrow when I realized the members had no patriarch, no wards or stakes—just branches. They could not receive temple blessings—either endowment or sealing. No official visitor had come from Church headquarters in a long time. The members could not leave their country. Yet they trusted in the Lord with all their hearts.
“I stood at the pulpit, and with tear-filled eyes and a voice choked with emotion, I made a promise to the people: ‘If you will remain true and faithful to the commandments of God, every blessing any member of the Church enjoys in any other country will be yours.’ Then I realized what I had said. That night, I dropped to my knees and pleaded with my Heavenly Father, ‘Father, I’m on Thy errand; this is Thy Church. I have spoken words that came not from me but from Thee and Thy Son. Wilt Thou fulfill the promise in the lives of this noble people.’ Thus concluded my first visit to the German Democratic Republic.”
Seven years later Elder Monson returned to rededicate that country for the preaching of the gospel:
“On a Sunday morning, April 27, 1975, I stood on an outcropping of rock situated between the cities of Dresden and Meissen, high above the Elbe River, and offered a prayer on the land and its people. That prayer noted the faith of the members. It emphasized the tender feelings of many hearts filled with an overwhelming desire to obtain temple blessings. A plea for peace was expressed. Divine help was requested. I spoke the words: ‘Dear Father, let this be the beginning of a new day for the members of Thy Church in this land.’
“Suddenly, from far below in the valley, a bell in a church steeple began to chime and the shrill crow of a rooster broke the morning silence, each heralding the commencement of a new day.”
Alongside other general and local Church officials, Elder Monson worked with government officials to allow the blessings of the temple to be made available to the Saints in East Germany: “We explored every possibility. A trip once in a lifetime to the temple in Switzerland? Not approved by the government. Perhaps mother and father could come to Switzerland, leaving the children behind. Not right. How do you seal children to parents when they cannot kneel at an altar? It was a tragic situation. Then, through the fasting and the prayers of many members, and in a most natural manner, government leaders proposed: Rather than having your people go to Switzerland to visit a temple, why don’t you build a temple here in the German Democratic Republic? The proposal was accepted, a choice parcel of property obtained in Freiberg, and ground broken for a beautiful temple of God.”
The Freiberg Germany Temple was dedicated on June 29, 1985. “A miracle of miracles had taken place. One more was needed. How can the Church grow without missionaries?”
Elder Monson and other Church leaders sought “permission for the doorway of missionary work to open.” Recalling a 1988 meeting that took place with the leaders of the German Democratic Republic wherein Church authorities sought for missionary privileges inside the borders of that communist-controlled country, President Monson said:
“Chairman [Erich] Honecker [the head of the nation] began, ‘We know members of your Church believe in work; you’ve proven that. We know you believe in the family; you’ve demonstrated that. We know you are good citizens in whatever country you claim as home; we have observed that. The floor is yours. Make your desires known.’
“I began, ‘Chairman Honecker, at the dedication and open house for the temple in Freiberg, 89,890 of your countrymen stood in line, at times up to four hours, frequently in the rain, that they might see a house of God. In the city of Leipzig, at the dedication of the stake center, 12,000 people attended the open house. In the city of Dresden there were 29,000 visitors; in the city of Zwickau, 5,300. And every week of the year 1,500 to 1,800 people visit the temple grounds in the city of Freiberg. They want to know what we believe. We would like to tell them that we believe in honoring and obeying and sustaining the law of the land. We would like to explain our desire to achieve strong family units. These are but two of our beliefs. We cannot answer questions, and we cannot convey our feelings, because we have no missionary representatives here as we do in other countries. The young men and young women whom we would like to have come to your country as missionary representatives would love your nation and your people. More particularly, they would leave an influence with your people which would be ennobling. Then we would like to see young men and young women from your nation who are members of our Church serve as missionary representatives in many nations, such as in America, in Canada, and in a host of others. They will return better prepared to assume positions of responsibility in your land.’
“Chairman Honecker then spoke for perhaps thirty minutes, describing his objectives and viewpoints and detailing the progress made by his nation. At length, he smiled and addressed me and the group, saying, ‘We know you. We trust you. We have had experience with you. Your missionary request is approved.’ …
“The black darkness of night had ended. The bright light of day had dawned. The gospel of Jesus Christ would now be carried to the millions of people in that nation” (“Thanks Be to God,” Ensign, May 1989, 50–53).
On March 30, 1989, the first full-time missionaries called to serve in the German Democratic Republic entered that country. On May 28, 1989, full-time missionaries called from the German Democratic Republic arrived at the Provo Missionary Training Center to begin their service. This all preceded the beginning of the Berlin Wall being taken down on November 9, 1989.
He Fulfilled Many Important Assignments as an Apostle [16.24]
While serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Thomas S. Monson fulfilled many assignments that utilized his natural leadership talents. Though not limited to these, he served as chairman of the following committees: Adult Correlation Committee, Youth and Young Adult Correlation Committee, Leadership Training Committee, Missionary Executive Committee, Scriptures Publication Committee, Priesthood Executive Council, International Communications Committee, and Organizational Studies Committee. He also received assignments to supervise the Church in the South Pacific, Mexico, Northwest United States, and Europe. He supervised the Church in East Germany for nearly 20 years.
He Was Called as a Counselor in the First Presidency [16.25]
After serving 22 years in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in November 1985 Thomas S. Monson was called to serve as second counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994). In June 1994 he was called as second counselor to President Howard W. Hunter (1907–1995), and in March 1995 he was called as first counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) for a combined 22 years as a counselor to three Church presidents.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once described President Monson as “a genius in Church government” (quoted in Holland, “President Monson: Finishing the Course,” 17). Elder Boyd K. Packer, before he became President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, similarly stated: “He is a genius at organization. … If I were to choose someone to steer an important matter successfully through all the necessary channels and past all the necessary checkpoints, I would choose Tom Monson’” (quoted in Holland, “President Monson: Man of Action,” 15).
“Whom the Lord Calls, the Lord Qualifies” [16.26]
President Thomas S. Monson testified that the Lord will assist us in doing His work: “Some of you may be shy by nature or consider yourselves inadequate to respond affirmatively to a calling. Remember that this work is not yours and mine alone. It is the Lord’s work, and when we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. Remember that whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies” (“Duty Calls,” Ensign, May 1996, 44).
He Taught Service to Others [16.27]
President Thomas S. Monson encouraged everyone to be mindful of opportunities to serve:
“There are many out there who plead and pray for help. There are those who are discouraged, those who are beset by poor health and challenges of life which leave them in despair.
“I’ve always believed in the truth of the words, ‘God’s sweetest blessings always go by hands that serve him here below.’ Let us have ready hands, clean hands, and willing hands, that we may participate in providing what our Heavenly Father would have others receive from Him” (“Priesthood Power,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 51).
He Taught about Priesthood Activation [16.28]
President Monson taught how priesthood holders who have wandered off can be brought back to activity in the Church:
“When I visited stake conferences as a member of the Twelve, I always took note of those stakes which had excelled in bringing to activity those brethren whose talents and potential leadership had lain dormant. Inevitably I would ask, ‘How were you able to achieve success? What did you do and how did you do it?’ …
“The formula was the same, generally speaking, in each successful stake with regard to this phase of the work. It consisted of four ingredients: one, put forth your efforts at the ward level; two, involve the ward bishop; three, provide inspired teaching; and four, do not attempt to concentrate on all the brethren at once; rather, work with a few husbands and their wives at a given time and then have them help you as you work with others.
“High-powered sales techniques are not the answer in priesthood leadership; rather, devotion to duty, continuous effort, abundant love, and personal spirituality combine to touch the heart, prompt the change, and bring to the table of the Lord His hungry children who have wandered in the wilderness of the world but who now have returned ‘home’” (“The Priesthood—A Sacred Trust,” Ensign, May 1994, 52).
He Strengthened Those Enduring Tragedy and Adversity [16.29]
To those experiencing discouragement, President Thomas S. Monson testified of God’s love:
“In our lives, sickness comes to loved ones, accidents leave their cruel marks of remembrance, and tiny legs that once ran are imprisoned in a wheelchair.
“Mothers and fathers who anxiously await the arrival of a precious child sometimes learn that all is not well with this tiny infant. A missing limb, sightless eyes, a damaged brain, or the term ‘Down’s syndrome’ greets the parents, leaving them baffled, filled with sorrow, and reaching out for hope.
“There follows the inevitable blaming of oneself, the condemnation of a careless action, and the perennial questions: ‘Why such a tragedy in our family?’ ‘Why didn’t I keep her home?’ ‘If only he hadn’t gone to that party.’ ‘How did this happen?’ ‘Where was God?’ ‘Where was a protecting angel?’ If, why, where, how—those recurring words do not bring back the lost son, the perfect body, the plans of parents, or the dreams of youth. Self‑pity, personal withdrawal, or deep despair will not bring the peace, the assurance, or help which are needed. Rather, we must go forward, look upward, move onward, and rise heavenward. …
“To all who have suffered silently from sickness, to you who have cared for those with physical or mental impairment, who have borne a heavy burden day by day, year by year, and to you noble mothers and dedicated fathers—I salute you and pray God’s blessings to ever attend you. To the children, particularly they who cannot run and play and frolic, come the reassuring words: ‘Dearest children, God is near you, Watching o’er you day and night.’ (Hymns, 1985, no. 96.) …
“To any who from anguish of heart and sadness of soul have silently asked, ‘Heavenly Father, are you really there? … Do you hear and answer every … prayer?’ (Children’s Songbook, no. 12), I bear to you my witness that He is there. He does hear and answer every prayer. His Son, the Christ, burst the bands of our earthly prisons. Heaven’s blessings await you” (“Miracles—Then and Now,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 68–70).
Our Homes Are to Be Spiritual as Well as Physical Sanctuaries [16.30]
President Thomas S. Monson taught that the Spirit of God should reside in our homes:
“It is in the home that we form our attitudes, our deeply held beliefs. It is in the home that hope is fostered or destroyed.
“Our homes are to be more than sanctuaries; they should also be places where God’s Spirit can dwell, where the storm stops at the door, where love reigns and peace dwells” (“Becoming Our Best Selves,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 19).
On another occasion President Monson taught:
“Happiness does not consist of a glut of luxury, the world’s idea of a ‘good time.’ Nor must we search for it in faraway places with strange-sounding names. Happiness is found at home.
“… The home is the laboratory of our lives, and what we learn there largely determines what we do when we leave there” (“Hallmarks of a Happy Home,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 69).
Live within Your Means [16.31]
In a time of economic uncertainty, President Thomas S. Monson counseled Church members to live within their means:
“Avoid the philosophy and excuse that yesterday’s luxuries have become today’s necessities. They aren’t necessities unless we ourselves make them such. Many of our young couples today want to begin with multiple cars and the type of home Mother and Dad worked a lifetime to obtain. Consequently, they enter into long-term debt on the basis of two salaries. Perhaps too late they find that changes do come, women have children, sickness stalks some families, jobs are lost, natural disasters and other situations occur, and no longer can the mortgage payment, based on the income from two salaries, be made.
“It is essential for us to live within our means” (“Constant Truths for Changing Times,” 20).
He Taught about the Importance of Our Personal Influence [16.32]
President Thomas S. Monson explained that no matter our station in life or our calling, we can have a powerful influence for good:
“The calling of the early Apostles reflected the influence of the Lord. When He sought a man of faith, He did not select him from the throng of the self-righteous who were found regularly in the synagogue. Rather, He called him from among the fishermen of Capernaum. Peter, Andrew, James, and John heard the call, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’ [Matthew 4:19]. They followed. Simon, man of doubt, became Peter, Apostle of faith.
“When the Savior was to choose a missionary of zeal and power, He found him not among His advocates but amidst His adversaries. Saul of Tarsus—the persecutor—became Paul the proselyter. The Redeemer chose imperfect men to teach the way to perfection. He did so then; He does so now.
“He calls you and me to serve Him here below and sets us to the task He would have us fulfill. The commitment is total. There is no conflict of conscience.
“As we follow that Man of Galilee—even the Lord Jesus Christ—our personal influence will be felt for good wherever we are, whatever our callings” (“Your Personal Influence,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2004, 20).
Stay on the Path to Your Eternal Destiny [16.33]
Drawing upon a story from children’s literature, President Thomas S. Monson counseled Church members to choose the path that leads to celestial glory:
“As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our goal is to obtain celestial glory.
“Let us not find ourselves as indecisive as is Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. You will remember that she comes to a crossroads with two paths before her, each stretching onward but in opposite directions. She is confronted by the Cheshire cat, of whom Alice asks, ‘Which path shall I follow?’
“The cat answers: ‘That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take’ [adapted from Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1992), 76].
“Unlike Alice, we all know where we want to go, and it does matter which way we go, for the path we follow in this life surely leads to the path we will follow in the next” (“Choose You This Day,” Ensign and Liahona, Nov. 2004, 68).
“What Are We Doing with Today?” [16.34]
President Thomas S. Monson explained that in order to have happy tomorrows, we need to work today:
“How fragile life; how certain death. We do not know when we will be required to leave this mortal existence. And so I ask, ‘What are we doing with today?’ If we live only for tomorrow, we’ll have a lot of empty yesterdays today. Have we been guilty of declaring, ‘I’ve been thinking about making some course corrections in my life. I plan to take the first step—tomorrow’? With such thinking, tomorrow is forever. Such tomorrows rarely come unless we do something about them today. As the familiar hymn teaches:
“There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, ‘Sometime I’ll try,’
But go and do something today. [Will L. Thompson, “Have I Done Any Good?” Hymns, no. 223.]
“Let us ask ourselves the questions: ‘Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need?’ What a formula for happiness! What a prescription for contentment, for inner peace—to have inspired gratitude in another human being.
“Our opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless, but they are also perishable. There are hearts to gladden. There are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given. There are deeds to be done. There are souls to be saved” (“Now Is the Time,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 60).
He Gave Counsel on How to Pray [16.35]
President Thomas S. Monson taught that remembering God’s love for us will make it easier to pray sincerely: “As we pray, let us really communicate with our Father in Heaven. It is easy to let our prayers become repetitious, expressing words with little or no thought behind them. When we remember that each of us is literally a spirit son or daughter of God, we will not find it difficult to approach Him in prayer. He knows us; He loves us; He wants what is best for us. Let us pray with sincerity and meaning, offering our thanks and asking for those things we feel we need. Let us listen for His answers, that we may recognize them when they come. As we do, we will be strengthened and blessed. We will come to know Him and His desires for our lives. By knowing Him, by trusting His will, our foundations of faith will be strengthened. If any one of us has been slow to hearken to the counsel to pray always, there is no finer hour to begin than now. William Cowper declared, ‘Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees’ (in William Neil, comp., Concise Dictionary of Religious Quotations , 144)” (“How Firm a Foundation,” Ensign and Liahona, Nov. 2006, 67).
He Became President of the Church [16.36]
In his first general conference as President of the Church, President Thomas S. Monson testified of his dependence upon the Lord: “My beloved brothers and sisters, over 44 years ago, in October of 1963, I stood at the pulpit in the Tabernacle, having just been sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. On that occasion I mentioned a small sign I had seen on another pulpit. The words on the sign were these: ‘Who stands at this pulpit, let him be humble.’ I assure you that I was humbled by my call to the Twelve at that time. However, as I stand at this pulpit today, I address you from the absolute depths of humility. I feel very keenly my dependence upon the Lord” (“Looking Back and Moving Forward,” 87).
God Directs His Prophet [16.37]
President Thomas S. Monson assured members that the Lord directs His Church:
“I know without question, my brothers and sisters, that God lives. I testify to you that this is His work. I testify as well that our Savior Jesus Christ is at the head of this Church, which bears His name. I know that the sweetest experience in all this life is to feel His promptings as He directs us in the furtherance of His work. I felt those promptings as a young bishop, guided to the homes where there was spiritual—or perhaps temporal—want. I felt them again as a mission president in Toronto, Canada, working with wonderful missionaries who were a living witness and testimony to the world that this work is divine and that we are led by a prophet. I have felt them throughout my service in the Twelve and in the First Presidency and now as President of the Church. I testify that each one of us can feel the Lord’s inspiration as we live worthily and strive to serve Him. …
“… I have the sure knowledge … that God directs His prophet. My earnest prayer is that I might continue to be a worthy instrument in His hands to carry on this great work and to fulfill the tremendous responsibilities which come with the office of President” (“Looking Back and Moving Forward,” 88).
As President of the Church, He Continued to Minister to Individuals [16.38]
Earlier in his ministry, President Thomas S. Monson referred to a piece of artwork to encourage Church members to help rescue those who have strayed away from Church activity:
“I returned in my thoughts to a visit to one of the great art galleries of the world—even the famed Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. There, exquisitely framed, was a masterpiece painted in 1831 by Joseph Mallord William Turner. The painting features heavy-laden black clouds and the fury of a turbulent sea portending danger and death. A light from a stranded vessel gleams far off. In the foreground, tossed high by incoming waves of foaming water, is a large lifeboat. The men pull mightily on the oars as the lifeboat plunges into the tempest. On the shore there stand a wife and two children, wet with rain and whipped by wind. They gaze anxiously seaward. In my mind I abbreviated the name of the painting. To me, it became To the Rescue.
“Amidst the storms of life, danger lurks; and men, like boats, find themselves stranded and facing destruction. Who will man the lifeboats, leaving behind the comforts of home and family, and go to the rescue? …
“When the Master ministered among men, He called fishermen at Galilee to leave their nets and follow Him, declaring, ‘I will make you fishers of men.’ [Matthew 4:19.] And so He did. Tonight He issues a call to each of us to ‘come join the ranks.’ [‘We Are All Enlisted,’ Hymns, no. 250.]” (“To the Rescue,” Ensign, May 2001, 48).
Some people may have expected that as President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson would no longer have time to reach out to individuals, as he had earlier in his ministry. However, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that President Monson continued his efforts to minister to individuals: “His concerns are with the individual. I have seen enough Presidents of the Church to see differences. Some are very conscious of policy and procedures and so on; President Monson, of all the leaders that I have observed, is concerned for the individual. It comes out in his talks; it comes out in his meetings” (Heidi S. Swinton, To the Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson , 501).
Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy noted that as Church President, Thomas S. Monson “still speaks at a funeral or two a week, and still makes his visits to the individual person. He is trying through that and through his teachings to get us to be galvanized into becoming real Christians at the very personal level, one person at a time, one soul at a time” (To the Rescue, 507).
Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy further explained the rare gift President Monson possessed of caring for individuals: “Some people, if they are really prominent, … he will treat very kindly but he probably won’t visit their homes. But if you are the lowly of the earth, he is likely to drop in any time. …
“At our monthly General Authority testimony meetings, … President Monson shares many personal experiences with us. … The more I’ve listened, the more I have thought, ‘He is teaching us how to be Christlike. He is not teaching how to be great administrators, though he is that, but how to be Christlike” (To the Rescue, 502–3).
He Encouraged Saints to Have an “Attitude of Gratitude” [16.39]
President Thomas S. Monson quoted the account of the feeding of the 4,000 found in the book of Matthew and then taught about the divine principle of gratitude:
“Notice that the Savior gave thanks for what they had—and a miracle followed: ‘And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.’ [Matthew 15:37.]
“We have all experienced times when our focus is on what we lack rather than on our blessings. Said the Greek philosopher Epictetus, ‘He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.’ [The Discourses of Epictetus; with the Encheiridion and Fragments, trans. George Long (1888), 429.]
“Gratitude is a divine principle. …
“We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said that ‘gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.’ [Cicero, in A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles, sel. H. L. Mencken (1942), 491.] …
“My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven” (“The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” Ensign and Liahona, Nov. 2010, 88, 90).
He Was a Man of Optimism [16.40]
During a period of time when economic uncertainty was spreading across the globe, President Thomas S. Monson shared his optimistic attitude for the future:
“I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.
“My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith” (“Be of Good Cheer,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2009, 92).
He Raised a Warning Voice about Pornography [16.41]
President Thomas S. Monson warned against the growing plague of pornography:
“Extremely alarming—are the reports of the number of individuals who are utilizing the Internet for evil and degrading purposes, the viewing of pornography being the most prevalent of these purposes. My brothers and sisters, involvement in such will literally destroy the spirit. Be strong. Be clean. Avoid such degrading and destructive types of content at all costs—wherever they may be! I sound this warning to everyone, everywhere. I add—particularly to the young people—that this includes pornographic images transmitted via cell phones.
“My beloved friends, under no circumstances allow yourselves to become trapped in the viewing of pornography, one of the most effective of Satan’s enticements. And if you have allowed yourself to become involved in this behavior, cease now. Seek the help you need to overcome and to change the direction of your life. Take the steps necessary to get back on the strait and narrow, and then stay there” (“Until We Meet Again,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2009, 113).
He Counseled Us to Serve Missions [16.42]
President Thomas S. Monson reissued the call of previous prophets that every worthy, able young man should serve a mission: “To young men of the Aaronic Priesthood and to you young men who are becoming elders: I repeat what prophets have long taught—that every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much. Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary. Keep yourselves clean and pure and worthy to represent the Lord. Maintain your health and strength. Study the scriptures. Where such is available, participate in seminary or institute. Familiarize yourself with the missionary handbook Preach My Gospel” (“As We Meet Together Again,” Ensign and Liahona, Nov. 2010, 5–6).
During the administration of President Thomas S. Monson, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles approved changes that made it easier for senior couples to serve missions. Beginning September 1, 2011, couples could serve for 6, 12, 18, or 23 months. In addition, a cap of $1,400 (U.S.) per month was established for housing costs. The cap on housing costs was intended to allow more couples to serve and to allow Church leaders to make assignments without being constrained by whether couples can afford housing costs.
God’s Laws Remain Constant [16.43]
President Thomas S. Monson taught that we can draw strength from the consistent nature of our Father in Heaven and His eternal laws:
“Although the world has changed, the laws of God remain constant. They have not changed; they will not change. The Ten Commandments are just that—commandments. They are not suggestions. They are every bit as requisite today as they were when God gave them to the children of Israel. If we but listen, we hear the echo of God’s voice, speaking to us here and now. …
“Our code of conduct is definitive; it is not negotiable. It is found not only in the Ten Commandments but also in the Sermon on the Mount, given to us by the Savior when He walked upon the earth. It is found throughout His teachings. It is found in the words of modern revelation.
“Our Father in Heaven is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The prophet Mormon tells us that God is ‘unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.’ [Moroni 8:18.] In this world where nearly everything seems to be changing, His constancy is something on which we can rely, an anchor to which we can hold fast and be safe, lest we be swept away into uncharted waters. …
“We must be vigilant in a world which has moved so far from that which is spiritual. It is essential that we reject anything that does not conform to our standards, refusing in the process to surrender that which we desire most: eternal life in the kingdom of God. The storms will still beat at our doors from time to time, for they are an inescapable part of our existence in mortality. We, however, will be far better equipped to deal with them, to learn from them, and to overcome them if we have the gospel at our core and the love of the Savior in our hearts” (“Stand in Holy Places,” Ensign, Nov. 2011, 83–84).
“I Know That My Redeemer Lives” [16.44]
At the conclusion of a talk on the life and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, President Thomas S. Monson testified:
“My brothers and sisters, we laugh, we cry, we work, we play, we love, we live. And then we die. Death is our universal heritage. All must pass its portals. Death claims the aged, the weary and worn. It visits the youth in the bloom of hope and the glory of expectation. Nor are little children kept beyond its grasp. In the words of the Apostle Paul, ‘It is appointed unto men once to die.’ [Hebrews 9:27.]
“And dead we would remain but for one Man and His mission, even Jesus of Nazareth. Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, His birth fulfilled the inspired pronouncements of many prophets. He was taught from on high. He provided the life, the light, and the way. Multitudes followed Him. Children adored Him. The haughty rejected Him. He spoke in parables. He taught by example. He lived a perfect life. …
“With all my heart and the fervency of my soul, I lift up my voice in testimony as a special witness and declare that God does live. Jesus is His Son, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is our Redeemer; He is our Mediator with the Father. He it was who died on the cross to atone for our sins. He became the firstfruits of the Resurrection. Because He died, all shall live again. ‘Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives: “I know that my Redeemer lives!”’ [“I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” Hymns, no 136; see also Job 19:25]” (“I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2007, 24–25).