President Monson honored for service

Because of his humanitarian care and concern that has "lifted the spirit and instilled self-confidence in countless people of all ages, races and denominations," President Thomas S. Monson was honored Nov. 17 by the Catholic Community Services of Utah.

President Monson was given a community service award for his work as a member of the First Presidency and chairman of the Welfare Executive Committee of the Church.President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, was one of three recipients honored at the 10th annual Community Service Awards dinner at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City. Despite wintery conditions outside, some 800 people attended the banquet.

Also honored were the Junior League of Salt Lake City and the Assistance League of Salt Lake City.

The Rev. Monsignor J. Terrence Fitzgerald, executive director of the Catholic Community Services of Utah, presented a silver bowl to each of the recipients "in grateful recognition of dedicated community service."

In response to receiving the award, President Monson said: "I am very humbled to accept this prestigious award, and I am very much aware that my role is somewhat of a facilitator. Any distribution of humanitarian aid that I and other leaders of our Church have had a hand in providing comes from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I love the poor," he said. "I love the downtrodden and I love those who are in need."

Attending the banquet with President Monson were his wife, Frances; and their three children, Tom, Clark and Ann, and their spouses. President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Marjorie, along with a number of other General Authorities also attended. The invocation was offered by Elder James E. Faust of the Council of the Twelve. President Howard W. Hunter was on assignment out of the state.

Before receiving the award, President Monson was featured in a slide presentation, narrated by William Brennan, the program host for the awards dinner.

"As chairman of the Church's Welfare Executive Committee, President Thomas Monson helps to oversee the dispersal of millions of dollars of welfare funds and material throughout the world," Brennan said. "Because these benefits are distributed judiciously and ecumenically, President Monson has earned the gratitude and respect of countless people in all walks of life of all religions.

"But," Brennan said, "there is another treasury that he dispenses - a personal treasury of care and concern that opened at a very early age."

He said that when President Monson entered at birth the home of George Spencer and Gladys Condie Monson, "he entered an atmosphere where he learned the value of service by the example of his parents. His mother always provided a meal to those who came to the door during the Depression years and his father spent his free time caring for the elderly and incapacitated."

The program host said that President Monson launched his career of giving at an early age. "When a neighbor boy asked one Christmas what a turkey tasted like, young Tom realized the little boy had never had a holiday meal. Tom Monson donated his two prize rabbits so they would enjoy a meal for Christmas."

Brennan said when President Monson was called as a member of the Council of the Twelve in October 1963, he was in a position "to combine his humanity and care for people with real-world benefits. He is in a position to project his care for the people, for the needy and the oppressed, not only here at home, but throughout the world."

President Monson was being recognized for his spirit of caring and sharing, Brennan said.

He enumerated several of the humanitarian projects in which President Monson has, with others, been involved, including donations of cash, food, clothing and medical supplies to help the starving in Africa, the flood victims in southern United States and earthquake victims in California.

Catholic charities was chosen, among other relief agencies, to assist in the distribution of such donations.

The Church also made a major contribution to the remodeling of the Cathedral of the Madeline, donated a chapel to the Salvation Army, gave nearly a half-million dollars to help the homeless in Salt Lake City, as well as giving substantial contributions to the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen and Center, with President Monson playing a vital role. He spearheaded a "generous contribution" to a program to provide health and dental services in Salt Lake City, and helped arrange for the Church to contribute dental rooms and equipment so care could be given to more patients. And, continued Brennan, President Monson was a prime mover in the Church's donation of nearly two acres of property to the Neighborhood House, a daycare center in Salt Lake City for children and adults.

"We recognize that President Monson believes the need for food and shelter and clothing and compassion knows no religious creed nor racial difference," Brennan said. "And he aggressively applies his philosophy that the limitations of one organization, working alone, to benefit the needy can be strengthened by many organizations working together."

Brennan said that all would benefit from President Monson as a caring, special person.

In his response, President Monson, who was visibly touched by the tribute, said he recently read of the famed psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Menninger. President Monson said the psychiatrist was once asked, "What would you advise a person who came to you and said, I think I'm going to have a nervous breakdown' "? Continuing, President Monson said, "The psychiatrist pointed out,Perhaps most of us would say, well, go see a psychiatrist.' But Karl Menninger said, `Close your house, walk down to the railway tracks, cross them, and find someone in need. And then respond to that need.' "

"This community," President Monson went on, "is a better community when we meet together on occasions such as this evening, and when our hearts go out to those who truly need our help.

"We remember the words of the Stranger of Galilee, even the Savior, who said, `Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' (Matt. 25:40.)

"And another great prophet declared, `When you are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.' (Mosiah 2:17.)

"I say thank you to each of you who is in the service of your fellow beings, and hence in the service of your God. My special prayer is `God bless you, everyone.' "

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed