`Service to others provides a blessing to the giver'

Search far and wide, high and low, but it's doubtful you'll find anyone less willing to talk about herself and the service she has rendered than Frances J. Monson.

The wife of President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, Sister Monson found herself in quite a predicament April 22 when, as a recipient of a Continuum of Caring Humanitarian Award presented by Friends of St. Joseph Villa, she was expected to make a speech. (Please see accompanying article on this page.) In comments to the Church News it was obvious that although she found the limelight uncomfortable she was grateful for the high honor.Advocate of service to others that she is, she gracefully accepted the award and shared some of her philosophy. Among her expressions were that she and President Monson believe that service to others provides a blessing to the giver, as well as to the receiver.

"I perhaps would have been content to perform my service in life by raising our children, participating in the

Relief SocietyT, and helping others as my time and energy permitted," she said upon accepting the award. "But because of the Church callings my husband has had throughout our married life, I have, with him, witnessed more pain, more suffering, more need among God's children than otherwise would have been the case. If I have been able in some small way to help alleviate such suffering, such need, I am most grateful."

She referred to lines by poet Emily Dickinson:

"If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain. If I can cease one life the aching, Or cool one pain, Or help one fainting robin Unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain."

Sister Monson said: "I have been touched by the endurance of the dying; I have been amazed by the courage of many who suffer pain; my heart has filled with compassion for those in need. I am a better person because I have been privileged to witness the resilience of the human soul. I have been better able to endure the types of challenges which come to all of us by emulating the heroic spirit I have witnessed in others."

Sister Monson mentioned President Monson's many acts of service and caring compassion. She noted that, countless times, she has seen him "work himself nearly to exhaustion as he has gone about blessing the lives of those in need." What she failed to mention is that she often has been by his side as he has gone on those compassionate errands, or that she has pointed out to him those who have needed such service.

For nearly all the half century they have been married (their 50th anniversary will be Oct. 7) President Monson has served in positions of Church leadership. Just two years after they married, when he was 22, he was called as bishop of a ward of 1,060 members. More than 80 widows in the ward received much care and concern from the young bishop and his wife.

His Church callings in a stake presidency and as a mission president brought more opportunities for each of them to serve others. Most often, her service was unobserved by all but those who were recipients.

After he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1963, at age 36, they both continued their practice of rendering compassionate service wherever they saw a need. Again, most of their deeds of kindness went unnoticed by all but a few.

President and Sister Monson are parents of two sons and a daughter. Ann Dibb, their daughter, told the Church News: "She exemplifies the type of service that so many give and is never recognized. In addition to being the support of her husband and her children, she has been the one who is concerned about neighbors, friends and relatives.

"She is a wonderful listener. Many of us will talk but she is the one who is always available to listen. She makes comments within the conversation, but she's never judgmental. I've been very appreciative of that.

"She's always been supportive of my father, whatever time was necessary for him to spend in his calling. She's always willing to help and even suggests various individuals that they should visit. She goes with him to visit many older people; a few may have been relatives, but most were people who perhaps could have been forgotten by others."

A long-time friend, Wilma Shumway, said of Sister Monson: "She is a very quiet, private person. She is very gentle, so kind and so thoughtful. She's very caring and always compassionate toward anyone with any kind of problem or need. Anytime somebody needs some help - if she knows about it - she's there. She's just like her husband in that."

Sister Shumway spoke of the comfort Sister Monson brought when the Shumways' 5-month-old son died in 1966. "The Monsons came over and comforted us that evening," she said. "The next day, when my husband and I had gone to the mortuary to make funeral arrangements, Frances came over to our home. She curled our daughter's hair, vacuumed the floor and cleaned up wherever it was needed. She never said a word about doing that.

"It's a comfort and reassurance to just know that Frances is nearby. I know she would do anything for me. She's very private about any kind of recognition. She's very knowledgable on many things, is well-read, has taken many classes; she's a very intellectual person."

Another friend, Pauline Merrill, said that Sister Monson is "very shy, but oh, is she ever dependable!"

Sister Merrill spoke of having served in a ward Relief Society presidency with Sister Monson years ago. "She went about fulfilling her assignments and duties with quiet dignity and without any fanfare or calling attention to herself," Sister Merrill said. "She didn't care who got the credit for assignments; she just did them."

Sister Merrill spoke of "the little things" that Sister Monson does that mean so much to so many people. "One example is the time when I was invited to give a lesson in Relief Society in another stake. When I arrived to give the lesson, I was surprised to see Frances there to support me. That meant so much to me. She has been a cherished friend for many years. She's the sister I never had."

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