Standing with his new counselors at a press conference transmitted around the globe, President Thomas S. Monson took his place in history Feb. 4, 2008, as the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The media event was the public face of a sacred meeting that had taken place a day earlier in the Salt Lake Temple with the Quorum of the Twelve. There, President Boyd K. Packer, the next in seniority in the quorum, was voice as President Monson was ordained and set apart to succeed President Gordon B. Hinckley as Church president. President Hinckley, 97, died Jan. 27 at home of causes incident to age. (Please see funeral coverage beginning on page 8.)
President Monson, 80, called President Henry B. Eyring, 74, and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 67, to serve with him as counselors in the First Presidency. President Boyd K. Packer was set apart as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Every member of the Quorum of the Twelve sat to the sides of the new First Presidency during the press conference, showing a united pledge of support for the Church's highest-ranking governing body.
In addition to media representatives, President Monson's wife, Sister Frances Monson; President Eyring's wife, Sister Kathleen Eyring; and President Uchtdorf's wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, were at the press conference.
"I am humbled as I stand before you today," said President Monson. "I testify that this work in which we are engaged is the Lord's work, and I have felt His sustaining influence. I know that He will direct our efforts as we serve Him with faith and diligence."
The press conference was carried live on BYU Television in English and Spanish and on major networks in Salt Lake City. It was also broadcast to interested news organizations across the country and was transmitted via the Church satellite system to meetinghouses across the globe.
During brief remarks, President Monson said he met with President Hinckley in various meetings nearly every day as decisions were made and goals and objectives for the future were considered. "It is inevitable that our thinking would be similar; therefore, there will be no abrupt change from the courses we have been pursuing," he said. "Although procedures and programs may be adjusted from time to time, the doctrine is constant. We will continue the commitment of those who have gone before us in teaching the gospel, in promoting cooperation with people throughout the world, and in bearing witness to the life and mission of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." (Please see the full text of President Monson's remarks on page 3.)
President Monson — who worked as general manager of Deseret Press before his call as a General Authority — took questions from some of the dozens of reporters at the press conference, noting that because of his newspapering background, he believes "in an open book and access to the media."
He fielded questions about numerous topics, including following in President Hinckley's footsteps, his health, and the Church's stance on education, diversity and retaining converts. (Please see report on media questions and answers on page 15.)
President Monson also praised President Eyring and President Uchtdorf as tireless and innovative workers, who are dedicated to the Lord.
Offering a brief statement during the meeting, President Eyring said he is "humbled and honored to have been invited to serve as a counselor to President Monson."
During years of serving in various callings, including the Presiding Bishopric and in the Quorum of the Twelve and, since last October, as second counselor to President Hinckley, President Eyring said he has had the chance to come to know President Monson for "his goodness, his great capacities, his love of the people."
"I pledge my whole heart to serve with him, knowing as I do his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, his power to receive revelation and to know what it is we should do," he added.
After expressing appreciation for the opportunity to serve with President Hinckley, President Eyring said he looks forward to "this opportunity to see (President Monson's) great influence and power go across, to bless the Church and the whole world."
President Uchtdorf said when he tried to put the feelings of the day into words, he came up with "joyfully overwhelmed."
"It is something which is a great honor, and I'm very humbled by the call to serve as one of the counselors of President Monson," he said. "I know this call must have come from God, because human beings might have had a difficult time to do the same."
President Uchtdorf said President Monson is a man he has known for many years. "I know of his heart, his soul, his commitment, his wonderful love for the people, for his capacity," he said. "I've seen him focusing on the one and bridging nations, bridging continents. He's the one who is a great teacher, a man whom I love and admire. He is a wonderful leader; I love his teaching by parables.
"And I'm as grateful for President Henry B. Eyring, whom I love and have learned to appreciate while I was sitting with him in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and before."
Elder Uchtdorf also expressed love for President Hinckley, "whom we will all miss forever."
"But I do know and pledge today my support for President Thomas S. Monson, to the Church, to the Lord, to the kingdom of God and to the members around the world," he said. "I'm grateful for the Council of the Twelve, (among) whom I had the privilege to serve in for the last three-and-a-half years. And today I'm asking for your prayers, your support, as we embark into this wonderful journey."
E-mail to: email@example.com