Thomas Spencer Monson: a childhood ‘with a Norman Rockwell kind of charm’

In an undated photo, Thomas S. Monson is photographed having caught two fish at Vivian Park in Provo Canyon. Credit: Deseret News archives
Credit: LDS Church Archives
President Thomas S. Monson as a 3 or 4-year-old in Driggs, Idaho. Credit: Deseret News Archive
President Thomas S. Monson as a seaman in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Credit: Deseret News Archive

Thomas Spencer Monson was born on Sunday, Aug. 21, 1927, to Gladys Condie and G. Spencer Monson. Sharing a name with his maternal grandfather, Thomas Sharp Condie, and his father, Spencer, baby Tommy joined his older sister, Marjorie, when she was almost 4 years old.

Upon his son’s arrival, Spencer Monson penned a poem for his new baby:

Dear Baby Monson with your wee pink toes,

And your wee little mouth

Like the bud of a rose;

May this new world to your wondering mind,

Unfold its treasures good and kind.

Intelligence, wisdom, happiness, too,

Are the riches that I wish for you (Heidi S. Swinton, To the Rescue, p. 23).

Although he was born at the beginning of a financially difficult time for the nation, the young boy grew up in a home with loving parents, and with many aunts, uncles and grandparents nearby. Over the years the Monson family grew to have six children, adding Robert, Marilyn, Scott and Barbara. The family lived “between the tracks” in Salt Lake City, Utah, where his grandfather owned most of the block.

Family time was important to the Monsons, who made time together a priority. Whether it was around the dinner table, on the porch listening to a radio program or serving others, the Monsons took opportunities to involve their children.

From a young age, Tommy was taught to share with others who are less fortunate. Because of where the family lived, people passing through would often stop at their home for assistance. His mother would frequently invite the person in and offer them food. His parents set the example of kindness and compassion — even during hard times — principles that stuck with him his entire life.

“Tommy’s childhood seemed to come straight from the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, with a Norman Rockwell kind of charm. He was the boy with the tousled blond hair, the broad smile, a fishing pole in one hand, marbles in the other and a dog yapping at his feet” (To the Rescue, p. 35).

Whether it was raising a dog, rabbits or pigeons, the young boy loved animals and was always bringing them home and taking care of them — sometimes even mistaking other people’s dogs as strays.

Many of Tommy’s childhood summers were spent with his family at their mountain cabin at Vivian Park in Provo Canyon. His mother’s side of the family would pack up on the Fourth of July and stay until Labor Day. There he would spend time with his family fishing and enjoying the outdoors.

During many of his general conference addresses, President Monson shared memories of his childhood — telling of his role as the rowdy child in a Primary class whose teacher asked him to help the others be reverent, the time when he gave a car from his Christmas train set to a boy who didn’t have any gifts, or the memorable day he lit a field on fire — incorporating his stories of childhood as teaching opportunities.

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