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A life spent ‘on the Lord’s errand’: President Thomas S. Monson dies at age 90

President Thomas S. Monson and his wife, Sister Frances Monson, pause outside the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple after the first dedicatory session Aug. 21, which was his 82nd birthday., {td0w}, Aug.21, 2009 in South Jordan, Utah. Gerry Avant, Deseret News Credit: Deseret News
Credit: David Guerrero
Credit: Deseret News archives
Credit: Deseret News archives
Credit: Deseret News archives
President Thomas S. Monson shakes hands with a young girl as he exits the stand following the morning session of the 184th Annual General Conference Saturday, April 5, 2014 at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Credit: Deseret News
President Thomas S. Monson greets youth who are participants in a cultural celebration held Saturday evening in conjunction with the dedication of the Boise Idaho Temple on Sunday, Nov. 18. Saturday, Nov., 17, 2012. Photo by Gerry Avant Credit: Gerry Avant
President Thomas S. Monson display "the game ball" presented to him after a cultural program segment portrayed a football game. The event was held in conjunction with the rededication of the Boise Idaho Temple. Saturday, Nov., 17, 2012. Photo by Gerry Avant Credit: Gerry Avant
President Thomas S. Monson is among scores of U.S. military veterans standing to receive the applause of audience at Constitution Day Concert in the Salt Lake Tabernacle sponsored by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Utah Chapter. Credit: R. Scott Lloyd
President Thomas S. Monson, James Sorenson and Beverley Taylor Sorenson (from right) participate in the groundbreaking ceremony as the University of Utah breaks ground on the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts & Education Complex, a new interdisciplinary facility Tuesday, June 14, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: Deseret News
Jacob and Jonathan Lowry are among children President Thomas S. Monson called upon to place mortar on the Cebu City Philippines Temple's symbolic cornerstone. Sunday, June, 13, 2010. Gerry Avant Credit: Gerry Avant
President Thomas S. Monson charms a young boy, who tries to imitate the Church leader in wiggling his ears. Friday, Nov., 19, 2010. Gerry Avant Credit: Gerry Avant
President Thomas S. Monson greets Cameron Orme, 6, of the Provo Utah Edgemont North Stake during visit to Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii. Credit: Intellectual Reserve Inc.
After the cornerstone ceremony for the Cebu City Philippines Temple on Sunday, June 12, 2010, President Thomas S. Monson delights crowd by playing the piano. Sunday, June, 13, 2010. Gerry Avant Credit: Gerry Avant
President Thomas S. Monson and McKenzie Miller wait for her mother to take their photo during intermission at Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, near Denver, Colo., June 29, 2009 {td0w}, June30, 2009. Gerry Avant, Deseret News Credit: Deseret News
LDS leader, Thomas Monson, listens during the run-through of the 80th anniversary of Tabermacle Choir's Music and the Spoken Word network broadcast. Sunday, July 19, 2009. (Michael Brandy/Deseret News) Credit: Deseret News
President Thomas Monson laughs with his wife Francis prior to speaking to Women's Conference attendees at Brigham Young University in Provo May 2, 2008. Jeffrey D. Allred/photo Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
LDS first presidency members Henry Eyring, Thomas Monson and Dieter Uchtdorf pose outside the temple between sessions during the dedication of the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple in South Jordan, Utah, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News Deseret News
University of Utah Athletic Director Chris Hill, University of Utah President Michael Young, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Thomas S. Monson and Deseret News Publisher Jim Wall (left to right) honor President Monson as the University of Utah and the Air Force Academy play MWC football Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tom Smart, Deseret News Credit: Deseret News
September 1995 President Thomas S. Monson walks from site where years earlier, in 1975, he offered a prayer upon the land of German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Photo by Gerry Avant, Church News. Credit: Gerry Avant, Deseret News
Credit: Deseret News archives
In an undated photo, Thomas S. Monson is photographed having caught two fish at Vivian Park in Provo Canyon. Credit: Deseret News archives
Credit: Deseret News archives
Credit: Deseret News archives
Credit: Deseret News archives
President Thomas S. Monson shakes hands with Vivian Frost on Sunday, May 1, after he rededicated the Atlanta Georgia Temple, which was constructed and originally dedicated in 1983. Sunday, May, 1, 2011. Photo by Gerry Avant (Submission date: 05/01/2011) Credit: Gerry Avant, Church News
President Thomas S. Monson shakes hands with members as he arrives for the dedication of the Calgary Alberta Temple on Sunday, Oct. 28 Sunday, Oct., 28, 2012. Photo by Gerry Avant Credit: Gerry Avant
President Thomas S. Monson and Eldred G. Smith laugh as they talk as President Monson pays a visit to Eldred G. Smith on his 105th birthday at the Smith's home Monday, Jan. 9, 2012. Credit: Deseret News

President Thomas Spencer Monson, 16th President of the Church, died Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, at his home in Salt Lake City. He was 90 years old.

President Monson was well acquainted with the governance of the Church, not only through knowledge gleaned through written histories but also through personal experience.

Called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at age 36, he spent 54 years as a General Authority — including 32 years in the First Presidency and the last almost 10 years as President of the Church. He served as counselor to three Church presidents: second counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson and President Howard W. Hunter, and, for nearly 13 years, first counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley.

Upon President Hinckley’s death, President Monson was set apart on Feb. 3, 2008, as President of the Church.

Even before the era of his ministry as a General Authority, he spent his life on the Lord’s errand, from serving as president of his ward’s deacons quorum as a young man, to serving as a bishop in his early 20s, to presiding over a mission in his early 30s. President Monson had all the hallmarks of an unassuming servant of the Lord.

In 1997, he was asked to describe what it had been like to be called as an Apostle of the Lord. He didn’t answer the inquiry directly, but spoke of “being called of God” in more general terms, in a manner every member with a calling could understand. He spoke of being called as a bishop of a ward of 1,080 members at age 22. He said, “I had a heavy responsibility for welfare. … About a third of the ward was represented by old-time families and two-thirds by a transient population. Why I was selected, I can’t tell you that” (Church News interview notes, August 1997).

During a conversation with the Church News he reflected on the occasion when, in just a few days, during the April 2008 general conference, members worldwide would raise their hands in a solemn assembly to sustain him as President of the Church.

Asked about his thoughts and feelings pertaining to the moment he realized he was going to be the next President of the Church — the one who holds all the priesthood keys — President Monson said, “I’ve always followed the philosophy, ‘Serve where you’re called, not where you’ve been or where you might be. Serve where you’re called.’

“I did that as a bishop, as a stake presidency member, as a mission president and as an apostle. I didn’t know but what President Hinckley would outlive me. Some die young, some die older” (Church News, April 5, 2008).

During his 54 years as a General Authority, President Monson willingly, and enthusiastically, served where he was called. As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he supervised the missions of the Church in the western United States, the South Pacific, Mexico, Central America and Europe. After a number of years and following the policy of rotation, the European missions were transferred to another member of the Twelve. However, Elder Monson retained responsibility for all countries behind the Iron Curtain. He was instrumental in the construction of the Freiberg Germany Temple, served as chairman of the Scriptures Publication Committee and supervised the process that resulted in the new editions of the Standard Works of the Church. He had a major role in the supervision and expansion of the Church’s welfare program, and its humanitarian work and developmental projects around the world to help those in need, regardless of faith.

From his days as a bishop through his years as President of the Church, his name forever will be linked to compassionate endeavors, service to others and a strong desire to help those who are helpless, nourish those who are weak and lift those who suffer various afflictions. He demonstrated that service most effectively on a one-to-one basis.

No one can count the number of times President Monson paid personal visits to homes or hospital bedsides to offer comfort, cheer and blessings, or took time to write a letter or make a telephone call to someone who needed a friendly communication. In a 1998 conversation, Sister Frances Johnson Monson (1927-2013) said that she had seen her husband “work himself nearly to exhaustion as he has gone about blessing the lives of those in need” (Church News, May 2, 1998).

In an interview on the occasion of his 81st birthday, he was asked to describe what he would consider the ideal gift that members worldwide could give him. Without a moment’s hesitation, he said, “Do something for someone else on that day to make his or her life better. Find someone who is having a hard time, or is ill, or lonely, and do something for them. That’s all I would ask” (Church News, Aug. 23, 2008). His reply was in keeping with the character of a man who devoted his life to serving others.

President Monson was always anxious to heed promptings to serve others. In an interview a year after he was sustained as President of the Church, the Church News pointed out there are only so many hours in a day and even the prophet is a mortal who has limited time and energy and, certainly, there must be occasions when he feels he can’t act on a prompting. He replied “I don’t want to ever get to that point” (Church News, Jan. 31, 2009).

On an earlier occasion, he said, “There is nothing quite like being in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ, and all of us have that privilege.” Asked if he had a wish regarding his future, he said, “I want to live the best I can and do the most for others as long as I can.” (Church News, Aug. 25, 2007).

In 1997, when he was about to turn 70, the Church News asked President Monson how he would like to be remembered. He replied with a brief phrase that aptly captured the essence of his life: “I tried my best.”

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