President Thomas S. Monson, the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Febuary 2008 to January 2018, would have turned 91 years old today. Here is a snapshot of the nine decades he spent in service to the Lord and his fellow men.
In 1928, just as the Church was printing and distributing its very first Handbook of Instruction, Thomas Spencer Monson was celebrating his first birthday near Vivian Park in Provo Canyon where his family frequently spent their summers.
At age 11, in 1938, young Tom Monson was beginning to understand the importance of caring for others. According to his biography , Tom and his friends were entirely focused on caring for birds at the time — particularly pigeons. He had his own pigeon coop and took great pride in caring for them and, eventually, showed them in county and state fairs. Caring for birds was a hobby he would carry with him throughout his life.
Ten years later, at the age of 21, Tom Monson was just beginning to start a family of his own. He graduated from the University of Utah in August of 1948 with a degree in marketing and a minor in economics. A few months later, on Oct. 7, 1948, Thomas Monson married his sweetheart, Frances Johnson, just weeks after his youngest sister, Barbara, was born.
After working his way up to sales manager for the press division at Deseret News Press, Thomas Monson was named president of the Printing Industry of Utah and joined the board of the Printing Industries of America in 1958. At 31, he and his wife, Frances, had two children and had just moved into a new home in the Holladay area of the Salt Lake valley. Tom continued to raise pigeons and chickens on their property and frequently won ribbons for his birds at county and state fairs.
In 1968, five years after being called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, then-Elder Thomas S. Monson was assigned to supervise the European missions and traveled with his wife and eldest son to visit the European areas. On their trip, they visited France, Sweden, Germany, Greece, Italy and Switzerland. At 41 years old, then-Elder Monson made his first visit behind the Iron Curtain and began a ministry to the German Saints that, according to his biography, would largely define his apostolic ministry.
Nearly ten years later, in May of 1978, then-Elder Monson had the opportunity to report to the First Presidency of the Church that leaders in East Germany had suggested the Church build a temple for its members behind the Iron Curtain. Less than a year later, at the age of 51, then-Elder Monson took building plans for a temple in east Germany and presented them to government leaders in East Germany. On March 28, 1979, they recieved word that their plans had been approved by government authorities. The Freiburg Germany Temple was later dedicated on June 29, 1985, by President Gordon B. Hinckley, with then-Elder Monson also attending.
The year 1988 was a historic year in Church history as well as the life of then-Elder Monson. He and other Church leaders were invited in 1988 for an official state visit with Eric Honecker, head of state for the German Democratic Republic. According to his biography, in their meeting, then-Elder Monson asked permission for missionaries from the German Democratic Republic to be allowed to serve missions for the Church outside of the country's boundaries, as well as for missionaries from elsewhere to be called to serve within the German Democratic Republic. Honoring the trust built by the Church and its member throughout East Germany, Herr Honecker granted permission for the Church to carry out missionary work as detailed by Elder Monson.
President Monson and Frances Monson celebrated their 50-year anniversary in 1998. That same year, after watching her husband serve nearly 13 years in the First Presidency of the Church, Sister Monson told the Church News she had seen her husband "work himself nearly to exhaustion as he has gone about blessing the lived of those in need."
Called as prophet
Ten years later, on February 3, 2008, President Thomas S. Monson was set apart as president of the Church. Months later, after presiding over his second general conference as President of the Church, President Monson broke tradition by walking into the crowd following the conclusion of the conference rather than proceeding out. He shook hands with members in the congregation before leaving the conference. True to his nature, President Monson began his time as president much as he would end it a decade later, serving people.
On Jan. 2, 2018, just seven months shy of reaching his 91st birthday, President Monson passed away at his home in Salt Lake City, surrounded by his loved ones.
In his last general conference address, President Monson reminded Church members of the importance of gaining a personal testimony of Jesus Christ.
"I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety," he said. "If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one."