(Click here to hear an audio file (.mp3 format) featuring Pres. Monson.)
Nearly a year ago, the mantle of the prophet came to rest upon Thomas S. Monson.
After President Gordon B. Hinckley passed away on Jan. 27, 2008, the First Presidency was dissolved, with President Monson, who was first counselor to President Hinckley, resuming his place in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as its president.
Members of the Quorum of the Twelve met in the Salt Lake Temple on Feb. 3, 2008. On that day they set apart and ordained Thomas S. Monson as President of the Church. He is the 16th man in this dispensation to serve as prophet, seer and revelator, the holder of all keys of priesthood authority.
This week, on Jan. 28, President Monson met with the Church News in his office to talk about the upcoming anniversary of his first year as Church president. In addition to some discussion of the addresses he has given, the places he has been and events he has attended (please see accompanying time line), President Monson shared some of his philosophy on leadership. (Related story: President Thomas S. Monson: First year)
President Monson, 81, is very much a "prophet among the people." His quick and ready smile greets whomever he meets in the course of a day, whether it's an individual who has come to his office or a group at some event attended by thousands. There is something about his demeanor that makes people feel they know him, that he is "one of them," that he understands and cares about them.
In 1959, when he and his family moved into a new house and hence a new ward and stake, he was asked to head a project to build a new chapel. He was told that he would be given a list of the names of individuals on whom he could rely to show up to help with the project. He asked for "just a list of names." One by one, he called upon individuals, telling them he would "be there with them." No one turned him down. Members worldwide have a sense that President Monson is "there with them."
On the day after he became Church president, he addressed members of the media. Speaking for himself and his counselors in the First Presidency — President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor, and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor — President Monson said, "We desire to cultivate a spirit of kindness, of understanding, of love. We seek always to follow our Savior, who 'went about doing good.'"
President Monson served as counselor to three Church presidents. He was called as second counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson in 1985, as second counselor to President Howard W. Hunter in 1994, and as first counselor to President Hinckley in 1995.
"I've felt honored and have appreciated every president under whom I've served," President Monson said.
He spoke of the great difference in being president as compared to serving as a counselor. Being a counselor to the Church president, he said, is almost like being a counselor in a bishopric. "As long as the responsibility is with the bishop, it's a rather simple thing to do the things the bishop asks you to do as a counselor. But when the weightier matters come, the final decision has to be made by the bishop, and his counselors sustain him."
He commented on the great help his counselors provide him.
Asked if he concurs with the adage, "It's lonely at the top," he replied, "Yes, it is, but I feel I'm never alone."
He spoke of prayer, and said, "There's always Heavenly Father. He's always there. I rely on Him. I know what it is like to have Him lead me. As the song goes, 'Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, Help me find the way. . . .' It has so much truth in it.
"You come up against a barrier, and you say, 'Lord, where do I go? Do I do this?' I always follow the promptings I receive. I never postpone a prompting."
The Church News pointed out there are only so many hours in the 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. His reply: "I don't want to ever get to that point."
Asked to reflect on the office of President of the Church, President Monson said, "I don't hold myself any higher than I did as a deacons quorum secretary. But I realize the high calling that I have. I have never aspired to a calling in the Church. I trust our Heavenly Father to make known His will. I simply want to be obedient to His will. That didn't begin today. It began when I was called as secretary to a deacons quorum. I simply wanted to do the best I knew how to do in that calling. And, similarly, as I've held positions of greater responsibility I've always felt whom the Lord calls the Lord qualifies.
"I certainly rely upon the Lord to help me in my callings, particularly the one which I have received to serve as President of the Church. I trust Him implicitly, and will always do my best to fulfill my responsibilities. I've always said if the Lord has an errand to be run, I want Him to know that Tom Monson will run that errand for Him."