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President Monson: First year reflections

He relies upon Heavenly Father in his calling as Church president

(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.

President Thomas S. Monson new president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1st counselor Henry B. Eyring and 2nd Counselor Diedet F. Uchtdorf are named as the new first presidency of the LDS church at a news conference at the LDS Church office building in Salt Lake City, Utah Monday Feb. 4, 2008. August Miller/ Deseret Morning News
President Thomas S. Monson new president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1st counselor Henry B. Eyring and 2nd Counselor Diedet F. Uchtdorf are named as the new first presidency of the LDS church at a news conference at the LDS Church office building in Salt Lake City, Utah Monday Feb. 4, 2008. August Miller/ Deseret Morning News Photo: August Miller/ Deseret Morning N

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.

President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints waves to the crowds in attendance at the Days of 47 parade on July 24, 2008 in Salt Lake City, Utah. At right is his wife Frances. August Miller/ Deseret Morning News
President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints waves to the crowds in attendance at the Days of 47 parade on July 24, 2008 in Salt Lake City, Utah. At right is his wife Frances. August Miller/ Deseret Morning News Photo: August Miller/ Deseret Morning N

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.

FOR CHURCH NEWS COVER--DO NOT USE ANYWHERE BEFORE PRINTED ON APRIL 5TH--President Thomas S. Monson in his Salt Lake City,  Utah, office April 2, 2008. Photo by Tom Smart
FOR CHURCH NEWS COVER--DO NOT USE ANYWHERE BEFORE PRINTED ON APRIL 5TH--President Thomas S. Monson in his Salt Lake City, Utah, office April 2, 2008. Photo by Tom Smart Photo: DESERET MORNING NEWS

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.'"

Dancers prepare to take the soccer field at Mexico City's Aztec Stadium to perform a regional folk dance. Several regions of Mexico were featured.
Dancers prepare to take the soccer field at Mexico City's Aztec Stadium to perform a regional folk dance. Several regions of Mexico were featured. Photo: Jason Swensen

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.

President Thomas S. Monson waves to the kids after watching the Cultural Celebration performed by the youth of the Twin falls Temple district August 23, 2008 Photo by Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News.
President Thomas S. Monson waves to the kids after watching the Cultural Celebration performed by the youth of the Twin falls Temple district August 23, 2008 Photo by Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News. Photo: Dnews

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."

President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left is joined at the temple's traditional
cornerstone ceremony of the Panama Temple by two Panamanian children: Brenda Vantonder, 9, and Eynar Pitty, 10. Sunday August 10, 2008. Man at right is not identified. Jason Swenson/Deseret News
President Thomas S. Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left is joined at the temple's traditional cornerstone ceremony of the Panama Temple by two Panamanian children: Brenda Vantonder, 9, and Eynar Pitty, 10. Sunday August 10, 2008. Man at right is not identified. Jason Swenson/Deseret News Photo: Jason Swenson/Deseret News
President Thomas S. Monson talks with Aaronic priesthood holders Michael Silver,12, Luis Armenta,, 15, and Keaton Shoell, 17 at the LDS Church Offices in Salt Lake City,  Utah, May. 19, 2008.  Photo by Tom Smart
President Thomas S. Monson talks with Aaronic priesthood holders Michael Silver,12, Luis Armenta,, 15, and Keaton Shoell, 17 at the LDS Church Offices in Salt Lake City, Utah, May. 19, 2008. Photo by Tom Smart Photo: DESERET NEWS

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.

Newly sustained prophet and President Thomas Monson and wife Francis wave to the audience after LDS General Conference Apr 5, 2007 in Salt Lake City.   Jeffrey D. Allred/photo
Newly sustained prophet and President Thomas Monson and wife Francis wave to the audience after LDS General Conference Apr 5, 2007 in Salt Lake City. Jeffrey D. Allred/photo Photo: Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News
President Thomas Monson waves to the congregation after the session of LDS General Conference Apr 6, 2007 in Salt Lake City.   Jeffrey D. Allred/photo
President Thomas Monson waves to the congregation after the session of LDS General Conference Apr 6, 2007 in Salt Lake City. Jeffrey D. Allred/photo Photo: Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News

"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."

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