About 21/2 years ago, a visitor to Salt Lake City related to the Church News a story that characterizes as a man of charity President Thomas S. Monson, who, as was announced March 13, has been called as first counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley.
The visitor was Werner Adler from what was once the German Democratic Republic or East Germany. He said, "You have an expression in America about someone being so kind that he will give you the shirt off his back. President Monson is more kind than that. He gave me the suit he was wearing."He explained that he was present at a district conference in the Annaberg-Bucholz District of the Dresden Mission when President Monson, then a member of the Council of the Twelve, made an unannounced visit to the conference in the 1960s and spoke to the congregation.
"I am a big man, just about the same size as President Monson, so I guess that's how I attracted his attention," Brother Adler told the Church News. "He noticed that I was wearing a very old, nearly worn-out suit. In our country at that time, it was hard for just about anybody to buy new clothes; for a man my size, it was nearly impossible. After the conference, President Monson asked me to wait a few minutes. He stepped into a little room, took off his suit and came out dressed in an extra pair of trousers he had in his bag and a shirt. He said, `Here, I think this will fit you.' "
Brother Adler said President Monson offered to give him his shoes, also. "But I looked down at his feet and said, `I think your shoes are too big for me.' " Another member standing nearby said he thought the apostle's shoes would fit his son. So he sat down and took off his shoes and gave them to the other man.
"I'll never forget that day," Brother Adler said. "Apostle Thomas S. Monson had come to our conference dressed in a fine suit and was wearing practically new shoes. He left wearing a pair of old trousers, a shirt and old shoes. From then on, every time he came
to East GermanyT, I knew I would be getting new clothes because he always brought an extra suit to leave with me. He would leave the newer suit with me, usually the one he had worn to the meetings. One time, he forgot to remove his passport from an inside pocket. He had to send someone to chase me down to get it back."
Dozens, if not hundreds, of people could tell similar personal stories about the charitable deeds of President Monson, who has served as a counselor in the First Presidency since November 1985. From the time he was a 22-year-old bishop trudging blustery sidewalks to deliver Christmas gifts to widows in Salt Lake's Sixth-Seventh Ward in 1950 until the present, he has aided and comforted the sick and lonely, the homebound and hospitalized. He has visited them in their homes and hospital rooms, in quiet corners of meetinghouses and airports during the busy moments of the day and lonely hours of the night. Countless times, those closely associated with him have marveled at how he has given low priority to his own need for sleep, rest or even food to respond to the needs of others after he has completed a long and tiring journey or an agenda-filled day at his office.
As vice chairman of the General Welfare Services Committee and chairman of the Welfare Services Executive Committee, he has been a driving force in helping the Church provide food, clothing, medical supplies and other commodities and services for people in need in many parts of the world.
Being concerned about the well-being of individuals young and old is second nature to President Monson, who has adopted as part of his daily practices the preamble, "What would the Savior do?" Often, President Monson has said, "Man's extremity becomes God's opportunity."
President Monson, 67, grew up in Salt Lake City observing first-hand that charity begins at home. His parents, George Spencer and Gladys Condie Monson, never turned away from their home anyone who called for help during the lean years of the Depression. His mother hosted transients who came to her door asking for food as if they were guests in her home. His father, a printer by profession, had only one day a week, Sunday, off from work, but he used his spare time to visit aged aunts and uncles, often taking them for automobile rides to give them a change of scenery.
As a tall, thin boy who was not particularly athletic, young Thomas Monson often felt the pangs of disappointment when he was chosen last for a softball team at school. When he finally developed some athletic ability and was chosen first, he looked back with charity on the youngster who was then chosen last for the team and helped him develop his skills and move up the ladder.
As a youth, Thomas Monson attended Salt Lake public schools. He graduated with honors from the University of Utah in 1948. He served in the U.S. Navy near the close of World War II.
He was a ward clerk when he married Frances Beverly Johnson in the Salt Lake Temple on Oct. 7, 1948; they are parents of two sons and a daughter, and have six grandchildren. With Sister Monson as wife and companion, he continued his service in the Church and rendering of compassionate deeds. He was bishop from 1950-1955, when he was called to serve in a stake presidency. He and Sister Monson went to Toronto in 1959, when he was called, at age 31, to preside over the Canadian Mission, before he was called in 1963, at age 36, as a member of the Council of the Twelve.
Professionally, President Monson has had a distinguished career in publishing and printing. He became associated with the Deseret News in 1948, where he was an executive in the advertising division and with the Newspaper Agency Corp. He was sales manager of the Deseret News Press, one of the West's largest commercial printing firms, rising to the position of general manager, which he held at the time he was called to the Council of the Twelve. He currently is chairman of the board of the Deseret News Publishing Company. He is a board member of several other businesses and industries.
Since 1969, he has served as a member of the National Executive Board of Boy Scouts of America. He is the recipient of Scouting's Silver Beaver and Silver Buffalo awards, and international Scouting's highest honor, the Bronze Wolf.
He did graduate work and served as a member of the College of Business faculty at the University of Utah. He later received a Master of Business Administration degree from BYU. In April 1981, BYU conferred upon him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
In December 1981, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve on the President's Task Force for Private Sector Initiatives, serving until the task force completed its work.
Pres. Thomas S. Monson
- Born in Salt Lake City, Aug. 21, 1927, to G. Spencer and Gladys Condie Monson.
- Served in U.S. Navy, 1945-1946.
- Graduated cum laude, University of Utah, 1948.
- Married Frances Beverly Johnson, Oct. 7, 1948, in the Salt Lake Temple; parents of two sons and a daughter, they have six grandchildren.
- Presided over the Canadian Mission, 1959-1962.
- Called to the Council of the Twelve, Oct. 4, 1963.
- Earned master of business administration degree from BYU, 1974.
- Awarded honorary doctor of laws degree at BYU, 1981.
- Named to White House Task Force, 1981.
- Set apart as second counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson, Nov. 10, 1985.
- Set apart as second counselor to President Howard W. Hunter, June 5, 1994.
- Set apart as first counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley, and as President of the Council of the Twelve, March 12, 1995.