Wholehearted devotion

His ward’s widows knew he would make Christmas visit

In 1994, when President Thomas S. Monson was a counselor in the First Presidency, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote in the September issue of the Ensign of President Monson’s “wholehearted devotion” and loyalty in serving Heavenly Father and His children. The article gives a glimpse into how devoted President Monson is to serving others, and how much he has endeavored to bring the joys of Christmas to those who are lonely or in need.

Elder Holland wrote of John Burt, one of President Monson’s lifelong friends, who had told of President Monson’s service as a young bishop and his continuing concern for ward members through the years. Brother Burt was quoted:

“Tom’s care of the widows who lived in his ward — eighty-seven of them — is an example of his loyalty and devotion to people. When the rest of us were released as bishops, we just kind of moved on to the next task and left the widows to our successors. Not Tom. He somehow found time to keep visiting them. He is the most loyal man I know. He never forgets where he came from, and he never forgets the people who knew him before he was ‘somebody.’

“Nearly all of those eighty-seven widows are gone now, but their ‘bishop’ kept visiting them to the end. One night during the Christmas holidays some years ago, President Monson was making his customary rounds to ‘his’ widows, leaving gifts purchased from his own pocket. …

“In one of the many Salt Lake City rest homes he has come to know so intimately, he found one of his ward members, alone and silent in the darkened room of a world made even darker by the onset of blindness. As President Monson made his way to this sweet sister’s side, she reached out awkwardly, groping for the hand of the only visitor she had received in the whole of the Christmas season. ‘Bishop, is that you?’ she inquired. ‘Yes, dear Hattie, it is I.’

” ‘Oh, Bishop,’ she wept through sightless eyes, ‘I knew you would come.’ They all knew he would come, and he always did.”