Tonight as I searched for a topic for my post, I learned that Thomas S. Monson passed away this evening at 10:01 MST at age 90. He had served as the prophet, seer, and revelator of the Lord and the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for nearly ten years. Even though I knew that his time to go home was nearing, I still feel a sense of deep loss knowing that he has gone.
President Monson is well known to members of the Church as a man who rescues others. As a young and inexperienced, 23-year-old Mormon bishop, he felt a “distinct spiritual prompting” to leave a meeting to visit an elderly member of his ward. Feeling that it was rude to leave the meeting in the middle of the Stake President’s talk, he waited until the end of the talk to leave. He got to the hospital as quickly as he could, but the man was gone. He passed away while calling Bishop Monson’s name. The young bishop wept bitter tears and vowed to “never turn a deaf ear to another prompting.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles calls this experience “the most impressive story I know from him about his ministry to the one… As far as I know he kept that promise ever since. It became fundamentally characteristic of his life and what sets him apart from others, that he committed to this idea of following a prompting, and the focus almost always was a single person.”
President Monson was ordained as a bishop at age 23, became a mission president at age 31, and was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the age of 36. He was a “large, faithful, energetic, gregarious, intelligent man with a prodigious recall that allowed him to memorize talks and remember everyone he met.” Tad Walsh wrote the following about President Monson.
The senior quorums of the LDS Church are vaults of institutional memory. New apostles are trained by the quorum’s senior apostles. As a new apostle in 1963, President Monson joined a quorum with a handful of men who knew or were raised by Latter-day Saint pioneers who crossed the plains in 1847. They could speak from experience about the church before the Manifesto that ended polygamy in 1890.
By the time of his death, his past relationships in the quorum made President Monson unique among living LDS senior leadership. He was the final prophet to have served in the Twelve with church leaders who had known men who knew the first, Joseph Smith.
President Monson also was the final living apostle called to the Twelve by late church President David O. McKay. He was the last apostle alive who had served with President McKay’s immediate successors at the head of the church, Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee.
The man expected to succeed President Monson, President Russell M. Nelson, is 93, but he was ordained an apostle more than 20 years after President Monson, in 1984.
President Monson spent more than three decades in the First Presidency. He spent a total of 54 years as an apostle. Only four men in LDS history served longer in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve – President McKay, Heber J. Grant, Joseph Fielding Smith and Wilford Woodruff.
President Monson was a faithful servant of Heavenly Father. He listened for and followed many prompting to help someone. He often shared his rescuing experiences in his General Conference. He is loved, and he will be missed.