First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson is a living apostle, Navy veteran of World War II and an accomplished businessman and publisher. He has served in the First Presidency under three prophets of God: Ezra Taft Benson, Howard W. Hunter and now, Gordon B. Hinckley.

thomas monson mormonKnown for his marvelous stories and poems which teach the principles of God, Always loyal to those he’s known, his willingness to serve the Lord has found him serving as bishop, mission president, apostle and first counselor in The First Presidency, he is never too busy when prompted by the Spirit to visit someone. Often, the stories he’s told have involved those he’s known in his life.

A story I wish to share with you, to give you the true measure of the boy who became an apostle of the Lord:

When I was a boy in Primary, one day as we left the chapel for our classrooms I noted that our Primary president, Melissa Georgell, remained behind, sitting alone on the front row of benches. I paused and observed her and saw that she was weeping. I walked up to her and said,

“Sister Georgell, why are you crying?”

She wiped her eyes with her lace handkerchief and said, “I feel that I’m a failure as a Primary president. I can’t control the Trail Builders. Could you help me, Tommy?”

I promised her I would. What I didn’t know then is that I was the source of her tears. She had effectively enlisted me to aid in achieving reverence in our Primary. And we did achieve it.

The years flew by. Melissa, now in her nineties, lived in a nursing facility in the northwest part of Salt Lake City. Just before Christmas I determined to visit my beloved Primary president. Over the car radio, I heard the song “Hark! the herald angels sing; Glory to the newborn King!” I reflected on the visit made by wise men those long years ago. They brought gifts of gold, of frankincense, and of myrrh. I brought only the gift of love and a desire to say thank you.

I found her in the lunchroom. She was staring at her plate of food, teasing it with the fork she held in her aged hand. Not a bite did she eat. As I spoke to her, my words were met by a benign but blank stare. I gently took her fork and began to feed her, talking all the time I did so about her service to boys and girls as a Primary worker and the joy that was mine to have served later as her bishop. There wasn’t so much as a glimmer of recognition, far less a spoken word. Two other residents of the nursing home gazed at me with puzzled expressions. At last they spoke, saying, “She doesn’t know anyone — even her own family. She hasn’t said a word for a long, long time.”

Lunch ended. My one-sided conversation wound down. I stood to leave. I held her frail hand in mine and gazed into her wrinkled but beautiful countenance. “God bless you, Melissa,” I said, “and Merry Christmas.”

Without warning, she spoke the words, “I know you. You’re Tommy Monson, my Primary boy. How I love you.”

She pressed my hand to her lips and bestowed on it the kiss of love. Tears coursed down her cheeks and bathed over our clasped hands. Those hands, that day, were hallowed by heaven and graced by God. The herald angels did sing, for I heard them in my heart.” (Thomas S. Monson, “Inspiring Experiences That build Faith,” Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 1994 3-4)

The boy who grew into the man teaches us of love, loyalty, and compassion in this sweet story.

As a man, he graduated from the University of Utah, received his MBA and honorary doctorates from Brigham Young University. He served in the Navy near the end of World War II, a time of which he speaks very rarely, and upon his return married Frances Beverly Johnson on October 7, 1948, in the Salt Lake Temple.

He had a distinguished career in publishing, printing and assorted business. He serves as a trustee of Brigham Young University and sits on the board of the Church Education System. He has served as a member of the National Executive Board of Boy Scouts of America since 1969. In 1981, he was asked by U.S. President Ronald Reagan to serve on a President’s Task Force for Private Sector Initiatives. He fulfilled this role on the task force until 1982 when they completed its work.

But of all he has done in his life, the most important he serves is that of husband, father and apostle of the Lord, a special witness of Jesus Christ. He joined with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to deliver the Living Christ statement and testimony to the world, and along with the prophet and the second counselor, issued a proclamation to the world on families.

Of President Monson, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said:

Positioned on the wall of President Thomas S. Monson’s office directly opposite his astonishingly clean desk (astonishing only because of the legendary amount of work he processes every day, sometimes requiring up to three secretaries at a time to handle it), a lovely artwork of the Savior greets the gaze of the Second Counselor to President Howard W. Hunter in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Monson loves the painting, which he has had since he was a 22-year-old bishop and which he has taken with him wherever he has been assigned to labor. “I have tried to pattern my life after the Master,” President Monson says in a quiet, reflective mood, gazing at the portrait. “Whenever I have had a difficult decision to make, or perhaps have had to measure the request to give a blessing against the endless demands of some of my paperwork, I have always looked at that picture and asked myself, ‘What would He do?’ Then I try to do it.” With that characteristic smile breaking through, President Monson adds, “I can assure you the choice has never been to stay and do paperwork!” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Thomas S. Monson: Finishing the Course, Keeping the Faith,” Ensign, Sep 1994, 12–13)

He has indeed, in all he has done throughout his life, conducted himself with honor, love and compassion. It fairly emanates from him as this apostle of the Lord stands at the pulpit of the Conference Center and speaks to the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A friend of President Monson shared this about his character:

His lifelong friend John Burt says, “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.’ ” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Thomas S. Monson: Finishing the Course, Keeping the Faith,” Ensign, Sep 1994, 12–13)

I have included quotes in this post, far more than normal, because I feel they give the true measure of this apostle of the Lord far better than I ever could. I wish to simply share one more:

Not long ago a telephone call came to President Monson’s office from the son of an 82-year-old woman who was nearing death. The mother’s final and only request was that she might meet her “favorite General Authority” before she passed away. When such calls come, the secretaries hope they will be able to get to the telephone before President Monson does, because otherwise his entire life would be spent on such visits, for requests of this kind come in to his office by the score. One of the secretaries did take this particular call, carefully noting the details and promising to relay the message to President Monson. She also courteously mentioned that President Monson’s time commitments were overwhelming, so the elderly sister would certainly be in President Monson’s prayers even if he were not able to make a personal visit. The faithful son hung up the telephone, very grateful for and fully satisfied with the response he had received.

The message was relayed. The schedule, overflowing as always, precluded a visit. A day went by, and President Monson began to be restless. That night he was more restless still. On the second day, he could not resist. He got into his car and headed for an unfamiliar address to visit a dying woman he had never met.

Wending his way through streets and side roads and neighborhoods totally unfamiliar, President Monson eventually arrived at his destination. Knocking at the door, he introduced himself to that very surprised son and handed him a green planter purchased for the visit. He was then ushered into a modest bedroom where a newfound friend was entering a comatose state, hovering between life and death. Quietly President Monson sat on the edge of the bed and held her hand. He talked softly and lovingly to her at great length about a wide variety of gospel principles. Although her eyes were essentially closed and she could make no verbal response, her son—witness to every detail of this great apostolic gesture—testified that he was certain that his mother not only knew who was visiting her but also understood every word he said. A blessing was given, and then President Monson, noting but not mentioning a framed picture of himself on the modest mantlepiece, excused himself from the room. The sweet sister died nine hours later, having realized the one final wish she had in this life. The next day the local newspaper obituary read, “Alice Petersen Tingey, 82, passed away of natural causes at her home. [She] was a loving person who touched the lives of many people. We would like to thank President Thomas S. Monson for his special blessing and the influence he shared with her and her family.” Following such spiritual promptings, often in the briefest and most crucial window of opportunity, has become one of the most important hallmarks of Thomas S. Monson’s life and ministry. (Thomas S. Monson, “Inspiring Experiences That build Faith,” Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 1994 3-4)

Of this I bear testimony, President Thomas S. Monson has lived his life as a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Beloved by many, he loves all he comes into contact with, and certainly loves every child of God as only an apostle of the Lord could do. I testify he lives up to and administers to every aspect of his apostolic calling. The day will come when he will take on a heavier mantle, should the Lord call him, and he will, as always, accept that calling with gratitude and determination to serve in that capacity to the very best of his ability.

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