Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints died earlier today. Not many people who have ever lived on this earth were more gentle and loving than he was. He was born August 21, 1927.
President Monson spent nearly his entire life extending himself to others who were in need. This post is a memorial to the many great works he did during his long life. He was one who humbled himself so that the Lord could use him to perform many great miracles, and it is important to point out that he did none of these things alone.
He Saved a Man from Suicide
One day when President Monson was swimming laps for exercise, he received a prompting from the Holy Ghost to visit a friend of his who had been lost the use of his lower limbs and was in a care facility. He went immediately to visit his friend, but found the friend’s room empty. He went to the pool in the facility where he found his friend.
As it turned out, the man had determined to wheel his chair into the deep end of the pool in an effort to end his life. It was the visit of Thomas S. Monson which gave him happiness and hope enough to survive. (Read more about this story here)
He Prophesied of Religious Freedom in WWII Germany
On a particularly freezing morning in November 1968, President Monson spoke to members of the church in Görlitz, Germany. The building where they met was damaged and the people’s spirits were broken.
President Monson said, “If you will remain true and faithful to the commandments of God,” he promised, “every blessing any member of the Church enjoys in any other country will be yours.”
At the time, the church was barely functional in the country. All church materials were banned, preaching of the gospel and all missionary work was banned, and there were no patriarchs or other leadership typical of the church organization.
The wall did come down and the members received the blessings of the gospel.
He Cared for 85 Widows and Attended All of Their Funerals
When President Monson was only 26 years old, he was made a bishop of a ward with 1,060 people in it–85 of whom were widows. He took a full week of personal time from his job every Christmas and spent the entire year raising hens so that he could cook and prepare dinner for all 85 of the widows and visit each one individually each Christmas.
Even after he was released as bishop, he continued to visit each widow individually every single year for as long as each one of them lived. He attended all of their funerals. On one occasion he spoke at three funerals in a single day. Many of the widows spoke of him with their dying breaths.
Someone once told President Monson he was wasting his time spending hours talking to elderly people who were incapable of responding to his conversation. The man said, ‘You might as well save your time and breath, Elder Monson. They don’t know who you are.’ President Monson replied, ‘Whether they know me or not is beside the point,” the determined Thomas Monson replied. “I don’t talk to them because they know me; I talk to them because I know them.’
-“Thomas S. Monson, Man of Action” (Source link)
As a Child, He Gave His Pet Rabbits to a Needy Family for Christmas Dinner
“Although his family was without many of the luxuries of life (he remembers how terribly cold his bedroom was in winter), young Tom’s tender heart and compassionate nature soon made him aware of the many around him who were less fortunate than he. Unwilling to see the family of one of his childhood friends eat cereal (moistened with hot water rather than milk) for a Christmas dinner, he handed over his two prize rabbits, saying with a lump in his throat, ‘It isn’t turkey, but they will make you a good Christmas dinner.”
He Flew All The Way Across the Country to Give a Blessing to His Son
When Thomas S. Monson’s son, Tom, was in military basic training in Louisville, Kentucky, he contracted pneumonia. On hearing the news of the relatively minor illness, President Monson immediately got on a plane and flew out to Kentucky just to give him a priesthood blessing.
On another occasion, he turned the car around and drove 40 miles back the way he’d come after his son mentioned not seeing a hawk’s nest that others in the car had seen.
President Monson seemed to place no limits on the effort it would take to bless another person in any small way.
He Served as An Apostle Since 1963, When He Was Only 36 Years Old
Church President David O. McKay called on him one day when he was only 36 years old. He explained that there was a vacancy in the quorum of the twelve, and that God expected Tom Monson to fill it. President Monson recalled that neither he nor Frances could sleep that night. His feet “felt like ice” he said.
“So often the call to serve is not accompanied by the sound of a marching band, the cheering crowd, or the applause of those whose favor is deemed so great. Such distractions were not to be found on Damascus’ way, in Palmyra’s grove, on Moriah’s mount, in Gethsemane’s garden, nor atop Golgotha’s hill.”
– Thomas S. Monson, “The Miracle of the Friendly Islands,” October 1968
His Prayers Were Miraculously Answered to Bring Food to the Widows and Needy
When President Monson was a 22 year-old bishop, there was a drought which caused a severe shortage of food–especially fruit–for the needy. He knelt down and prayed to God late at night in a church building that somehow the widows may receive the food that they needed.
“The next morning, President Monson said, he received a call from a man in the congregation who owned a large wholesale produce company. ‘Bishop,’ he said, ‘I’d like to send a semi-trailer filled with oranges, grapefruits and bananas to the Church for those who would otherwise go without. Could you make arrangements?” (“President Monson: On the Lord’s Errand“)
He Blessed a Child with Comfort So That She Could Die In Peace
In August 1974, President Monson was scheduled to attend a stake conference, but was given a last-minute change of assignment that sent him to a different stake. This one in Shreveport, Louisiana.
The stake president told President Monson that a child, Christal Methvin, was very sick. Apologetically, he asked if President Monson could make the very long drive to her home to give her a blessing. President Monson looked through his weekend schedule and there simply was no time for him to make the long drive to and from her home. He said that he’d instead remember the girl in the public prayers at the conference.
The week previous, Christal Methvin had been scheduled to fly to Salt Lake where she wanted a blessing from a General Authority. She was not healthy enough to make the trip. Instead, she pointed at a picture of the church leaders and singled out then-elder Monson. She said, “If I am not healthy enough to visit him, then he will visit me.”
As President Monson stood to speak at the adult session, he heard the Holy Ghost telling him “Suffer the little children, to come unto me.” He stood at the pulpit and announced changes to the next day’s conference schedule. He woke up extremely early and drove all the way to the little girl’s home.
He arrived in the girl’s room and took her by the hand and said, “Christal, I am here.” With great effort, she whispered back, “I just knew you would come.” He gave her a blessing and commended her spirit back to the watch care of Heavenly Father. A few days later, she died in peace.
He Returned a Childhood Photo to a Man Who Had No Photos of His Family
One day, Edwin Q. Cannon Jr. came into President Monson’s office and said that he had been reviewing his old mission photos and there was one that he simply couldn’t get rid of for some reason. He asked if President Monson knew why he would feel the need to keep it.
President Monson recognized the family name of someone in the photo, and remembered that there was a church leader in Germany with the same surname. He took the photo with him on his next trip to Germany.
In the airport, President Monson ran into the very man he was thinking of, who just so happened to be sitting next to him on the flight. He opened his briefcase and showed the man the photos.
As it turned out, the photo was of him as a young child, with his two parents. His father had died in the war and their family had left all of their family photos when they ran out of the country. This was his only photo of his family, and President Monson delivered it to him.
His Faith Helped to Heal His Wife Who Was In a Coma
After President Monson’s dear wife, Frances, hit her head, fell, and was in a coma for three weeks, he stayed in the hospital with her 24/7. He had his work sent to him which he did from her bedside.
After three weeks in a coma and just finally coming out of it, the doctor entered the room and told them of the grim prognosis for Frances. Mid-sentence, President Monson interrupted the doctor: “Doctor, do you have faith? Do you believe in miracles?”
His daughter, Ann Dibb, recorded the following as the doctor’s reaction: “The doctor stammered and did not know how to respond. Then my father continued, ‘Well, I do. We’re going to continue in our faith. We are going to pray. Frances will be in the Lord’s hands, and along with all of the capable medical help, we believe the Lord will help her recover.”
Frances made a remarkable recovery with time and the work of the medical staff (Ann Dibb. “My Father Is a Prophet”).
He Changed the Missionary Age of Service
Today, a man extremely antagonistic to the church tell me that President Monson was not a prophet because he did not receive revelations and prophecies during his tenure as president of the church. I think nearly every member of the church who was in attendance at General Conference in 2012 could feel how untrue that statement is.
I’m sure to some outside the church, the change of missionary age may seem a minor thing. It was not. My heart still burns within me as I listen back to that conference announcement, and I can feel the confirming voice of the spirit that made it clear to me that this was revelation from God.
Watch the announcement here, beginning at 3 minutes and 9 seconds into the video. Seriously. Watch it.
He Went Out Searching for the Outcasts and the Less-Active
President Monson has dedicated his life to saving others–individually. One at a time. Consider this experience from when he was a 22 year-old bishop:
“When I served as a bishop, I noted one Sunday morning that one of our priests was missing from priesthood meeting. I left the quorum in the care of the adviser and visited Richard’s home. His mother said he was working at the West Temple Garage.
“I drove to the garage in search of Richard and looked everywhere, but I could not find him. Suddenly I had the inspiration to gaze down into the old-fashioned grease pit situated at the side of the station. From the darkness I could see two shining eyes. Then I heard Richard say, ‘You found me, Bishop! I’ll come up.’ After that he rarely missed a priesthood meeting.” President Monson went on to tell that since that time in the grease pit, Richard went on to serve a full-time mission in Mexico and later served as a bishop. (“They Will Come,” Ensign, May 1997, 46.)
He Lived in a Modest Home and Lived Modestly All His Life
About 10 years ago, I had occasion to converse with one of the church’s security officers who had direct responsibilities for protecting President Monson. He told me that despite his very best efforts, he couldn’t convince President Monson to move out of his modest home and move to the church-owned condo which is much better secured for a man in the public eye.
President Monson has spent nearly his entire life working to help others, and has not been tempted by the flashy things of life.
He Accepted a Call to Be in a Stake Presidency–From the Pulpit
President Joseph Fielding Smith visited then-Bishop Monson’s stake to call a new stake presidency. The stake president and first counselor had been asked–as is customary–t0 accept callings in the new stake presidency in private before the meeting.
But from the pulpit, President Joseph Fielding Smith announced Bishop Monson would be the second counselor in the stake presidency. This was while he was still in his 20s.