News Story

New Church President Serves in Public and Private Settings

The first session of the 178th annual general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be held this Saturday will begin just as conferences before. There will, however, be a notable exception: Thomas S. Monson will be leading the proceedings and speaking to millions gathered in Salt Lake City and around the world as president of the Church.

Most people see President Monson, who became the 16th world leader of the Church on 3 February following the passing of former president, Gordon B. Hinckley, in high-profile, public settings, such as in general conference. But there is a private side to the leader that most people never witness. Throughout his decades of service as a Church leader, President Monson has continually sought to meet the needs of individuals in difficulty, often rendering that personal service.

A recent visit made by President Monson to 5-year-old Sadie Huish from Saratoga Springs, Utah, illustrates this side of the Church leader. Sadie was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor three weeks ago and has started radiation treatment. During this time the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted her three wishes, one being to meet President Monson. News of Sadie’s condition and request arrived at President Monson’s office, and a visit took place soon afterwards.

In the case of young Christal Methvin, a 10-year-old who also suffered from cancer, President Monson interrupted a demanding meeting schedule to meet with the young woman. At the conclusion of the visit, the youngster acknowledged, “I just knew you would come,” and he did.

The new president of the Church also answered the call of a former Sunday School teacher, 105-year-old Francis Brems, who, earlier this year, requested a personal visit in his care center. Brems announced to family his impression that he would pass away before the end of the week and said to them, “Will you please call Tommy Monson and tell him this; he’ll know what to do.” Upon receipt of the phone message, President Monson called on Brems, prayed with him and shared other words of faith, love and support.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has spoken about President Monson’s love of engaging with others one-on-one, especially the elderly and those who are suffering in some way. Speaking of the widows in President Monson’s care when he served as a leader of a Church congregation many years ago, Elder Holland said: “Many may know that young Bishop Monson took a week of his personal vacation time every Christmas season to visit all of those 85 widows in his ward. Many may not know that for the first several years the gift he would take them was one of the hens raised by him in his own poultry sheds.

“And although it has been more than 30 years since he was released as their bishop,” Elder Holland added, “President Monson has taken a gift and visited every one of those widows every Christmas for as long as each has lived.”

Such thoughtful kindnesses were evidenced early in President Monson’s life, according to his daughter, Ann Dibb. In a recent address at Brigham Young University-Idaho, Dibb described her father’s watchful care over his grandfather. “My father grew up in a loving family in Salt Lake City,” Dibb reported. “They all lived right next door to one another. As a teenager, Dad helped groom his elderly grandfather on a regular basis, and he personally gave his grandfather a weekly shave with a Gillette safety razor.”

From the days of his youth through to his present responsibilities, President Monson has, time and again, included in his demanding schedule ample time to respond to the individual needs of others.

“Never delay a prompting,” President Monson offered as an explanation of his frequent and timely service to others. “When you honor a prompting and then stand back a pace, you realize that the Lord gave you the prompting. It makes me feel good that the Lord even knows who I am and knows me well enough to know that if He has an errand to be run and He prompts me to run the errand, the errand will get done. That’s the testimony of my life.”

In a previous conference address, Elder Holland quoted a longtime friend of President Monson’s, Wendell J. Ashton: “Tom is a man of the common people, the champion of the less fortunate. He is like a pine tree — the top is high and ascending to heaven but the branches are broad, low to the ground, and protective of all who need shelter there.”

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