Jan 04 2018
Mr. President, I rise today to honor the life of a remarkable man: Thomas S. Monson, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
On Tuesday night, at age 90, President Monson was called home by his Heavenly Father.
I expect his reunion with his wife Frances was a joyous occasion, and I am confident that reunion provides comfort to his three children and eight grandchildren.
But President Monson’s legacy is far larger than his family, important though that is.
Because his legacy also includes the countless men and women whose lives were touched by him, as well as the confident, global church he helped shepherd and strengthen.
Consider this: In the 54 years Thomas Monson served as an apostle, church membership swelled from 2 million to 16 million!
That accomplishment is a blessing from God, but it was realized by Saints like President Monson who devoted their lives to serving Him—starting at a young age.
Thomas Monson was born and raised in Salt Lake City in a large and faithful family.
He attended Utah State University. Served with honor in the United States Naval Reserve. And worked for a time in printing, including for the Deseret News.
By 22, he was the bishop of a ward, charged with guiding over a thousand people in their walks with Christ.
By 36, he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—one of the youngest people ever to receive that special calling.
But Brother Monson did not give in to hubris because of those unexpected promotions. Quite the opposite—he was humbled by the heavy mantle that had been placed on his shoulders.
Members of Monson’s ward remember the young bishop as a steady companion to people who were enduring struggles and hardship.
There were 80 widows in his ward. Bishop Monson took time to visit them all.
Also in his ward were 18 servicemen fighting in the Korean War. Every month, he sent letters to those 18 men. To remind them they were not forgotten.
And even decades later, he would speak of these servicemen and widows during the church’s general conference meeting. His love for them could still be felt by those in attendance.
Those stories illustrate the kind of man President Monson was.
He was a leader who understood how small acts of kindness could affect peoples’ lives in profound ways.
And he urged his brothers and sisters in faith to be on the lookout for signs that God was calling them to help. “Never fail to follow a prompting” of the Holy Spirit, he would say.
This could mean visiting a relative in the hospital. Or delivering a meal to a coworker who was mourning a loss. Or just checking in on a friend you haven’t seen in awhile.
For President Monson, it was always about taking time for that personal connection.
President Monson knew that little encounters build strong relationships—and strong Saints.
In 2008, Thomas S. Monson was called to lead the LDS Church as its president.
He proved to be a good steward of the church in a fast-moving world.
Many obituaries have already noted how in 2012 he lowered the age requirement for missionaries, a decision that increased the missionary force from 52,000 to almost 70,000.
That’s almost 20,000 more young people to spread the Gospel and daily serve those in communities around the world.
But President Monson did far more than that to strengthen the church’s commitment to caring for the least in our society.
Under his leadership, the church expanded its poverty and disaster relief programs. He even added “caring for the poor and needy” to the church’s official mission statement.
President Monson lived in Utah almost his entire life, but his heart was with the church spread throughout the world.
During the depths of the Cold War, he helped lead the Latter-Day Saints trapped behind the Iron Curtain.
Mormons in the Soviet Union were poor just like everyone else. They did not have a temple, and their governments forbade them from traveling abroad. As a result, they did not have access to temple ceremonies that are central to our faith.
That didn’t sit well with President Monson. As he told his brothers and sisters from the pulpit during a trip to East Germany, he wanted them to share in “every blessing” of the faith.
So he gave everything he had to help those people—even the shirt off his own back.
He returned from one trip to the Soviet Union in his house slippers because he had given his spare clothes to the less fortunate, a funny story that brings to mind the words of the Savior: “[For] I was a stranger, and ye took me in; I was naked, and ye clothed me.” (Matt. 25:36, KJV)
Around that time, President Monson began two decades of quiet diplomacy with the Soviet authorities—including with Erich Honecker himself.
His labor reaped a tremendous harvest. In a regime that was hostile to religion and outsiders, he won approval for Mormon missionaries to come and spread the Gospel.
And in 1985, he won an even bigger triumph when a temple opened behind the Iron Curtain in Freiberg, Germany. Ninety thousand East Germans attended the dedication.
He had followed a prompting of the Lord. The result was nothing less than a tear in the Iron Curtain.
Those are just a few stories from President Monson’s life. I’d like to conclude with just one more.
Not long ago, President Monson was asked what he wanted for his birthday.
Here was his simple response. “Do something for someone else on that day to make his or her life better. Find someone who is having a hard time, or is ill, or lonely, and do something for them. That’s all I would ask.”
President Monson was always looking for little ways like that to help others.
That wish is as true in death as it was in life. In lieu of flowers for his funeral, the Church has requested contributions to the Humanitarian Aid Fund.
President Monson’s legacy will outlast death because he chose to follow the One who conquered death. He will be missed, until we meet again.