President Thomas S. Monson was one of the most amazing men to live on this earth. Whether you believe his teachings or not, it is difficult to deny that he was an unbelievably loving and charitable man. Thomas S. Monson was born on August 21, 1927 and passed away surrounded by his family on January 2, 2018. His life was a life of love and compassion. He became one of the youngest Bishop’s in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at only 22 years old. He was called to be an apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve in 1963 by Joseph Fielding Smith at the age of 36, making him the youngest apostle called in 53 years. After the death of Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas Monson was called to be President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He served in this position for almost 10 years to the date. The Prophet lived such a beautiful live, it was difficult to pick my favorite stories. I did my best though! Here they are:
- Dating and Marrying Frances Beverly Johnson: Thomas S. Monson was attending school at the University of Utah when he went to a school dance. There, he saw a beautiful woman named Frances Beverly Johnson. He wanted to get to know her better, but both he and Frances were already on dates with other people. They didn’t see each other again until about a month later. Frances was walking down the street with a few other people, one of which was an old friend of Monson’s. He walked over and said hello to his friend. He found out his love interest’s name, immediately underlined her name in his student directory, and called her that evening to ask her on a date. She said yes. Their first date was another dance at the Pioneer Stake gym. They courted for a while, even while Thomas served in the Navy. During this time of dating Frances, Thomas S. Monson was taking care of his sick grandfather by shaving him, bathing him, feeding him, etc. Frances eventually found herself wondering if she should marry Thomas. She spoke with her mother about it who replied, “Any man that takes care of his grandfather the way Tom takes care of his grandfather, will be a wonderful husband.” Frances believed this to be true, it was one of the things that helped convince her to marry him. Thomas S. Monson was going to propose to her one night, he hid the ring, and had a grand, romantic scheme planned out for the proposal. However, Thomas’ youngest brother, Scott, spoiled the surprise. Luckily, Frances still said yes. They were sealed for time and all eternity on October 7, 1948, in the Salt Lake Temple.
- Thomas S. Monson serving lonely widows: Thomas Monson was called to be a Bishop of one of the poorest wards in the entire church. This ward also included about 85 widows. Bishop Monson visited each of these 85 widows on Christmas Day every year until each of their deaths. Every year, he would bring them a gift for themselves and their families. He had the opportunity of speaking at each of their funerals, as they requested. Thomas Monson was such a busy man, especially when he eventually was called as an apostle. Jeffrey R. Holland stated that the Lord blessed him with the time and ability to speak at their funerals. He loved them and knew they had unique trials and struggles. Thomas visited them and helped them feel loved and less lonely, during the holidays, and every day of the year.
- Never Postpone a Prompting: “Don’t postpone a prompting; rather, act on it, and the Lord will open the way.”-Thomas S. Monson. One night, just before a stake priesthood meeting, Thomas received a call from the Veterans’ Hospital nearby that an elderly member of his ward was admitted to the hospital and requesting a blessing from Bishop Monson. He felt the distinct spiritual feeling that he should leave the stake meeting and go visit the hospital right away. He brushed off the feeling because he didn’t want to be rude and ditch the meeting. The prompting only grew stronger as the meeting went on. Finally, he left just before the closing song and prayer. When he arrived at the Veterans’ Hospital, a nurse told him that the elderly man had just passed away, calling Thomas Monson’s name as he died. The young Bishop’s heart broke. He felt he should have listened to the prompting. He decided that from then on, he would never postpone a spiritual prompting ever again.
- In the Service of Others: “Unless we lose ourselves in the service of others, there is little purpose to our lives.”-Thomas S. Monson. Going off the previous story, I want to share another from President Monson about following promptings found in the October 2012 General Conference, “I have learned, as I have mentioned in previous messages, never to postpone a prompting. On one occasion many years ago, I was swimming laps at the old Deseret Gym in Salt Lake City when I felt the inspiration to go to the University Hospital to visit a good friend of mine who had lost the use of his lower limbs because of a malignancy and the surgery which followed. I immediately left the pool, dressed, and was soon on my way to see this good man. When I arrived at his room, I found that it was empty. Upon inquiry I learned I would probably find him in the swimming pool area of the hospital, an area which was used for physical therapy. Such turned out to be the case. He had guided himself there in his wheelchair and was the only occupant of the room. He was on the far side of the pool, near the deep end. I called to him, and he maneuvered his wheelchair over to greet me. We had an enjoyable visit, and I accompanied him back to his hospital room, where I gave him a blessing. I learned later from my friend that he had been utterly despondent that day and had been contemplating taking his own life. He had prayed for relief but began to feel that his prayers had gone unanswered. He went to the pool with the thought that this would be a way to end his misery—by guiding his wheelchair into the deep end of the pool. I had arrived at a critical moment, in response to what I know was inspiration from on high. My friend was able to live many more years—years filled with happiness and gratitude. How pleased I am to have been an instrument in the Lord’s hands on that critical day at the swimming pool.” Several General Authorities of the Church have spoken about the times they have gone to foreign countries and President Monson returns with very little luggage, clothes, and shoes, as he had given them all away to those who needed them. Thomas S. Monson practiced what he preached, as he constantly lost himself ‘in the service of others.’
- My Family’s Personal Experiences: I cannot write about my favorite stories of the late Prophet’s life without sharing why Thomas S. Monson holds an extra special place in my heart. I will share a quote from Thomas S. Monson from the April 2005 General Conference: “As a bishop I felt prompted one day to call on a man whose wife was somewhat active, as were the children. This man, however, had never responded. It was a hot summer’s day when I knocked on the screen door of Harold G. Gallacher. I could see Brother Gallacher sitting in his chair reading the newspaper. ‘Who is it?’ he queried, without looking up. ‘Your bishop,’ I replied. ‘I’ve come to get acquainted and to urge your attendance with your family at our meetings.’ ‘No, I’m too busy,’ came the disdainful response. He never looked up. I thanked him for listening and departed the doorstep. The Gallacher family moved to California shortly thereafter. The years went by. Then, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, I was working in my office one day when my secretary called, saying: ‘A Brother Gallacher who once lived in your ward would like to talk to you. He’s here in my office.’ I responded, “Ask him if his name is Harold G. Gallacher who, with his family, lived at Vissing Place on West Temple and Fifth South.” She said, “He is the man.” I asked her to send him in. We had a pleasant conversation together concerning his family. He told me, “I’ve come to apologize for not getting out of my chair and letting you in the door that summer day long years ago.” I asked him if he was active in the Church. With a wry smile, he replied: ‘I’m now second counselor in my ward bishopric. Your invitation to come out to church, and my negative response, so haunted me that I determined to do something about it.’ Harold and I visited together on numerous occasions before he passed away. The Gallachers and their children filled many callings in the Church. One of the youngest grandchildren is now serving a full-time mission.” Harold Gallacher was my great grandfather. The grandchild who was serving a mission at the time of this talk was my uncle, Ryan. Without Thomas S. Monsons’ love for the inactive as a young Bishop, we would not be members of the church today. There is a quote about Thomas S. Monson from the movie, On the Lord’s Errand, that says, “Once you were his friend, you never lost him nor he lost you.” President Monson continued to bless our family even until just months prior his death. He blessed my grandfather as a baby, baptized my great aunt, ordained my great uncle as a teacher, healed my great grandmother of an incurable disease by giving her an apostolic blessing and she lived comfortably for another 30 years thereafter. President Monson called my grandfather (the one he blessed as a baby) on the phone when several of our family members passed away. Just a few months ago, right before his health began to decline, my mother was going through one of the hardest trials of her life. She wrote to our beloved Prophet, Thomas S. Monson. To her surprise, he wrote back. He told her that he remembered her family and loves them dearly. He gave her advice and comfort and told her she would be blessed for her faith in Christ. His letter was one of the most comforting things my mom received during this trial. It is true, once you were his friend, he always remembered and cared for you.
We are not the only family who has been blessed by the life and service of our sweet late Prophet Thomas S. Monson. In fact, I believe we are only drops in the bucket of the millions and millions of those he personally served. I had to choose only a few of my favorite stories from his life, but there are so many more. I love him so much. I look up to him and admire him so much. He is home now, resting in Spiritual Paradise with his wife, family and friends, and each of our beloved Prophet’s before him. He is no longer sick and in pain. He is with our Heavenly Father and Savior. We Thank Thee, Oh God, for our Prophet Thomas S. Monson. As much as we all–as a church–miss him, we are so happy for him to be home. Please, share your favorite stories of his life in the comments below in his honor, especially those which I didn’t include.