On the Lord’s Errand: The Life of Thomas S. Monson

On the Lord’s Errand: The Life of Thomas S. Monson


Once you were his friend,
you never lost him, nor he lost you. He has never forgotten
his boyhood chums or family members. Our neighborhood on Fifth South,
we pretty well played in the streets. He was a bit of an athlete when
he was a young fellow. He played basketball. But he was a self-starter,
he didn’t have to be told everything. He was 100% when he decided
to do something. When he was going to get my
bottle ready, he would put the milk in a little old pan on
the stove that wobbled and keep putting his finger in it
to see that it was warm yet. He’d pray an awful lot, and
that was one thing that we were aware of. He’d pray for the food, he’d
pray for things that happened. And I noticed him, many times,
he would take a hat off and say a prayer, even when he was
out on the stream fishing. When President Monson was
a very young bishop — I think one of the youngest
in the Church, he was 22 years old — he obtained a Heinrich Kaufmann
portrait of the Savior, and he has had that
picture of the Savior with him everywhere he has
ever gone since. And it’s still in his
office today. He loves the Master
and he follows the path of the Master. He walks the path
of the Master. One of his favorite scriptures
probably says it best, he is always “on the Lord’s errand.” Thomas Spencer Monson was born
on a Sunday morning, August 21, 1927, at the old Saint
Mark’s Hospital on Second West, in Salt Lake City. His parents, G. Spencer and
Gladys Condie Monson, were of hardy Swedish, English, and
Scottish ancestry, and made a loving home for Tom, his two
brothers, and three sisters. In 1927, there were just over
600,000 Latter Day Saints, most of them living in the
American West. Heber J. Grant was President of the Church, and
in three years the Church would celebrate its
100th anniversary. Tom grew up on Salt Lake City’s
west side, in the midst of a close family of grandparents, aunts, and uncles. His grandfather, Thomas Sharp
Condie, had purchased property on the southwest corner of Fifth
South and Second West, built his own home there, and
provided homes for each of his four daughters and
their husbands. Tom was always welcome and
totally at ease in any of their homes, never feeling
the need to knock. My father did have an idyllic
setting as he grew up. He loved his relatives
and everything that they did for him. His aunts and uncles. It was as though he was
their son as well. His mother and father were
very good people. We loved them both. They loved the Gospel
and they have taught it to their children. My mother was a friendly,
outgoing person. She would talk to people
on the bus. She made friends instantly. Being around Gladys, you
know, it was what you call a hoot, I guess. People say, Gladys, how
did you raise a son to become an apostle? And she’d smile and, with her
own sense of humor, say, well it wasn’t easy, but
I persevered. My father was a hard worker, he
worked 12 hours a day, six days a week. He was the provider. He put the money aside so that
we could have an education. Sunday was my father’s
only day off. I’m sure he would’ve enjoyed
relaxing at home, but invariably he would say, come
along Tommy, let’s take Uncle Elias for a drive. Bored in the old 1928
Oldsmobile, we would proceed to Eighth West, to the home
of Uncle Elias and Aunt ‘Tine, I would be waiting in the car
while dad went inside. Soon he would emerge from the
house, carrying his crippled uncle in his arms like
a little china doll. I would open the door and watch
how tenderly my father would place Uncle Elias
in the front seat. Then we’d take him for a
ride around the city. Dad never wanted any thanks
for this service, but his lesson was not lost on me. For generations, Tom’s family
had spent each summer at a small cabin in Vivian Park,
in Provo Canyon. There, along the banks of the
Provo River, Tom first gained from his uncles what
would become a lifelong love for fishing. “I would sit on the bank for
hours, ” Tom recalled, “and look at the mountainside
across the river. Those were happy years. Dream-filled years.” One summer afternoon,
12-year-old Tom was floating on a tractor-tire inner tube
down the river, towards its swiftest part, when he heard the
frantic cries of a Greek immigrant family
from the bank. Just ahead in the whirlpools,
a young lady swimmer was disappearing under the water
for the third time. And the girl’s head emerged,
and I grabbed her by the hair — she would be about 14, I suppose
— and pulled her across my lap, in
that inner tube. And while she cried and was
spitting water, I took the other hand and paddled her
through the whirlpool and into the little eddy and up to the
bank, and then handed her to her parents. They threw their arms around
her, weeping and kissing. Then they grabbed me, they
hugged and kissed me. I was embarrassed. You know, no boy wants to
be kissed by a lot of older men and women. So I quickly returned
to my tube and continued down the river. As he thought about what had
happened, “I realized,” he said, “I have participated
in saving a human life. Heavenly Father had permitted
me, a deacon, to float at precisely the time
I was needed. That day, I learned that God,
our Heavenly Father, knows each one of us and permits us
to share His divine power to save.” At age 16, Tom was expected to
forego swimming and fishing in the Provo River and work
full-time during the summer. He got a job at Burton Lumber
and Hardware Company, unloading boxcars of cut
lumber in 100-degree temperatures. At this time, America had
entered World War II and US combat efforts were not
going well overseas. It was during this bleak time
that stake patriarch Frank Woodbury placed his hands on
16-year-old Tom Monson’s head and conferred a truly prophetic patriarchal blessing. “You shall be indeed a leader
among your fellows,” the patriarch said. “Seek the Lord in humility to
guide and direct you in the high and holy callings unto
which you shall be called.” In 1944, Tom enrolled
as a freshman at the University of Utah. Shortly after, at a university
dance, Tom first saw the young lady who would become
his wife. Tom had taken a girl from West
High and they were dancing to the popular song “Kentucky,”
when Frances Johnson and another young man danced by. “I caught a glimpse of her,”
Tom said, but he didn’t see her again that evening. About a month later, while
waiting for the street car at 13th East and Second South, he
saw Frances and another girl standing together. They were with a grade school
acquaintance of Tom’s named Paul Wilkinson. Tom walked up to Paul and said,
“Hello, old friend, how are you?” It worked. “As I said goodbye,” Tom
recalls, “I quickly took out my student directory and
underlined the name Frances Beverly Johnson.” That evening,
Tom called her and arranged their first date. As my mother was contemplating,
is this really the man that I want to marry? It was cute as my mother shared
with me how her mother said, you look at the way Tom
takes care of his grandfather. Because my father did love his
grandfather, and he would shave him and he would get
his clothes ready. Any man that takes care of his
grandfather the way Tom takes care of his grandfather will
be a wonderful husband. And that became a big selling
point in my father’s favor. Tom and Frances’ first date
was to a dance at the Pioneer stake gym. More dates followed. But as spring turned to summer
in 1945, Tom realized his days as a civilian were numbered. On October 6, 1945 Tom went to
the train depot in Salt Lake City to ship out for basic
training in San Diego as a member of the United States
Naval Reserve. Among those saying goodbye was
John Burt, a member of the bishopric who handed
Tom a copy of the Missionary Handbook. “I’m not going to mission,”
Tom protested. “Take it along, ” Brother
Burt said. “It may come in handy.” Upon arriving in San Diego,
Tom had his first taste of military life. “The naval base seemed
to stretch for miles,” Tom recalled. “I’m convinced the training was
designed to toughen us, as well as humble us. It succeeded.” One night, before returning home
for Christmas leave, Tom and his fellow sailors
were lying on their bunks, nearly asleep. Suddenly a man in a nearby
bunk, Leland Merrill from Murray, Utah, said, “I’m sick. I’m sicker than I’ve ever been.”
Tom suggested he go to the dispensary and have
a doctor look at him. Merrill said he would be kept
for observation and not allowed home for Christmas. The moans increased. Finally, Merrill said, “Monson,
aren’t you an elder?” The time was 2:00 AM. Tom had indeed been ordained
an elder prior to enlisting in the Navy. Merrill said, “Will you
give me a blessing?” I thought to myself, I’ve
never given a blessing. I’ve never received
a blessing. I don’t know that
I’ve ever seen anyone receive a blessing. And then I remembered, I’ve got
something in that sea bag that might help me. And I dumped the gear on the
deck and took out that Missionary Handbook. And I went into the cubicle
where the night light was shining and I read how you
administer to the sick. And then I went back there
and gave him a blessing. And when I said amen, he
was purring like a kitten, sound asleep. The next morning, as we
assembled to the march off to get on the buses to go home for
home leave, Leland Merrill said, “Monson, I’m glad you hold
the priesthood.” And I said, “I’m glad I do, too.” I was just very grateful for
the priesthood and to have friends that were watching
out for me. I guess it must have made quite
an impression on Tom because he’s remembered it all
these years, and so have I. In 1946, the war had ended
and Tom returned home. Two years later, he graduated
with honors from the University of Utah, with
a degree in Business. Turning down job offers from
Standard Oil of California and Procter & Gamble on the east
coast, he chose to work for the Deseret News as assistant classified advertising manager. In the meantime, Tom and
Frances’ relationship had grown and deepened. Finally, Tom went to Davis
Jewelry and selected a the diamond engagement ring
to surprise Frances. After hiding it at home,
he carefully planned a special evening. On the night he determined to
become engaged, Tom brought Frances to the house. As soon as she entered, Tom’s
youngest brother Scott blurted out, “Tommy has a ring for you,
Frances.” “I was very irritated to have my surprise
exposed,” Tom remembers. Tom and Frances were married
in the Salt Lake Temple for time and eternity on
October 7, 1948. Thus began one of the
truly exemplary marriages in the Church. My mother is the other part of
my father’s success story, because she’s been supportive
of him in everything that he has done. Since the first day of our
marriage, it was just a wonderful experience. We didn’t question whether we
feel unhappy that he was gone all the time or working
so hard. So we just sort of grew
up with that. We still do. The wife of a member of
a bishopric or a stake presidency has a little
different life than others. You’re away from them
a lot to meetings. And some social events have to
be foregone because of a meeting here or a blessing
to be given there. But I have never, in our entire
marriage, have heard her complain. Anything I had to do
in the Church, she always sustained me. At the time of their marriage,
Tom was serving as the Sixth-Seventh Ward clerk. One morning, he sat silently
taking minutes while the bishopric discussed the lack
of success with the young people in their ward. Presently, the young clerk said,
“Excuse me brethren, but may I say something about the
MIA and the youth challenges in this ward?” He then delivered a profound
summary of not only what was wrong with the youth program,
but what could quickly make it right. Then realizing he may have been
presumptuous, he said, “Forgive me, I think I’ve said
too much,” and excused himself to take role in the
elders quorum. He was no sooner out the door
than the bishopric looked at each other and said, what
are we waiting for? They immediately called him
back, released him as ward clerk, and called him to be the
superintendent of the MIA. Within months, the Sixth-Seventh
Ward youth program, with its committed
young superintendent, was drawing more people to MIA
than sacrament meeting. The Lord prepares his leaders
when they’re young. And if there was ever a good
example of that, it’s with Thomas S. Monson. He was always different
from the rest of us. I believe he was
a born leader. He had energy that is beyond
belief, and enthusiasm that was just contagious. He has a presence, when he
walks into the room, that people look up to him — because
he is a big man, and they do look up to him — but they look to him for
guidance in every situation. It wasn’t long before the new
MIA superintendent was called by Bishop John Burt to
serve as his Second Counselor in the bishopric. When Bishop Burt was called a
few weeks later to serve in the Temple View stake
presidency, Tom was certain that a ward member serving on
the high council would be Bishop Burt’s successor. “To my amazement,” Tom said,
“the call came to me.” Here he was, 22 and 1/2 years
old, serving a ward which had more than 1,000 members,
including 85 widows, and one of the largest welfare loads
in the entire Church. Bishop Monson chose men much
senior to himself as counselors. “We were installed on Sunday,
May 7, 1950, a fast day,” Tom remembers, “and immediately
set to work.” The old Sixth-Seventh ward chapel had
begun refurbishment under the previous bishopric with the
painting of its exterior. Bishop Monson followed this
with extensive interior renovation, including the
installation of new benches. Ward members gladly provided
the labor. Tom remembers, “With the
redecoration of the building and the rejuvenation of spirit,
the ward literally came alive. Sacrament meeting attendance
doubled, then quadrupled, completely filling
the building. A large part of the congregation
was elderly. “I had a love for the older
people,” Tom said. “These were good people who
loved the Lord and kept his commandments.” Even after his
release as bishop, Thomas Monson continued to take a gift
and visit every one of the 85 widows of the ward, every
Christmas, for as long as each lived. It’s interesting that he has
been able to speak in every funeral for those 85 widows. That’s an almost impossible
feat, given our travel, given our committee assignments, the
other things that come in the life of a general authority. But with the hand of the Lord
upon him, he was able to do that for each of those widows
who had so requested it. On a winter night in 1951, young
Bishop Monson responded to a knock at his door. A German Church member from
Ogden announced his family was coming from Germany and
would live in the Sixth-Seventh Ward. He asked if the bishop would
go with him to survey the apartment he had rented
for them. On their way, the visitor, Karl
Guertler, told Bishop Monson that he had not
seen his brother Hans for many years. Arriving at the corner of Fourth
South and Second West, the two ascended a staircase. “It isn’t much,” brother
Guertler said, “but it’s more than they’ve had in Germany.” As
Bishop Monson surveyed the cold, uninviting apartment, he
recalls, “I was heartsick. I thought, what a dismal welcome
for a family that has endured so much.” Tom did not
sleep well that night. The next morning, in ward
welfare committee meeting, one of his counselors asked,
“Bishop, is something wrong?” And I told the committee members
of my experience. It was as though the spirit of
the Lord just enveloped us. And they said, what can we
do about that, bishop? Edward Eardley, the group leader
of the high priests, spoke up and said, I’m a master
electrician and I have three helpers. We’d like to rewire
that place. And I have contacts with those
who sell refrigerators and those who sell stoves, and
I’ll get one donated. A new one of each
one of those. And then another person spoke
up, namely a painter, contractor, brother Bowden. He said, I’m a contractor for
painting and I can get my paint less than wholesale. And my crew and I will
paint the house. And then that wonderful relief
society president said, relief society women do not like
empty cupboard shelves. We will fill them. And we went about doing that,
we had two weeks to do it. The night the Guertlers came,
they showed the appearance of someone who’d shed many tears. And all the way up the staircase
to the second floor, I remember brother Guertler
saying, now it isn’t much, Hans, it isn’t much. But it’s the best we could do,
it’s the best we could do. And then they opened the door. Talk about a vision. There was a nice carpet, laid
by my counselor who was a contractor for carpet laying. And then there was the
wallpaper, all nice and new, and the painting nice. There was the Christmas
tree, all decorated. Absolutely everything
anyone would need. I was 15. I was a very insecure
teenager. We had not had a real home since
before the war, when our apartment building was bombed. So we always had to double
up with other families. And to walk into an apartment
and to know it would be ours was just beyond comprehension
to us. It was like a shock. I couldn’t believe it. He put the key in front
of me and said, you are in your own apartment. As we left and our little band
who’d done all this work came out onto the street,
they were silent. And they said, why is it that
this will be the best Christmas we’ve ever
experienced? I said, do you remember the
final verse of “Little Town of Bethlehem?” “No ear may hear His
coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will
receive Him yet, the dear Christ enters in.” He entered
into the apartment, he entered into the lives of all who were
part of that experience. As Bishop Monson matured in
his responsibilities, he learned many lessons. Among them, the importance of
following the Spirit and trusting in the Lord. One night, during a state
priesthood leadership meeting, he had the distinct impression
that he should leave the meeting immediately and drive to
the Veterans Hospital, high on the avenues of
Salt Lake City. Before leaving home that night,
he had received a phone call informing him that an older
member of his ward was ill and had been admitted to
the hospital for care. Could the bishop, the caller
asked, find a moment to go by the hospital and give
a blessing? The busy young bishop explained
he was just on his way to a meeting, but he would
certainly go by the hospital afterwards. Now the prompting was
stronger than ever. Leave the meeting and proceed
to the hospital at once. Bishop Monson looked
at the pulpit. The stake president
was speaking. He didn’t see how he could stand
in the middle of his talk and make his way over
an entire row of men. Painfully, he waited out the
final moments of the stake president’s message, then bolted
for the door, even before the benediction
was announced. Running the full length of the
corridor on the fourth floor of the hospital, the young
bishop saw a flurry of activity outside the
designated room. A nurse stopped and said,
“Are you Bishop Monson?” “Yes,” he replied. “I’m sorry,” she said. “The patient was calling your
name just before he died.” Fighting back tears, Bishop
Monson walked back into the night. He vowed at that moment that
he would never fail to act upon a prompting
from the Lord. He would immediately follow the
impressions of the Spirit, wherever they led him. No one can understand President
Thomas S. Monson who does not understand the
frequency, the repetition, of those kinds of spiritual
promptings in his life, and his absolute loyalty in
responding to them. When I was called as a bishop,
I recognized I was the president under the priest
corps and I wanted to get every boy out. There’s one boy that
never came. And I thought to myself, I’m
sitting here with the priests, they’ve got an adviser. I’ll leave them to get the
lesson from the adviser. I’m going to go find
Richard Casto. And I went over to his home. Mother and dad were home and
they said he was working over at the West Temple Garage. So I went over to Fifth South
and West Temple, and the door was open but nobody there. And so I started looking
around, you know? Nobody. So I went around the back and
there was one of these old-fashioned grease pits. And I looked down into the
darkness and I could see two eyes looking at me. He said, you got me, Bishop. I’ll come up. And he came up out of the grease
pit and we had a nice little visit there together. And I said, Richard,
we need you. You have a way with people and I
want to have every priest in attendance. Will you come? He said, I’ll come. And he came. After that, I served
a mission. I was sealed to my wife
in the temple. We have five great
children, two of them have served missions. I’ve served as a bishop twice. My children have a great love
for him and my wife has a great love for him, because
of what he did for me. It’s probably one of the
greatest blessings that I’ve ever received in my life. During his service as Bishop,
two children were born to the Monson family. Tom, in 1951, and
Ann, in 1954. Tom recalls, “We felt as though
life was very good to us, which it was.” About this time, President
Joseph Fielding Smith came to reorganize the Temple View
stake presidency. On Sunday June 16, 1955, the
general session of stake conference was held
in the assembly hall on Temple Square. The Aaronic priesthood
and bishoprics were providing the music. Joseph Fielding Smith stepped
to the pulpit and announced the new stake presidency. Percy K. Fetzer, President, John
R. Burt, First Counselor, and Thomas S. Monson,
Second Counselor. He then said, “Bishop Monson
knows nothing of this calling, but if he will accept it, we
will be pleased to hear from him now.” So I had to make the long walk
from the choir seats down to the pulpit, thinking, what
am I going to say? The song we had just sung
concerned the Word of Wisdom. “Have courage, my
boy, to say no. Have courage, my boy to say
no.” And I said, “My theme today is, have courage,
my boy, to say yes. And I do so with my
heart and soul.” Along with increasing Church
responsibilities, Tom was progressing in his
career as well. In 1953, he was named assistant
general manager of Deseret News Press. I don’t know of anybody that
Tom Monson dealt with that didn’t love him. All of us in the automobile
business and in the real estate business came to know
and to love this good man. He just had the ability to reach
out and touch hearts. In 1957, Tom and Francis built a
new home for their family on a one acre lot in the suburbs
near Salt Lake. The move to a full acre on the
outskirts of the city seemed like paradise to the
young family. Then on February 21, 1959, Tom
was summoned to the office of Stephen L. Richards of
the First Presidency. Thinking this meeting concerned
the General Handbook of Instructions currently
being printed, Tom was unprepared for what followed. President Richards called him
to serve as President of the Canadian mission. He indicated he should take a
leave of absence from his employment and be prepared
to depart in three weeks. When Tom returned home, he found
Frances lying down, ill from the pregnancy of
their third child. When I told her, there
was no question about what she would accept. When we told our children,
our son Tommy said, oh boy, when do we go? We said, in about three weeks. He said, great, when
do we come back? We said, in about three years. The reality of what was
happening became clear. I can still remember the cold,
snow-filled day that I rented a truck and we took our
furniture from our dream home and prepared to leave
Salt Lake City. It was an emotional day for
Frances and for all of us. I noted that she stroked the
doorjamb and there were tears in her eyes. We withdrew the children from
school and then took the train to Toronto. The young family arrived at
the mission home at 133 Lyndhurst Avenue and immediately
embarked on a tour of the very large mission. “Then we realized,” Tom said,
“that all the responsibility of presiding over the entire
Canadian mission now was squarely upon our shoulders.” He looked younger than half the
missionaries in the field. He was thin and very athletic. He played basketball,
he had played basketball with the elders. And we sensed in him a kind
of a green missionary. Someone who — not that we’d ever think of
taking advantage of him — but we thought, well we have had
six months on this mission, President, and there are
some here that have been out two years. And we thought we could
maybe teach him. We were dead wrong. On October 1, 1959, Frances
gave birth to their third child, Clark Spencer Monson. President Monson recalls, “It
was nice for the missionaries to have a new baby in
the mission home. It seemed to bring a touch of
their own families closer to them.” 133 Lyndhurst Avenue
was a busy place to raise a growing family. With missionaries coming and
going, the Monson family rarely had dinner alone. Each night, when it was about my
bedtime, he would invite me into his office, or I would
knock on the door and go into his office. And he would pull out a
checkerboard that he kept in one drawer and lay it
out on his desk. And I would sit by his desk and
we would play checkers for 10 or 15 minutes. And that was something that
was my time only with him, that I appreciated very much. Spurred on by their young
mission president, the missionaries began to
be more productive. Convert baptisms increased. The building program
gained momentum. “I was pleased with
our progress,” President Monson said. “An attitude of success
permeated the mission.” In August 1960, Elder Mark E.
Peterson of the Quorum of the Twelve came to Toronto to
organize the Toronto stake, the 300th stake of the Church. The general sessions of this
special stake conference were held in Toronto’s Odeon
Carlton Theatre. Every one of the 2,249
seats were filled. It was the largest percentage of
members in attendance at a stake conference anywhere
in the Church. I remember there was lots of
excitement in the mission because it was the first
stake that was organized in eastern Canada. And he announced that
day who were to be the different leaders. And when he got up and announced
that I was to be the I’d never heard about it. stake primary president, I was
a little bit shocked, because So when we met after, he said,
I knew you’d say yes. And it was just thrilling for us
as missionaries to be there and to know that we’re finally
a stake of the Church. After three years of labor,
President Monson received a letter of honorable release
from the First Presidency. As we departed Toronto, we left
a little of our hearts in this beautiful city. The memories, ever dear,
have been retained. Shortly after returning to Salt
Lake City, Tom was named general manager of the
Deseret Press. He was now responsible for the
largest printing plant west of the Mississippi. On Thursday afternoon, October
3, 1963, Tom was working at his office when a call came
from Clare Middlemiss, secretary to President
David O. McKay. After coming on the line and
exchanging pleasantries, President McKay said, “Brother
Monson, could you visit with me some time?” After a positive
response, President McKay said, “Could you come
to the office now?” Placing everything aside, Tom
drove to Church headquarters, where he was ushered into the
office of President McKay. He had me sit next to him on a
chair at the side of his desk. Then with a great emotion he
said, “Brother Monson, with the passing of President Henry
D. Moyle, I’m named Elder Nathan Eldon Tanner to be my
Second Counselor in the First Presidency. And the Lord has called you to
fill his place in the Council of the Twelve Apostles. Could you accept
that calling?” I was overcome, but finally
assured him I could. He then welcomed me to the
ranks of the general authorities and indicated this
would be a most rewarding experience, and one where my
talents and energies would be used to the maximum. And then he instructed me that I
should tell no one except my wife, and informed me that I
would be sustained at the Friday morning session at
conference the very next day. Returning home, Tom felt little
like eating dinner. He told Francis he had some
printing proofs to deliver and asked if she would like
to come with him. They drove to the East Bench of
Salt Lake City and parked adjacent to This is the
Place monument. Together they walked around
the monument, reading the inscriptions and pondering the
pioneers and their heritage. As they returned to the car,
Frances said, “What’s wrong? You have something on your
mind.” He then revealed to her the sacred nature of his call. “That night, neither of us slept
very well,” Tom said. “My feet were like ice.” The next morning at general
conference, Tom made his way toward members of
the priesthood home teaching committee. As he was about to sit next to
Hugh Smith, Hugh said, “You don’t want to sit there. Twice before, the men sitting
next to me were called to be general authorities.” Tom took
his seat, regardless. It is now proposed that we
sustain the following as members of the Quorum of
the Twelve Apostles. Joseph Fielding Smith, Howard W.
Hunter, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas S. Monson. An astonished Hugh Smith
whispered, “Lightning has struck a third time.” I pledge my life, all that I may
have. I will strive to the utmost of my ability to be what
you would want me to be. I’m grateful for the words of
Jesus Christ, our Savior, when he said, “I stand at
the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and
open the door, I will come into him.” I earnestly pray, my
brothers and sisters, that my life might merit this promise
from our Savior. In the name of Jesus
Christ, amen. The following week, at a special
meeting of the First Presidency and Council of the
Twelve in the Salt Lake Temple, Thomas S. Monson was
ordained an apostle and set apart as a member of the
Council of the Twelve. Elder Monson said, “It was one
of the most dramatic days of my life.” Major responsibilities came
almost immediately. He was named as chairman of
the Adult Correlation Committee, as adviser to the
Young Men and Young Women’s Organizations, chairman of the
Church Leadership Committee and area supervisor for
missionary work in the western United States. In 1965, assignments among the
Twelve were rotated and Elder Monson was assigned to supervise
the missions of the South Pacific, including
Australia, New Zealand, and the islands of Polynesia. During his first visit to Samoa,
he visited the small village of Sauniatu and spoke
at the Church school to a large gathering of
small children. As the closing hymn was
announced, Elder Monson suddenly felt compelled to
personally greet each of the 247 children. Checking the clock, he saw that
time was too short and discounted the impression. Then, just prior to the closing
prayer, he again felt a strong impression to shake
the hand of each child. Upon communicating this desire,
both the instructor and children were overcome
with joy. The instructor then revealed the
reason for their elation. He said, when they learned a
member of the Twelve was coming, he told the children if
each would earnestly pray and exert great faith, the
apostle would be impressed to greet each child with a
personal hand clasp. “Tears could not be restrained,”
Elder Monson said, “as each of these precious
children walked past and whispered a sweet
‘talofa lava.'” The people of the Pacific
Islands have such great faith. On one occasion I had come to
the President Hugh B. Brown on an assignment to Samoa. We were met by local members
who told us of the extreme drought that plagued the area. The members said they had been
fasting and asked President Brown and me to join them in a
supplication to our Heavenly Father that moisture
would come. This we did. During the general meeting at
the Church school, we heard the clap of thunder. And soon the heavens opened and
the rain descended, making such a noise that one could
scarcely hear as the rain pounded upon the tin roof
of the building. President Brown turned to me and
said, smiling, “Now that we got it turned on, how
do we turn it off?” As we concluded the meeting, we
went to the small airport. We overheard a New Zealand pilot
who just landed speaking to one of the airline
personnel. He said, “I don’t
understand it. Not a cloud in the sky,
except over the Mormon school at Mapusaga. President Brown turned to me and
said, “Go tell him why.” I gladly did. During his years as a member
of the Twelve, Elder Monson made weekly visits to the
stakes of the Church. These assignments were always
made by the President of the Twelve, who announced the
conclusion of their weekly temple meeting. “I like this approach, Elder
Monson said, “for I could then feel that the assignments
I received came from inspiration.” Such was the key case in
Shreveport, Louisiana, where he experienced one of the most
sacred events of his life. The weekend of August 24, 1974,
Elder Monson had been assigned to El Paso, Texas. Several days prior, President
Ezra Taft Benson called Elder Monson to his office. He asked if he would mind being
assigned elsewhere. Then President Benson said,
“Brother Monson, I feel impressed to have you visit
the Shreveport, Louisiana stake.” On the evening of Friday, August
23rd, Elder Monson arrived in Shreveport. The next day was filled with
meetings at the stake center. During a break, Stake President
Charles Cagle apologetically asked if Elder
Monson would have time to give a blessing to a 10-year-old girl
afflicted with cancer. Her name was Christal Methvin. Elder Monson asked if she would
be at the conference or if she were in a Shreveport
hospital. President Cagle barely whispered
that Christal was confined to her home some 80
miles from Shreveport. Elder Monson examined
the schedule, even his return flight. There was simply no time. An alternative plan was made to
remember the young girl in the public prayers at
stake conference. On that basis, the schedule
of meetings resumed. When we were informed that Elder
Monson could not come, we were deeply disappointed. When the tumor had spread to
the lungs and the brain, we had decided that we wanted to
take Christal to Salt Lake and have her given a blessing
by a general authority. We looked at a picture of the
general authorities and we looked at a picture of Elder
Thomas S. Monson and we showed crystal this picture. And she looked at it and
she said, he looks like a very nice man. I think he’s the right one. We never made that flight
to Salt Lake due to her health situation. We knew that she could
not make the flight. We informed her that it wasn’t
going to happen. Her response was, well if I
can’t go to Elder Monson, then surely he can come to me. When we learned Elder Monson was
going to come to our stake conference, we were elated
because we thought our prayers were answered. But when we heard that he
couldn’t make the trip on further south to see us and give
Christal a blessing, we didn’t know what to think. But we did the only thing that
we knew to do, and that was to place it in the hands
of the Lord. And so, as a family,
we knelt in prayer. As the Methvin family prayed,
the clock in the stake center showed 7:45 PM. Elder Monson was sorting his
notes, preparing to step to the pulpit during a leadership
meeting, when he heard a voice speak to his spirit. The message was brief. “Suffer the little children to
come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the
kingdom of God.” Elder Monson made a decision. The meeting schedule
was changed. He turned to Bishop James Serra
and asked him to leave the meeting and advise
the Methvins. And while we were praying, the
phone rang and Bishop Serra, a bishop in one of the wards in
Shreveport, informed us that Elder Monson would be in our
home the next morning. And that he asked us if we would
fast with him and he would be there to give Christal
the blessing. I’ve been in hallowed places,
even holy houses, but never have I felt more strongly the
presence of the Lord than in the Methvin home. Christal looked so tiny,
lying peacefully on such a large bed. I gazed down on a child that was
to ill to rise, almost too weak to speak. So strong was the spirit that
I fell to my knees, took her hand in mine, and said simply,
“Christal, I’m here.” She whispered, “Brother Monson, I
just knew you would come.” I looked around the room. No one was standing. Each was on bended knee. A blessing was given, a faint
smile crossed Christal’s face. Her whispered “thank you”
provided an appropriate benediction. Quietly, we each filed
from the room. Four days later, as Christal’s
name was remembered in the prayer circle of the First
Presidency and Council of the Twelve, the pure spirit of
Christal Methvin left its disease-ravaged body and entered
the paradise of God. I bear witness that
Jesus of Nazareth does love little children. He listens to their prayers
and responds to them. The Master did indeed utter
those words, “suffer the little children to come unto me,
and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.”
I know these are the words he spoke to the throng
gathered on the coast of Judea, for I’ve read them. I know these are the words
he spoke to an apostle on assignment in Shreveport,
Louisiana, for I heard them. He and I we’re leaving to go
to a large meeting and suddenly he saw a woman, a young
girl, and her family in need, and felt immediately to
attend to that and let the meeting start without
us, if necessary. The people of Europe and the
people of the world are grateful to have a leader with
these wonderful talents. A man who focuses on the
one but has a heart for the whole world. I remember standing with four
or five German saints in the cold and rain on a hilltop,
overlooking the city of Dresden, and rededicating
the land. As I offered the prayer and
spoke the words, “May this be the dawning of a new day for the
Church in this land,” we heard a rooster crow in
the valley below. The church bell begin to chime
and suddenly I felt warmth on my hands and face. I opened my eyes to see that
the clouds had parted and a ray of sunshine engulfed the
tiny point where our small band stood. We knew it was a confirmation
from our Heavenly Father that the prayer was heard and
would be answered. One of the wonderful blessings
and pronouncements he made was that the members in East Germany
will have all the privileges of all the membership
around the world, including the temples. And through his efforts,
following through with meeting with political leaders, the
Freiberg Temple came and blessed the people in a
marvelous and wonderful way. If it weren’t for Brother
Monson, there would be little for our saints in this
part of Europe. The president has given
everything to those people, including the shirt
off his back. I mean it, I’ve seen him give
away his shirts and his suits to those destitute saints
in eastern Europe. He says they’re used, old ones
that he’s going to throw away anyway, but all those looked
brand new to me. During his years in the Twelve,
one of his most important assignments was
serving as chairman of the Scripture Publication
Committee. Over many years, Elder Monson
supervised an exhaustive process involving hundreds
of scholars, designers, technicians, and printers, which
eventually resulted in new editions of all four
standard works of the Church. Thomas S. Monson had a unique
qualification for that. He was a printer and he knew
paper, texture, binding. He was the one that went back
and forth to England to check the publications and so we had
Bruce McConkie and myself and him that worked through those
years to accomplish that. Really a great endeavor, equal
to almost anything I know of that’s happened in
my lifetime. In 1979, as President Monson
was touring the Cambridge plant, he looked at one of the
press lines and pulled a sheet from the end of the press and
saw what was a mistake, an important column rule
had been omitted. Cambridge was amazed that they
hadn’t found it, but he did. And he was there to correct
what could have been an omission of some significance. In addition to his apostolic
labor, Elder Monson has been called upon to render
significant civic duties as well. He served as a member of the
Utah Board of Regents, the governing body for higher
education in the state. He has also served for decades
on the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of
America, and as a member of President Ronald Reagan’s Task
Force for Private Sector Initiatives. Individuals are served not
6,000 at a time or not 13 million at a time. They’re served one by one. I was at breakfast this morning
with three brothers who had lost their father. One of them mentioned
Brother Monson. He said, he’s my favorite,
he just inspires me. This is a 16-year-old boy. He always considers himself
our really good friend. I think something that always
makes me laugh is a quote by Elder Faust. He once said that
if he could kind of start over, he’d like to come back as
one of President Monson’s grandchildren. I had overheard my grandpa
saying coming to my grandma like, we need to make more
memories for the children. And my grandma would always
just roll her eyes and be like, oh no, what has he
got up his sleeve now? In June 1985, Elder and Sister
Monson traveled to the German Democratic Republic for the long
awaited dedication of the Freiberg Temple. For me, the dedication marked
the completion of 17 years of service to the membership of
the Church and the German Democratic Republic. The completion of the house of
the Lord in that setting is a latter-day miracle. The tremendous faith of the
members, coupled with the wish of God’s prophet, caused
the barriers of man and governments to collapse before
the mighty will of a divine providence. Following the dedication, Elder
and Sister Monson flew to Frankfurt and participated in
groundbreaking services for the Frankfurt, Germany temple. Next stop was Stockholm, Sweden,
where Elder Monson hosted the King and Queen of
Sweden at the open house of the new Stockholm temple. President Hinckley described
this week, which witnessed two temple dedications and a
groundbreaking for a third, as the most significant week
in the history of the Church in Europe. It was indeed such, as well as
one of the most significant periods of my life
and ministry. On November 10, 1985, after
22 years of service in the Council of the Twelve Apostles,
Thomas S. Monson was called by President Ezra Taft
Benson to serve as Second Counselor in the First
Presidency. Nine years later, he was called
as Second Counselor to President Howard W. Hunter,
and in 1995, as First Counselor to President
Gordon B. Hinckley. President Monson has made a
tremendous contribution to the Presidents of the Church
that he has served. He’s a wise counselor,
he knows the Church. He knows the organization, he
knows the needs of the people. And so when he would give
counsel, it was always very, very much on target. On February 3, 2008, Thomas S.
Monson was ordained and set apart as the 16th President of
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His impact can be seen now that
the mantle of the prophet has fallen on him in
even a greater and more marvelous way. I’ve seen it, I can
testify of that. I have seen how he has changed
from a marvelous man to the prophet of God. He has been guided, he’s been
led, he’s been prompted, he’s been refined. He’s had all those experiences
that a prophet has to prepare one to speak in the name of the
Lord, to be the President of this Church and to guide the
destiny of the kingdom of God on earth. He’s all he should be, to be
President of the Church. Particularly, he isn’t some of
the things you shouldn’t be to be President of the Church. He’s absolutely without guile. He came from an ordinary
family. He’s an ordinary man that’s
done extraordinary things. I’ve time and time again
seen the spirit of God come upon him. Both in the capacity to bear
testimony of the Savior and to know what God would
have him do. And he has a complete commitment
to do whatever he’s inspired to do for the Lord. I have a testimony of
this great work in which we are engaged. I don’t know when I
first obtained it. I think it came step by step,
from goodly parents. I’ve always had a testimony. The sweetest experience I know
in life is to feel a prompting and act upon it and later
find out that it was the fulfillment of someone’s prayer
or someone’s need. I always want the Lord to know
that if he needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run
that errand for Him. I’m so grateful for
His example, and that’s who we serve. This is the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints. I honor that name, I
honor this church. The work is true. That I testify of that truth
from the depths of my soul and would say, may God bless us,
every one, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

100 Replies to “On the Lord’s Errand: The Life of Thomas S. Monson”

  1. wow, wow, wow. no words, i never knew this much about our president Thomas S. Monson and i am much more happy to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, knowing how powerful and spiritual our church leaders are. A real life example of CTR !!!

  2. I always enjoy these type of videos, I have always been fascinated by President Monson, I hope he had a happy rest of his life

  3. What an amazing example to follow. I love the simple beautiful things the gospel has to offer. "Tom Monson on the lords Errand"  We Love You Thomas S. Monson Your AWESOME!!!! 🙂

  4. president Monson, oh how great your wonders are to the church. i am a member of the needles California ward and i am completely marvelled at your words and actions. you have inspired many people and continue to do so. i am fourteen and a second counsler of the teachers quorum. I am so grateful for you. I hope someday i meet you and i hope i get to visit the beautiful salt lake city and all the things within. the second coming draws closer and closer, and i am willing to diligently serve heavenly father till that beloved day that draws so near. But Mr. Monson, i bid to u farewell, may the spirit be with you for the preparation of General Conference

  5. Gordon B. Hinckley: The First President of The Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) at the time I was introduced to the truest church of . God had established on earth at this time. The teaching is continued by President Monson. The TRUEST teaching.

  6. every one who has commented you should read The book of Mormon you will feel The spirit pray to Heavenly Father to see if this is true I know it is true

  7. I am grip with emotion watching this biography of our President and Prophet Thomas S.Monson, I know the church is totally true 🙂

  8. Dear President Monson, I wanted to thank you for a lifetime of service to your Brethren. You do inspire me to be a giver of service in joy. I do love you Dear Prophet. I have seen the "Straight and Narrow Pathway", with your help "I Can hold tight to the Iron Rod".

  9. DEAR PRES MONSON I PRAY FOR YOUR HEALTH THANKS FOR THE GOOD EXAMPLE AND THE SPIRIT THAT YOU SHARE LOVE YOU.

  10. One of the most profound and inspirational documentaries you will ever see…Our beloved Prophet and President Thomas S. Monson- God bless you forever and we strive to heed your words and deeds of good faith…Thank you for being so inspiring!

  11. Since 1820, the Lord has taken 16 stones 💎 to light the way (Ether 3.1) through these times of difficulty & strife (dc 1.15, 133.12-14): SMITH, Young, Taylor, Woodruff, Snow, SMITH, Grant, SMITH, McKay, SMITH, Lee, Kimball, Benson, Hunter, Hinckley, & now Monson (Amos 3.7) –> Mt 16.16-18 (1 Cor 10.3,4)❗️

  12. i always love this man of God and i could not forget the first time i saw him in Cebu Phils. Temple during it's dedication…he is such a huge man but a very soft spoken prophet and i love him dearly

  13. DEAR,PRESIDENT MONSON, I JUST WANT THANKS  YOU FOR SHARING THE GOSPHEL AND SERVICE LORD PEOPLES .YOU HAVE INSPIRED ME IN ALOT DIFFERENT WAYS .THIS VIDEO MAKE ME BREAKING DOWN TEARS .I HOPE YOU AND FAMILY BEST HEALTH AND JOY.

  14. Thomas Monson is truly a remarkable human being. May God and the Lord Jesus Christ continue to bless him for years to come.

  15. this is the best message i have ever hear. the story of Thomas s. monson make's me feel good that he saved that young man's life

  16. I was born and raised as catholic…not sure how it happened or why, but I have lost some of my faith….I'm not into any religion, as I have been following the ways of the Monks lives.I'm a Buddhist, I just love their simple humble lives.Past few days I have been thinking of God and his son….our beloved Jesus.I started off by listening to one of my favourite Hymns 'How Great Thou Art' then was followed by 'Joseph Smiths:The Prophet of the Restoration' and for another obscure reason known to me, I have just watched 'On the Lord's Errands:The life of Thomas S. Monson….This gave me a warmth inside, making me feel not alone….was like being embraced…

  17. Rest in Love President Monson.. Your words have impacted my life and your testimony of Jesus has inspired me to be a better person.

  18. I speak boldly about my personal inspiration & regarding the passing of President Monson. My life under his Presidency was inspired by the words he spoke and his love for missionary work. His life experiences has impacted and will always inspire my testimony. The church is true and I say these words with heartfelt convictions that with all of my imperfections the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true

  19. We know you are resting in peace with your beloved Frances dear prophet. Millions he blessed during his ministry and hundreds of millions will still be inspired to follow the promptings of the Spirit thanks to his teachings.

  20. Dear Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and of the greatest of these titles, Son of GOD, Our Loving Family is Eternally grateful for the wizdom You have shared with so many for so long. We will keep You in Prayer and will always remember Your six marks of a true finisher: vision, effort, faith, virtue, courage, and Prayer( peace with/communication with GOD). You have turned the most adverse of critics into following believers who now partake of the goodness of GOD! We Love You and will see You soon enough.

  21. There are few people in the world today we can admire…President Monson was one of those, just as all the previous Prophets of the LDS Church. I thank him for his life long service, inspirational and heart felt counsel, unconditional love for everyone….and the list could go on. His sweet spirit will be missed.

  22. What a amazing man our President really was!!! We love you Tommy Monson, n we love & appreciate all your work in this mortal world. We know that you are continuing the work in the after life!!!

  23. I think it's fair to say, that he was one of the greatest men that ever walked the earth! I'm truly thankful ,to say he was my prophet! He helped to bring, the light of christ to the PEOPLE!

  24. once a very powerful man in the LORDS WORK I learnt a lot form his councilings Gob be u till we meet again at jesus feet.

  25. I feel the Spirit of President Monson though he is gone ahead to be with His Maker. I miss you President Monson.

  26. I came to watch this after watching his live funeral service…I'm truly inspired…I always think as a newly convert I'm still learning n don't have the knowledge to be a teacher which I've been called to be. Thank you President Thomas Monson for been an inspiration! I have to be obedient n do the Lords errands!

  27. Rest In Peace Thomas Monson. I bet they had a seat waiting for you as soon as you landed.
    2 Timothy 4:7:
    7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

  28. God bless you Graham O'Shaughnessy. May God lead you in the path of righteousness all the days of your life. I pray that you will be led to the truth and the way of light and everlasting life!

  29. President Monson's words of council, and voice were always a comfort and blessing to my ears, and spirit. Truly he was a Prophet of God amongst us.

  30. I had no clue that President Thomas S. Monson had done ALL of that. It is so amazing what one person can do at so young. Sadly this amazing president has now passed. ):

  31. i am greatly humbled by this great man of God who was filled with the Holy Ghost… what a beautiful legacy… an awesome calling… i wanted so much to meet him… he was an anointed man of God… this church will never see another like him… may he rest in the loving arms of God's peace and grace… amen

  32. God Bless The Thomas S Monson Family. What a beautiful and wonderful man. God and heaven needed a hero. Sincerely: Randall Taylor

  33. President Monson used to visit my grandpa in the nursing home he was crippled from the neck down and my grandpa just left President Monson he was once his bishop. . When my brother was 18 years old he was hit by a car on 39 S. and seventh E. she ran a red light. My brother almost died and when I was at the hospital my brother was in so much pain. Then President Monson so up and gave my brother a blessing and he stopped screaming , my brother told me that when he say President Monson that the came in the room with him he saw the lord walk in the room with President Monson .i will never forget that experience my brother immediately stopped screaming and was at peace because of President Monsonand that the lord was with him, saved my brothers life so he was special to me and my family. Thank you President Monson for being there for saving my brothers life and being there for my family I love you President Monson you taught us a lot and I am grateful for that💕💕🙏🙏

  34. Jesus nasceu em Belém. e depois de ter nascido dá-se a fuga para o Egipto .Pois o Rei Herodes havia condenado á morte por decapitação a todos os menores até 2 anos de
    idade.

  35. I love you, Prophet Monson, your inspiration good example has filled my life with happiness and loved to share the gospel with others💖

  36. We thanks thee oh God for the Prophet. He's one of the very talent Men im Rm n here many Prophet talks Monson is good speaker is make me cry then laugh…thanks for a Prophet alive in this World.

  37. I blessed my mum Today with no knowledge the lord works through the holy ghost and made me say things I think wasn't in my Vocabulary, I thank thee father for his example ad a 18 year old there's no other example to take on the mission then to look at President Monson what a blessing we have to have him as a prophet.

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