Thomas S. Monson is the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are commonly
referred to as Mormons. On this website, we’ve covered many things he has discussed in his years as an apostle and then a prophet. In this article, we’ll explore what others have said about him.
Apostles are called to serve the church for the rest of their lives. As a result, they know each other very well, working together for so long. The following comments are from those who have served with him over the years.
Loyalty and Love
This singular quality of wholehearted devotion and uncompromising commitment seems as true of President Monson’s personal and family relationships as of his work habits—if that is possible. Loyalty is a word which often comes to the lips of those who best know Tom (or in his youth, “Tommy”) Monson. His is a deep-seated, undying loyalty to friends of many years, friends he might not be expected to remember in the rush of his now very busy life—but remember them he does.
His lifelong friend John Burt says, “Tom’s care of the widows who lived in his ward—eighty-seven of them—is an example of his loyalty and devotion to people. When the rest of us were released as bishops, we just kind of moved on to the next task and left the widows to our successors. Not Tom. He somehow found time to keep visiting them. He is the most loyal man I know. He never forgets where he came from, and he never forgets the people who knew him before he was ‘somebody.’ ”
Nearly all of those eighty-seven widows are gone now, but their “bishop” kept visiting them to the end. One night during the Christmas holidays some years ago, President Monson was making his customary rounds to “his” widows, leaving gifts purchased from his own pocket, including plump dressed chickens that were, in the early years, raised in his own coops. In one of the many Salt Lake City rest homes he has come to know so intimately, he found one of his ward members, alone and silent in the darkened room of a world made even darker by the onset of blindness. As President Monson made his way to this sweet sister’s side, she reached out awkwardly, groping for the hand of the only visitor she had received in the whole of the Christmas season. “Bishop, is that you?” she inquired. “Yes, dear Hattie, it is I.” “Oh, Bishop,” she wept through sightless eyes, “I knew you would come.” They all knew he would come, and he always did.
Jeffrey R. Holland, “President Thomas S. Monson: Finishing the Course, Keeping the Faith,” Ensign, Sep 1994, 12–13
I would like to say a few words about President Thomas S. Monson. Some years ago, President Monson came to a regional conference in Hamburg, Germany, and it was my honor to accompany him. President Monson has a remarkable memory, and we talked about many of the Saints in Germany—I was amazed that he remembered so many so well.
President Monson asked about Brother Michael Panitsch, a former stake president and then a patriarch, who had been one of the stalwart pioneers of the Church in Germany. I told him that Brother Panitsch was seriously ill, that he was bedridden and unable to attend our meetings.
President Monson asked if we could pay him a visit.
I knew that shortly before his trip to Hamburg, President Monson had undergone foot surgery and that he could not walk without pain. I explained that Brother Panitsch lived on the fifth floor of a building with no elevators. We would have to climb the stairs to see him.
But President Monson insisted. And so we went.
I remember how difficult it was for President Monson to climb those stairs. He could take only a few at a time before needing to stop and rest. He never uttered a word of complaint, and he would not turn back. Because the building had high ceilings, the stairs seemed to go on forever, but President Monson cheerfully persevered until we arrived at the apartment of Brother Panitsch on the fifth floor.
Once there, we had a wonderful visit. President Monson thanked him for his life of dedicated service and cheered him with a smile. Before we left, he gave him a wonderful priesthood blessing.
No one but Brother Panitsch, the immediate family, and myself ever saw that act of courage and compassion.
President Monson could have chosen to rest between our long and frequent meetings. He could have asked to see some of the beautiful sights of Hamburg. I have often thought of how remarkable it was that of all the sights in that city, the one he wanted to see more than any other was a feeble and ailing member of the Church who had faithfully and humbly served the Lord.
President Monson came to Hamburg to teach and bless the people of a country, and that is what he did. But at the same time, he focused on the one, name by name. His vision is so broad and far-reaching to grasp the complexities of a worldwide Church, yet he is also so compassionate to focus on the one.
When the Apostle Peter spoke of Jesus, who had been his friend and teacher, he offered this simple description: “[He] went about doing good.”
I feel the same can be said of the man we sustain today as the prophet of God.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Faith of Our Father,” Ensign, May 2008, 68–70, 75
How blessed we are to be led by a living prophet! Growing up during the Great Depression, President Thomas S. Monson learned how to serve others. Often his mother asked him to deliver food to needy neighbors, and she would give homeless men odd jobs in exchange for home-cooked meals. Later as a young bishop, he was taught by President J. Reuben Clark, “Be kind to the widow and look after the poor” (in Thomas S. Monson, “A Provident Plan—A Precious Promise,” Ensign, May 1986, 62). President Monson looked after 84 widows and cared for them until they passed away. Through the years, his service to members and neighbors throughout the world has become the hallmark of his ministry. We are grateful to have his example. Thank you, President Monson.
Robert D. Hales, “Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually,” Ensign, May 2009, 7–10
When President Thomas S. Monson was young, his parents taught him the principle of work by their examples. His father, a printer, worked long and hard practically every day of his life. When he was home, he did not stop working in order to take a well-deserved rest. He continued to work by providing service to family and neighbors alike.3 His mother was always working to provide some needed service to a family member or friend. President Monson’s parents often asked him to accompany them or to do some service for them, allowing him to learn firsthand about working to serve others.
President Monson learned from his father how to work in business and began his first part-time job when he was 14, working in the printing shop that his father managed. President Monson relates that after age 14, there have not been many days in his life—other than Sundays—when he didn’t work. “When you learn to work while you’re young, the habit stays with you,” he says.
H. David Burton, “The Blessing of Work,” Ensign, Dec 2009, 42–46