Mormon church President Thomas S. Monson has made care for poor and sick a hallmark of his ministry
Gerry Avant, Deseret News
At the age of 22, LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson started his lifelong calling of lending a helping hand, visiting the sick and comforting the lonely. He had just been called as the bishop of his ward of 1,060 members. He spent his Christmas vacation from work visiting each one of the 85 widows in his ward, hand-delivering a card and wishing each one a Merry Christmas.
President Monson grew up in a house with parents who prepared him for a lifetime of service. He lived with his family near railroad tracks where homeless or transient people often came knocking on their door, looking for food or a little help. His mother always welcomed them into her kitchen, poured them a glass of milk and fixed them a sandwich. He learned to love serving others by watching the example his parents set.
Throughout his life, the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been known for his willingness to serve the sick and needy. In March, he urged people to ask themselves every evening when they sat down for dinner, "What have I done for someone today?"
After hearing of a terminally ill woman who longed for a visit from him before she died, he got into his car, stopped only once to purchase a gift and drove into unfamiliar territory to the woman's home. When he arrived, the woman was in a semi-comatose state, however, he sat down and talked to her, just as she had wanted. Her grandson was certain she knew who he was and understood his words.
Heidi S. Swinton's biography about President Monson tells the story of when he visited his mother in the hospital right after he became an apostle for the LDS Church. As he walked through the halls of the hospital, he ran into numerous people asking for a visit or help. He did not turn any of them away, and by the end of the evening, he had visited two hospitals.
When he turned 81 in 2008, President Monson was asked what his ideal birthday gift would be. Without hesitation he said: "Do something for someone else to make his or her life better. Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely, and do something for him or her."
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