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A book 'befitting of a prophet'

Published: Monday, Sept. 27 2010 5:00 a.m. MDT

The mission president's wife was making cookies in England when the jaw-dropping phone call came.

The ensuing conversation changed Heidi S. Swinton's life.

LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson was on the line and he wanted Swinton to write his biography.

"I was shocked," Swinton said.

She had met President Monson a few times but didn't know him well. She could think of a hundred other people more qualified to do the project. She was in Europe. She felt overwhelmed, but how do you say no to the prophet? The award-winning author and screenwriter was about to climb the Mount Everest of Mormon literature.

"President, I would be honored," Swinton said.

Exactly 26 months later, on Aug. 18, Swinton was smiling as she stood next to the tall church president as he pressed the button to fire up the printing press for a 588-page book titled "To The Rescue: The Biography of Thomas S. Monson."

"What an incredible experience to spend your time studying such a great man," Swinton said. "There is nobody in the world right now just like him."

A product of countless hours of researching, writing, endless editing and fact checking, the recently released volume chronicles the life of a man who has spent decades serving and reaching out to others around the world. Page after page is filled with typical President Monson accounts that touch the heart and inspire. There are quotes from other general authorities, colleagues and those in his inner circle that provide insight into his personality and character. There are more than 140 rarely seen color and black-and-white photos.

Cory Maxwell, Deseret Book director of publishing, said the hefty book is a treasure trove of inspiration.

"I have a hard time thinking anyone could read this book and not feel inspired," Maxwell said. "I just came away so impressed with this great man and his ability to combine attention to the needs of the global church with his remarkable ability to render service to the individual."

Special assignment

Swinton first met President Monson when she was working on a PBS television project about Joseph Smith, "American Prophet." At the time President Monson gave her a blessing: "You can't write about a prophet without getting a blessing from a prophet," he told her.

In June 2008, when he asked Swinton to pen his biography, he reminded her of the blessing and said it would stand to serve on this project as well.

"I had that security … and that was very important to me. But I was still scared to death," Swinton said. "But it worked. I got a lot of good help from wonderful people, and it made all the difference."

While assisting her husband, Jeffrey C. Swinton, in presiding over the England London South Mission, Heidi Swinton worked all hours of the day. She carried her laptop around the mission and ducked into cold church classrooms when possible.

After returning stateside in summer 2009, Swinton was provided a desk outside President Monson's office in the Church Administrative Building, where she had access to 45 years of his daily journals, letters, talks and files. When she had a question, she popped her head into his office.

For two years she didn't sleep well at night and blank computer screens haunted her thoughts.

On those days when she struggled, she only had to reach for a binder on the shelf and read something. More often than not it was exactly what she needed. That's when she knew she was getting help from unseen sources.

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