Frances Monson, wife of LDS prophet, passes away

Published: Friday, May 17 2013 8:05 a.m. MDT

Sister Francis Monson sits next to her husband, President Thomas S. Monson, before a talk. He described "guideposts that stand for our direction."

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson visited his wife, Frances Monson, in the hospital on Thursday night with their daughter, Ann Monson Dibb. Sister Monson had been hospitalized for several weeks.

“Frances,” President Monson said, "tomorrow is May 17. It’s my father’s birthday, and it’s your father’s birthday.”

Ann’s heart skipped a beat.

“I had forgotten that,” Dibb said Friday. “And as soon as he said that, I thought, ‘Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow?’ … That was an indication to me. It’s been almost 60 years since my mother has been with her father. It was time that they welcomed her home.”

Frances Beverly Johnson Monson died Friday at 6:35 a.m., surrounded by family. She was 85. An LDS Church news release indicated she died of “causes incident to age.”

The Monsons had been married for more than 64 years. During a talk in the April 2008 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Monson — considered a prophet by more than 14 million Mormons who believe families sealed in LDS temples can live together forever — urged men in the church to treat their wives with dignity and respect because "they're our eternal companions." He added, “I thank my Father in Heaven for my sweet companion, Frances. … I could not have asked for a more loyal, loving and understanding companion.”

Sister Monson was born in Salt Lake City on Oct. 27, 1927, the daughter of Franz Emanuel Johnson and Hildur Augusta Booth Johnson. She attended Emerson Elementary School and East High School and was proficient in both piano and tennis by the time she was a teenager. Sister Monson described her childhood self as a tomboy who liked playing ball and taking long hikes.

She studied science and math at the University of Utah, financing her college education with jobs at the Deseret News and as a bookkeeper in a large department store. She also earned the church's Golden Gleaner award, part of a now-discontinued program for 18-to-30-year-old single church members, by meeting a rigorous set of requirements for church activity and self-improvement.

Choosing to be a full-time mother after concerns early in her marriage that she wouldn't be able to have children, Sister Monson raised three children — Thomas Lee Monson, Ann Frances Monson Dibb and Clark Spencer Monson. She encouraged her sons to become proficient at raising Birmingham Rolling Pigeons; taught her daughter how to stretch grocery dollars and shop for bargains; performed household repairs on things like electrical switches and broken plumbing; and was the go-to person in the Monson families for assembling children’s gifts ranging from doll houses to bicycles.

“She came along in a generation where being a wife and mother was sort of what was expected,” said Gerry Avant, editor of the LDS Church News, author of that 1975 profile. “But I can’t help but feel that if Frances Monson were a contemporary woman today in her 30s or 40s, I think she would choose to be what she was — because she was genuine.

“I don’t think she ever felt any need to apologize to anybody for what she was doing. She exemplified womanhood, not just motherhood. She was a woman of character, a woman of purpose.”

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