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In our opinion: Frances J. Monson's unwavering legacy of service

Published: Friday, May 17 2013 2:05 p.m. MDT

President Thomas S. Monson and his wife, Frances, wave to the crowd after the Sunday morning session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 181st Annual General Conference Sunday, April 3, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (Tom Smart, Deseret News)
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) President Thomas S. Monson and his wife, Frances, wave to the crowd after the Sunday morning session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 181st Annual General Conference Sunday, April 3, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Frances J. Monson’s legacy of quiet service will continue to shine bright for generations. Church members and friends of the church worldwide will mourn her passing Friday at the age of 85, and her life will be celebrated far beyond the circles of those who knew her personally.

The way she lived her life will continue to stand as an example to current generations as they struggle to find meaning and fulfillment in life. Quiet, yet firm and unwavering in her convictions, her guidance and love are qualities an increasingly narcissistic world seems to devalue. But they are essential elements to building strong families and, by extension, strong communities and nations, and they are Christ-like attributes of leadership.

It would be impossible to describe the leadership of President Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, without the influence of Sister Monson, his wife. Throughout life, they have been a team of service, devotion and love.

Sister Frances Monson shares a moment with her husband, President Thomas S. Monson. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News) Sister Frances Monson shares a moment with her husband, President Thomas S. Monson. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News)

President Monson often has delighted in telling the story of how, when first dating his future wife, he learned it was his father’s uncle who, as a missionary, had helped bring her family into the church years earlier in Sweden. He describes how emotional her family became as they made that realization. In keeping with that remarkable connection, the couple found themselves embarked on a long life of church service and missionary work almost from the moment they married on Oct. 7, 1948.

President Monson was called to a bishopric less than a year later, followed by a calling to serve as a bishop at the young age of 22 and eventually as a mission president in Canada at age 31. Not long after, at age 36, he was called to serve in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. That level of responsibility made Sister Monson’s support and family mentoring invaluable. She not only made his service possible, she complemented it.

President Thomas S. Monson and his wife, Sister Frances Monson, leave the morning session of conference at the LDS Conference Center Saturday. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) President Thomas S. Monson and his wife, Sister Frances Monson, leave the morning session of conference at the LDS Conference Center Saturday. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Sister Monson was a child of the Great Depression, and those hard times instilled in her values and habits that shaped her character. Her children tell stories of her thrift, her relentless search for bargains, her dedication to provident living and her belief in self-reliance. These are not just old-fashioned virtues, they are enduring keys to successful living. Each makes it easier to focus life on the things that truly matter, and Sister Monson had a crystal clear understanding of those things.

The couple’s daughter, Ann Monson Dibb, once described her mother by saying, “My mother is unlike many of the women of today’s generation. Instead of looking for the recognition of the world, she has always received her acknowledgment of worth from such things as the happy smile of a son or the outstretched hand of a grandchild.”

Sister Francis Monson sits next to her husband, President Thomas S. Monson, before his talk Tuesday. He described Sister Francis Monson sits next to her husband, President Thomas S. Monson, before his talk Tuesday. He described "guideposts that stand for our direction." (Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News)

A generation that increasingly places value on clever Facebook statuses and self-serving YouTube videos could learn a lot from that statement. In 1865, William Ross Wallace penned the line, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Sister Monson rocked cradles and stood squarely with a man who became a prophet during a tumultuous time in the world’s history. Her enormous influence is impossible to measure, but it will be felt for a long time to come.

Matthew is a web producer for DeseretNews.com. Email: mhartvigsen@deseretdigital.com

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