Editor's note: First of a four-part series looking at the ministry of President Thomas S. Monson.
President Thomas S. Monson has spent most of his life in the service of God — and for the past 50 years, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, First Presidency and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At the young age of 22, President Monson was called to be bishop of a ward with many needs, of which he often speaks.
At 31, he became president of the Canadian Mission, which he presided over for three years.
In 1963, at age 36, President Monson became the youngest man in 53 years called to the Quorum of the Twelve.
And five years ago, President Monson was called as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But it isn't the milestones of this prolific leader that set him apart as a minister among men. It's a life lived in fulfillment of the four purposes of the LDS Church: perfecting the Saints, proclaiming the gospel, redeeming the dead, and caring for the poor and needy.
Perfecting the Saints
President Monson's many years of service have provided him with ample opportunities to address the membership of the LDS Church collectively. His remarks continually seek to uplift, and perfect the Saints.
Characteristic of President Monson's declaration that "decisions determine destiny," the prophet made a choice while serving as a young bishop that has defined the course of his life.
After failing to heed a prompting to leave a stake meeting to visit a member of his ward in the hospital, President Monson found out minutes too late that he had missed the last moments of the man's life. The man had been calling out for Bishop Monson before he died.
At that moment, President Monson vowed that he would never again fail to follow a prompting of the Spirit.
"No man could have been more true to that vow. Indeed, his life has been one miracle after another in response to his faithful adherence to promptings of the Spirit," Elder Jeffery R. Holland recounted in relating this experience in a 2008 Liahona article titled, "President Thomas S. Monson: In the Footsteps of the Master."
Through his example, President Monson teaches others to follow and trust quiet promptings.
“I am always humbled and grateful when my Heavenly Father communicates with me through his inspiration. I have learned to recognize it, to trust it, and to follow it," he said during an October 2011 conference talk titled "Stand in Holy Places."
With an ever-present attitude of "how can I help?" during his ministry, President Monson has sought to instill this ideal within the members of the LDS Church.
"The needs of others are ever-present, and each of us can do something to help someone," President Monson said in his October 2009 conference talk "What Have I Done For Someone Today?"
In an interview before the prophet's 81st birthday in the summer of 2008, President Monson was asked by the Church News what the members could give him as a gift.
"Do something for someone else on that day to make his or her life better. Find someone who is having a hard time, or is ill, or lonely, and do something for them. That's all I would ask," he said in the interview.
And the response was overwhelming. The next year, President Monson received hundreds of letters from members old and young, recounting the service they had rendered to someone in need.
"My heart has seldom been as touched and grateful as it was when Sister Monson and I literally spent hours reading of these gifts. My heart is full now as I speak of the experience and contemplate the lives which have been blessed as a result, for both the giver and the receiver," he said in his conference address.
In 1984, President Monson produced the idea of a multi-stake conference, replacing area conferences and instructing the Saints to live better lives.
"Resolve to make room in your life for Jesus Christ. We have time for jogging, time for working, time for playing. Let us make time for Christ," he told one congregation, as recounted in "To the Rescue."
He used the opportunity to counsel the Saints to heed the words of the prophet and of the spirit.
Woven throughout each word of counsel is the underlying message of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and hs ultimate sacrifice — a gift which President Monson reminds members of the LDS Church to be constantly grateful for.
"It is my prayer that in addition to all else for which we are grateful, we may ever reflect our gratitude for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His glorious gospel provides answers to life’s greatest questions ... That gospel brings to those who live in darkness the light of divine truth," he said in his October 2010 conference talk, "The Divine Gift of Gratitude."
Emmilie Buchanan-Whitlock is an intern for the Deseret News with Mormon Times. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: emmiliewhitlock
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