Gary Bell, returned missionary, Ogden resident
Upon arriving in Canada, Gary Bell recalls encountering President Thomas S. Monson, his mission president, at the Toronto train station. "I still remember him saying in a big booming voice: 'Hi. I'm Tom Monson. Welcome to the Canadian Mission.'
"I was always impressed with him as an individual and for his enthusiasm. I never met a missionary (in Canada) that wasn't really convinced he was someday going to sit in leading counsels of the church.
"I remember his capacity for leadership, setting goals and meeting them. I don't think he ever set a goal for his missionaries that we didn't met them."
There were many experiences where he would show up at a missionary's apartment or get an impression to go see them before they did something that was wrong. "He had this goal that he would never send a missionary home early, and he did everything he could to keep every missionary there."Annual mission reunions in October before the church's general conference each year have been a highlight in Bell's association with President Monson. "President Monson always kids his missionaries that 'when I look at you I have to add on 30 pounds and subtract hair so I can identify who you were."
Pamela J.Atkinson, vice president of Intermountain Healthcare's mission services
"He follows what I perceive as epitomizing the teachings of Christ.
"I think he is a great person. I think there is no doubt in my mind that he will build on President Hinckley's legacy in many ways, but particularly in the humanitarian component. He has rather a great deal of interest in what's going on with people who have so many needs, not just around the world but here locally.
"He always wanted to make sure the LDS Church is doing its part in the community.
"He has been interested in our efforts to end chronic homelesness. He's been in interested in our efforts to make sure everybody who wants to come in during this dreadful weather, like we're having right now, can.
"I don't know if people know how much the LDS Church gets involved with the nonprofit world. President Monson is very aware of what the needs are. If you look at the responsibilities he has with this worldwide church, and yet he has the finger on the pulse of what goes on in this local community.
"I love his sense of humor. Many people know about him being a bishop in a ward with all the widows, and how he continued to visit them. I think that's the measure of the man, that to him everybody is important.
"I'm always impressed when he gets up to speak and he doesn't have any notes, and he'll just speak for 10 to 15 minutes. Its obvious he thinks about it, but it just flows from him. He has this tremendous ability to tell stories, and I love that ability," she said. "It helps you understand more about the mind of Thomas Monson. He's a very, very bright man.
"He has some things, I think, in common with President Hinckley. I think both of them are gentle giants.
"President Monson has this great ability, when he's talking to you, he makes you feel like you're the most important person in the room. He treats you the way he wants to be treated himself.
"I don't remember ever hearing him introduce himself as President Monson. It's 'Hi, I'm Thomas Monson,' or if it's an LDS setting its 'Brother Monson.'
"He is so in tune with the world within the church and outside of the church too. He's very much in tune with other faiths."I don't think the LDS Church is going to miss a beat. he'll just build on that legacy and it will continue to grow. "
Floyd Max Widdison, returned missionary, Morgan County resident
Widdison and three other new missionaries arrived in Toronto by train, where they were told someone would be there to meet them. "This fellow said, 'Down here, elders,' beckoning us. I thought he just looked like a little older missionary, but it was President Monson.
"He was a very vigorous, energetic fellow at that time. Missionaries loved him. He's a great motivator. He knew every missionary's name."
"He would speak extemporaneously. I'm sure he had some thoughts he wanted to convey to us, but a lot of his talk to us was straight from the heart from him to us. He was a great missionary president. There was no doubt in any of our minds that some day he would be a general authority."Widdison noted that President Monson continued to preside at mission reunions each October, including last year when the missionaries also celebrated the 80th birthdays of both President Monson and his wife, Frances.
Wm. James Mortimer, Deseret News publisher 1985-2000
Wm. James Mortimer first met Thomas S. Monson in the early 1950s when they both had jobs affiliated with the Deseret News. Their work associations grew closer and closer over the years with Mortimer under Elder Monson's direction on a number of significant projects: A realignment of church printing services, the seven-year project to print new editions of the scriptures and then an association again at the newspaper.
"He was a hands-on manager and a manager of detail, but he gave you the full reign to do you job but he expected you to do it. He has that uncanny memory and remembers everything he told you to do," Mortimer said.
"It was not uncommon for me to be called to his office. He was the adviser to church printing services, Mortimer said. "I got a call one day to come to his office. When I walked into the office there was Brother (James E.) Faust as well as Elder Monson. Elder Monson asked Mortimer if he would fill a new vacancy as the Deseret News' publisher and editor. "How much time do I have to think about it?" Mortimer asked. "About 30 seconds," was the reply. "What do you do? You say 'absolutely yes."'
Elder Monson was chairman of the Deseret News board of directors when Mortimer took the paper's top job, giving the two men regular opportunities to interact. After President Gordon B. Hinckley pulled church general authorities from service on corporate boards, Elder Monson "never lost his interest (in the newspaper) and he never lost his care and concern; and he was always available for a telephone call his wisdom and understanding made him a very valuable person to the good of the newspaper. "
"I always felt like he was the perfect example of a workaholic. He is always working hard. At one time I think he said he could get by on four hours of sleep a night if ne needed to," Mortimer said.
"He expected those who worked with him to work with excellence. He expected us to do our very best."
Mortimer has had serious health challenges since his retirement in 2000, including three hospitalizations. "Somehow, some way, he found out. He came to the hospital personally to my room to visit with me and give me blessings. The compassion he showed and tender concern he showed I'll always remember."
"I know he did that with many, many others. He was a great hospital visitor. It was always a time of comfort and compassion and encouragement, through his visit and his blessings.Elder Monson also issued a church calling as a regional representative. "When he set me apart as a regional representative, he made an interesting comment. He said, 'Are you happy with this call?' I said, 'Yes.' He said: 'Good. I want you to be just as happy when you are released."
Stephen Hadley, returned Canadian missionary, State Industrial Board member
"Many have mentioned over and over gain his remarkable memory. That I think is a significant attribute of President Monson's. He seems to recall events and people, not just their names but something about them.
"He seems to find spiritual things that the normal person might not see as spiritual. When he tells you about it you recognized what you're missing, what you've missed in that event.
"He's always been guided by the Spirit in the things that he says and the things that he does. He's mentioned many times how he's about to go some place and is promoted to go to the hospital, go to a person's home, go to a person's activity, that he hadn't planned on. When he arrived he saw the need that was there. To me it's like he's been guided by an unseen hand to help someone who's in need, to someone who needs to be lifted.
"When you talk to him, it's like you're the only person in the room. His undivided attention is what it's all about.
"I don' think it was as obvious to his missionaries how young he was. When you first saw him you may have gotten the idea that he's another missionary, because of the youthfulness of his age and his looks. But the minute you stepped into his presence, the minute he spoke, then there was a great divide. You recognized that he was special and he was somebody different.
"When he talked, there was always a great spirit about his talk. There was always a point about his talk, and there was always a lively comment. He had a great tendency to boost missionaries' morale. We also recognized his wife (Frances) as a great help meet to be by his side with the challenges that were ahead and the challenges that were there immediately."
"He gave me some advice, which he's given quite a few times over the pulpit. But as I left the mission, he said, 'Never seek a job in the church; never reject a job in the church, unless it's something for health or otherwise; and don't quit when the going gets tough."