Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is celebrating his 81st birthday today.

According to church spokesman Scott Trotter, President Monson had a pre-birthday lunch Wednesday with other general authorities who were in town. Today, he will celebrate with his family.

President Monson has devoted his life to serving others. When Church News editor Gerry Avant asked what the ideal birthday gift would be, he gave a true-to-form answer:

"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."

The article about President Monson will be published in the LDS Church News in Saturday's Deseret News.

President Monson was born on Aug. 21, 1927, in Salt Lake City to G. Spencer and Gladys Condie Monson. He was sustained as president of the church on April 5, 2008. He had been named as the 16th president of the church on Feb. 4, 2008.

President Monson was set apart as first counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley on March 12, 1995. He also was set apart as president of the Quorum of the Twelve on that date.

He previously had been set apart as second counselor to President Howard W. Hunter on June 5, 1994, and as second counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson on Nov. 10, 1985.

President Monson was sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve on Oct. 4, 1963, and ordained an apostle on Oct. 10, 1963, at age 36.

Before being called as a general authority, he was general manager of Deseret Press. He began employment with the Deseret News in 1948 as an advertising executive and was later chairman of the board of the Deseret News for 19 years.

President Monson also served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, was ordained a bishop at age 22 in Salt Lake City and was called as president of the Canadian Mission in 1959.