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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
BYU students listen as President Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks at a BYU devotional.

PROVO — Listing favorite foods ranging from pies to pickles and guiding principles from compassion to persistence, LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson provided a personal primer of his nine immediate predecessors as he spoke at Tuesday's Brigham Young University devotional.

President Monson, who in February 2008 became the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared a laundry list of information — tenures, traits, anecdotes and personal favorites — of the nine LDS presidents who have served in his lifetime as he spoke to a near-capacity crowd at BYU's 22,000-seat Marriott Center.

Each guided the church through writings, messages and examples. "To show us the way," President Monson said, "we have those whom the Lord has provided."

He highlighted guiding principles in paying individual tribute to the previous nine.

Some were one-word summations — such as "persistence" for President Heber J. Grant, "compassion" for President George Albert Smith and "dedication" for President Spencer W. Kimball — while others were multi-word phrases, such as "do your best" from President Gordon B. Hinckley and "be in tune with and be responsive to the whisperings of the spirit" from President Harold B. Lee.

President Monson also provided personal favorites for each— a hymn, a quotation and, to the smiles of his audience, a favorite food.

Besides the preferred dish of bread and milk favored by several, President Monson shared other culinary delights of modern-day prophets — President Joseph Fielding Smith's penchant for sweet pickles, President David O. McKay's craving for Cummings chocolates, President Ezra Taft Benson's taste for fresh raspberries and President Howard W. Hunter's choice of Alaskan crab.

President Monson also shared several examples and anecdotes — ranging from inspiring to humorous — for each of the nine who served the nine decades from 1918 to 2008.

Several anecdotes were tender personal interactions recalled by President Monson, such as his call to the apostleship in 1963 at the age of 36 from President McKay and the time President Lee — his boyhood stake president — graciously joined him in giving his son a priesthood blessing prior to surgery for a tumor in his leg.

"What can we learn from the presidents whom I have known and about whom I have visited with you today?" President Monson asked. "We can learn that they never wavered, never faltered, never failed; that they are men of God."

He included Jesus Christ in the equation. "Let us follow Him. He has sent presidents of the church whom we can have as a guide and whom we can follow."

President Monson deferred including any description of himself. "As the 16th president of the church, my story is yet to be summarized by those who will follow," he said. "In the meantime, I pledge my life, my strength — all that I have to offer — in serving the Lord and in directing the affairs of his church in accordance with His will and by His inspiration."

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