Days shy of his 90th birthday, President Thomas S. Monson sits in the living room of his downtown Salt Lake City condominium and receives visitors.
His counselors in the First Presidency, President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, spend a few minutes with the Church leader — as they do on a regular basis — and wish him a happy birthday.
Surrounding the trio are reminders of the nine decades of President Monson’s life.
A photograph of President Monson and the late Sister Frances Monson leaving general conference hangs on the wall; Sister Monson is waving. A painting portrays the story of the Old Testament prophet Daniel standing in the Lion’s Den. A center piece of beautiful trout is featured on the living room table. And above the fireplace hangs a painting by VaLoy Eaton, given to President Monson at a BYU Management Society dinner where he was honored with the 2004 Distinguished Utahn Award. In a letter President Monson later sent to the artist, he said: “In this painting, which will be featured prominently in our home, you have captured a favorite spot of mine on the Provo River.”
Because of the limits of age, President Monson no longer attends meetings at the Church offices.
A Church statement issued May 23 regarding his health said President Monson is “grateful that the work of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles continues without interruption” and that he “appreciates the prayers and support of Church members.”
On this day, the love and watchcare for President Monson from his counselors in the First Presidency is obvious.
Of the venerable leader — who has given more than half a century of service as a General Authority and who will celebrate his 90th birthday on Monday, Aug. 21 — President Eyring says, “his faith and his concern for all of Heavenly Father’s children have brought joy and peace to people across the world.”
President Uchtdorf says the Church has been blessed by President Monson’s “humor and wit, memorable stories, and inspired counsel and messages.”
On Oct. 4, President Monson — who was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1963 — will have served as a General Authority for 54 years.
In his first conference address, President Monson shared a powerful testimony — which, in the 54 years since, he has shared across the globe. “I know that God lives, my brothers and sisters,” he said. “There is no question in my mind. I know that this is His work, and I know that the sweetest experience in all this life is to feel His promptings as He directs us in the furtherance of His work. I have felt these promptings as a young bishop, guided to the homes where there was spiritual, or perhaps temporal, want. I felt it again in the mission field as I worked with your sons and your daughters — the missionaries of this great Church who are a living witness and testimony to the world that this work is divine and that we are led by a prophet.”
And he concluded the talk with a sincere promise: “I pledge my life, all that I may have. I will strive to the utmost of my ability to be what you would want me to be. I am grateful for the words of Jesus Christ, our Savior, when He said: ‘I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him’ (Revelations 3:20).
“I earnestly pray, my brothers and sisters, that my life might merit this promise from our Savior.”
Days before his birthday, President Monson reiterates a birthday wish of almost a decade ago. When asked to describe his ideal birthday gift in 2008, President Monson said, “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.”
It is the same message President Monson shared last April in general conference, when he asked Church members to examine their lives and follow the “Savior’s example by being kind, loving and charitable.”
“As we do so,” he continued, “we will be in a better position to call down the powers of heaven for ourselves, for our families and for our fellow travelers in this sometimes difficult journey back to our heavenly home.”
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