Monson Family Photo

A native of Salt Lake City, President Thomas Spencer Monson was born on Aug. 21, 1927. On Sunday, President Monson will celebrate his 89th birthday.

President Monson received an undergraduate degree from the University of Utah and an MBA from Brigham Young University. He worked for 15 years as an employee of the Deseret News but has since devoted his life to church service.

"I have a testimony of this great work in which we are engaged," President Monson said in a video biography, "On the Lord's Errand." "I don't know when I first obtained it. I think it came step by step, from goodly parents. I've always had a testimony. The sweetest experience I know in life is to feel a prompting and act upon it and later find out that it was the fulfillment of someone's prayer or someone's need. I always want the Lord to know that if he needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run that errand for him. I'm so grateful for his example, and that's who we serve."

He and his wife, Frances, who passed away in 2013, are the parents of three children.

This list is a compilation of information from a number of biographical articles written about President Monson and talks he has given.

Question #1
Monson Family Photo

As a boy, President Monson was fascinated by what animal?

a. Turtles
b. Pigeons
c. Horses
d. Squirrels

Answer
Ravell Call/Deseret News

b. Pigeons

As a boy, President Monson raised pigeons. Noticing his interest in the birds, one of President Monson's teachers quorum advisers gave him a set of purebred Birmingham Roller pigeons. After having the birds 10 days, he released the birds to see if they would return. The male bird returned while the female bird flew back to his adviser's house. When President Monson went to retrieve the bird, his adviser talked with him about a boy in the quorum who was not active. President Monson told his adviser that he would have the boy at quorum meeting the next week. Each time he released the birds, the female Birmingham Roller pigeon returned to his adviser's house and each time his adviser would talk to him about the needs of a different boy in the quorum. Through this simple act, every boy in the teachers quorum became active.

Question #2
Monson Family Photo

What service did President Monson's dad provide to his uncle that has stuck with him throughout his life?

a. Took him for a drive
b. Taught him to fish
c. Helped him fix his car
d. Took him dinner once a week

Answer
Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

a. Took him for a drive

Often on Sunday afternoons, young Tom accompanied his father as he picked up President Monson's uncle Elias to take him for a ride around the city . President Monson remembers that his father would tenderly carry his frail uncle, crippled by arthritis, to the car and place the older man in the front seat, where he would be able to enjoy the best view. “The drive was brief and the conversation limited, but oh, what a legacy of love!” President Monson recalls. “Father never read to me from the Bible about the good Samaritan. Rather, he took me with him and Uncle Elias in that old 1928 Oldsmobile and provided a living lesson I have always remembered.”

Question #3
Monson Family Photo

Whose example does President Monson attribute his desire to lift those in need?

a. His mother
b. His grandmother
c. His Primary teacher
d. His father

Answer
Deseret News Archive

a. His mother

Growing up, President Monson lived near railroad tracks. The young men who took the train west to find employment during the Great Depression would often stop at the Monson home.

“I saw my mother minister to those men, totally unafraid, no fear in her at all,” President Monson said in an Ensign article. “In fact, she gave them each a lecture that he should write his mother and tell her where he was and that everything was going to be all right. That same spirit carried forward with me. I have had great satisfaction in pursuing that same spirit of helping others.”

Question #4
Deseret News Archive

Which branch of the armed forces did President Monson join after high school?

a. Air Force
b. Navy
c. Army
d. Marines

Answer
Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

b. Navy

As he approached his 18th birthday, President Monson chose to enlist in the United States Navy Reserve. While in the Navy, President Monson learned to have courage in his convictions.

In his talk "Dare to Stand Alone," he shares an experience he had during his first Sunday in the Navy. As the officer called out where the different congregations would meet, everyone around President Monson began to leave. Though he felt alone, he determined to stand and wait for his religion to be called. The petty officer looked in his direction and asked, “And just what do you guys call yourselves?” President Monson realized he wasn't alone.

"Until that very moment I had not realized that anyone was standing beside me or behind me on the drill ground," President Monson said. "Almost in unison, each of us replied, 'Mormons!' It is difficult to describe the joy that filled my heart as I turned around and saw a handful of other sailors."

Question #5
Monson Family Photo

How was President Monson already connected to his wife before they were married?

a. Her brother was his close friend when they were younger.
b. His aunt taught her how to sew her first dress.
c. Her father met his father while serving their missions.
d. His uncle helped to convert her father while serving his mission.

Answer
Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News

d. His uncle helped to convert her father while serving his mission.

"Tom and Frances had met during his first year at the university. His relationship with her family was cemented the first time he was introduced to them," a biography on LDS.org said. "As Tom came to call, Frances’ father produced a picture of two Latter-day Saint missionaries from earlier years, both dressed in top hats. He pointed to one of the men in the photo and asked if Tom were related to this Monson. Yes, Tom replied, that was his father’s uncle Elias. Tears came to the eyes of Frances' father as he explained that Elder Elias Monson had been instrumental in his family’s conversion to the gospel. Tom smiled inwardly, knowing this courtship was off to a particularly good start."

Question #6
Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

What subject did President Monson earn his undergraduate degree in?

a. Business management
b. Public relations and marketing
c. Communications
d. Civil engineering

Answer
Tom Smart/Deseret News

a. Business management

He was manager of a printing company, and at an early age, young Tom began learning the business. Printing management would become his career. Following graduation (with honors) in 1948 from the University of Utah with a degree in business management, President Monson became an advertising executive for the church-owned Deseret News daily newspaper.

Question #7
Monson Family Photo

How many widows were in President Monson's ward when he became a bishop at the age of 22?

a. 42
b. 84
c. 76
d. 60

Answer
Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News

a. 84

At the age of 22, President Monson was called to be the bishop of a large ward with 1,080 members, 84 of those members being widows who needed the bishop's help.

At Christmas time he would visit each of the widows and take each of them a hen from his own poultry flock. Even after his time serving as bishop ended, he continued to visit the widows.

"Each would ask me to speak at her funeral,” he said according to an article in the Ensign. But concerned about how much traveling he did, he would reply, 'Good heavens, I’m overseas sometimes five weeks at a time, and I won’t be here.' 'No,' they would say, 'we pray that you’ll be here.'

"Between 1950 and 2000, President Monson spoke at the funerals of all 84."

Question #8
Deseret News Archive

What has President Monson taken with him to put in his office throughout all of his church callings since he was a bishop in the 1950s?

a. A sculpture of pioneers
b. A painting of Christ
c. A family Bible

Answer
Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

b. A painting of Christ

"Over the course of his many callings in the church, President Thomas S. Monson has moved from office to office, location to location. With every move he has carefully taken with him a particular painting. He has had it since he was a bishop in the 1950s," Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said in a biography he wrote about President Monson. "He took it with him when he presided over the Canadian Mission, headquartered in Toronto. It now hangs in the office he occupies as president of the church. The painting is a striking image of the Lord Jesus Christ by famed artist Heinrich Hofmann.

"The painting is more than a decoration for the office wall. It is more than a reminder of who is the 'chief corner stone' (Ephesians 2:20) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is more than a declaration that the man called to be president of the church is expected to be chief among the living witnesses of the Savior. The painting represents an ideal — the Master after whom Thomas Monson has modeled his life. 'I love that painting,' President Monson said as he gazed at it yet again. 'I feel strength in having it near me. Look at the kindness in those eyes. Look at the warmth of expression. When facing difficult situations, I often look at it and ask myself, "What would He do?" Then I have tried to respond accordingly.'"

Question #9
Laura Seitz/Deseret News

What organization is President Monson a "lifelong friend" of?

a. Boy Scouts of America
b. International Rescue Committee
c. Lion's Club
d. Daughters of the American Revolution

Answer
Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

a. Boy Scouts of America

In addition to his other service to youths, President Thomas S. Monson has been a lifelong friend of the Boy Scouts of America, which has for nearly a century served as an activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa and other countries such as the Philippines and Taiwan. He has served on the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America for more than 40 years. President Monson says, “I believe in the power of Scouting to bless and enrich lives for good.”

Question #10
Brent Asay, Utah Jazz

How many years has President Monson been a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a member of the First Presidency or the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

a. Nearly 35 years
b. Nearly 43 years
c. Nearly 53 years
d. Nearly 58 years

Answer
LDS Church

c. Nearly 53 years

President Thomas S. Monson was ordained an apostle on Oct. 10, 1963. He was then just 36 years old.

"President Thomas S. Monson has served as the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since Feb. 3, 2008," according to his biography on LDS.org. "He had served as a counselor in the First Presidency of the church since Nov. 10, 1985. Most recently, on March 12, 1995, he was set apart as first counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley. Prior to that, on June 5, 1994, he was called as second counselor to President Howard W. Hunter, and on Nov. 10, 1985, as second counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson."

Question #11
Deseret News Archive

What did President Monson do following the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley?

a. He read President Hinckley's most recent general conference address.
b. He called his wife to tell her.
c. He went to his knees in prayer.

Answer
Gerry Avant, LDS Church News

c. He went to his knees in prayer.

President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson served together as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or in the First Presidency for more than 40 years.

Following the death of President Hinckley, President Monson said he went to his knees, “thanking my Heavenly Father for life, for experience, for my family, and then directly asking Him to go before my face, to be on my right hand, to be on my left hand, and His Spirit in my heart, and His angels round about me to bear me up” (see D&C 84:88).

Question #12
Gerry Avant, Deseret News

When President Monson was 14 years old, what did his Scoutmaster do while on a three-day camping trip that he's never forgot?

a. Taught him how to fish
b. Told him to catch all the fish and left them
c. Carved him a walking stick
d. Taught him to wiggle his ears

Answer
Monson Family Photo

b. Told him to catch all the fish and left them

President Monson shared the following in a 1993 general conference talk:

"When I was 14 years old, our troop went to Big Cottonwood Canyon on a Scout outing. After setting up camp, our leader said to me, 'Monson, you like to fish. I’m giving you two fishing flies — a black gnat and a white miller. Now you catch enough fish to feed this troop for the next three days, and I’ll pick all of you up on Saturday.' He departed. I never questioned his charge. I knew if I did my part I’d catch the fish and feed the troop. And I did. I was a man before I realized it just isn’t proper for the Scoutmaster to bail out on the boys. But what a learning experience it was for us."

Question #13
Deseret News Archive

Which U.S. President appointed President Monson to serve on the President's Task Force for Private Sector Initiatives?

a. Ronald Reagan
b. Jimmy Carter
c. Richard Nixon
d. Bill Clinton

Answer
Deseret News Archive

a. Ronald Reagan

President Monson served on the President’s Task Force for Private Sector Initiatives from December 1981 when he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan until December 1982 "when the work of the task force was completed," according to LDS.org.

Question #14
Gerry Avant, Deseret News

When President Monson became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, how many active temples were there in the world?

a. 25
b. 7
c. 12
d. 21

Answer
Gerry Avant, Deseret News

c. 12

President Monson will no doubt be remembered for his effort to continue President Hinckley's goal to "dot the earth" with temples.

"When I became a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1963, there were 12 operating temples in the entire church," President Monson said in his April 2016 general conference talk. "With the dedication of the Provo City Center Temple two weeks ago, there are now 150 temples in operation throughout the world. How grateful we are for the blessings we receive in these holy houses."