I wasn’t surprised to learn of President Thomas S. Monson’s passing. I was surprised he didn’t go sooner. He didn’t look that great when we last saw him in Conference. It amazes me he lasted as long as he did.
But the Lord governs the life span of His prophets just as He governs His Church. And President Monson’s time has come.
Thousands viewed his body in the Conference Center before his Church-broadcast funeral service, also held in the Conference Center. Generous and well-deserved praise reminded us who President Monson was. His body was then taken to the cemetery for a private service with family.
All of this is most appropriate. Somehow, though, I find myself more reflective now than when President Hinckley died. Then I was a little disappointed to see President Hinckley go. I wanted him to stay just a little longer.
Now with President Monson’s passing, I’m relieved his suffering has ended. But I find myself wondering about legacy.
Those who came before
Each modern-day prophet I can remember seems to have a legacy. The earliest prophet I remember is Spencer W. Kimball. He encouraged us to“lengthen our stride” and do more today to forward the Lord’s work.
Then came Ezra Taft Benson, best known for his classic discourses on the Book of Mormon and pride. Though with us briefly, Howard W. Hunter encouraged us to make our temple recommend the great seal of our Church membership.
Then Gordon B. Hinckley wore the mantle, and was he ever versatile! It’s partly why I like the man so much.
We saw accelerated growth in the numbers of full-time missionaries and temples. Particularly impressive to me was not only the reconstruction of the Nauvoo temple but also President Hinckley’s insistence that the dedication be shared with the entire Church. And then there’s the Conference Center and the Orchestra at Temple Square.
Plus, who can forget the 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace? And I rejoiced when President Hinckley announced the Perpetual Education Fund. Having served my mission in Guatemala, I knew first hand how desperately needed that program was.
President Hinckley tried to do more in every way he could. It was as though he was the culmination of the legacy of the prophets who came before him.
The man himself
And President Monson? When I think about his legacy, what comes to mind? Honestly, when I think about President Monson, I simply see a good man.
That may not seem like much, especially by comparison. But what made him a good man? Why do I have that image of him?
Perhaps it’s because he simply loved people and did what he could to serve them. If President Monson had any theme as the Prophet, it would have to be loving service.
The Mormon Channel has placed an excellent biography of President Monson’s life on YouTube. Although produced back in 2013 and very brief, the video does effectively convey the theme of loving service which President Monson exemplified in his life.
Towards the end of the video, we see President Monson reflecting on his own life. He said something that particularly struck me.
That’s a pretty good summary of his life. How many of us would meet that standard if we were called to be measured today? I’m not sure how well I would measure up.
Those who come after
I am sure, however, the Lord’s timing is spot on. As I watched the presentations of the new First Presidency during the gathering in the Salt Lake temple annex as well as the press conference, I felt the sweet, gentle confirmation of the Spirit that Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, and Henry B. Eyring are the men the Lord wants to fill these roles at this time.
I confess I was half expecting President Nelson to call the same counselors who served under President Monson. But surprised doesn’t mean disappointed. President Oakes and President Eyring are each well-seasoned servants who have more than adequate preparation for their new callings.
And I look forward to having a more energetic Prophet in President Nelson. Can you believe he’s 93 and still goes skiing? Whether or not you believe that, certainly President Nelson hasn’t sought his new role. While watching him speak both in the Salt Lake Temple annex and the press conference, President Nelson humbly repeated over and over that this is the Lord’s Church and He is at the head guiding and directing its affairs.
President Nelson also encouraged Church members to stay on the covenant path, which may turn out to be the theme for his tenure as the Prophet. Whether or not that holds true, we’ll always be blessed when we follow the Brethren. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
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