A man for the ages, a people’s prophet who reached out to the one, President Thomas Spencer Monson, late president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was eulogized Friday during funeral services at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.
Monson died Jan. 2, at age 90.
On Thursday, thousands paid their last respects during a public viewing at the Conference Center. Thousands came in person Friday to be with the prophet one more time as they remembered him and his life.
In keeping with the tradition of other LDS leader’s funerals, the first talk was given by a family member, daughter Ann Dibb.
In her introduction, Dibb thanked her father for letting her care for him.
“Dear father, it has been a sacred blessing and an honor to watch after you as my devoted mother requested. I know we have had angels round about us to bear us up,” she said.
Dibb noted her father’s legacy of love and service.
“President Monson, by simply trying his best, left an unforgettable legacy of love. He loved the Lord and he loved people. He saw our potential and believed sincerely in our ability to change and progress through the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” she said.
Dibb continued to speak on his legacy of service.
“Watching him, I realized my dad knew how to obtain true joy. Through his devoted service, he has learned that joy comes from loving the Lord and serving your neighbor,” Dibb said. “This joy is available to all of us. There is no better way to honor my father, the prophet, and our Savior Jesus Christ than to live every day so that at its close we can truly say, ‘I feel I’ve done some good today.’”
‘A spiritual giant’
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, former second counselor in the First Presidency, shared his deep love and affection for Monson.
“Thomas S. Monson is truly a spiritual giant,” Uchtdorf said. “He abounded in knowledge, faith, love, vision, testimony, courage, and compassion — leading and serving never from a pedestal, but always eye to eye.”
He added, “He had a special place in his heart for the poor and the needy. We will miss his voice, his steadiness, his confidence in the Lord, his smile, his wit, his enthusiasm, his optimism and his stories, which I consider parables of a modern prophet of God.”
Uchtdorf noted the blessing Monson was a giant of faith to the people in Germany during the Cold War.
“His strong faith helped to stretch ours during the Cold War years,” Uchtdorf said. “He not only brought suitcases filled with clothes for the members in East Germany, but his powerful apostolic prayer given in 1975 promised unthinkable spiritual blessings to the people behind the Iron Curtain.”
He added, “President Monson came back with then-Elder (Russell M.) Nelson, and followed up on the divine promises given. Over the years, they were all fulfilled, step-by-step. We knew a prophet of God had spoken, and God honored his servant’s faith and work.”
President Henry B. Eyring, former first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of his gift of caring.
“Caring for others happened often in the ministry of President Monson,” Eyring said. “He would go to visit someone in need, feel while he was there an impression to go to another person, and then to another. More than a few times, such a person said, ‘I knew you would come.’ He or she may have known, the Lord may have known, but President Monson didn’t know when he started out.”
“However, those who knew he would come also knew that God loved them enough to send His servant,” Eyring added. “They felt the love of God through President Monson’s kindness to them. The love of God, and love for God’s children, permeated his life.”
‘A remarkable life’
President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in remembering his long-time friend said, “President Monson lived a remarkable life. There will never be another like him. There have been and will yet be many tears of separation shed by each of us. We will really miss him.”
He continued, “But our sorrow is assuaged by the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. His bitter cup makes our bereavement bearable. His Atonement makes the Resurrection a reality. His Atonement makes it possible for families to be together forever in Heavenly Father’s plan. We rejoice in knowing that President Monson is reunited with his dear Frances, and that one day we may also resume our associations with them.”
Nelson shared a personal experience with the prophet.
“In 1985, I was given responsibility for the church in Europe, an assignment President Monson held for many years. I was his junior companion in much of that challenging work, behind the then-called Iron Curtain. President Monson had worked for nearly two decades to establish trust with government leaders of the German Democratic Republic.”
He said they traveled in 1988 with a small delegation of local church leaders to East Berlin. The country had been closed to missionary work for more than 50 years. They were impressed to ask permission for missionaries to serve. They also asked if German elders could serve elsewhere.
Nelson said they met with Erich Honecker, chairman of the state council for the German Democratic Republic, and his staff. After Honecker spoke, he invited Monson to speak.
“He boldly but kindly presented his message of how and why our missionaries would be good for that country,” Nelson said. “After President Monson’s plea, all awaited Chairman Honecker’s response with breathless anxiety. I will never forget his reply. ‘President Monson, we know you. We have watched you for many years. We trust you. Your request regarding missionaries is approved.’”
In conclusion of the services, Nelson, the one most likely to take Monson’s place as president of the church, said, “I solemnly proclaim that President Thomas S. Monson was a prophet of God. He taught as a prophet and testified as a prophet. He had the courage of a prophet and the kindness of a prophet. He received revelation as a prophet and responded as a prophet. He lived as a prophet and died as a prophet, sealing with his life his testimony that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that His church has been restored to the earth, and that this sacred work is true.”
The family prayer prior to the services was offered by a son, Clark S. Monson, the invocation by Elder M. Russell Ballard, the benediction by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and the grave dedication was set to be offered by his son Thomas L. Monson.
Grandchildren of the prophet served as pallbearers.
‘The can-do president’
The Conference Center grounds were quiet and solemn before and during the funeral. There were significantly fewer crowds than those normally drawn to LDS general conferences. Even the final minutes leading up to the funeral were subdued, in keeping with the tone of the day. Temple Square, normally a bustling thoroughfare dotted with exuberant LDS missionaries and eager visitors, was somber and quite empty.
As the crowds left the Conference Center, though, there were more smiles than tears.
Pavina Vichittavong recently moved to West Jordan from Laos, and is studying English so she can attend LDS Business College. She came out of the funeral uplifted and happy. She said she felt the Spirit throughout the funeral, and loved the testimonies that President Monson was called by God to lead the church.
“All that he told us before, was from God,” she said after the funeral.
Bill and Linda Perry came from Sandy and loved that speakers touched on Monson’s life of service and love for people.
Music played an important part of Monson’s services. His beloved Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang some of his favorite renditions including: “Consider the Lilies,” “O Divine Redeemer,” “Dear To The Heart of The Shepherd,” and “If The Way Be Full Of Trial.”
Linda Perry was especially touched that Monson chose all the songs for his funeral.
“‘If the way be full of trial, weary not’ — that is so him,” she said.
The Perrys also loved the story of how he approached East Germany to prepare the way for a LDS temple there. It embodied, for them, his always positive attitude.
“He was the can-do president,” Bill Perry said.
Friends Ashlee Stevens and Sarah Burroughs live in Salt Lake and are working and going to school. Stevens enjoyed the whole tone of the funeral.
“It was very calm and respectful. It shows how much leaders of the church and the congregation — how they feel toward President Monson,” she said.
Burroughs was inspired to continue her efforts to be more like the prophet.
“The words about his service and attention to people reminded me how that has impacted my perspective. How I try to do that in my life, and it has brought me closer to God,” she said.
Beth Jensen and her grandson Landon Jensen, 5, and other family members drove three hours down from Idaho to attend. Landon wasn’t able to go into the main Conference Center hall, but they watched the proceedings from the Conference Center Theater.
“My favorite part was when the last one — no, the middle one — he said, ‘Be kind and serve your neighbors,’” Landon said.
Soon after the funeral, Temple Square burst into life again, with children dipping their fingers into the fountains, and sister missionaries singing “Hail to the Prophet,” as visitors wandered the grounds.
Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire