With somber but seemingly happy countenances, mourners flowed Thursday through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Conference Center in Salt Lake City during an eight-hour public viewing for President Thomas S. Monson, late president of the church.
More than 10,000 adults and children of all ages came to pay their respects and be with their prophet one more time.
On the third floor of the center, the prophet’s casket was adorned with, and surrounded by, cascades of floral arrangements. At the head of the casket were two paintings, one of Monson and one of his wife, Frances. At the foot of the casket in a triangular wood stand was the folded flag of the United States; given to families of those who served in the military.
It was clear by the quiet tears and bowed heads passing the casket that Monson was loved by many.
Their individual memories and feelings are as diverse as the people who shared them. Below are thoughts from a few of the many people who paid their respects.
“I love the prophet,” Tiera Peterson said. “We live on Capitol Hill just a few blocks away. We had to come.”
She continued, “His quote, ‘decisions determine destiny’ has been a huge impact on us. It is always in the back of my mind.”
“When I got my Eagle Scout, they gave a dinner and had a special speaker,” Jorien Peterson said. “It was Thomas Monson. I connected with him when I was 13 years old.”
“Besides being my prophet, his life is an example,” said Sue Sato. “The way he lived is the way I want my life to be.”
Sato said she loved how when Monson was ready to give clothes to Deseret Industries he would clean and iron the shirts, add a tie and then box them carefully before he delivered them to Deseret Industries.
“It was a wonderful way to show respect,” Sato said.
“I just loved when he wiggled his ears,” said Joyce Morgan. “I liked his sense of humor. He was a real man that became a prophet.”
She mentioned her concern about The New York Times portrayal of the prophet in a recent obituary.
“The New York Times obit is so opposite of him” Morgan said. “The people here today will think of him the man, not church policy.”
“He was an example for my boy,” said Brenda Larsen. “My son went to the Jamboree the year President George Bush went. President Monson was there.”
Larsen said her son remembers the prophet more than the president.
“President Monson blessed the sacrament and passed it to the Scouts,” she said.”
Her son has a picture of that experience. When she looks at the photo, she notes how big the prophet’s hands were.
“I wonder, how many people have been blessed by those hands,” Larsen said.
Stephen Forrest King
“He’s my prophet. He let me come back into the church,” said Stephen Forrest King.
King had served a 13-year prison sentence then lived on parole in a halfway house. After he got off parole he approached his LDS stake president about being re-baptized.
“It took nine months, but my stake president said I could be baptized. He said it was the first one to be approved in a long time,” King said. “President Monson signed the letter for me to be baptized.“
Patricia Huhem lives in Cedar Hills, but was born in Chile and was there when they learned of the prophet’s death. She returned home three days ago.
“We are so blessed to be close to come today,” Patricia Huhem said. “I have four children and I raised them up with President Monson’s teachings. I felt compelled to come today.”
Patricia Huhem just completed reading Monson’s biography, “To the Rescue.”
“He was a very mischievous boy,” she said. “I have one son and it gives me hope for him.”
Natasha Huhem lives in Provo and is a student at Utah Valley University. She said she was at the viewing because of her love for the prophet.
“His motto was service,” Natasha Huhem said. “Service and helping people is a win-win. I was in Chile three days ago and for me, it’s exciting to know I was coming home to see the prophet. The Chilean saints are celebrating that he has no pain and that he is back with his wife.”
Ben Arkell and his family live in Lehi. The children are home-schooled and they made the viewing part of their home-school life-learning experience.
“We came to President Hinckley’s funeral 10 years ago, and wanted to come to this one,” Ben Arkell said.
Evan Arkell, 13 said, “I like how he can wiggle his ears. He can have a sense of humor and the spirit.”
Fifteen-year-old Sara Arkell said she came to the viewing because she wanted her testimony strengthened on prophets.
“That happened when I walked into the (viewing) room,” Sara Arkell said. “He shares my birthday month. This year in August, we are going to give service to remember him.”
“When you walked through it was so quiet and peaceful,” she said. “I just like the emphasis he puts on the Book of Mormon. It’s the last thing he talked about.”
Kamri Arkell said she is trying to read the Book of Mormon in 15 days in honor of the prophet.
Eight-year-old Miles Arkell is recently baptized. His favorite thing to do is make blanket forts to watch President Monson at conference.
“I’ve been to Vivian Park where he used to live in the summer,” Miles Arkell said. “When I saw him (today), he looked different. He looked straight-faced but happy.”
As mom of the Arkell family, Gina has spent hours teaching the children about Monson.
“We brought them here today so they could be in the presence of a prophet,” Gina Arkell said. “It was a few years ago I had an overwhelming feeling he was a prophet of God. He and President Hinckley are the only prophets I’ve known.”
“This is closure for me,” said Spencer Taggart. “To say goodbye is important. He has been a beam of light since I was born. I was born when Spencer W. Kimball was prophet.”
Taggart said he noticed inside the viewing that there seemed to be a feeling of great joy.
“Wow! What an incredible accomplishment to have 90 years of service. We are now moving on to the next chapter,” Taggart said. “Even if the church weren’t true, he is definitely going to heaven.”
Roger Sengtorychith said he was at the viewing because his friend timed his sealing at the Salt Lake Temple for him to get to the viewing.
“I was baptized in 2004,” he said. “President Monson is all I have known as an adult.”
Sengthorychith experienced opportunities that very few ever get to. He was a banquet server at the Joseph Smith Building and every week, was the captain of the servers. He was the only one to stay in the dining room where the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have lunch.
“They called me Captain Roger,” he said.
Sengthorychith said that often Monson would call him over and ask him to go across the street to what was then the ZCMI Center to get him a glass of orange juice from McDonald’s.
“I’d run over and get it and he would have that and a glass of warm milk,” he said. “I think he was trying to make an orange creamy.”
During those lunches, they would always ask him about his family and his LDS mission.
“They always treated me like I was one of them,” Sengthorychith said.
Funeral services for Monson will be Friday at noon. The public is welcome at the Conference Center and at overflow areas at the Tabernacle and Assembly Hall on Temple Square. Conference Center seating is for those ages 8 and older. Services may also be live streamed from LDS.org or seen on KSL television and several BYUtv platforms.
Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire