President Thomas S. Monson “influenced the lives and shaped the destiny” of millions of people around the world, said speakers paying tribute to the “mighty prophet of God” during a public funeral on Friday, Jan. 12.
“We are all better because of him,“ said President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “And the Church is better because of him.”
President Nelson joined President Monson’s counselors in the First Presidency — President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf — and his daughter, Sister Ann M. Dibb, in paying tribute to the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the hour-long funeral.
Thousands gathered in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City for the funeral, which was translated and broadcast across the globe.
President Monson, 90, died peacefully Tuesday, Jan. 2, of causes incident to age, after serving 54 years as an Apostle, including a decade as President of the Church.
“President Monson lived a remarkable life,” said President Nelson. “There will never be another like him.”
President Nelson said President Monson leaves a legacy of growth. Since his ordination as an Apostle in 1963, Church membership has risen from 2.1 million to nearly 16 million. The number of currently serving missionaries has grown from 5,700, to nearly 70,000. And temples — then only 12 in number — now number 159.
“But with all of this, President Monson constantly focused on the individual,” said President Nelson. “He reminded us with his expressions such as: ‘Send a note to the friend you’ve been neglecting’; ‘Give your child a hug’; ‘Say “I love you” more often’; ‘Always express your thanks’; and ‘Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.’ ”
President Nelson said President Monson never sought the limelight. “In a world now saturated with ‘selfies,’ he modeled selflessness. He gave his own time to visit, bless and love others. ... Even in his waning season, he continued to minister, making frequent visits to hospitals and senior centers.”
President Nelson said that in 1985 he 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.”
In 1988, the pair traveled with a small delegation of local Church leaders to the city of East Berlin in the German Democratic Republic. “In this country that had been closed to missionary work for more than 50 years, we felt impressed to ask permission for missionaries to serve there. We also asked for permission for worthy elders from that country to have opportunity to serve the Lord elsewhere as missionaries.”
The critical meeting, held Oct. 28, 1988, included Erich Honecker, chairman of the council of state for the German Democratic Republic and his staff. He started with a long speech about the merits of communism.
“Then, under the flashing of countless cameras, President Monson was invited to speak,” recalled President Nelson. “He boldly but kindly presented his message of how and why our missionaries would be good for that country.
“After President Monson’s plea, all awaited Chairman Honecker’s response. I was breathless with anxiety. I will never forget Chairman Honecker's reply: ‘President Monson, we know you! We have watched you for many years! We trust you! Your request regarding missionaries is approved!’ ”
During his remarks, President Eyring spoke of the millions across the world who share the loss of President Monson. “He was loved by those who knew him from his stirring and inspiring talks and his leadership,” President Eyring said. “The number of individuals who loved him through his personal kindnesses is known only to the God who sent him to care for them.”
Caring for others happened often in the ministry of President Monson, President 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,” he said. “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. They felt the love of God through President Monson’s kindness to them.”
In the Lord’s service over a lifetime, President Monson cared for those in temporal and spiritual need, said President Eyring. “When he called on the Lord in prayer, the Lord answered. And to Thomas Monson came the assurance that the Lord was there.”
President Monson often quoted the promise that the Lord would be with His children in their faithful service.
“Because he knew that promise was a reality, President Monson was optimistic,” said President Eyring. “It also made him courageous. When he had to make difficult and important choices, he expected the Lord would answer his prayer and show him the way to go. When he was called to go into what appeared to be dangerous or perilous situations, others might be afraid, yet he felt no fear.”
Through the ministration of angels to Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration, the full priesthood keys were restored, said President Eyring. “Those keys were passed in an unbroken line to President Monson. They included the power to seal families together for all eternity. President and Sister Monson were sealed by that power. I pray a blessing on all their posterity that they may have the assurance that the Lord watches over them and that they may anticipate a glorious and eternal family reunion.”
During his remarks, President Uchtdorf said at this tender time, feelings and thoughts run deep and “words are inadequate to express my love, gratitude, and sorrow.”
“Thomas S. Monson was a man for all seasons, truly a spiritual giant,” said President Uchtdorf. “He abounded in knowledge, faith, love, vision, testimony, courage and compassion — leading and serving never from a pedestal, but always eye to eye. 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.”
Germany and its people were especially blessed by President Monson, said President Uchtdorf, speaking of his native land. “His strong faith helped to stretch ours during the Cold War years. He not only brought suitcases filled with clothes and other things for the members in East Germany, but his powerful apostolic prayer given in 1975 promised unthinkable spiritual blessings.”
President Uchtdorf recalled a visit to Hamburg, Germany, when President Monson asked about a stalwart pioneer member of the Church in the country, who was bedridden and unable to attend the meeting.
Despite having just undergone foot surgery, President Monson climbed to the fifth floor in a building without an elevator to make the visit. “It was a very painful climb for President Monson, but he cheerfully went on,” said President Uchtdorf. “We reached the bedridden brother and President Monson gave him a wonderful priesthood blessing, thanked him for his life of dedicated service, and cheered him up with a smile.”
President Uchtdorf said serving as a counselor to President Monson was “a most satisfying and spiritually rewarding experience” which included “happiness and heartache, laughter and sorrow, deep conversations, and many inspired prophetic moments.”
Recently, as President Eyring and President Uchtdorf were about to leave after a visit in the prophet’s home, President Monson stopped them and said, “I love the Savior Jesus Christ. And I know that He loves me.”
“What a tender and powerful testimony by a prophet of God,” said President Uchtdorf. “President Monson was truly a prophet for our time. He was a man for all seasons.”
During her remarks, Sister Dibb — a former counselor in the Young Women general presidency — said she is profoundly grateful for her father and the legacy he created — a legacy of love and service.
“Although he was a prophet, my father knew he was not perfect,” said Sister Dibb. “With all his heart, he humbly relied on and tried to be like our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Sister Dibb said about a year ago, her father was working at his office. A copy of the Ensign magazine was open to a display of his picture. “My father pointed to the picture and said, ‘I know that guy. He tried his best.’ ”
“President Monson, by simply ‘trying his best,’ left an unforgettable legacy of love,” said Sister Dibb. “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 her father loved his parents, siblings and extended family. “He loved his dear eternal companion — his beautiful, quiet, faithful supporter and enabler — Frances. He loved his family and each of his Eastern Canadian missionaries. He especially loved his grandchildren.”
Complete strangers also felt President Monson’s love, she said. “Once, while visiting a local nursing care facility, he shook the hand of a man in a wheelchair. The man looked up and timidly said, ‘President Monson, you have shaken my hand, but I need an embrace.’ Without hesitation, Dad bent down and tenderly embraced this dear man.”
Sister Dibb said her father’s desire to serve others often went beyond his capacity to do so, considering his many responsibilities. “Undaunted, he found a solution: He’d enlist others to provide the needed service onhis behalf.”
She told the congregation that they can carry on her father’s legacy by serving others. “Watching him, I realized my dad knew how to obtain true joy,” she said. “Through his devoted service, he had learned that joy comes from loving the Lord and serving your neighbor. This joy is available to each of us.”
President Monson’s sons also participated in the service: Clark S. Monson offered the family prayer and Thomas L. Monson dedicated his father’s grave in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland — both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — offered the opening and closing prayers during the funeral.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir provided music during the service, performing “Consider the Lilies,” “O Divine Redeemer,” “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd” and “If the Way Be Full of Trial, Weary Not.” Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy conducted the choir, with Richard Elliott, Clay Christiansen and Andrew Unsworth at the organ.
On the back of the printed program, President Monson’s family included the words of a scripture that had great significance to his life and service: “[He] went about doing good, and ... God was with him” (Acts 10:38).