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Thomas S. Monson named president of the LDS Church

   |  Posted Feb 4th, 2008 @ 10:00pm


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VIDEO: To see the morning press conference announcing new First Presidency click here.

Sam Penrod and Carole Mikita reporting

The announcement of the new First Presidency Monday morning opens a new era in leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From the Church's headquarters here in Utah, three men revered by 13 million people worldwide as prophets of God addressed the challenges they face and the faith they believe will help them meet those challenges.

President Thomas S. Monson was introduced as the 16th president of the Church. He named President Henry B. Eyring as his first counselor and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf as his second counselor.

As the First Presidency met with reporters, a new era in leadership began. In their former professions they were a newspaper man, an educator, and a Lufthansa airline pilot. Noww, they say, they are united in a spirit of love for their work and the people.

President Monson said, "As a church, we reach out not only to our own people, but also to those people of good will throughout the world, in that spirit of brotherhood which comes from Jesus Christ."

President Eyring said, "I have had a chance to come to know him, his goodness, his great capacity, his love of the people."

And President Uchtdorf said, " It is something which is a great honor and I am very humbled by the call to serve as one of the counselors of President Monson."

President Monson paid tribute to his predecessor, President Gordon B. Hinckley, and said the Church will keep heading in the same direction. "President Hinckley and I met together in various meetings every day as decisions were made and goals and objectives for the future were considered. It is inevitable that our thinking would be similar. Therefore, there will be no abrupt change from the course we've been pursuing," President Monson said.

He also pledged that the Church will make an effort to reach out to those of other faiths. "It has been my opportunity to work somewhat closely with leaders of other faiths, resolving some of the challenges facing our community and, indeed, the entire world. We will continue this cooperative effort," he said.

President Monson acknowledged that leading a worldwide church will require visits to church members around the globe. "I do plan to travel, incidentally. Traveling is difficult when you go for long stretches of time, but you always come back refreshed, feeling that you have accomplished something," he said.

President Monson answered questions on a host of other subjects, including education. "Today's world is competitive, more than it's ever been," he said, "and I believe both men and women need to get a type of education which will enable them to meet the exigencies of life."

Regarding political matters, he said, "We do not enter into political politics, so there is room for opinions on .. either side."

And when asked about the media, he replied, "I come from the media field, in newspapering and other types of media, and I believe in an open book and access to the media."

President Monson was also asked about the Church's perception. "I think we have a responsibility to be active in the communities where we live, all Latter-day Saints, and to work cooperatively with other churches and other organizations."

At age 80, President Monson is beginning his service as the youngest Church president since 1973. "I've always had good health. That's been a great blessing to me. Some years ago I was found to have type 2 diabetes. It's under control totally, and I'm healthy and well and I still do a day's work and half a night's as well," he laughed.

President Monson also talked of hope for the future from the youth of the Church. "They stand as beacons of goodness in a world of shifting values and standards. We know the future of this work will be in good hands," he said.

President Monson is a Salt Lake native who graduated from the University of Utah in business administration, with an MBA from BYU. Though his roots are here, he has traveled the world as a leader of his faith.

He is known as an energetic man who expects the best from himself and tries to inspire it in the people around him. He has served in church leadership positions since age 36, but now at 80, he is still known as a man who has a tender heart for the common man.

President Monson's ability to touch hearts through stories is one his signatures. He has traveled the world and served in three first presidencies of the Church, sharing his testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Stated simply, if we do not have to keep a foundation of faith and a solid testimony of truth, we may have difficulty withstanding the harsh storms and icy winds of adversity, which inevitably come to each of us," President Monson said.

Those who know him well are aware of his constant concern for the wellbeing of others. "One of the things that I admire about him is that he is absolutely selfless. He doesn't do things for himself. It's always for other people, and that's not a characteristic that he just learned or acquired as he became an adult, it was something that typified his nature, even when he was a boy," explained Clark Monson, President Monson's son.

President Monson was born August 21, 1927 in Salt Lake City to G. Spencer and Gladys Condie Monson. Young "Tommy" witnessed many in need. He also learned to help from the example set by his mother.

"He grew up in a less affluent part of Salt Lake, and in those early depression years when he was growing up his mother often would provide food to those homeless transients who would come on the railroad, or other places there, and I think from his mother's example he realized the importance of alleviating the stresses and trials of other people," said Jim Mortimer, of the Deseret Morning News.

President Monson married Frances Johnson in the Salt Lake Temple in 1948.

In 1994, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City honored President Monson with its humanitarian award. He and his wife visit children in hospitals and elderly in care centers constantly, one of them Christus St. Joseph's Villa.

Called to be a bishop at age 22, and then a mission president in Canada at 32, and then an apostle at 36, he spent a great deal of time traveling or in meetings away from his beloved family. But he always made sure to provide fatherly attention.

"Every night, shortly before it was time for me to go to bed, he'd invite me into his office and he'd pull out of his drawer a checkerboard and he'd play three games of checkers. He'd let me win one, then he'd beat me at one, and then we'd play give-away checkers and either one of us could win that. But he did that almost every night and that, knowing how busy he was--even though I was just 7, 8, 9 years old during those years, know how busy he was--that meant a lot to me as a kid," said Tom Monson, President Monson's son.

Friends and family enjoy recalling President Monson's favorite pastimes. As a young man he received the state's highest awards for raising pigeons, and as an adult he received scouting's highest awards.

Whether as a professional in the publishing business, or as a leader in his church, President Monson has earned a reputation as having an amazing memory and a commitment to excellence. He will use those qualities to move his faith forward in the 21st century.

"He is very passionate about having things done correctly, and having things done well, and having things done fairly quickly. He likes them done a certain way. He's a perfectionist. He drives himself, and so he expects other people to do their very best and he inspires that in other people," said Lynn Cannegeiter, President Monson's executive assistant.

"Sometimes I think of my father, especially in terms of a hymn--that being 'Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and helped someone feel glad? If not, I have failed, indeed.' And that is what dad does everyday," daughter Ann Monson Dibb said.

The next big event for President Monson is the dedication of the Rexburg Idaho Temple this weekend. Both President Monson and President Eyring are planning to travel there for Saturday's events and the Sunday dedication.

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