SALT LAKE CITY — President Thomas S. Monson, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left behind a life filled with service, love and charity toward his fellow man. Those who worked alongside him in professional and religious settings saw even more of his tender and compassionate nature. Below are some memories from those who best knew President Monson.
Heidi Swinton, President Monson's biographer
"My initial response when I heard the news of President Monson's death: I was really taken back," she said. "In many ways, I just really kind of imagined he would live forever."
She also spoke of the reunion between President Monson and his wife, Frances.
"I think that President Monson and Frances had a love affair of, of everything that was good and honest and lovely. And I think he loved to be around her. He respected her, she respected him," Swinton said.
"She was his best friend and his counselor and his confidant. And it was such an example to all of us to watch," she continued. "How much he cared for her. I loved seeing the picture of him pushing her wheelchair. You know, he was just right there with her, no matter what. And I think he's excited. I can just imagine that reunion, how thrilled he is to see her again."
Sara Jane Weaver, LDS Church News editor
Weaver has worked for LDS Church News for decades, and in that time had the opportunity to cross paths with President Monson several times.
One trait of his she remembered best was his desire to connect with others. If he wanted to talk to someone, he would stop what he was doing and make time for that person.
That was his legacy. It was this ministering to the one. He sought them out, he found them and he made them feel important.
–Sara Jane Weaver, LDS Church News
"I saw him wade out into a crowd of youth after a youth cultural celebration once to talk to one young woman," she said. "And that was his legacy. It was this ministering to the one. He sought them out, he found them and he made them feel important."
Sheri Dew, former second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency; executive vice president, Deseret Management Corporation
Dew served in the Relief Society general presidency while President Monson was serving as a counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley. In addition, Dew worked with President Monson in publishing his teachings, his writings and his biography.
She noticed that although he was busy, he took time to pay attention to and notice those he was with.
"He was a teacher. He was a mentor. It's like it was woven into him," Dew said.
Dew shared a memory of a Deseret Book banquet she hosted where President Monson was the guest of honor. As he walked in, he greeted each of the 200 people in the room, setting the banquet's schedule behind as he did so. She soon realized that to him, the people were the most important aspect of the event.
"I think that was absolutely indicative of who he was as a man and as a leader," she said.
Pamela Atkinson, community advocate
President Monson and Atkinson worked alongside each other for years in the community. He appreciated her work with homelessness, refugees and low-income populations, she said, and the two had a lot in common.
"I loved the pure love that he had for human beings, and it didn't matter who they were," she said.
She saw her friend as a "gentle giant," who loved his wife, his family and those around him.
"When I was with him, I think I felt I was the one person he wanted to talk with at that time. I felt his gentleness, I felt his kindness, I felt his love of people," she said. "I felt I was important to him, even though I'm not a member of the church."
Elaine Dalton, former president in the LDS Young Women general presidency
Dalton visited with President Monson's daughter Ann Dibb, Wednesday morning. The two women served together both in a regional Young Women presidency and the LDS Church's general Young Women presidency. Dalton also had the chance to work closely with President Monson in her time as Young Women general president.
"Of President Monson I said, 'Ann, what would you like me to say to represent your feelings?'" Dalton told KSL.
President Monson's daughter answered, "'One virtuous young man, led by the spirit, can change the world,'" Dalton said. "I think that he was a prophet at this particular time because he is so like our Savior Jesus Christ, and we all needed to be tutored by that kind of example."
Keith McMullin, former second counselor in the LDS Presiding Bishopric; CEO of Deseret Management Corporation
"As I reflect upon his life and the influence that his life, and he, have had upon me, I can't help but think: most of whatever legacy I have I owe in some measure to him," McMullin said.
McMullin met President Monson in 1975, and told KSL he often walked away from his encounters with the church leader with the desire to improve. He was impressed by President Monson's ability to inspire others to do good things.
"It would be a familiar experience to many to receive a phone call, and when picking up the phone, the person would be greeted, and the individual on the other end would say, 'This is Tom Monson. How would you like to paint a bright spot upon your soul today?'" McMullin recalled. "And you always knew when that invitation was extended, there was an opportunity coming to do good."
H. David Burton, former Presiding Bishop of the LDS Church
Burton was Presiding Bishop when President Monson began serving as president of the LDS Church. He still remembers one of the first assignments to come down from the new leader of the church: a local Salvation Army needed facilities where they could meet and perform their acts of service. So Burton was told to "find them a place." With President Monson's help, they did.
"That was typical President Monson. We often were asked to find places of one variety or another for the downtrodden, or those who were in need, or those who had something that was concerning them," Burton said.
Whether it was seeking out a single youth, finding a place for those of another faith or living a life filled with gentleness, President Monson's legacy, as told by some of those who knew him well, was unparalleled.