Thomas Monson, president of Mormon church, dies at age 90

Updated January 3, 2018 - 1:00 am

Thomas S. Monson, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Monday night amid family in Salt Lake City, the church said Tuesday night.

A church representative said Monson died of “causes incident to age.” He was 90.

“To the more than 16 million members of the church around the world, President Monson was an example of one who followed Jesus Christ,” the church said in a statement issued late Tuesday night.

Monson became the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2008, and oversaw the religion’s church and business operations helped by two top counselors and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Mormon presidents serve for life. Mormons regarded him as a prophet, seer and revelator.

During his nearly 10-year tenure, the church membership grew from 13 million to more than 16 million members worldwide, the church said in a statement.

Monson spent more than five decades serving in top church leadership councils. His presidency was marked by his noticeably low profile during a time of intense publicity for the church, including the 2008 and 2012 campaigns of Mormon Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination.

Monson will be remembered for his emphasis on humanitarian work; leading the faith’s involvement in the passage of gay marriage ban in California in 2008; continuing the religion’s push to be more transparent about its past.

Monson’s legacy will be tied to the religion’s efforts to hold tight to its opposition of same-sex marriage while encouraging members to be more open and compassionate toward gays and lesbians as acceptance for LGBT people increased across the county.

The next church president was not immediately named, but is expected to be Russell M. Nelson. He is the next longest-tenured member of the church’s governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Utah state Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, told the Salt Lake Tribune he would remember Monson for emphasizing outreach to the poor and less fortunate.

“More than anything else during a lifetime of ministry, President Monson will be known for his charitable acts,” Reid said.

This habit started when Monson was young, LDS author and historian Heidi Swinton biographer told Salt Lake television station KSTU-TV.

“He had that ability to reach out and rescue somebody; to help somebody; to say, ‘I have something that will make a difference for you.’ It has become a moniker of his life,” Swinton told the station.

Until 2017, Monson had delivered speeches at every one of the church’s twice-yearly conferences, which bring 100,000 people to Salt Lake City, since 1963, when he became the youngest-ever member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Age-related limitations caused the absence, the church said.

Monson, born Aug. 21, 1927, in Salt Lake City, made his biggest change in the church in October 2012, lowering the age of full-time missionaries, from 19 to 18 for young men and from 21 to 19 for young women. The Salt Lake Tribune said the move dramatically boosted the number of missionaries and spawned nearly 60 new missions worldwide.

Meanwhile, Monson oversaw the building and dedication of temples, expanded the church’s Perpetual Education Fund and Temple Patron Fund for needy members and promoted LDS youth activities, the Tribune said.

Prominent Utah officials issued tweets mourning Monson’s death.

“My heart is filled with love for Pres. Monson,” tweeted former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. “He touched countless lives, including my own, in a positive and sweet manner influencing good throughout the world.”

The office of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who made news Tuesday saying he would retire at the end of the year and forgo an eighth term in Congress, tweeted, “President Monson was among the greatest men I have ever known. Service was his motto and humility his hallmark. Countless were the lives he touched as a prophet, father, and friend. Today, I join millions across the globe in mourning his passing.”

Monson married Frances Beverly Johnson in 1948. The couple had three children, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Frances died in 2013 at age 85.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Matthew Crowley at mcrowley@reviewjournal.com. Follow @copyjockey on Twitter.

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