Frances J. Monson leaves legacy of dedication, faith

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Frances J. Monson passed away Friday due to “causes incident to old age,” according to a release on LDS Newsroom. She was the wife of Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was 85.

Sister Monson was born on Oct. 27, 1927, and grew up in Salt Lake City. Growing up in the era of the Great Depression, she learned from her family how to work hard and the value of thrifting. She excelled in her education and maintained a Christ-centered life.

Her education led her to meet her husband, Thomas S. Monson, who would eventually become president of the LDS Church. They met in 1944 while both studying at the University of Utah.

President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, helps his wife at a session of the Church's biannual General Conference. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, helps his wife at a session of the Church’s biannual General Conference. (Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

“He saw me at a dance, apparently, and decided he wanted to meet me, which eventually he did as I was waiting for the street car down on the corner of 13th East to go to work,” Sister Monson said at BYU Women’s Conference in 1999. “He came and introduced himself and we rode downtown together in that old trolley, that wonderful old trolley.”

Near the end of World War II, President Monson enlisted in the U.S. Navy but was never deployed overseas. Upon returning from his training in San Diego, he was able to resume his college career and his courtship with Frances. President Monson confesses that at the time, the latter of these two pursuits was far more important. The two married on Oct. 7, 1948, in the Salt Lake Temple.

The Monsons frequently expressed gratitude for the Lord’s guiding hand throughout their courtship. Once, while the two were dating, Frances’ father Franz Johnson showed a picture to President Monson of two Latter-day Saint missionaries from earlier years. He pointed to one of the men and asked if President Monson was related to the Elder Elias Monson in the photo. Tom recognized the missionary as his father’s uncle. Tears welled in Brother Johnson’s eyes as he explained that Elias Monson had been key to their family’s conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In an exclusive interview with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in 1985, Sister Monson shared her positive attitude about early married life with the eventual president of the LDS Church.

“Tom was serving as a ward clerk, then as superintendent of the YMMIA, when we were first married, and he has gone from one assignment to another since then,” Sister Monson recalled. “Some have asked how a new bride adjusts to that, but it has never been a sacrifice to see my husband doing the Lord’s work. It has blessed me, and it has blessed our children. He always knew that if it was for the Church, I expected him to do what he had to do.”

Sister Monson maintained a low profile and rarely spoke at church-wide events. But her quiet determination to support her husband in his very public role was unmatched.

“In 37 years of marriage I have never known Frances to complain once of my Church responsibilities. … In those 37 years I have been gone many days and many nights and I have rarely been able to sit with her in the congregation.” President Monson said, also in a 1985 interview with Elder Holland. “But there is no one like her — absolutely no one. She is in every way supportive and is a woman of quiet and profoundly powerful faith.”

Ann Dibb, the couple’s daughter and former second counselor in the Young Women’s Presidency, said her mother maintained a private life for her family while her father traveled the world for weeks at a time attending to his Church duties.

“Instead of looking for the recognition of the world, she has always received her acknowledgement of worth from such things as the happy smile of a son or the outstretched hand of a grandchild,” Dibb said in an interview with Elder Holland in 1994. “As I reflect upon the many blessings which I have received as the daughter of an Apostle of the Lord, the one which means the most to me is the gift and blessing of the woman he married, my mother.”

But while she maintained a private persona, Sister Monson became invested in the well-being of Latter-day Saints around the world, especially those in East Germany, where President Monson had worked intimately with local members for two decades. The couple grew to love the East Germans dearly because of their long history there and their countless prayers on the saints’ behalf.

“I think one of the most interesting experiences that we had that I can remember was going to Germany,” Sister Monson recounted at the 1999 Women’s Conference. “After the (Berlin) Wall came down, I can remember seeing that on television. … I turned to my husband and said, ‘Oh, how I would love to be there with them when they’re tearing down the wall!’ because my husband had worked with the East German saints for many, many years.”

A major conference was planned between the East and West German saints after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Sister Monson recalled President Monson repeating, “I have to go to that meeting, I have to go to that meeting.”

However, then-Church President Ezra Taft Benson was in critical condition at the hospital, and, not wanting to leave President Benson’s bedside, President Monson was unsure whether he could attend. But after receiving a blessing at the hands of President Monson and then-First Counselor Gordon B. Hinckley, President Benson quickly improved and moved home within a few days, allowing President and Sister Monson to make the trip.

“To see families reunited again after 40 years of being separated was something you can never, ever realize the inspiration that came from that meeting and to be with those people,” Frances said. “It was the most spiritual, fantastic meeting I’d ever attended.”

President Monson often spoke fondly of his wife and their lives together.

“I thank my Father in Heaven for my sweet companion, Frances,” President Monson said during the April 2008 General Conference. “I could not have asked for a more loyal, loving and understanding companion.”

The public is invited to attend Sister Monson’s funeral noon Thursday at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. There will be no public viewing session.

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