Friday Oct. 4, 2013, marked 50 years of service for President Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Monson was sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1963 at age 36, making him the youngest man in 53 years to be so.
In his first address to the general Church membership as an Apostle, then-Elder Monson bore his testimony “from the depths of humility,” he said.
“With an overwhelming sense of inadequacy, I stand before you and pray earnestly for your prayers in my behalf. Some years ago I stood at a pulpit and noticed a little sign that only a speaker could see. The words on that sign were these: ‘Who stands at this pulpit, let him be humble.’ How I pray to my Heavenly Father that I might never forget the lesson I learned that day.”
Now, 50 years later, President Monson has witnessed a host of milestones. His life of service includes being called to be a bishop at age 22 and a mission president at 31; he has served as president of the Church for six years.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, President Monson replied with a brief phrase: “I tried my best.” But his key contributions extend from temple-building to missionary work and encouraging members to follow promptings to serve others.
In his 50 years as an apostle, President Monson has seen 129 temples dedicated with 15 more currently under construction and 14 more announced as of April 6, bringing the total number of temples to 170.
Many remember the audible gasp in the LDS Conference Center in April 2013 general conference as President Monson made the historic announcement of the change in missionary age. Young women would now be able to serve missions at age 19, young men at 18.
President Monson’s wife, Frances, died May 13 after nearly 65 years of marriage. At the general Relief Society broadcast on Sept. 28, President Monson said of his wife, “She was a faithful daughter of our Heavenly Father, my beloved companion, and my dearest friend. I miss her more than words can express.”
Many Church members also celebrate President Monson for his attention to the individual.
“For more than half a century, President Monson has given the suits off his back to the destitute. He has sat at the bedside of the ill and elderly. He has given countless blessings to people in hospitals and in their homes. He has turned the car around to make a quick visit to one friend and rushed from meetings to speak at the funeral of another. If you ask him how many he counts on that list of friends, he will say, ‘At least 14 million,'” wrote his biographer, Heidi Swinton.
“Put simply, President Monson does what most people only think about doing,” Swinton said.
In the May 2013 Church Educational System fireside, Elder William R. Walker said, “President Monson has taught us the way to live our lives with his wonderful and inspiring messages at General Conference. He has taught us how to be followers of Jesus Christ by his remarkable and wonderful personal example. Truly the Lord has given us a pattern in all things, and one of the patterns that we should seek to follow is that of our beloved prophet.”