Read on to learn more about President Monson and his life:
Twenty-three-year-old Tom Monson, relatively new bishop of the Sixth-Seventh Ward in the Temple View Stake, was uncharacteristically restless as the stake priesthood leadership meeting progressed. He had the distinct impression that he should leave the meeting immediately and drive to the Veterans’ Hospital high up on the Avenues of Salt Lake City. Before leaving home that night he had received a telephone call informing him that an older member of his ward was ill and had been admitted to the hospital for care. Could the bishop, the caller wondered, find a moment to go by the hospital sometime and give a blessing? The busy young leader explained that he was just on his way to a stake meeting but that he certainly would be pleased to go by the hospital as soon as the meeting was concluded.
Now the prompting was stronger than ever: “Leave the meeting and proceed to the hospital at once.” But the stake president himself was speaking at the pulpit! It would be most discourteous to stand in the middle of the presiding officer’s message, make one’s way over an entire row of brethren, and then exit the building altogether. Painfully he waited out the final moments of the stake president’s message, then bolted for the door even before the benediction had been pronounced.
Running the full length of the corridor on the fourth floor of the hospital, the young bishop saw a flurry of activity outside the designated room. A nurse stopped him and said, “Are you Bishop Monson?”
Fighting back the tears, Thomas S. Monson turned and walked back into the night. He vowed then and there that he would never again fail to act upon a prompting from the Lord. He would acknowledge the impressions of the Spirit when they came, and he would follow wherever they led him, ever to be “on the Lord’s errand.”
Many may know that young Bishop Monson took a week of his personal vacation time every Christmas season to visit all of those eighty-five widows in his ward. Many may not know that for the first several years the gift he would take them was one of the Barred Plymouth Rock or Rhode Island Red hens raised and dressed out by him in his own poultry coops. And although it has been more than thirty years since he was released as their bishop, President Monson has taken a gift and visited every one of those widows every Christmas for as long as each has lived. Some in their final moments have spoken to family members of where he stood in the room and what he said and how very much they loved him.
“Few people know it, but Brother Monson is the self-appointed chaplain at a number of nursing homes around town,” notes Elder Boyd K. Packer, who sat next to Elder Monson in the Quorum of the Twelve for fifteen years. “He visits them anytime his busy schedule will permit, and sometimes even when it doesn’t permit.”
(A well-meaning person once told President Monson that it was useless for him to visit these elderly people, talking at length with them when they seldom answered a word. “You might as well save your time and breath, Elder Monson. They don’t know who you are.”
One weekend in August 1974 an unexpected change of conference assignment came, sending Elder Monson to the Shreveport Louisiana Stake. The Saturday afternoon schedule was filled with a busy slate of meetings. Rather apologetically, the stake president asked Brother Monson if time would permit him to provide a blessing to ten-year-oldChristal Methvin, who was afflicted with cancer. Brother Monson said he would be pleased to do so and then asked if she would be coming to the conference meetings or if she were confined to a Shreveport hospital. Almost reluctantly, the stake president said Christal was unable to leave her home many miles from Shreveport.
Elder Monson examined the meeting schedule and found that there simply was no available time. As an alternative, he suggested that she be remembered in the public prayers which would be offered throughout the conference. Surely, he consoled, the Lord would understand and bless the Methvin family accordingly.
Prior to the stake conference, and unbeknown to Brother Monson, Christal had lost her leg to surgery, only to discover later that the cancer had spread to her tiny lungs. A trip had been planned to Salt Lake City, where she might receive a blessing from one of the General Authorities. The Methvins knew none of the Brethren personally, so they placed before Christal a picture of all the Church leaders. She pointed to the photograph of Elder Thomas S. Monson and said, “I would like him to give me a blessing.”
But Christal’s condition had deteriorated so rapidly that the flight to Salt Lake City had to be cancelled. She was growing weaker in body but not in faith. She said, “Since a General Authority is coming to our stake conference, why not Brother Monson? If I can’t go to him, the Lord can send him to me.” At about the same time, Brother Monson received the unexpected change in his stake conference assignment which sent him to Shreveport.
As one final favor to Christal, the family agreed to kneel by her bedside and ask for just one more blessing; the chance to enjoy Brother Monson’s personal visit.
After receiving word from the stake president that Brother Monson would be unable to visit Christal because of the extremely tight meeting schedule, the Methvins were understandably very disappointed. They knelt again around Christal’s bedside, pleading for a final favor on her behalf: that somehow her desire for a blessing at the hands of Brother Monson would be realized.
At the very moment the Methvin family knelt around Christal’s bed, Elder Monson was shuffling his notes, preparing to speak at the concluding portion of the Saturday evening session. However, as he began his move to the pulpit, a voice whispered in near-audible tones a brief but very familiar message: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”
His notes became a blur. He attempted to pursue the theme of the meeting as outlined, but the name and image of Christal Methvin would not leave his mind. Then, ever faithful to the precious gift so demonstrably his, he responded to the spiritual message. He instructed that changes in the next day’s conference schedule be made, whatever the cost in confusion and disruption. Then the meeting continued.
After a very early Sunday drive over many miles, Elder Monson gazed down upon a child too ill to rise, too weak to speak. Her illness had now rendered her sightless. Deeply touched by the scene and the Spirit of the Lord which was so prevalent, Brother Monson dropped to his knees and took the child’s frail hand in his own. “Christal,” he whispered, “I am here.”
With great effort she whispered back, “Brother Monson, I just knew you would come.”
A blessing was pronounced commending a sweet child’s body and spirit to the loving watchcare of her Heavenly Father, who surely must have been observing that tender scene. Her barely audible “Thank you” gave eloquent benediction to the blessing and to the sweet life of faith she had lived. The next Thursday, as she was being remembered in the prayer circle of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve where Elder Monson had placed her name, Christal Methvin’s pure spirit left its disease-ravaged body and entered the paradise of God.