Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died from natural causes late Tuesday surrounded by family at his home in Salt Lake City. Monson was 90 years old.
Monson, considered a prophet by 16 million Mormons, became the 16th leader of the Mormon church in 2008. At 36, Monson was called to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the youngest named to that body in more than 50 years.
“President Monson had all the hallmarks of an unassuming servant of the Lord,” the church said in a statement.
Monson was born Aug. 21, 1927. He grew up on the west side of Salt Lake City. He was the second child of six and the oldest son in his family.
He served in the U.S. Navy, received his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Utah, and earned his master’s in business administration from Brigham Young University. He had a successful career in publishing and printing, according to the church’s website.
In 1948, Monson married his wife, Frances, and they had three children. Married for 65 years, Frances preceded her husband in death in 2013.
In 1949, he served as a bishop for two Salt Lake City congregations leading about 1,000 church members. More than 80 were widows whose husbands died in World War II. He regularly visited each one and promised to speak at their funerals one day, according to Religion News.
In 2012, Monson changed the age for Mormon missionaries from 19 to 18 for men and from 21 to 19 for women. According to Deseret News, that change led to a jump in the number of overall missionaries from 58,000 to more than 83,000 within the first year.
During Monson’s presidency, a “fourth charge” was added to the church’s threefold mission. It called for Mormons “to care for the poor and needy” in addition to proclaiming the LDS message, living holy lives, and performing sacred rituals such as baptism for those who have died.
Monson met backlash from LGBT rights activists after he labeled gay couples as “apostates who could be excommunicated from the church,” Newsweek reported.
In May 2015, the church said Monson was “feeling the effects of advancing age,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper. He began cutting back his public appearances.
President Donald Trump issued this statement Wednesday evening:
Melania and I are deeply saddened by the death of Thomas S. Monson, a beloved President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While serving for over half a century in the leadership of his church, President Monson demonstrated wisdom, inspired leadership, and great compassion. Considered a prophet by the nearly 16 million members of the LDS Church, his message was one of optimism, forgiveness, and faith. Our thoughts and prayers are with his three children and the rest of the Monson family.
Funeral services will be held Jan. 12 in the Conference Center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
Monson is survived by three children, eight grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren.
Who will be the new president of the church?
Russell M. Nelson, a cardiothoracic-surgeon-turned-Mormon-apostle is expected to become the Morman faith’s 17th leader in the coming days, according to Newsweek.
At 93, Nelson is the church’s longest-tenured apostle and has served as a faith leader for more than 50 years. He was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 7, 1984.