Local leaders share memories of LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, who turned 88 Friday

Posted at 10:25 PM, Aug 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-22 00:26:21-04

SALT LAKE CITY – Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, turned 88 years old Friday, and many are reflecting on the man’s countless contributions to the Mormon faith and various charitable causes during his lengthy service.

When asked to describe Thomas S. Monson, almost everyone who spoke with FOX 13 News' Bob Evans pointed to Monson's concern for, "the one,” and that love is being returned to him on his birthday.

To celebrate his 85th birthday in 2012, there was a star-studded program put on in the LDS Church’s Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City, and there were thousands of well-wishers present on that occasion. This year, it was a much quieter celebration--a private affair with just family.

Monson has slowed down some in recent years, and he spoke only twice at the April session of the LDS Church’s semi-annual General Conference—a break from tradition for leaders of the LDS Church.

"The messages are filled with love, and that's essentially what he's all about,” said Heidi Swinton, who is a biographer for Monson.

And President Monson is a familiar and friendly face among other faiths in Utah.

“He'll ask me what I'm involved in,” said Pamela Atkinson, an Elder in the First Presbyterian Church. “He'll ask me, ‘Are we helping you enough?’”

Jon Huntsman Sr., a humanitarian and friend of Monson, also spoke highly of the man's devotion to his faith.

"I believe that President Monson is a man of complete purity in his love for the savior,” Huntsman said.

William Walker, a former director of the LDS Church's Temple Department, said Monson focused on individuals.

“He has an absolutely unique capacity to focus on one person at a time--even if it's in a crowd,” he said.

Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said Monson cares for those who need help.

"The poor and the needy, the destitute and the disconsolate, are the ones who are on Thomas Monson's mind,” he said.

“Tommy” Monson was born August 21, 1927 in Salt Lake City.

“They didn't go in the delivery room in those days, but when his father went in to see the baby and the mom, she said to him, "I have a young bishop for you,’” Swinton said. “And he likes to tell how that was just, you know, premonition, because 22 years later he was the bishop of the ward in which he grew up."

And Monson has been leading ever since--in local, national and international assignments for the LDS Church.

“This is his work,” Monson said during the ‘Priesthood Session' of the April General Conference. “This is his church. Indeed, he is our captain, the king of glory, even the son of God."

Bishop John C. Wester is currently an Archbishop in Santa Fe, but he previously served in the Salt Lake City Catholic Diocese--which put him in contact with Monson.

“He's a wonderful leader in our community and throughout the world,” Wester said.

Despite Monson slowing down, the LDS Church says President Monson still comes to the office every day and attends all of his meetings.

And, at 88 years old, although his body isn't as strong anymore--those around him say his spirit still is.