SALT LAKE CITY — The clear, sweet notes of the organ broke the reverent solemnity that filled the conference center as the choir rose and began to sing.
“Out in the desert they wander, hungry and helpless and cold. Off to the rescue he hastens, bringing them back to the fold.”
Though this favorite Mormon hymn is a reference to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, it seems the parallels in former LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson’s own life are striking.
“He would go to visit someone in need, feel while he was there an impression to go to another person, and then to another. More than a few times, such a person said, ‘I knew you would come,’” said President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency under President Monson.
Thousands gathered Friday afternoon for funeral proceedings honoring President Monson who served as the prophet and leader of the LDS Church for nearly a decade.
Many remembered his unfailing service to others, especially the sick and lonely. His daughter, Ann M. Dibb, recounted memories accompanying her father to visit a lifelong, 98-year-old friend, Elder Glen Rudd.
At one point, a little too much time had passed between their visits when President Monson’s secretary answered a phone call from Rudd who asked, “Is President Monson out visiting the sick, the afflicted and the aged? If so, I qualify!”
President Monson and his daughter quickly went to visit their friend and afterward, the prophet turned to his daughter and said, “I feel we’ve done some good today!”
President Monson’s reputation of selflessness also extended overseas and, during 1988, he traveled with other local church leaders to East Berlin in the then-communist German Democratic Republic. The country had been closed to church missionary work for more than 50 years, but President Monson felt impressed to ask permission for missionaries to serve there.
The delegation met with Erich Honecker, chairman of the state council for the German Democratic Republic, and his staff. After a long speech about the merits of communism, Honecker invited President Monson to speak.
“He boldly but kindly presented his message of how and why our missionaries would be good for that country,” President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles under President Monson, said.
“After President Monson’s pleas, all awaited Chairman Honecker’s response with breathless anxiety. I will never forget his reply: ‘President Monson, we know you! We have watched you for many years! We trust you! Your request regarding missionaries is approved!’”
In that moment, it felt as if the clouds had parted as heaven smiled upon what had happened, President Nelson said.