President Monson and me.

It is only fair, given that title, to admit that Pres. Monson never had a moment in his life to notice me in particular, and we never had a conversation.

I didn’t warm up to Pres. Monson right away.  His stories didn’t really strike me as particularly wonderful.  I didn’t enjoy his speaking style, especially his slowness in speaking, with big pauses.  Over time, I developed a hypothesis that this was produced by reading from a teleprompter in General Conference.  One day, I learned more about it.

Twenty years ago or so, I was in a regional Institute choir.  We performed in regional conferences held in Seattle.  Those conferences were held twice each day they were held, and we would sing in one of the two each of those days (the other had a regional primary children’s choir).  The last of these conferences included President Monson of the First Presidency among the speakers (also included Elder Holland and Elder Oakes and their wives — I love Pat Holland a lot).  Sometime I’ll tell the story of Elder Holland’s talk, but this is not that time.  When Pres. Monson came to the podium, he spoke for 20 or so minutes about his experience with Seattle, using that same, slow, pause-y delivery.  Then he pulled out a notebook, and a pair of reading glasses, and put the glasses on and started reading from his notes.  There was no teleprompter there.  We, the choir, were sitting directly in front of the stand, facing the stand, so the teleprompters would have been right in the middle of us if there were any.  So, the speaking style I had so noticed was just the way the man spoke.

8 or so years ago, the Vancouver Canada Temple opened (in Langley, BC).  After attending the open house 4 times, I attended the TYC (Temple Youth Celebration) which Pres. Monson and Pres. Uchtdorf both attended and spoke at.  I had rather warmed up to Pres. Monson by this point.  He spoke at length about his love for Canada and his experiences there.  He even asked that we dispense with the planned congregational hymn and sing O, Canada.  Which we did, twice.  During his reminiscences about Canada, there was some repeating of stories — just a few minutes from the last time he’d said them, and very clear by his delivery that he did not recall that he had just said them a few minutes ago.  Recognizable as symptoms of dementia, this made me sad.

Over the years since, I had heard whisperings of his failing health around the Mormon Internet, confirming what I had noticed at the TYC.  Time doesn’t make such issues go away — it makes them worse.  I began to wonder if we were going to see the same kinds of issues we had toward the ends of the lives of Pres. Kimball and Pres. Benson.  There was some discussion around the Mormon Internet if, perhaps, this might be the time to allow for some kind of compassionate release of the President of the Church.  A few years ago, we had Pope Benedict step down as pope, and, afaik, he lives on still.  This wasn’t unprecedented, it was just a very rare occurance for Catholics.  I began to hope that something like this would be allowed for Pres. Monson, so he could have some peace and rest before dying.  Something sorta like that, apparently, did happen, and his day-to-day responsibilities devolved to others, but he retained the massive responsibility of being the Prophet and President of the Church.  Oh, well.  I will and do miss him.  I wish him the best going forward, and also to Pres. Nelson.  No relation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *