In just 4 days The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will hold its 182nd Semi-Annual General Conference! (March 31-April1, 2012) Today we are going to get to know a little more about the leadership of the Church, focusing on the First Presidency.
The First Presidency
The First Presidency consists of the President of the Church, and his two counselors. Currently, these are President Thomas S. Monson (LDS Church President and prophet), First Counselor, Pres. Henry B. Eyring, and Second Counselor, Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf.
President Thomas S. Monson
Thomas Spencer Monson was born on August 21, 1927 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was the 2nd child of six. He grew up in a neighborhood surrounded by a large extended family. It was a very diverse area of town that included many people of Mexican decent. He credits this experience growing up in this environment to his special love of the people and culture of Mexico.
As a teen, Tommy Monson worked in his father’s printing shop, which would later shape his future career in the publishing business. He enlisted in the US Navy at age 17 during WWII, and was shipped to San Diego California. The war ended before he was deployed so he returned to Utah and graduated cum laude from the University of Utah with a business degree.
Although he did not serve a formal church mission as a young man, Pres. Monson certainly “made up for that” by serving in important positions in the church for the rest of his life! He was called to serve as a bishop only a few months after his marriage, at the “ripe old age” of 22. (Can you imagine that?) He served as a stake president at age 25, and at age 31 he was called as a mission president to preside over the entire Canada mission region. During his time in Canada, he organized the French Speaking Quebec mission. When he returned to the USA, he was just 35 years old. He went back to work for the Deseret News, imagining he would now settle down and having a long career in the newspaper business. But, the Lord had other plans for him! Less than a year later at age 36, on Oct. 10, 1963, he was asked to come and meet with the current prophet, President David O. McKay, who extended a lifelong calling to be an Apostle. Thomas Monson was the youngest apostle in church history since Joseph Fielding Smith in 1910 (age 33 at his calling), and he remains the youngest ever since to be called.
Forty-five years of diligent service later, upon the death of his dear friend and 15th prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson became the 16th President and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Monson loves good food and good fun. He once mentioned that he particularly likes Mexican food, and his favorite dessert is orange sherbet. He loves to tell jokes, and he loves to laugh. He’s a jolly soul at heart, and an extremely kind and compassionate man.
Pres. Monson is well known for his stories from the days he was a young 21 year old bishop when he served a congregation of over 1,000 people, including 85 widows, whom he visited personally and faithfully – even long after he was released as their bishop – until each and every one of them passed away.
President Monson has an endearing sense of humor. He possesses the art of impeccable comedic “timing” in his story telling! At one session General Conference he demonstrated his hidden talent of ear wiggling, much to the surprise and delight of the audience! Here is a compilation of some humorous stories told by President Monson during various past Conferences. His love and devotion to his wife, and their gentle teasing really shines through!
President Henry B. Eyring (1st Counselor)
Henry Bennion Eyring was born May 31, 1933 in Princeton, New Jersey. He was the 2nd child of Henry and Mildred Bennion Eyring. His father was a brilliant scientist and educator, and Pres. Eyring followed in his footsteps.
As a bit of trivia, Camilla Eyring, Henry Sr.’s sister, married LDS President Spencer W. Kimball (1973-1985), making the young Henry B. Eyring the nephew of a prophet.
President Eyring was a commissioner of education twice, a professor and educator at Harvard, and the President of Ricks College in Idaho from 1971-77. He was sustained to be an apostle on April 1, 1995 after the death of Pres. Howard W. Hunter.
I have a tender spot in my heart for Pres. Eyring because he lives in my neighborhood and is part of my Stake. On several occasions I have exchanged a wave or received a “hello” at mylocal grocery store. I’ve watched him pause patiently, smile and chat to a young child or an elderly person who may approach him tentatively to say hello. I’ve seen him wearing Levi overalls and wielding a rake hard at work side-by-side his neighbors to clear debris from a bad windstorm. I’ve listened to him share personal stories and bear testimony in small gatherings and give tender and wise advise as the speaker at my daughter’s Seminary Graduation. All of these small personal moments have deepened my love and appreciation for this sweet, good, humble man and I know that he is a servant of God.
Pres. Eyring is known for his smiling eyes and his tender nature. Whenever he becomes filled with the Spirit, or speaks of things that are sacred to him, he invariably becomes choked up with emotion. This can happen whether he is in a church setting or a secular environment. In this clip he talks about his background as a professor at Harvard, and explains the difference between business leaders and spiritual leaders.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (2nd Counselor)
Dieter Friedrich Uchtdorf was born November 6, 1940 to native German parents in Mährisch-Ostrau which at the time was was in the Nazi-occupied Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (now Ostrava, Czech Republic).
When Dieter was a young child, his family moved to Zwickau in eastern Germany while his father was away in the army. He once described the harrowing story of how his mother carried the children through areas being bombed to reach his grandparent’s home. One day during the war his grandmother encountered a kind Mormon in a soup line. As a result, they were introduced to the missionaries and Pres. Uchtdorf’s entire family joined the LDS Church. At age 10 his family had to escape from East Germany and settle in American-occupied West Germany.
Dieter fell in love with Harriet Reich Uchtdorf, and they were married on 14 December 1962. They are the parents of two children. Pres. Uchtdorf was a brilliant and eager student. He grew up to be a very successful airline pilot, and a respected leader in the field of aviation. By 1970, at only 29 years old, he had reached the rank of Captain with Lufthansa Airlines. In 1975 he was appointed head of Lufthansa’s new Arizona Training School, in 1980 he was made head chief pilot of cockpit crews, and in1982 he became senior vice president of flight operations.
Uchtdorf was ordained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on October 7, 2004 along with fellow apostle David A. Bednar (the two of them filled vacancies left by the deaths of Elders David B. Haight and Neal A. Maxwell)
President Uchtdorf is arguably considered our “most handsome” apostle.
With his movie-star good looks and his beguiling foreign accent, I’m sure more than a few sisters hearts swoon when he steps up to the pulpit. But, he is also beloved for being a good husband and father, for his strong faith and testimony of Jesus Christ, and his positive outlook on life. He is best known for his airplane and aviation analogies, and his self-deprecating sense of humor. He regularly speaks to the youth of the church with messages of hope and encouragement. One of of his most famous speeches to date is his “Forget-Me-Not” talk. Another favorite message was entitled “Create” – an excerpt is featured in this MormonMessages video:
Official First Presidency Letters
From time to time an official letter will be issued from the Church to the general membership. These letters are always signed by the First Presidency and are requested to be read over the pulpit during the soonest Sunday worship service. A recent example is a letter dated Feb 13, 2012 encouraging Utah members to be politically involved and attend their upcoming local Caucus meetings . Another letter dated March 1, 2012 was sent to the entire membership of the church entitled “Names Submitted for Temple Ordinances” . A comprehensive list of First Presidency Letters can be found here, at LDS Church Newsroom.
The First Presidency And 12 Apostles Song by “Sons of Ammon”
In our next installment, we will be getting to know the Quorum of the 12 Apostles.
- Pres. Monson makes list of top 10 most admired men (KSL.com)
- Why Do We Need Prophets? (March 4th Lesson) (plainvieweq.wordpress.com)
- We Listen To A Prophet’s Voice (mormonsoprano.com)