SALT LAKE CITY — The president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, passed away on Jan. 2 at the age of 90.
He was the highest-ranking church leader for nearly 16 million Mormons throughout the world, including approximately 750,000 members in the Philippines.
For many of his flock, including Filipino Mormons, President Monson will be remembered for his optimism, sense of humor and dedication to ministering to those in need.
“He was a great example of how to be a Christlike person,” Filipino Mormon Michael Ingleton said. “And he’s been a great leader of this church, and he’s taught me many different leadership skills.”
Others say they’ll remember him for his sermons that centered around simple acts of neighborliness rather than complicated questions of theology.
“Sometimes when you just need a little bit of a boost, or a spiritual boost, I’d listen to talks from him and things he would say,” Filipino Mormon Matthew Blake said. “You could tell that he loved people and loved to serve people.”
President Monson also left a lasting impression on Utah’s Filipino Catholic Bishop, Oscar A. Solis, who worked closely with the Mormon leader.
In a written statement, Bishop Solis said: “The President has been a good a friend and supporter in our mutual efforts to support the common good and care for the most vulnerable both at home and abroad … For President Monson, the Sermon on the Mount was not just a platitude but a way of life.”
During President Monson’s nearly 10-year tenure, the Church helped in humanitarian crises, grew in membership and lowered the age at which young people could serve full-time missions, enabling a rise in the ranks of female missionaries.
Those occurrences were also seen in the Philippines, where the religion gained official recognition in 1961. Today, the Church there has 745,959 members, 1,211 congregations and 3,500 missionaries spread across 21 missions.
During President Monson’s time in office, the Church in the Philippines also opened its second temple, this one in Cebu City, and celebrated the milestone of establishing its 100th stake, or diocese.
Upon the death of a Church president, the most senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles usually becomes the next president and prophet. In this case, it’s 93-year-old Russell M. Nelson, a former heart surgeon.
Many members believe he will be a good fit as their next leader.
“I will follow all of his guidance and direction just like President Monson,” Filipina Mormon Imelda Nierves Blake said.
“He always emphasizes the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives and being converted to it, and he’s an amazing man,” Ingleton said.
The funeral services for President Monson were held on Jan. 12 at Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. Nelson is expected to be formally appointed as the Church’s 17th president and prophet in the coming days.