This month, Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints turned 85. His birthday was noted by Church members in Australia and worldwide and was celebrated with an evening of music in the spacious Conference Centre in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tens of thousands attended the event, in person or by satellite link. Many more watched one of several rebroadcasts on cable TV.
At age 85, one might think President Monson would retire and enjoy the remainder of his days in leisure, especially because he has served nearly fifty years as a General Authority of the Church. That will not be the case, however. He, like the fifteen modern-day prophets before him, will serve in that role for the remainder of his life.
He was sustained as President of the Church in February, 2008, at the death of his predecessor, Gordon B. Hinckley. At the time, Thomas S. Monson was the longest serving member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, having been called to that office in 1963. The elevation of the longest serving apostle to the office of President is the established pattern in the Church.
The fourteen million Mormons around the globe revere President Monson and sustain him as a prophet, having the right, the power, and the authority to speak the mind and the will of God to His people.
"Culturally speaking, Australians at times find it difficult to acknowledge people in the community based on their position of authority alone,” comments Elder Andrew O’Riordan, a member of the Seventy living in Victoria. “However, things are different in the Church. President Monson and the prophets before him have earned, through dedicated lives of selfless service to the Church and its members, the respect that accompanies this honourable calling."
“His messages are timely,” comments Sue Owen, a Church member in Brisbane, “and are given ahead of changing conditions, so we can prepare to deal effectively with the circumstances that arise in the world.”
"We need living prophets," said Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Council of the Twelve Apostles in a recent General Conference of the Church. “In the Church today, just as anciently,” he said, “establishing the doctrine of Christ or correcting doctrinal deviations is a matter of divine revelation to those the Lord endows with apostolic authority.”
“The President of the Church has a further and special spiritual endowment in this respect,” stated President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., an earlier counsellor in the First Presidency, “for he is the Prophet for the whole Church.”
At the birthday celebration, musical celebrities teamed up with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square to perform Broadway selections and other music beloved by the Prophet.