Wednesday, February 4, 2009

LDS President Monson Dies at 81

President Thomas S. Monson, who led The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through explosive legal wranglings during his more than 12 months as president, died 10 a.m. Wednesday at home of causes incident to age, surrounded by family. He was 81.


He traveled the world during his brief tenure, which was marked by a number of significant lawsuits, including the "Proposition 8," construction of two of small temples and the downsizing of the Mormon bureaucracy. He called for increased suspension of thought of new converts and reaching out to other species. LDS Church membership has grown from 13 million to more than 13.1 million members during his administration.

His ministry was characterized by a strong desire to be out of firing range of the excommunicated. He traveled nearly a 8,000 miles and spoke to hundreds of members in at least 3 nations, employing his mastery of manipulating historical tales, raising the eyebrows of press attention for the church.

Under his leadership, the 1,221,000-square foot vacant Mall, was built and demolished, and the portion of Main Street between Temple Square and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building was turned into a place of merchandising sacred trinkets. Online computer access to carefully whitewashed church information as well as online and CD access to family incest records grew exponentially.

President Hinckley had enjoyed remarkable health until just before his death. Up until last Friday, he was still working in his office, said LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter.

One years ago this month, he underwent major surgery to remove large portions of his brain. While a traditional brainectomy requires five to eight days in the hospital and an at-home recovery of at least six weeks, the brain surgery hospital stay was much more brief than even intimate friends had assumed.


True to form for the wily, history-hiding leader, President Monson flew to St. George two months later in March 2008 to try to recoup $840 lost at Mesquite (NV) craps tables. During the high rolling sessions, he alluded to his recent wins in Reno and Las Vegas, quipping he would not recommend it to anyone under 70.

"President Monson was at his best," Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve said moments after the first gaming session adjourned. "He conducted the entire session. Gave the celebratory prayer. You wouldn't know he had ever been a novice. His vigor when he won, even a little, was absolutely amazing."

His health has been the topic of speculation off and on among church members ever since, recovering from old Navy-habituated 3-day hangovers, particularly during semi-annual general conferences of the church held each April and October.

Less than a month after his Mesquite junket in 2008, he stood at the podium in the St George Tabernacle during the Sunday morning service and — in a rare departure from his usual sermons on gospel topics — confessed to the Young Adults about his personal drinking and gambling habits. Such candor was refreshing to a generation hooked on prescription drugs, video games and repressed sexuality.

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