WASHINGTON – Thomas Monson, who headed the Mormon Church for almost a decade and was considered a “prophet, seer, and revelator” by the Mormon faithful, died on Tuesday in Salt Lake City, the church said on its Web page. He was 90.
Monson, who headed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – the formal name of the Mormon Church – since 2008, died at his home on Tuesday night surrounded by his family, said his spokesman, Eric Hawkins.
Considered by Mormons to be a prophet who received divine revelations pertaining to the almost 16 million believers of the Mormon faith around the world, Monson had belonged to the Church’s leadership for more than 50 years.
At age 22, he was called to act as bishop for his local congregation, and at age 36 – in 1963 –, he was elected to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the second-highest presiding body in church government after the First Presidency, comprised of the church president and two other leaders.
Described as affable and accessible by those who knew him personally, Monson presided over the church during a period of special media attention to the faith, particularly due to the 2012 presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, who – if he had been elected – would have been the first Mormon president of the United States.
Also making headlines during Monson’s tenure as president was the Mormons’ unease with the legalization of gay marriage in 2015, the same year in which the church declared that members engaging in homosexual relationships were apostate, and the reluctance of many of the Mormon faithful in Utah – despite their social conservatism – to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
The faithful of the Church of Latter-Day Saints – founded in 1830 in New York state by Joseph Smith, its first prophet and leader – believe in the Bible and that Jesus Christ is the son of God but they also give co-equal credence to a second religious work, the Book of Mormon, written by Smith ostensibly as per divine revelation.
Among the Mormons who have become famous are Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the president pro tempore of the Senate and third in the US presidential order of succession, former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who was Senate Majority Leader from 2007-2015, entertainers Donnie and Marie Osmond, actress Katherine Heigl and author Stephenie Meyer, who penned the romantic “Twilight” vampire saga.
With Monson’s passing, church rules dictate that the leader of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, 93-year-old Russell Nelson, immediately becomes president and prophet of the Church. Next in the line of succession is Dallin H. Oaks, age 85.
The Mormon Church is ranked by the National Council of Churches as the fourth-largest Christian denomination in the United States.