Editor's note: "The Spoken Word" is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.
On Jan. 2, 2018, Thomas S. Monson passed away at his home in Salt Lake City. He was known and loved by millions of people as President Monson, because for 10 years he served as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, he was also our respected adviser and dear friend.
But to understand why President Monson was such a beloved and influential leader, it's best to look not at the positions he held but at the people he loved. He was known for his relentless optimism, good cheer and compassion, and he shared those gifts with people who needed them most. His lifelong ministry was to rescue and help the widows and the orphans, the lost and the forgotten, the dying and the downtrodden. Somehow he always seemed to know when someone needed a visit, a kind word, a thoughtful gesture.
So it came as no surprise when, a few years ago, someone asked President Monson what he would like as a birthday gift and he responded, without a moment's hesitation: "Do something for someone else … to make his or her life better. Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely and do something for them. That's all I would ask" (see "Prophet's Birthday," by Gerry Avant, LDS Church News, Aug. 23, 2008).
He wasn't asking anything he wasn't already doing himself. As he once said: "We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. ... Send that note to the friend you've been neglecting; give your child a hug; give your parents a hug; say 'I love you' more; always express your thanks. Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved" (see "Finding Joy in the Journey," Ensign or Liahona, November 2008.)
Yes, he led a worldwide church and was well-known by millions. But the essence of his life is found in the way he reached out to individuals. Like the Lord whom he followed, President Monson walked with those who otherwise would have walked alone. And so we say goodbye to Thomas S. Monson with a song that, in some small way, captures this element of his life and ministry: "You'll Never Walk Alone."