What I Think President Monson Would Do About His New York Times Obituary 

When my sister first sent me the link to the now infamous New York Times article, regarding President Monson, I was infuriated and defensive. I was sucked into that article just like everyone else in Mormonism was. I wrote almost 800 words of a heated defense of the prophet.

I sat on the blog and didn’t release it.

Then I deleted it.

It just didn’t feel right.

It just didn’t feel like it was something President Monson would have wanted me to do. I would have been defending him. But I don’t feel like I would have been honoring him or any of the things he’s stood for during his prophetic ministry.

My personal belief is that President Monson would give the obituary editor of the New York Times a giant hug and tell him that he loves him. That’s just my belief. You’ll have to judge for yourself whether you think that is true or not.

Regardless, the amount of attention we have given the New York Times article and the anger that we have allowed ourselves to experience is in direct opposition to everything that President Monson stood for. This man, this prophet, is no stranger to criticism. He has endured it his entire life. But never once have I heard of him mount some sort of counterattack or defense against the rubbish that has been hurled his way.

What has he done with the negativity during the duration of his life and ministry? He’s ignored it. It’s never been worth his time. He kept his eye on the mark. Focused on Christ. Served others. And never let any inkling of negativity slow him down and waste precious opportunities to do good. He would get up, smile, wiggle his ears, and run errands for the Lord. His way was the Saviors way.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” (Isa 53)

Remember the Savior’s experience during that final week preceding his death? Spit upon, railed upon, and beaten. Yet he opened not his mouth. In his final moments, it was “Father forgive them.” Why? “Because they know not what they do.”

This NYT guy… he has no idea what he’s doing. Absolutely no clue. But Christ died for him and all of his fiery editorial ignorance… and I’m almost certain, if our dear prophet passed by his way, he’d forgive him and extend a measure of kindness.

We know there will be opposition in all things. We don’t need to fight people if they think wrongly of us. In fact, fighting against other’s opinions just brings more attention to their negativity. I’ve seen the NYT article shared by more members of the church than any other article on President Monson. All that does is throw a magnifying glass on one man’s desire to be controversial. We’ve been commissioned to “share goodness,” not badness. Let’s not inadvertently make such a poor depiction of the prophet’s life go viral.

I don’t want to force a guy to change what he’s written, just as I would hope no one would attempt to force me to change the things I have written on behalf of the prophet. Agency is a precious thing. A precious gift. He can tell his story from his point of view and we can tell ours… and this is the story I would tell. It’s one in which President Monson has become a window to the Lord for me. It’s one in which he taught me to “dare to stand alone.” It’s one in which he taught me that “If the Lord needs an errand run, I want him to know that Tom Monson will run that errand.” It’s one in which I will never ignore the first prompting to go and find and help the “one.”

Let’s tell that story. From the housetops. Make it loud and clear. If enough of us do that, one NYT’s article won’t have a leg to stand on and it will soon be lost and forgotten. Yeah… I want to give that guy a piece of my mind. But I think President Monson would rather us use our time and energy to give the world a piece of the Savior’s heart. And a piece of President Monson’s heart.

The greater the servant, the greater the opposition. He knew that. I can only imagine him in heaven right now, his arm around Sister Monson, a smile on his face, and a heart overflowing with love for each of us who defend him in his absence, and yet, ever so strangely, love for those that never understood who he was nor comprehended the feelings of his heart.

I believe… above all, he would ask us to look to the Savior and do what he would do. Love others, forgive them, and never let anything distract us from THE WORK!

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  • Tim Guymon

    Have you seen the FB post comparing the New York Times’ obituaries of Thomas S Monson and Fidel Castro? Talk about a night vs. day display!

    I remembered what my sponsor in AA once told me about praying for people I didn’t like: “You really can’t be caught praying that somebody die in a fiery car crash. In the end all you can do is say ‘Thy will be done.’ If you can’t bring yourself to love your enemy, at least you’re not on record wishing for his (or her) destruction. If you can’t honestly think of a blessing, the most you can say is ‘Thy will be done.'”

    Here is the perfect answer to that obituary problem:

    • Resurrected Ghostworm

      I just read the NY Times’ obituary for Fidel Castro, and I have no idea why anyone would think it was a flattering piece.

      Here are some excerpts:

      Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died on Friday. He was 90…

      He wielded power like a tyrant, controlling every aspect of the island’s existence. He was Cuba’s “Máximo Lider.” From atop a Cuban Army tank, he directed his country’s defense at the Bay of Pigs. Countless details fell to him, from selecting the color of uniforms that Cuban soldiers wore in Angola to overseeing a program to produce a superbreed of milk cows. He personally set the goals for sugar harvests. He personally sent countless men to prison…

      But it was more than repression and fear that kept him and his totalitarian government in power for so long. He had both admirers and detractors in Cuba and around the world. Some saw him as a ruthless despot who trampled rights and freedoms; many others hailed him as the crowds did that first night, as a revolutionary hero for the ages…

      His legacy in Cuba and elsewhere has been a mixed record of social progress and abject poverty, of racial equality and political persecution, of medical advances and a degree of misery comparable to the conditions that existed in Cuba when he entered Havana as a victorious guerrilla commander in 1959.

    • Stephanie Brooke Jaden

      If the shoe fits wear it. Monson often inserted the Mormon beliefs into the political arena. (The Mormon church comprises about 95% of the Utah government even though 52% isn’t Mormon.) I don’t have a problem with the NY Times Obituary…its truthful and doesn’t white wash “inconvenient” facts. Remember the whole person, not just what “sounds good.”

  • Rob Watson

    The New York Times just published a “damage control attempting to explain how unbiased they are in their writing of obituaries…without acknowledging the glaring disparities between President Monson’s obit and those of a serial woman abuser (Hefner) and a man who actually slaughtered LGBT folks and oppressed women in his regime (Castro). The very first comment on the article (at least when I accessed it) was from a strongly anti-Mormon woman, but she DEFENDED PRESIDENT MONSON and called out the NYTimes on their obvious bias and inappropriateness. I think there is a time to stay silent in the face of persecution, and I think there is a time to stand up and speak out. When our greatest critics can stand up and defend him, we can unite with them in doing the same.

    “As an ex-mormon living in Utah, I have a very slanted view of mormons and living under the mormon “rules” that they impose on everyone regardless of faith. However, not I, nor ANYONE for that matter, can dispute the fact that the LDS church has done incredible good in this world. President Monson was the leader of this church that has provided aid throughout the world without question. Do I agree with their teachings? Absolutely not. Write a separate article in which to address the issues you have, and write an obituary to honor the man and admit that the world lost an incredible human being. (Because incredible humans are hard to find these days.)” — Lora Argyle

  • Laura Hansen

    Well said. Thank you for your thoughts. The Savior also gave us that council:
    Matthew 5:44
    But I say unto you, ​​​Love​ your ​​​enemies​, ​​​bless​ them that ​​​curse​ you, do ​​​good​ to them that ​​​hate​ you, and ​​​pray​ for them which despitefully use you, and ​​​persecute​ you;

  • Ruth

    Wow! This is exactly what I’ve been thinking ever since I read the article. I feel like President Monson is just shaking his head with a big smile on his face and lots of love. I want to be like that too.

    • Leesa Anderson

      I don’t think he even cares!

  • David Salcido

    Christians that we are, we are charged to proclaim the divinity of the Savior with power, humility and love. Our good President Monson gave his life doing just that. Righting wrong will never feel satisfying if anger is our motivation. May we “revise” or own story with love for all and with malice toward none.

  • Joyce Wilson

    Interestingly enough many of us would not have even known about the NYT article unless some that were offended or concerned about its content didn’t start a petition.
    I do not subscribe to The NY Times nor do I ever plan to. I am sure there are articles written that many of us never read or even hear about that are negative toward the Church, I just don’t want to give the NYT more credence than they deserve. I didn’t read the article as it would not change my opinion or beliefs in the least and would probably just have stirred emotions.

  • Colt

    What part of the obituary was in error?

    • CanofSand

      For starters, it was an opinion piece – political hit piece, really – pretending to be an obituary. Lying by omission is still lying. But you know that. Forgive me if this isn’t the case, but it seems to me that you aren’t looking for an honest answer to your question. You just want to imply it was factual and fair even though it wasn’t.

  • Brother_Joseph

    Greg, you’re doing exactly what you said you wouldn’t do…, judging, criticizing, putting down.

    This NYT guy… he has no idea what he’s doing. Absolutely no clue. But Christ died for him and all of his fiery editorial ignorance…

    You may want to consider re-reading the following words of the Savior himself:
    Matt. 5:22, 25, 37, 39-48
    Matt. 6:1-15
    Matt. 7: 1-5, 12, 22-27

    • summervw

      THANK you. The new fad: Mormons berating Mormons. Getting popular. Getting old.

    • Worla

      Brother Joseph, apparently you missed the intent of the words you copied and pasted. Clearly, he meant only that if the obit writer understood that our prophet was obeying Christ and carrying out His omniscient will, he wouldn’t have painted him as he did. Ergo, let’s forgive the obit writer, because he really DOESN’T know what he did. That’s Christlike.

      • Brother_Joseph

        What you and Greg both missed entirely is that the writer probably is not LDS and may not even be a Christian so your expectations that he would recognize that President Monson was obeying Christ or carrying out his will is astounding and arrogant. I know a put down when I see it. Consequently, what you both are doing is being entirely condescending and utterly disrespectful of another person’s honest opinions regarding way Monson dealt with challenges he faced during his life. Both of you, as professed followers of Jesus (the writer makes no such profession), your words are egregious if not hypocritical and un-Christlike and we know what Jesus said about hypocrites. I don’t need to ask if you read the scriptures I posted. You in particular, obviously did not.

        • Tc Young

          Yes the fate of the hypocrite will be worse than that of even Sodom and Gomora come judgement day, and if God intends to redirect them in this life unto repentance perhaps some tribulation in the span of this life.
          I have never been one to reliably quote the Word of God nor point to scripture by book,chapter and verse and see danger in picking individual verses by which to live my life. I too did not go read your suggestions. In explanation, is it not possible for Hitler to have swayed many to nazism by Christ Asended’s own words to Saul, who went about converting gentiles to judaism in competition with the apostles, when Paul was told they would be of “synagogues of satan”. It is written, somewhere in my king James , in red, that we live by every word of God. To me this means that we must carry the word in are hearts, where Our Fathers cammandments are written. Reinforced by timely review. I try to read an entire book or chapter at a time to garnner the perspective of digesting it in context. I always of course enjoy seeing scripture hanging on a wall as reminders to “Love thy neghbor as thyself “. The prophets guided by the Spirit often interpret the scriptures for us from the entire compilation as written in their hearts.
          Not being LDS myself, I had no knowledge of President Monson until his obituary appeared but certainly share in missing him thanks to this article.
          The narrow window into his person offered in the obit drew my chagrin as well, as did your comment. As an outsider, i saw a thinnly veiled attempt to paint this man a bigot in their’s and some hypocrisy in your blatant rail.
          Next time please share the word of God from wherein your in heart it is written, not just where it is written in the Bible.
          Who are we to say that anothers sin is more offensive to our Heavenly Father than our own sins or weighed heavier on the nails in His hands.
          I did however read Gregs entire article and saw he took the time to share how the Word had directed this man in life, rather than just how he resisted the temptation to condemn, but please feel free to judge for yourself if you truely believe you have aced this rightiousness bit rather than seeking a daily reprieve.

  • bluewater

    Thank you Greg. While I am pleased that so many LDS were offended for the treatment of their beloved prophet, this is the Quote I thought of while reading your take on it.
    President Hinckley–
    “As the work grows, we may expect a strengthening of the efforts of the adversary against it. Our best defense is the quiet offense of allegiance to the teachings which have come to us from those whom we have sustained as prophets of God.The Prophet Joseph Smith gave us instruction pertinent to the situation in which we find ourselves. Said he: “Go in all meekness, in sobriety, and preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified; not to contend with others on account of their faith, or systems of religion, but pursue a steady course. This I delivered by way of commandment; and all who observe it not, will pull down persecution upon their heads, while those who do, shall always be filled with the Holy Ghost; this I pronounced as a prophecy.”….If we will pursue a steady course in the implementation of our religion in our own lives, we shall advance the cause more effectively than by any other means.There may be those who will seek to tempt us away. There may be those who will try to bait us. We may be disparaged. We may be belittled. We may be inveighed against. We may be caricatured before the world.There are those, both in the Church and out, who would compel us to change our position on some matters, as if it were our prerogative to usurp authority which belongs alone to God.We have no desire to quarrel with others. We teach the gospel of peace. But we cannot forsake the word of the Lord as it has come to us through men whom we have sustained as prophets….I conclude with this question: Should we be surprised if we are called upon to endure a little criticism, to make some small sacrifice for our faith when our forebears paid so great a price for theirs? Without contention, without argument, without offense, let us pursue a steady course, moving forward to build the kingdom of God. If there is trouble, let us face it calmly. Let us overcome evil with good. This is God’s work. It will continue to strengthen over the earth, touching for good the lives of countless thousands whose hearts will respond to the message of truth. No power under heaven can stop it.This is my faith and this is my testimony.” Ensign, Jan 2005

    • summervw

      I calmly signed that petition. ;D;D;D

  • Rage187

    As a late in life convert, learning to take the high road has been a direction worth learning. Far less potholes.

  • I know we aren’t supposed to have favorites, but President Monson was always someone i really looked up to. My whole life i listened to his message and admired his life of service and gentle strength. Having said that, I don’t see the big deal with the NYT obit. It seemed like a pretty standard obit for a public figure. Everything it said was true as far as I know. It highlighted his time as the leader of the church and covered the major milestones the church went through under his leadership. Maybe people were expecting it to be full of heart-warming Monson-style stories? But that’s not what a journalistic obit is supposed to be. Facts are boring and kind of cold. But that’s ok. The truth won’t always give us warm fuzzies, but that’s OK. We don’t need to always feel like we’re being bottle fed and tucked in at night. He was a great man. He was a complicated man. To be honest, as a public figure, we know very little about him beyond what we gleaned from him talking about his own life and from official channels. I’m sure there’s much more to President Monson than any of us know. It seems childish to insist an official obit fit our image of who he was supposed to be.

    • Ann Christopherson

      It seemed to me not an obit. Even an obit for a public figure. It seemed more like an editorial comment on the political complications of members during his years as president which would be proper in a separate column. The Mr. thing I felt was strange.

      • Sally Tenney

        Definately the “Mr. Monson” was deliberate and demeaning. Couldn’t even say President Monson!

        • I don’t think it was deliberate. Even the President of the United States gets a MR. It’s honestly a matter of style rules than a personal attack. I think the only people who keep their honorifics throughout a article are royalty. I know it seems weird to us, but that’s the rule set they’re working with. I don’t think most people even know enough about the church to understand why that would seem demeaning, let alone know enough to do it on purpose.

    • Ria

      I understand where you’re coming from. And my issue with the obituary was not that it spoke of the controversies during Monson’s term as Prophet of the LDS Church, but that it ignored positive things the Church did on those very same issues. It comes off as bias when the perceived negatives are spoken of, and none of the positives on those same topics (namely the donations made by the Church to help LGBT+ youth, and the Church backing LGBT+ anti-discrimination legislation).

      But I’ve mulled over this article way too much, so perhaps my opinion on the matter is too strong.

  • Brenda

    Greg, I agree. This way of thinking feels, well, peaceful…Christlike….feels like our beloved President Monson. My favorite part of your post was the following: “But I think President Monson would rather us use our time and energy to give the world a piece of the Savior’s heart. And a piece of President Monson’s heart.”

  • Ria

    Greg, should members of the Church who advocated this article be updated to reflect the truth about President Monson feel bad about it? Should the signers of the petition pray for repentance? Was it inappropriate to defend the Prophet the same way one might defend the Savior or Joseph Smith? I ask these questions in sincerity, not sarcasm or anger.

    • Not at all. Like I said in the article, I’m sure President Monson would appreciate the support. Just trying to raise awareness of the consequences of helping the NYT article go viral.

      • Ria

        I noted your suggestions to post uplifting and positive articles about President Monson. Yet there is no link to such an article in yours. It feels like your post is more a reverse rant against members & non-members alike who petitioned to the NYT to be truthful in their depiction of the late President Monson. If you’re standing by your words, would a viral call to serve perhaps be more appropriate? Maybe, #servelikeMonson and make that a trending hashtag. And then actually go out and do it? Rather than sit in front of our computers demanding that church members or NYT editors change their ways? If by example is truly the best way to show what President Monson meant to us as Latter-day Saints, is writing and commenting about what was or wasn’t said about him really the best way to accomplish this?

        I’ve been mulling over the NYT articles for days. I see your points and you make some very valid ones, undoubtedly. But if we are to truly respond the way President Monson would, it wouldn’t be with words thrown about. It would be by actions done selflessly. Don’t you think?

  • Regina Mukondola

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I for one refused to read the article simply because of the exact points you have raised in your article. Each time I read some posts by members of the church and one of my many favourite songs came to mind. IF THE SAVIOUR STOOD BESIDES ME, would I do the things I do..

  • I signed the petition out of a desire to bring exposure to the media vs. Christian dialogue. This isn’t a Mormon thing, it’s a good vs evil thing. We are encouraged to be a voice and be involved in our community, politics and social media. Now getting mad would be the wrong approach, but letters to editors to express feelings are always appropriate. Great article btw.

    • Frederich von Stüppel

      Good vs evil? Really? Please list the factual inaccuracies of the NYT obit.

      • CanofSand

        Implying that a fringe movement is a great controversy within the church, for one. Less than 10% of LDS women support ordaining women. (Funny how they don’t bring this stuff up in the obituaries of Catholic leaders….)

        As for a list, why bother? The thing was a political hit piece, not a proper obituary. (That’s why they rewrote it.) I could go line by line and list many things but you would claim it’s all fine because you share the opinion of the hit piece’s writer.

        Lying by omission is still lying.

  • Resurrected Ghostworm

    I’m perplexed at why people are up in arms over the NY Times obituary.

    The obituary seemed to be focused on Thomas S. Monson’s achievements, the challenges he faced in his role as president of the LDS church, and how those challenges were met. Nothing in the obituary was factually incorrect.

    This is exactly what one would expect from a news outlet like the NY Times, with an audience that encompasses the entire nation (and beyond). Most of the Times’ readership would have little or no familiarity with Thomas S. Monson. The purpose of the obituary was to inform readers of his passing, and explain who he was and why he was a notable/newsworthy figure.

    • Frederich von Stüppel

      They’re upset because it wasn’t written in a manner similar to the Deseret News.

    • Travis Hansen

      They’re upset because it dared to paint an accurate picture of the man who did some good things and moved the church forward a smidge, but also was anti-lgbtq and had character flaws. They’d rather it paint in as they imagine him. A perfect man who was the prophet of god.

    • CanofSand

      Thousands of non-Mormons not only found the obit to be terrible but complained about it and the NYT ended up rewriting it, so I don’t see what you don’t get about this.

      Lying by omission is still lying.

      For one, implying that fringe progressive ideas are a big “controversy” tearing the church apart is not honest.

      Less than 10% of LDS women support ordaining women, the “movement” calling for that is very fringe and only seen when leftist narrative-pushers are shoving it in our faces. But how much of the article was devoted to highlighting this controversial-only-because-progressives-SAY-it-is “movement”?

      Do you think their obituary for the Pope or a Catholic Bishop would go into great length about ordaining women or how they refused to change their longstanding position on so-called same sex marriage? Rhetorical question; we’ve seen such obits and the answer is no.

      In summary: Disguising a political hit piece as an obituary is not honest.

  • uteman10111

    President Monson has been a top leader of the LDS Church since 1963. He’s had his hand in decisions regarding Women’s Rights, Race and the priesthood, The September 6, Firing of BYU educators (Anti-Intellectualism), Mark Hoffman, Censorship, Church Finances, California Proposition 8, The Strengthening the Church Members Committee, Children of Gays, and much more. I don’t think things are as Lilly White as you’d believe them to be and Monson has been an integral part of this history.

  • Leesa Anderson

    It was a completely biased article but he knew that when he published it. The bottom line is, Thomas Monson is not worried about some petty writer that could have shown class and apologize instead of now trying to make his ridiculous apology even worse by saying it’s a proper journalistic obituary.
    President Monson spent his life in the service of others and on the Lords errand

  • James Paul

    I have found over the years, that it is often a benefit to write a response to something, think about it for a day or so, and then just delete it. Regardless of what we say, minds are seldom changed by what we consider to be a correct response.
    I often recall the words of Abraham Lincoln as he gave his Gettysburg Address.
    “The world will little note, nor long remember what is said here today”.