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SALT LAKE CITY — Rain clouds covered the Salt Lake Valley early this morning, but the sun was expected to break through well before funeral services begin at noon for President Thomas S. Monson, the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Monson died Jan. 2 of causes incident to old age. He was 90.
More than 31,000 mourners attended his viewing Thursday.
No tickets are required to attend today’s public funeral services in the 21,000-seat Conference Center next to Temple Square, but those who plan to attend should be in their seats no later than 11:30 a.m.
President Monson permanently altered the face of the church during a presidency that ended one month shy of 10 years. In October 2012, he announced that the church would lower the age at which young Mormon men and women can begin to serve missions.
Men now can begin mission service at age 18 instead of 19. Women can leave on missions at 19 instead of 21. The number of missionary applications soared 471 percent. Within a year, the overall number of missionaries jumped from 58,000 to more than 83,000.
But the age-change decision especially galvanized young Mormon women. In the first year after President Monson’s announcement, the number of sister missionaries skyrocketed from 8,055 to nearly 21,673. Women became 26 percent of the church’s missionary force, up from 12 percent.
The phenomenon spurred a national media outlet to declare that “the standard image of a Mormon missionary, a gangly young man in a dark suit, was suddenly out of date.”
Ordained an apostle at the unusually young age of 36, President Monson served in that role for 54 years, including 32 years in the First Presidency.
On Feb. 3, 2008, he was set apart as the church’s president.
During his administration, church membership grew from 13 million to more than 16 million.
Church leaders also dedicated 35 new temples in that time, nearly a quarter of the 159 operating around the world. He personally dedicated 21 temples as an apostle and member of the First Presidency.
At his passing, the church was renovating 12 existing temples, with 11 new temples under construction. He announced an additional 12 temples for which work has yet to begin.
He also issued mission calls to 410,442 full-time missionaries.
Church members will remember him for his call to “Go to the rescue” and his own personal example of ministering to the one.
An indelible image of that service is President Monson shuffling through Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in his slippers, said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“The image of him I will cherish until I die is of him flying home from then–economically devastated East Germany in his house slippers because he had given away not only his second suit and his extra shirts but the very shoes from off his feet.”
Another member of the Twelve, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, called President Monson “the apostle of compassion.”
He also will be remembered for his love of poetry and literature and his personal accounts, all of which peppered his 230 general conference talks, and his announcements of new temples.
Eugène Delaplanche, 1836-1890: Eve, After Transgression, 1869. Photograph copyright by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw. In this poignant sculpture, the vacant, tearless eyes and agonized posture of the solitary figure bespeak the depths of ...
Jan Breughel, the Elder, ca. 1568-1625: The Garden of Eden, 1612. Brueghel masterfully fills the foreground of the scene with the abundance, happiness, and beauty of newly created life, and then skillfully ...