SALT LAKE CITY – Thomas S. Monson, a leader who became known for his folksy storytelling as he ascended through church ranks, was introduced Monday as the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Monson, 80, succeeds Gordon B. Hinckley, who died last month at age 97. Out of respect for the deceased president, the Mormon church never names a successor until after funeral services. Hinckley was buried Saturday.
The church relies on a pattern of apostolic succession in selecting a new president. Since the early part of the 20th century, the position has always passed to the most-senior member of its Council of Twelve Apostles, the second-tier of church leadership. Monson was formally chosen Sunday.
Monson said he was prepared to follow Hinckley.
"It's not difficult because he blazed the trail," Monson said at a news conference. "I worked with him for so long — 44 years. We knew each other so well. I knew and testify afresh that he was the Lord's prophet."
Latter-day Saints know Monson as a compassionate storyteller whose parables recount the stories of individuals resolving their struggles through faith.
As a senior church leader, Monson has served as an international envoy for the church and supervised the expansion of humanitarian programs. He's also known for forming ecumenical partnership with other faiths.
Monson was named to the Council of Twelve Apostles in October 1963 at the age of 36, after serving as a local church bishop and as director of the church's Canadian missionary activities in Toronto.
He went on to serve as counselor to Hinckley and two previous presidents in the church's highest leadership circle, the First Presidency.
He is the youngest man to hold the presidency since Spencer W. Kimball, who was 78 when named president in 1973. Mormon presidents serve for life.
As president, Monson will shepherd a growing church with 13 million members in 160 countries. Of those, about 5.7 million are in the United States. One-third of church members live in Utah.
Monson, a Navy World War II veteran, is a graduate of the University of Utah and holds a master's degree in business administration from the church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo.
Professionally, he worked for the church's secular businesses, including the Deseret Morning News and the Deseret News Press. He was also the representative who served on the boards of other church-owned businesses, including KSL-TV and Beneficial Life Insurance Co.
He has been married to Frances Beverly Johnson since 1948. The couple has three children. eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.