Monson has spent his entire career in the service of the LDS Church, working alongside every president since 1963 when he was named one of the twelve apostles at the age of 36.
By unfailing tradition, Monson, as the longest-serving apostle, will become the 16th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The 80-year-old is a folksy orator known for his compassion, fondness for modern-day parables of struggle and spiritual triumph, and willingness to enlist non-Mormons in humanitarian causes. He repeatedly talks of being spirituality prompted to help the disadvantaged and outcast, a lesson he learned during the waning years of the Great Depression.
"I remember that time and time again those who were riding the rails came to our home. I think they had it marked," Monson told The Salt Lake Tribune in a 1998 interview. "I can see [a hobo] now, holding his cap in his hand. He asks, 'Is there something I can do to earn a sandwich?' My mother would say, 'You come right in and sit down; wash your hands over there in the sink.' And then she'd make a sandwich."
A tall man with a big grin, Monson is "a robust, buoyant, whirlwind of a man who might have been a superb basketball player in his youth had it not been required of him. . .[to] forgo the pleasure of extracurricular school activities in order to work at his father's side in the printing business," fellow apostle Jeffrey R. Holland wrote in a biographical essay.
It didn't take long for LDS leaders to recognize Monson's leadership skills.
He was called as bishop of Salt Lake City's Sixth-Seventh Ward at 22 and became noted for making it a point to visit elderly widows in his ward. It is a practice that has never left him.
Five years after being named a bishop, Monson became a counselor in the three-man presidency of Salt Lake City's Temple View Stake and five years later president of the church's Canadian Mission, a post he held from 1959 to 1962.
Just one year later, in 1963, then President David O. McKay called him to fill a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, making him one of the youngest men in the 20th century to be called to this powerful quorum.
In the decades since, Monson has worked in every area of the church's vast bureaucracy, from missionary work to welfare services, education to genealogy. He represented the church on the boards of KSL, Mountain Bell, Commercial Security Bank, Beneficial Life Insurance Co., National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America and President Ronald Reagan's Task Force for Private Sector Initiatives.
Monson was a envoy for the church, dealing with governments wary of the LDS Church's presence in their nations and the legal issues involved. His two decades of quiet efforts in Eastern Europe culminated in the announcement of an LDS temple in Freiberg, Germany, behind the Iron Curtain.
In November 1985, Monson joined the church's governing First Presidency as second counselor to President Ezra Taft Benson. He remained as second counselor in Howard W. Hunter's subsequent eight-month presidency and, in 1995, became Hinckley's first counselor.
In that capacity Monson took on ecumenical and welfare issues. He had many regular meetings with leaders of Utah's other faiths and developed friendships with then-Catholic Bishop George H. Niederauer and his predecessor in the Salt Lake Diocese, William K. Weigand.
Under Monson's direction, the LDS Church joined with other Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups in causes such as homeless shelters, food banks, nursing homes and disaster relief efforts in the United States and abroad.
"We don't ever meet on doctrinal ecumenism; it's strictly on the social side of the fabric of the community," Monson explained. "But I'm a great believer that by working together we eliminate the weakness of one standing alone and substitute the strength of many standing together."
Born in Salt Lake City on Aug. 21, 1927, he served with the U.S. Navy toward the end of World War II. Back in Utah, Monson graduated from the University of Utah with honors in 1948 with a business management degree.
That same year, on Oct. 7, he married Frances Beverly Johnson in the Salt Lake Temple. They have three children and eight grandchildren.
Before his call as a general authority, Monson was involved in the publishing and printing business.
Monson joined the church-owned Deseret News in 1948, where he worked as an advertising executive and the Newspaper Agency Corp. Later he became general manager of the Deseret News Press, a commercial printing firm, before being called as an apostle.
He continued his association with the newspaper until 1996, when he retired as board chairman after 19 years.
"His life seems something of a sacred manuscript upon which the Holy Ghost has written - and is still writing," Holland wrote, "one remarkable message after another."