Here’s a story about LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson that touched me personally.
And, with Monson’s funeral Friday at the 21,000-seat Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City, this story is about another funeral.
Monson was known to be a warm, gentle man with a keen sense of humor. He was a close friend of my beloved boss, longtime Salt Lake Tribune Publisher Jack Gallivan, a devout Catholic who battled the Mormon church on his paper’s editorial pages over alcohol policy and other issues.
Monson and Gallivan had worked together as board members of the Newspaper Agency Corp. — the production, circulation and advertising arm of The Tribune and the LDS Church-owned Deseret News.
Their friendship was significant, given the history of the relationship between the two newspapers dating back to the 19th century.
The Tribune was founded in 1871 by former Mormons called Godbeites as an alternative voice to the Deseret News.
At times, the feud between the two papers became vicious.
The Tribune sometimes would spell the surname of Mormon founder Joseph Smith with a dollar sign instead of an S. When referring to the faith’s prophet, the paper would spell the word p-r-o-f-i-t.
The Deseret News, in an editorial during that period, described The Tribune this way:
“The manufacturers of anti-Mormon sensations; the scavengers of the press; the slanderers of the living and defamers of the dead; the garblers of public speeches; the blasphemers of sacred things; the cowardly libelers of women and children; the dirty-minded scandalmongers; the craven dastards who fling their filth at those they know will not retaliate; the pen-stabbers; the character assassins; the authors of false telegraphic dispatches; and their aiders and abettors.”
So, do you think they didn’t like us much?
Later, when Sen. Thomas Kearns bought The Tribune in the early 20th century, the bickering continued. Kearns, a Catholic, represented a rival faction in the Republican Party to Sen. Reed Smoot, an LDS general authority.
Through the ensuing years, the relationship between the papers softened. By the time Gallivan and Monson rose to their respective positions, a strong friendship had emerged — even though the publications continued to compete vigorously in their newsrooms and on their editorial pages.
In May 2011, when the long-retired Gallivan was 95, Monson came to lunch at Gallivan’s Park City home, joined by Gallivan’s three sons, Jack Jr., Mickey and Tim. They spent hours regaling one another with tales of past adventures. Monson brought with him a copy of his then-new book and read from a chapter that included stories about Gallivan in those days the two worked together.
As lunch ended, Mickey Gallivan remembers, Monson stood, put his hand on his Catholic friend’s shoulder and said, “Jack, I want you to know how much I love you and know if there is anything I can ever do for you, please don’t hesitate to call on me.”
Gallivan thought for a minute, rubbed his chin and responded, “Well, you know, Tom, there is one thing I’ve always wanted to ask. Can you tell me how to get a piece of that 10 percent [tithing] you collect from your membership?”
Monson laughed and quickly shot back, “Oh, Jack, I don’t know about that, but in very short order, I can teach you how to participate.”
Gallivan died in October 2012 at age 97. The pre-funeral liturgy was on the Friday evening of LDS General Conference weekend, when Monson obviously was busy. After the ceremony had begun in the historic Cathedral of the Madeleine, the back door swung open and the Mormon president appeared in the doorway. He slowly walked by himself down the aisle and found an open seat in one of the pews. He sat quietly until the liturgy ended. Mickey Gallivan then approached him, took his arm, and the two walked to Gallivan’s open coffin, where they stood together for several minutes.
The past and the present • Here’s another personal story linking LDS leaders and The Tribune.
In 1991, Monson’s expected successor, Russell M. Nelson, stood during a historic moment at a banquet in a Moscow hotel with Jon Huntsman Sr.
Nelson and Dallin H. Oaks, both members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, were the church’s representatives among about 100 Utahns invited by Huntsman to a tour of Russia and Armenia, where Huntsman dedicated a cement plant in Yerevan that he funded to help Armenians build sturdier homes to better withstand earthquakes.
The LDS Church had collaborated with Huntsman on humanitarian efforts in Armenia.
In Moscow, at the banquet hosted by Huntsman, Russia’s vice president presented the two apostles with a declaration granting the LDS Church official recognition in Russia. That move paved the way for the church to buy property, build chapels and open missions in the vast country that had for decades been officially an atheist regime.
Editor’s note • Paul Huntsman, the owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune, is a son of Jon Huntsman Sr.