Faith leaders joined Wednesday in praising the late LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson for his ecumenical outreach, charitable impulses at home and abroad, and for offering a ready hand of friendship across ethnic, national and religious divides.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that Monson, who died in Salt Lake City late Tuesday at age 90, was “known for his hands-on approach and concern for the poor,” even as he “presided over a church confronting challenges and change, within and without.”
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the Washington, D.C.-based group, remarked that Monson’s tenure as president of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was highlighted by “understanding and friendship . . . between our two communities on national and local levels [concerning] important questions on family and the dignity of the human person.”
“Catholics and Mormons work together and support each other,” DiNardo said. “Today, Catholics join their Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters in commending his soul to the mercy and love of God.”
In Utah, the Rev. Oscar A. Solis, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, saluted Monson as a leader who “joyfully served his church and the broader community selflessly and humbly for many years.”
“[He] has been a good friend and supporter in our mutual efforts to support the common good and care for the most vulnerable both at home and abroad,” Solis added. “ … For President Monson, the Sermon on the Mount was not just a platitude but a way of life.”
The bishop concluded by recalling Monson’s ability to see “the image of Jesus” in people, regardless of their faith traditions. “His was a ‘human’ touch of kindness and dignity that will long be treasured.”
The Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, admired Monson’s kindness, delivered with “a calming voice” whether individually or before a broadcast audience of millions of Mormons.
“I will always appreciate the LDS Church’s generous dedication to interfaith ministries under his presidency,” Hayashi said, “and throughout his many years of devoted service.”
Greg Johnson, director of Utah’s Standing Together, an organization dedicated to Mormon-evangelical Christian dialogue that stood against so-called “street preachers” who harangued LDS General Conference attendees in the past, also mourned Monson’s death.
“We in the local evangelical community offer our compassion and regard for the LDS community in relation to this very significant and emotional time for the LDS people,” he said.
Leaders of Utah’s Jewish community offered their condolences as well.
Rabbi Ilana Schwartzman, who is leaving Utah after overseeing Congregation Kol Ami for seven years, counted Salt Lake City’s Jews as “blessed to have had a strong relationship with President Monson.” She added that she “appreciated all that he did with and for our community [as an] advocate for interfaith conversation and cooperation.”
Added Rabbi Benny Zippel of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah: “President Monson was a deeply godly individual. I was very moved by his humility, kind spirit and his deep commitment to upholding God’s values in this world.”
Zippel especially treasured the memory of standing “together [with Monson] on the steps of the state Capitol in January 2009. ... It was a very cold day physically, around 13 degrees, but his warmth exuded in a very clear fashion, nonetheless.”
Salman Masud, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake, said Muslims admired Monson “for his kind nature and service. Aging is not necessarily essential for greatness, but living effectively is.
“We will remember him as a compassionate leader whose charitable nature benefited the needy locally and victims of disaster across the world,” Masud added. “During his tenure, Muslims always felt Utah to be a warm and welcoming home.”
Sympathy also came from Rajan Zed, a Hindu cleric and leader of the Reno, Nev.-based Universal Society of Hindus.
“[He was] a great humanitarian who collaborated with other religions . . . worldwide on programs aimed at improving the human condition,” stated Zed, also describing Monson as “an affable, kind and approachable leader” who expanded the LDS Church’s international relief efforts.