Thomas Monson, the 16th president of the Mormon church, has died at the age of 90. He led the religious group for nine years but has served it for almost seven decades.
Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said that Monson died Tuesday night at his home in Salt Lake City.
Monson is a popular personality and familiar face to multiple generations of Mormons as he spent more than five decades serving in top church leadership councils.
He started as a church bishop at the young age of 22. Monson also became the youngest church apostle I 1963 at the age of 36. The Salt Lake City native also served as a counselor for three church presidents before taking on the role of the top leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February 2008.
Monson kept a low profile during his presidency which in the years 2008 and 2012 were marked with intense publicity for the church because of the campaigns of Mormon Mitt Romney for President.
Monson’s most public acts happened when he appeared at church conferences and devotionals as well as dedications of church temples.
Monson is also best remembered for his great emphasis on humanitarian work by expanding the church’s disaster relief programs around the world. He also led the religious group’s involvement in the passage of gay marriage ban in California in 2008. He is also known for having pushed the religion to be more transparent about its past, and also for supporting the lowering of the minimum age for missionaries from 21 to 19 for women and 19 to 18 for men.
Monson is generally seen by Mormons as a warm, caring, endearing and approachable leader. Armand Mauss, a retired professor of sociology and religious studies at Washington State University said: “President Monson always seemed more interested in what we do with our religion rather than in what we believe.”
Monson was also a World War II veteran who served in the Navy and spent a year abroad. He returns to finish a business degree at the University of Utah and a master’s degree in business administration from the church-owned Brigham Young University.
The next President expected to succeed Monson is not immediately named, but the post is likely to go to the next longest-tenured member of the church’s governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As per church protocol, the person is Russel M. Nelson.