LDS President Thomas S. Monson led the Mormon Church during the time of controversy

    LDS President Thomas S. Monson led the Mormon Church during the time of controversy (Photo: KUTV)

    SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV)- President Thomas S. Monson, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who passed away on Tuesday night, defended the Mormon Church’s views during a time when the world around the church was quickly changing.

    “His Presidency has been a contentious ten years. There’s been a lot of turbulence in the church,” said Dr. Matthew Bowman, associate professor of history at Henderson State University in Arkansas. Bowman also wrote a book on the history of the Mormon Church, “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith."

    Monson was very committed to protecting gender roles – as viewed by the church, he added.

    He was very good at cultivating a sense of nostalgia and the idea that Mormonism should be about small-scale communities where people help each other and interact on a personal level.

    “That allowed him to personally float above a lot of these issues that rocked the church while he was president,” Bowman said.

    While Monson was President:

    • The Mormon Church backed Proposition 8 in 2008. The measure aimed to ban same-sex marriage in California – a decision that drew widespread protests and criticism.
    • In 2015, the church made a change in policy that said Mormon children living with gay parents should not be blessed or baptized.
    • Kate Kelly, a Mormon woman who led cries from women who said women should be allowed into the church’s all-male priesthood, was excommunicated.
    • The LDS church severed some ties with the Boy Scouts of America after the national organization allowed gay scouts and leaders.

    Those were some of the controversies. At the same time, under Monson’s leadership, the church made other moves that seemed in stark contrast to the above:

    • The church launched a website to tell the stories of people who are Mormon and gay.
    • Women were allowed, for the first time, to say prayers and have more prominent roles during general conference.
    • The age for church missionaries was lowered to 18 for men, 19 for women.

    Dr. Paul Reeve, Simmons Mormon History Professor at the University of Utah, said while the world and the U.S. were changing, accepting new roles for women and legalizing gay marriage, Monson stayed firm defending the church’s traditional views on gender roles and marriage and family.

    “He wanted to make it clear the LDS Church would not follow those national and world trends,” he said.

    Reeve said Monson had a very reserved leadership style.

    Unlike his predecessor, Gordon B. Hinckley, he did not do media interviews.

    “More often than not, people would find out about policy changes through a leak that became public or simply through a public affairs memo,” Reeve said.

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