Thomas S. Monson was said to be the kind of man who’d give the shirt off his back.
Douglas Gale, 79, of Benton City, doesn’t just believe that to be true — he knows it firsthand.
Decades ago, Gale was a missionary in Toronto for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Monson — who’d go onto be church president, serving from 2008 until his death earlier this week — oversaw the missionaries and congregants in that part of Canada.
One day, as Gale was wrapping up his mission term, Monson offered the younger man one of his own shirts.
He said, “I’ve eaten too much out here” and it’s a bit small, Gale recalled.
That shirt was a tangible gift, but Gale said Monson also passed on many less tangible ones — life lessons on topics such as the value of preparation.
“He said, ‘Even the Holy Ghost can’t pour water out of an empty bucket. So prepare — read the Scriptures, the lesson manuals, and be prepared when you are called to serve. Fill your bucket,’” Gale said.
Monson was organized and had an astounding memory, Gale recalled.
When he came to Toronto, he quickly learned the names of the missionaries and church members — a sizable group.
“He had that kind of personal touch with everybody,” Gale said.
Gale spent several months working closely with Monson, editing the mission’s publications. Later, after Gale finished his missionary term and moved on, he stayed connected to the leader.
When Gale married his wife, LaVon — in a double wedding with his brother and sister-in-law — Monson officiated.
Over the years, Gale would see Monson at church conferences and the older man would mention the wedding.
Gale said Monson’s emphasis on personal responsibility made a lasting impact on him.
He taught that “each man is free to make his own choices, but with that comes the totally connected responsibility for the choices he makes,” Gale said.
It’s been a guiding principle, Gale said, and one he’s shared with young people himself.
Monson died at home Tuesday night at age 90. He was born in Salt Lake City and became a church bishop by age 22.
In 1963, when he was 36, he became one of the youngest-ever church apostles. He served as a counselor for three church presidents before becoming president himself in February 2008.
During his tenure, he expanded the church’s reach and transparency and worked to promote humanitarian causes, while also leading a divisive fight against gay marriage.
One of his most memorable moments as president came in 2012, when he announced that the minimum age to leave on missions was being lowered to 19 for women and to 18 for men. That triggered a historic influx of missionaries and proved a milestone change for women by allowing many more to serve.
Church members considered Monson to be a warm, caring and approachable leader.
“He certainly was a man of God interested in each individual and concerned about each individual,” Gale said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.