Thomas S. Monson, 16th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Tuesday night at his home in Salt Lake City. He was 90 and had been in poor health. Monson was president, "prophet, seer, and revelator" of the Mormon church for nearly a decade, but he had been one of the church's 12 apostles since 1963, at age 36, after 14 years as a bishop. When he joined the top ranks of the LDS church 53 years ago, there were 2.1 million Mormons and 12 temples around the world; by the time he died, the religion had expanded to 15.9 million members and 157 temples, Utah's Deseret News notes.
Monson will be succeeded by Russell M. Nelson, who is 93 but was ordained an apostle in 1984. When Monson had been ordained 20 years earlier, he "joined a quorum with a handful of men who knew or were raised by Latter-day Saint pioneers who crossed the plains in 1847," the Deseret News says. "They could speak from experience about the church before the Manifesto that ended polygamy in 1890. ... He was the final prophet to have served in the Twelve with church leaders who had known men who knew the first, Joseph Smith." Monson was also the last living person who was present in June 1978 when the Mormon leaders received a revelation allowing black people and other minorities to become full members of the church, a move Monson supported.
Monson's presidency also covered some significant tumult and famous firsts for the Mormon church, including a push against same-sex marriage, a fight over ordaining women, severance of the LDS relationship with the Boy Scouts, a move toward openness on doctrine and history, the first Mormon presidential nominee, and a modernization of the LDS public communications system. You can read more about Monson's life at the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune.