Next Mormon Leader Inherits Church in Spotlight The leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints won't name a new president and prophet of their Mormon faith until after the funeral of Gordon B. Hinckley, who died Sunday night. The likely successor, 80-year-old Thomas Monson, would inherit a church that is bigger and more scrutinized than ever.

Next Mormon Leader Inherits Church in Spotlight

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/18518912/18521191" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

NPR's Howard Berkes introduces us to the next likely Mormon president.

HOWARD BERKES: Unidentified Group: (Singing) Sing of his goodness and mercy. We'll praise him by day and by night.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE SINGING)

BERKES: Bundled up against the cold, mourners praise the man they believe was a prophet of God. Twenty-year-old Shantry Steele(ph) had mixed emotions.

SHANTRY STEELE: You know, I'm cheering up, but I'm sad. But at the same time, he lived such an amazing life, and he touched so many people. I mean, even with the Olympics, we had so many people here that wanted to (unintelligible) faith and that were being exposed to the faith for the very first time. And I can't think of a better person to educate people and to show people what they LDS Church is all about than President Hinckley.

BERKES: Pamela Atkinson is a non-Mormon advocate for the homeless who has worked with Monson for two decades.

PAMELA ATKINSON: President Monson will build on the legacy left by President Hinckley in reaching out to everybody. He includes everybody, and he's very much at ease with anybody of any faith.

BERKES: Monson described the impact of this approach in a rare news conference three years ago.

THOMAS MONSON: It's just when you work together and you serve together, you understand each other and all of the animosity that people think exists evaporates. And once you've worked together, I believe each one will defend the other and correct any misconception.

BERKES: Atkinson and others say humor is another attribute Monson shares with his predecessor. Here he is at a gathering of Mormon women last fall.

MONSON: I'm reminded of a man who walked into a bookstore and asked the clerk, a woman, for help. Have you got the book titled "Man, the Master of Woman"? The clerk looked at him straight in the eye and said sarcastically, try the fiction section.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BERKES: He got a good laugh, but Monson did not have hopeful words for women looking for a greater role in their patriarchal faith or lives. He urged Mormon women to seek an education because...

MONSON: Statistics reveal that at some time, because of the illness or death of a husband or because of economic necessity, you may find yourself in the role of financial provider.

BERKES: Jan Shipps is a non-Mormon historian who has studied Mormons for 40 years.

JAN SHIPPS: President Hinckley is a hard act to follow because he was so beloved, and he was so effective as a spokesman for the church, and he was so able to control the message that the church wanted to put forth to the world.

BERKES: Howard Berkes, NPR News, Salt Lake City.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.