Thomas Monson, leader of the Mormon Church, has died at his home in Salt Lake City, Utah, the church said on Wednesday. He was 90.
Monson became the 16th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the religion is officially known, in 2008. As its leader, members of the faith considered him a prophet who received divine revelations.
Monson died late on Tuesday surrounded by his family, the church said in a statement on its website.
Mormons worship Jesus, believing in a "restored" church, with living apostles and prophets. They believe in the Bible, as well as an additional book of scripture, the Book of Mormon.
"President Monson had all the hallmarks of an unassuming servant of the Lord," the church statement said.
The church, which was formally organized in 1830 in Upstate New York, reported last year to have 15.8 million members worldwide. According to census and other surveys, there are over six million who identify as Mormon in the U.S., including 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the state's longtime Senator Orrin Hatch and actor Katherine Heigl.
According to the 2010 census, the 6.1 million membership in the U.S. represented a 45 per cent increase from the last census survey 10 years earlier. Based on the census, the LDS Church is the fourth largest Christian denomination in the U.S., and a 2014 Pew Research study on religion found that Utahns, where 62 per cent identify as Mormon, had the highest reported rate of weekly church attendance of all states.
Romney, in a social media post early Wednesday, praised Monson's leadership.
"More even than his words of strength and inspiration, he will be remembered for the abundance of his love and the overflowing of his compassion for every one of God's children."
In May 2015, the LDS Church said Monson was "feeling the effects of advancing age," according to reports from the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper, and began cutting back public appearances and addresses to preserve his energy.
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Monson was a church bishop at age 22 and became the youngest church apostle in 1963, at 36, to be appointed to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the church's second-highest governing body after the three-man First Presidency.
Upon death, a Mormon president is succeeded by the head of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a post currently held by Russell Nelson, 93.
Monson's predecessor, Gordon Hinckley, died at 97 in late 2007. As well as his lifelong dedication to his faith, Monson had a "broad business background" and led a successful career in the publishing industry, the church said on its website.
"Do something for someone else on that day to make his or her life better. Find someone who is having a hard time, or is ill, or lonely, and do something for them. That's all I would ask," he said during an interview on his 81st birthday, according to the church.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that five per cent of the U.S. population identified as Mormon. In fact, according to the 2014 Pew study on religion, the correct figures are under two per cent of the entire population and three per cent of those adults who claim religious affiliation.Jan 03, 2018 10:24 AM ET