Following the death of President Thomas S. Monson, I read several obituary articles and blog posts that mentioned that he had attended ALL 85 funerals of the widows who had been in his ward when he was a Bishop.
Deseret News Article
They all cited an LDS.org Article that says,
“Although his Church callings and responsibilities over the years have often taken him on the road for weeks at a time, President Monson made it to every funeral of his widows and spoke as he had promised them he would. “.
Did President Monson ever claim to have attended and spoke at EVERY funeral?
Did none of the women pass away while he was serving as mission president?
Did he actually SPEAK at every funeral?
It seems like subsequent Bishops might have spoken instead.
While he was away on assignment in Europe for months at a time as an Apostle were there no funerals?
Many of the widows were from World War II soldiers. That would mean the women could have been about his age. Are some still alive ?
Edit: I have spend some more time researching this topic. In her 2010 book, To the Rescue, Heidi S. Swinton says on page 142,
" He promised to speak at their funerals - All Eighty-five - and he made it to everyone, though he sometimes had to slip out of a meeting or fit the service in between general conference sessions."
I contacted the LDS Church History Library and they said the following:
Thank you for your inquiry. President Monson himself talked about this. It is written in his biography To the Rescue, written by Heidi S. Swinton on page 142. The page is attached.
I hope this helps.
Link to Ensign Article
Well no, Church History Library people, a Biography is not the same as an Autobiography, and the biography you cite does not quote President Monson, it states an unverified story.
Further Edit: The more I research here the more I feel like it is another case of story embellishment. I think it may be related to this talk by Jefferey R. Holland from 1986.
"Furthermore, these sweet folks never seem to die until Brother Monson is back in town from his many assignments, enabling him to speak at their funerals. Perhaps no one in the present leadership of the Church has spoken at so many funerals—he once had three services in one day."
Although this quote by President Holland doesn't specifically say he spoke at Every Single funeral, I can see how the Monson Biographer might have taken it to mean that. Of course this quote was from 1986. More than 30 years before President Monson's death.
A TIMELINE of President Monson's Death that might help clarify.
Called to be a Bishop: 1949.
Called to be a Mission President: 1959 - 1962.
Let's make a rough assumption that when he became a Bishop in 1949, his 85 widows had an average age of 70. That would mean that while he was on his mission for three years they averaged in age from 79 to 82. Does my logic make sense? So during the three years he was on his mission, not one widow died?
Scan from Biography of Thomas S. Monson:
Talk by Thomas S. Monson in 1981 where he talks about visiting widows.
LDS Newsroom Article about President Monson
Article about being Mission President in Canada
LDS.org Biography of Thomas S. Monson quoting book several times.
Monson by the Numbers
Bishop from May 7, 1950, until June 1955
Monson Press release ( 84 widows )
Talk from 1980 - ( Mentions 87 Widows )
2008 Ensign Article ( Says he went to All 84 Funerals ) (April 2008)
USA Today Obituary says, "he was a spiritual leader for about 1,000 church members, including 84 widows, many whose husbands had died in World War II."
Many of the widows were from World War II soldiers. That would mean the women could have been about his age. So some may still be alive.
2010 BYU Devotional
Mormon Hub Obituary
2008 Ensign Article by Jefferey Holland. For some reason this has been wiped from LDS.org
"He continued visiting them in their declining years and, somewhat miraculously, has been able to speak at each of their funerals-all 84 of them!" This is the oldest reference I can find to the story.
1986 Article by Jefferey Holland ( Mentions 85 Widows )
Furthermore, these sweet folks never seem to die until Brother Monson is back in town from his many assignments, enabling him to speak at their funerals. Perhaps no one in the present leadership of the Church has spoken at so many funerals—he once had three services in one day—and always very personal remarks are given for the sometimes ordinary and otherwise unknown souls that he has met and loved somewhere during his ministry.
When Jefferey Holland said these words it was 1986. It was only 37 years since he was put in as Bishop. If he really had war veterans widows, they would only be
February 2008 Newroom Press Release
Interesting that it says, "One way that this attribute became part of his life was in the way he served the 84 widows in his congregation while he was a young bishop and for decades afterward. He said that they all asked him to speak at their funerals, assignments he was happy to accept notwithstanding heavy travel and other commitments." Somebody on Wikipedia gave this quote as a reference for the fact that he spoke at every funeral.
From 2008 Biography Book about the Prophets.
References 1986 by Jefferey Holland almost implying that he spoke at every funeral, the book takes it one step further and says he spoke at each of their funerals.
Obituary Article from The Blaze
In 1949, he served as a bishop for two Salt Lake City congregations leading about 1,000 church members. More than 80 were widows whose husbands died in World War II. He regularly visited each one and promised to speak at their funerals one day, according to Religion News.
Religion News Obituary