Thomas S. Monson will not attend General Conference

SALT LAKE CITY — Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will not attend any of the church's General Conference sessions this weekend, according to church spokesman Eric Hawkins.

While Hawkins would not elaborate, he referred Fox 13 to a statement the church issued in May, that talked about President Monson's health and limitations because of his age.

President Monson celebrated his 90th birthday in August. In April, his attendance was limited at the General Conference, because LDS Church representatives said he was conserving his energy. He missed some sessions, though President Monson did end up speaking at the pulpit.

After General Conference ended, President Monson was hospitalized for a couple of days.

For LDS Church members, General Conference is a special, sacred experience that includes hearing the Prophet's voice.

"I always love to hear the Prophet and hear what he has to say," said Jonathan Daniels, a member who visited Temple Square Thursday with his family.

Not hearing or even seeing President Monson, he and other members said, would be disappointing.

Mormon blogger Steve Evans, who runs the blog By Common Consent, said the news of President Monson's absence, while shocking, is not unexpected because of his declining health.

"I think it probably weighs a little bit more on us, because he's been such a fixture," Evans said.

President Monson has served as a member of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 1963, and as the 16th President of the church since 2008.

Evans said to his knowledge, President Monson has never missed a General Conference in those 50-plus years.

"You look to have the Prophet there, at least as a symbolic presence on some level," he said.

But, this isn't the first time a prophet will have missed General Conference, he said.

"It`s happened several times that presidents of the church of have missed General Conference for one reason or another," Evans explained.

He said that the church has a backup system and framework in place to continue operations in President Monson's absence.

While Evans said General Conference would carry on as normal, he said he expects people to rally together and pray for President Monson this weekend.

"I would think that during this conference, we`ll hear lots of mentions of praying for the Prophet," he said.

The LDS Church originally issued this statement on President Monson's health on May 23:

Because of limitations incident to his age, President Monson is no longer attending meetings at the Church offices on a regular basis. He communicates and confers with his counselors on matters as needed. President Monson is grateful that the work of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles continues without interruption. He appreciates the prayers and support of Church members.