The Salt Lake Tribune, Scott Sommerdorf / AP
Published Friday, May 17, 2013 | 8:04 a.m.
Updated Friday, May 17, 2013 | 10:33 a.m.
SALT LAKE CITY — The wife of the president of the Mormon church has died.
Frances B. Monson, 85, died early Friday morning at a hospital in Salt Lake City, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced.
Church President Thomas S. Monson said his wife was the family's beacon of love, compassion and encouragement. The couple's three children say their mother had a knack for budgeting, bookkeeping and finding deals. She excelled at math and science and was the one in the house who fixed electrical switches or plumbing leaks.
She once left a note reading, "Dear children, do not let Daddy touch the microwave, or the stove, or the dishwasher or the dryer."
Publicly, she shied away from the spotlight during her husband's time as head of the LDS church. She made occasional appearances at the church's biannual general conferences, but opted not to give any speeches of her own, said Matthew Bowman, assistant professor of religion at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.
"She was fairly quiet," said Bowman, who wrote a book about the Mormon church in 2012. "She didn't want to be viewed as figurehead or public figure."
The cause of death was not immediately disclosed. The church said she had been hospitalized for several weeks and was surrounded by her family at the time of death.
Frances Monson grew up in Salt Lake City during the Great Depression. She was the youngest of five children and her parents' only daughter. She was named after her father, Franz E. Johnson.
She graduated from East High School in Salt Lake City and studied math and science at the University of Utah. She played the piano, and often played tennis at Liberty Park as a teenager.
During college, she worked in the accounting department at a department store to help pay for school. It was during her university days that she met her husband, who like her, was of Swedish descent.
The couple was married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1948. They had three children: Thomas Lee, Ann Frances and Clark Spencer.
Frances Monson taught her boys to raise Birmingham Roller pigeons. She was a bargain hunter, reading both Salt Lake City newspapers daily searching for coupons and deals, her daughter said. As the family's handywoman, she spent Christmas morning assembling bikes, toys and doll houses.
She was also known as a supportive wife. In an often-repeated story, Frances Monson once stood next to a window to hear her husband give a speech even after ushers told her women were not allowed to stand in the doorway to listen.
"She pressed gender roles of the church in very subtle, but interesting ways," Bowman said.
Mormon church officials said in their news release that she "will forever be remembered for her kindness and quiet, sustained support of her husband in his Church duties."
Funeral arrangements are pending.