When I was a youth, I learned two things about BYU that set it apart from what I would be able to experience at other colleges. One of these things was that apostles frequently addressed the student body at devotionals and firesides. During my time there, a typical year would include a half dozen apostles speaking in the Marriott Center usually on Fast Sunday evenings and about as many Seventies at Tuesday morning devotionals. (Seventies were fewer in number and longer serving then, and so many of them had more of a personal identity to us.) I was present for four talks by Gordon B. Hinckley and one by the President of the Church, Ezra Taft Benson. The format was rather different from General Conference talks, and added to the range of preaching and teaching I received.
Thinking on those experiences, it occurred to me that I never heard Thomas S. Monson speak in the Marriott Center. I checked the archive at speeches.byu.edu and was surprised to learn that over a thirty year span between Jan. 16, 1973 and Sept. 7, 2003, he was not there. Since 2003, he was returned five times. Checking on the other apostles of the last three decades, President Monson is quite an exception in this regard. Absences from BYU of four years or more are hard to find. Elder Packer spoke there in ’80, ’85, ’91, ’95, and ’03 with much more frequent visits in the ’70s and since 2003. Elder Holland was away between ’97 and ’04, Elder Eyring between ’01 and ’06, Elder Wirthlin between ’86 and ’92, and Elder Maxwell between ’99 and ’04. Howard W. Hunter spoke to the school in ’72, ’79, ’87, and then ’89, ’90, ’92, and ’93.
Only two apostles had gaps comparable with President Monson’s, and even theirs were much smaller. Before his death in 2004, Elder Haight’s last BYU devotional was in 1987. N. Eldon Tanner, ordained an apostle from 1962 and dead in 1982, spoke to the BYU students four times in ’75, ’76, 78, and ’79. I could speculate why Thomas Monson was absent, but others may like to put their two bits in first.
Update: Due to information pointed out in the first comment below, I changed this post’s title from “Thomas S. Monson’s Thirty Year Absence from the Marriott Center” to “Thomas S. Monson’s Thirty Year Absence from [BYU Speeches].”