Praise to the Man…

On Sunday, January 27, 2008, at 7:00 pm, Gordon B. Hinckley, prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by his loving family. He was 97 years old.
As a member of the church, President Hinckley’s passing is bittersweet for me. I was 16 and a junior in high school when he was called to be the next prophet. In the four years I took Seminary, there were 3 prophets of the church. I was born when Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet, but for most of my life, Ezra Taft Benson was the prophet, and yet I never felt the same connection with Pres. Benson that I did with Pres. Hinckley. When President Hinckley was called to be the 15th President of the Church, you could just feel a new life being breathed into the church. He was 84 years old then and had an enthusiasm that a man 1/2 his age would envy.

President Hinckley left a great legacy. He was the most traveled President in church history. He traveled endlessly making it his mission to visit wherever there were church members, even if the congregation was as small as 30 people. He loved the people and it was easy to see that they loved him back. When he spoke, you felt like he was talking directly to you.

Of the 124 temples in the world, 76 were built while he was President. He felt that those who lived far away from a temple shouldn’t have to sacrfice their life savings for one visit. I remember watching his trip to Africa and announcing that a temple would be built in Ghana. The audience erupted in applause, joyful cheers and shouts. Tears streamed down my face as I thought of the sacrifices those members made in order to have a temple built near them, when I live within driving distance of 10 temples.

What I liked most about President Hinckley was his great sense of humor. There wasn’t a Conference talk given where he didn’t have a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. Knowing that you can be devout but still have fun and laugh is a great testament to the man he was.

He had the innate ability to connect with people. I think one of his greatest messages over the last 12 years as he served was to love and serve your neighbor no matter what religion, race, color, or creed. He taught church members to reach out to those around them, not only through his words, but through his actions, and through his work with religious leaders around the world. After Pope John Paul II died, he spoke immediately in General Conference about what a great man he was and the respect he had for him. Many of the religious leaders throughout Utah came out and spoke about what a friend President Hinckley had been to their congregation. He was very insistent that people have the right to worship how, where, and what they may.

He was always preaching about peace. He had a great testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You never doubted that President Hinckley new with assurity that Jesus was the Christ, and he didn’t care what other religions said, because he KNEW he was a Christian. I think that’s what will be missed about President Hinckley the most.

I wasn’t sad when I found out last night about President Hinckley’s passing. He lived an incredible life and he’s been warning us in the past few General Conferences that his time on earth is short. It truly feels like the end of an era. One of my favorite memories happened just two years after President Hinckley was called to be the prophet. He came and spoke at the Institute of Religion at Weber State University in 1997 when I was a freshman. I had to get up very early in the morning and wait in a very long line for a very long time in order to get tickets. The minute he entered the room, I felt the spirit of the Holy Ghost testifying to me that this man was a true Prophet of God. I’ve never sung “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet” with such enthusiasm before. He spoke about education, and how important it is for women to go as far in their education as possible. This message has always stuck with me. How I loved President Hinckley.

President Hinckley’s beloved wife, Marjorie, died in 2004 and it was obvious how much he missed her. It makes me happy to think of the reunion in heaven between the two of them. You could always tell how in love they were.

I imagine right now Jesus’ arms wrapped around President Hinckley saying “well done, thou good and faithful servant.”


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