Gordon B. Hinckley, 1910-2008
With millions of Latter-day Saints worldwide watching and listening live, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley was eulogized Saturday — his red chair on the Conference Center dais empty and his casket resting in front of the pulpit handcrafted from a tree he planted decades ago.
Update: New First Presidency named, click HERE for post.
To members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it seemed only fitting that the "house President Hinckley built" was the site for his funeral, the first to be held there since its completion in 2000. He was remembered by his daughter and fellow general authorities as a giant of a man who built large on a legacy of faith that spans generations for his family.
Significant local media story links listed as follows:
(1). KSL Channel 5 primary story
(2). KSL Channel 5 video of funeral service
(3). Deseret Morning News primary story
(4). Deseret Morning News "handkerchief and cane tribute" story.
(5). Deseret Morning News graveside service story.
(6). Deseret Morning News story about Mitt Romney's attendance.
(7). Deseret Morning News story about Henry Eyring's speech
(8). Deseret Morning News story about Boyd K. Pakcer's speech
(9). Salt Lake Tribune primary story
(10).Salt Lake Tribune "twilight vigil" story
(11).KTVX Channel 4 primary story
(12).KUTV Channel 2 primary story
Those who want a memento of the funeral can download a two-page program in PDF format from either the Salt Lake Tribune or KUTV.
Thousands braved the cold in downtown Salt Lake long before 9 A.M. to get tickets for the service. One person reportedly even camped out overnight next to the north gate of Temple Square in order to be assured of a ticket. The funeral was held in the Church's 21,000-seat downtown Conference Center, which was built during President Hinckley's tenure to accommodate the growing church. Overflow seating was available in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, and the Conference Center theatre.
One of the keynote addresses was delivered by one of President Hinckley's daughters, Virginia Hinckley Pearce, who told those assembled her father felt deeply the hand of ancestral faith, with three generations of forebears who had sacrificed and lived for their faith, and three generations now living who look to his legacy as part of their own. Quoting him, she said he realized "the tremendous obligation that was mine to pass on all that I had received as an inheritance from my forbears to the generations who have now come after me."
With five children, 25 grandchildren and 62 great-grandchildren, President Hinckley realized his love and legacy "wasn't just about our little family," she said. "Because, as President Hinckley often told us, we are all one great family — some 13 million strong — sharing an inheritance of faith and enjoying a covenant relationship with God the Father and His son Jesus Christ, with responsibilities to help one another along the way."
President Boyd K. Packer, former acting president of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and President Henry B. Eyring, former second counselor in the First Presidency, also spoke. "I have regarded this power of communication and charm of President Hinckley as simply as brotherly love and humility," President Packer said.
President Eyring said when he and President Monson visited President Hinckley a few days before his death, President Hinckley asked how they were doing. "I gave a simple answer, 'Fine.' I only wish I had answered better than ever and I know the best is yet to come because I was blessed to live when I could hear your voice and learn from your example," President Eyring said.
The honor of the final address was reserved for President Thomas S. Monson, who presided at the service, and who is likely to become the 16th President of the Church based upon the tradition of the senior Apostle in terms of Quorum service taking over. Monson said it was difficult to recall a time when he and President Hinckley had not known each other, having served side by side in the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency for more than 44 years.
When traveling together once on an assignment in southern Utah, he noticed that President Hinckley was wearing paper clips as cuff links. Realizing the situation, President Monson complimented him and they laughed, then he offered his extra set to his colleague.
Latter-day Saints had enjoyed watching President Hinckley with his cane in recent years, waving it to them or using it to tap someone on the shoulder. When urged by President Hinckley's doctor to push him to use it to steady himself, President Monson said, "Doctor, I am President Hinckley's counselor. You are his doctor. You tell him."
President Hinckley's determination and his own humor never derided his sense of the sacred, he said, recounting a simple act of reverence and respect that often occurred as the two of them were transported regularly through the underground tunnels on Temple Square.
As the cart passed under Main Street during winter, when President Hinckley was wearing his coat and hat, he seemed to know instinctively when they were beneath the Salt Lake Temple, and "without a word, he would remove his hat and place it in his lap. It was such a simple yet profound expression of reverence and respect for the House of the Lord, and it made a deep impression on me."
As a "man for all seasons," President Hinckley was "our prophet, seer and revelator. He was an island of calm in a sea of storm. He was as a lighthouse to the lost mariner. He was your friend and my friend. He comforted and calmed us when conditions in the world were frightening." President Hinckley "still lives," Monson said. "All that we knew about him continues. His spirit has simply gone home to that God who gave him life. Wherever I go in this beautiful world, a part of this cherished friend will always go with me."
On behalf of church members everywhere, "I offer our final farewell to our beloved prophet. ... God be with you till we meet again."
Following the service at the Conference Center, the activity shifted to the Salt Lake City Cemetery where President Hinckley was laid to rest, his casket lowered into a gold-colored vault sitting next to the grave of his wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, who died in 2004. President Hinckley's son, Elder Richard G. Hinckley, who is a member of the church's Quorums of the Seventy, dedicated the grave during a five-minute graveside service. About 375 immediate and extended family members and church General Authorities attended the graveside service.
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was among a group of dignitaries in attendance, including Michael Leavitt, former Utah governor and currently U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services; Utah's two U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Oregon U.S. Senator Gordon Smith; Reps. Rob Bishop, Chris Cannon and Jim Matheson; Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo; and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. While Romney himself did not speak to reporters after the service, his traveling press secretary, Eric Fehrnstrom, told reporters that Romney's presence was simply to pay his respects to Gordon Hinckley. Fehrnstrom also said that Romney, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, considers President Hinckley "one of great faith leaders of the church" and admired his sense of humor and "warm personal touch" as well as his efforts to expand the church through the construction of new temples around the world.
At the conclusion of the funeral, under orders from Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, who himself is not LDS, the bells of the Salt Lake City & County Building tolled 97 times, once for every year of Hinckley's life. What a class act on the part of Becker!
One sour note threatened to mar the event. The extremist, virulently homophobic Westboro Baptist Church declared their intention to picket the funeral, claiming that President Hinckley was a "fag-enabler" because he distinguished between homosexual orientation, which does not affect a member's standing in the Church, versus homosexual practice, which is still an excommunicable infraction. And indeed, four Westboro members showed up to picket at a city-permitted protest zone on the southwest corner of State Street and North Temple this morning.
"We don't want to be in their faces," said Westboro member Rachel Hockenbarger.
She brought along her son, Stephen, 11, brother-in-law David Hockenbarger, 17, and Sara Phelps, who stood on top of an American flag next to a curb while she sang hymns. It's estimated there are between 70 and 100 Westboro members. All four of Saturday's protesters held up signs, usually one in each hand, that provoked passersby to protest right back with honks, hand gestures and shouts like, "Go home, you're evil." WBC pastor Fred Phelps did not show up in person.
Commentary: President Hinckley has truly earned his accolades. The worldwide expansion of the Church, particularly the numbers of temples, along with his unassuming, self-deprecatory demeanor, were the hallmarks of his stewardship.
Of interest is the list of speakers at the funeral. Only three Apostles gave speeches; Boyd K. Packer, Henry Eyring, and Thomas S. Monson. When the entire First Presidency shows up at an event to give speeches, the normal order of progression is Second Counselor, First Counselor, and President.
This leads me to consider the possibility that the new First Presidency has already been selected, but that the Church is holding back the information out of respect for President Hinckley. Thus it is possible that, as expected, not only is Thomas S. Monson already the new President of the Church, but that Henry Eyring will be the First Counselor, and Boyd K. Packer the Second Counselor. NOTE THAT THIS IS MERELY CONJECTURE AT THIS POINT AND THAT THERE IS NO CONFIRMATION. We could see different selections. The new selections are generally finalized anywhere from five days to two weeks after the passing of the previous Church President. KTVX has since filed a report claiming that the formal announcement could come as soon as Monday February 4th.
As a Latter-day Saint, it is immaterial to me personally who gets the call. I will sustain whoever are ordained to the respective positions.