Monday, February 4, 2008

Gordon B. Hinckley

On Sunday, January 27, 2008 a man I love and revere passed quietly from this life. He was 97. Tiny, old and frail in body but with a lively spirit and unmatched capacity for goodness. It may seem odd that I've waited for more than a week to add my own personal memorial for this leader of my faith, but I wanted to wait until I had my emotions about President Hinckley sorted out. You see, I haven't felt even the slightest twinge of sadness. When I first heard the news my reaction was "I'm so glad he's with his beloved wife, Marjorie, again! I know how he has missed her." And that's still how I feel today.

The only time, really, that I've felt anything but complete peace was at the public viewing on Friday afternoon. President Hinckley's name has been almost an action verb to me because he was so busy and constantly at work and traveling all over the world to meet Church members. His counsel always urged us to action... "Stand a little taller," "be a little better," "do your part and the best is yet to come." I struggled with seeing him so still. In that same moment, however, I was flooded with a knowledge that ALL is as God has directed and that he's happy and healthy and busily engaged in the Lord's work on that side of the veil now. It's an experience that's hard to describe... there were no words came to my mind, yet it pierced me to the very core of my being as a gift of absolute knowing. And I was able to walk away with a smile while reflecting on a life well lived.

There are so many things that I appreciate about President Hinckley. His sense of humor is just one of them. Among Mormons and many belonging to other faiths it was legendary and endearing. One story I heard told about a Mission President in Japan (maybe?) who had just experienced a devastating flood. A giant wall of water had come down the mountainside and crashed into the Mission Home nearly destroying it. He wrote a very distraught letter to President Hinckley asking what he should do. The answer recalled a similar experience in building the London Temple. President Hinckley mentioned being in waist deep water bailing it out by bucket. And then he suggested that Noah had had it worse.

Another thing that I especially appreciated is that he was fearless in answering questions about LDS doctrine, history and culture. And not just that he was comfortable with tough questions, but that he could answer them with candor and assurance and in a way that no one could find offense. President Hinckley's passion and conviction were ever evident but always tempered with compassion, empathy and a desire to reach out and be inclusive with the rest of the world. We do this most visibly with humanitarian aid the world over. I feel priviledged that, in my own small way, I've had many opportunities to participate in this blessing of other lives.

And finally, what left the greatest impression on me over the past week was the answer given by his biographer, Sheri Dew, when asked what President Hinckley worried about. After talking about his eternal optimism and how he always said "oh, it'll work out" she paused thoughtfully and serious for a moment. Then she said he worried most about creating opportunities for the good people of the world to "bump into" the gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that they'd be inclined to listen when it was presented to them in an organized way. I guess that's where I feel like I fit in. The best and most lasting tribute I can offer to him is to simply live what I believe.

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