Monday, January 28, 2008

A Man of Grand Character

Like other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, my heart is broken and feels a giant void after learning of the passing of the man who had served as prophet and president of the church for my entire adult life. Gordon B. Hinckley was the 15th president, but today many are comparing this loss to that of the 9th president of the Church, David O. McKay, who served for 19 years. Like President McKay, for many people President Hinckley is the only prophet they have known, or they've at least known him the longest.

And he was so easy to get to know. It is rare for a person in the public eye, a person of notability, to have the capacity to serve with such acuteness, confidence, and compassion and yet also prove to be a person of humility, someone real and down-to-earth. Someone with such wit, who could make anyone feel comfortable and at ease. I never had the opportunity to meet him in person, but I feel as though I've lost a grandfather.

In all the ups and downs of my life, no matter what spiritual plane I may have been on--high or low--the one part of my testimony I could always count on staying strong was that of knowing we had a modern-day prophet on the earth. I never ever saw or heard President Hinckley, or any of the other apostles for that matter, when I didn't have feelings of affirmation of President Hinckley being divinely called and appointed to his position. I'm grateful that I always had that feeling of warmth, of knowing that I could trust him. There have been a couple occasions, I'll admit, when my testimony in other areas was wavering and it was this feeling I'd get when I'd see the prophet of the Lord that helped pull me back and helped me have the faith that I needed to build up my testimony in the other ways.

As sorrowful as its been to absorb the news of his death, I must say that I feel a bit of excitement. There's comfort in knowing that the gospel is so organized that another prophet will be called, that the Church will once again have a leader. And even though President Hinckley has left big shoes to feel, I already have the utmost confidence in whomever will be his successor and I'm really looking forward to and anticipating offering my love and support to him, just as I felt towards President Hinckley.

In 1960, President David O. McKay was quoted to say:

"Day by day, hour by hour, man builds the character that will determine his place and standing among his associates throughout the ages.... More important than riches, more enduring than fame, more precious than happiness is
he possession of a noble character.
Truly it has been said that the grand aim of man’s creation is the development of a grand character,
and grand character is by its very nature
the product of a probationary discipline."

I think it goes without saying that President Hinckley's character was nothing less than grand and noble. His earthly life has come to an end and we certainly feel that loss and will miss him greatly. But my heart rejoices at his reunion with those that he loved and had gone on before him: his parents, his treasured companion Marjorie, whom he so obviously longed for and missed, but I especially love to imagine what a moment it must have been for him to reunite with his Heavenly Father and Savior, as well as the preceding prophets, and the welcome he must have received. I'm sure as he was embraced he heard words similar to those spoken in Matthew 25:21, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

(The above link is to a NY Times article regarding President Hinckley's passing. I thought it was flattering, especially from a sometimes more "liberal" newspaper, or at least one not as familiar with the LDS church as our local Utah papers.)


Tif said...

Hope, you were one of the first people I thought of when I heard about President Hickley's passing. It was less than a week ago that we were talking and you said that you will cry when he passes away because you feel so close to him. We are so lucky to live during this time and to have seen so much of his life, example and faith over the years. What an amazing example to us all.

Annie said...

I enjoyed reading your feelings about President Hinckley. He was truly a wonderful man and will surely be missed!

Lindsay Taft said...

Hope, as always, thank you for such poignant thoughts - so very true!

"The democracy will cease to exist when you TAKE AWAY from those who are willing to work AND GIVE to those who would not."

Thomas Jefferson