Monday, January 28, 2008

President Hinckley—He Will Be Missed

So last night I was watching TV when the local news broke through with news announcing that President Gordon B. Hinckley, the president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had passed away. This really wasn't too surprising because he was 97 years old, but it was still sad. When I realized what had happened, I started crying. I didn't realize it would hit me that hard. Even now as I write this, 12 hours later, I start to tear up when I think about it. Really, I know I should be happy for him, and I am. His wife passed a few years ago and after being married on this earth for about 70 years, it was obvious to everyone that he missed her deeply. I actually thought after she passed that he would soon follow her because of how much his heart obviously ached for her. So now they are together again and that is wonderful. And I am glad that he is free from pain and can be in a happier place.

Still, I will miss him very much. President Hinckley became the prophet when I was 14 years old. Previously there had been only three other prophets in my lifetime—President Kimball, President Benson, and President Hunter. Living in Washington, I never really connected with the previous prophets.  It was just a kindly old man who led the church. This was especially true with President Hunter, who was the prophet for only 9 months before his passing. On the other hand, I really connected with President Hinckley. When I was a teenager, we had a regional conference in Tacoma, Washington and President Hinckley came to speak. It was the first time I'd ever been in the presence of a prophet. I was very excited and could really feel the Spirit there. 

Then when I graduated high school, I went to BYU. During my time there, I was able to be in his presence, as well as many of the Apostles, many times. One time I even had the opportunity to shake his hand. That experience will always stay with me. He was walking in with his wife, Marjorie, and he shook the hands of those he could reach. It was in the Marriott Center, where BYU plays basketball as well as other events, and so the seats went upward from the floor. Once he had shook the hands of those he could reach, he stepped back and said, "No, no. You're going to get a hernia." Everyone wanted to shake his hand so badly that they were straining to reach. I was lucky enough that I was able to shake his hand.

With President Hinckley, you never doubted that he loved you and everyone else in the whole world. It doesn't seem possible to, but somehow he did it. It was amazing. And he had the best humor; it was funny, never crude, humble, self-deprecating (but never in a way that diminished who he was as a child of God and a prophet), and lightened any situation. He had so much energy for someone in his 90s and really drove the Church to do more and be more, and inspired each of the members to be better people. You could tell that he really relished life. Even though he missed his wife, he never longed to be gone from this life either. He made the most of each moment and found joy in each day. He was truly inspirational. 

Because of all this, I truly felt connected to President Hinckley and I love him very much. I will miss him, but I'm happy for him as well. I know I can't be selfish and expect him to stay on earth forever. He deserves to rest and be with his family on the other side of the veil. And I'm sure that our next President will be just as wonderful, just as loving, and I will love him too. But for now, I miss President Hinckley, and I am sad I will never be in his presence again (at least not while on this earth). Rest in peace, President Gordon B. Hinckley.

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