Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Now, he belongs to the ages...

I only met him once. I was a missionary in Indiana, and we we're having a regional conference. Gordon B. Hinckley, then first counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, along with Elder Russell M. Nelson - a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, were in town to address the conference. Before the meeting, they met and taught the missionaries in a special meeting. Afterward, we had the privilege of shaking their hands. There were probably 150 missionaries there, but President Hinckley (and I'm sure, Elder Nelson - though I don't recall) took the time to address each missionary by name as he shook our hands. What stands out to me was the fact that he got my last name correct. Most people don't the first time they see it. My name is Thornblad, but most people pronounce it Thornbald. It's just a little thing, but it lingers in my memory. Of course this doesn't make him any more or less a prophet, but it is a sweet memory for me. How often do you get the chance to shake hands with a prophet of God?
On January 27, 2008 the world lost a great man. A great leader, a great teacher. Gordon B. Hinckley made the world a better place. He made us better. He asked us to stand a little taller. Be a little kinder. Try a little harder. He was a rock upon which God could build a church and a people. President Hinckley was firm and immovable in his faith. He stood, unapologetically, for the beliefs he held. He declared to the world that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of the world. I always loved his interaction with the youth. I think he had a deep love for the youth of the world (and I do mean the world, not just the church -- President Hinckley was truly Christlike, his love was unconditional). I never heard him utter a negative word towards the youth. I've appreciated that even as I've grown older.
He has been in the forefront of leadership in the Church for as long as I can remember. He has always been my favorite speaker to listen to. I loved his gentle admonitions...be a better neighbor, be a better citizen. I'm so thankful to have benefitted from his teachings for so much of my life to this point. He did so much to move the Church forward, not only as President, but in his seven decades of service in all areas of the Gospel. I would rank him (I probably shouldn't do that) right below Joseph Smith, and right on par with Brigham Young in terms of his work and influence on the Church and the world in general.
The Church today is in good hands. The work will roll forward. The work of President Hinckley will be expanded upon, and reap benefits eternally. But I will miss this great man. God be with you, President Hinckely, till we meet again.

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