Mormons around the world are in mourning today as news spreads that LDS church president Gordon B. Hinckley passed away.
As for me, I have to admit that at first I didn’t like President Hinckley. But over time, I grew to love him as one of my church’s most prolific, energetic, and lively prophets in recent times.
For many people, Hinckley was perhaps the most influential prophet in their lifetime. Now, prophets tend to stick around for awhile (Hinckley for 12 years) so younger folks such as myself haven’t been through that many, but each prophet in my time has certainly left their mark. One of the legacies Hinckley leaves behind is a massive temple-building program that more than doubled the number of operating temples to over 100.
Spencer W. Kimball is the prophet I have the earliest memory of. He is, of course, most well known for having the revelation that allowed all worthy men to hold the priesthood, something that he had wanted since before becoming prophet and something he spent a lot of time on his knees praying for.
Ezra Taft Benson was probably most well known for his ultra-conservative views. Unfortunately, some people decided to leave the church when he became prophet. They didn’t bother sticking around long enough to see his dramatic change. Some people (myself included) contribute his change to the fact that he was directly humbled by “the man upstairs.”
Howard W. Hunter is the shortest serving prophet in modern times. Prophet for just 9 months, his very short term of service left some to wonder why the Lord would let a man be His mouthpiece for so short a period of time. But Hunter is perhaps my favorite. When he spoke, it seemed the world stopped to listen. Maybe it was because his health was so bad, everybody knew he wasn’t going to be around for long. Nonetheless, when he did speak, it was a powerful treat to hear him.
As to Hinckley, I was beginning to think he would live forever. He was born the same year as my grandfather, but managed to outlive him by just over 11 years. Hinckley became prophet at the ripe ol’ age of 84, and many wondered how long he would stick around at that age. If anybody bet on it, I’m sure they lost.
Hinckley was also one of the most qualified persons to take the post. As a 2nd counselor to an increasingly unhealthy Kimball in the 80′s (and due to 1st counselor Romney’s failing health as well) Hinckley essentially lead the church during that time. The same happened when he was 1st counselor to Benson as Benson’s health began to fail.
If things go as planned, Thomas S. Monson will become our next prophet. With a very different personality than Hinckley, it will be interesting to see what direction he takes the church.
But for now, here’s to you Brother Hinckley!