Utah Flags Fly at Half Mast as a Prophet is Lost

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!

18 thoughts on “Utah Flags Fly at Half Mast as a Prophet is Lost

  1. Stu

    Well, I got a bit ahead of myself.

    I had only heard that the flag at the church building is flying at half mast. I simply made the assumption that flags across the state would fly at half mast. And why not? Hinckley was one of the most influential people in Utah (unlike Heath Ledger). This is a state where more than half the people are Mormon, and our prophet has died. It would be no surprise to me if the Governor orders flags to fly at half mast (which I recently learned has occurred).

    Aside from your comment about the governor having his hand in the tithing jar being out of line (implying that the church is bribing local officials), thanks for your contribution.

  2. Stu

    Thanks for opening up a little. I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s passing.

    I can empathize somewhat with your situation. I used to have friends (they were work friends, which is why they are former friends, because I don’t work with them anymore) that were gay. Quite a few of them actually.

    I can’t fully appreciate what it’s like for you to be gay in Utah, but I do know I was attacked rather harshly for my position against the amendment to Utah’s constitution banning gay marriage (marriage, being essentially nothing more than a symbolic ceremony to me, I was far less concerned with gays not being allowed to marry as I was with the second part of the amendment which removed several other rights that I felt no citizen should be without).

    If I was attacked like that just because I supported the rights of American citizens (oh… that also happen to be gay), then I can only imagine how bad things are for you.

    I suppose, if I tried real hard, I can forgive your abrasive nature :)

  3. Myles

    hinckley was a good man; but by the same right, why don’t we fly half-mast for heath ledger while we’re at it. utah’s governor must have his hand in the tithing jar. hinckley was not a state official.

  4. Myles

    my pleasure to contribute, but i was using the tithing metaphorically. if you anger your demographic you lose the vote, same when you don’t do what they’d expect of you. thats called being a puppet. nothing about bribing.

    i used the heath ledger argument as a farse, and I’d like to widely argue that heath was rather influential for the gay population specifically in his bold role in Brokeback Mountain; people tend to forget that there is still a majority of citizens who are to be spoken for in Utah [other than Mormons] as this is America and not the Theodemocratic Republic of Moroni. It takes guts and is very profound when someone is strong enought to go do something so bold as Heath did and it gives us [yes, i'm gay] the strength to be as bold. that was the point i was offering. i’ll admit however, i was being a bit abrasive, a friend of mine died yesterday but none of our LDS friends gave a crap because he was gay, and Hinckley’s was more important, more “devastating”, so to speak. i proactively sought out Hinckley posts, for that I was wrong; but I hope you understand what I was trying to say.

  5. Stu

    Well, “J”, if you are governor of a state or president of the U.S., then you certainly can order that flags fly at half mast.

    Alternatively, flag etiquette states that you, even if you’re not governor or president, can lower a city or state flag to half mast to mourn the death of anybody (or, in your case, your gerbil). Businesses do this regularly when an employee or other important person within the business dies.

    As for ordering it lowered for your own death, that would be kind of hard once you’re dead. You would just have to hope that your influence was great enough that people would be willing to do it on their own.

    Also, there are something like 72 million Catholics in the U.S. (my mother, grandmother-in-law, cousin, and aunt are just a few of them) making up about 24% of the population, so yes, there are quite a few more Catholics than Mormons. Just a guess, but maybe that’s the reason President Bush ordered flags flown at half mast when Pope John Paul II died. Hmm… I seem to remember everybody survived that okay. Maybe you’ll get through this grand travesty of justice in Utah as well.

    I wouldn’t dare argue that Hinckley’s influence around the world came anywhere near matching that of Pope John Paul II, but it was so in Utah.

  6. J

    Can I order it to be lowered if my Gerbal dies???
    OH OH ORRR when I die??

    Ahhh… if we’re bringing religion into it then how about when the Pope dies… Far more people are catholic than Mormon.. right?

    I love how seperation of church and state is practiced in the state of Utah.. it’s Grrrrrrrat!.

  7. J

    Yes… I understand your point. It just makes it a lil’ easy to criticise when the line of seperation of church and state is very gray in this state.. And gray in the favor of only a single religion.. I’m not criticising the Mormon religion, but just how intertwined it is with the state of Utah’s government, or vice-versa.

  8. Johnny Bravo

    Mr Myles and anyone on that side of the discussion. Why do you have to be assholes? Why disparrage a man who lead a life of good? Who directed his church to donate ten of thousands of tons of goods and services to ravaged countries and states? The Sunami, New Orleans, Africa… I ask you Sir what have you done to relieve the sick or poor!? What good did your friend do to deserve the flag being flown at half mast!? When I die I am not worthy of such an honor AND FYI — The Governor can Allow the flag to be flown at half mast for whomever he pleases, are you nieve enough to assume that because he allows it, that you MUST fly it at half mast? That some flag cop will come force you to fly it halfmast? Get Real!!

  9. Stu

    Nola, you are right that the official flag code does not allow for lowering flags in honor of non-government officials, including religious leaders. But that didn’t stop Bush from ordering it lowered in honor of Pope John Paul II (not even an American). Huntsman also ordered the lowering of flags for the Crandall Canyon miners that died in August last year, also “inappropriate” according to flag code.

    Also against flag code is wearing the flag for clothing. How often do we see that though?

    Long Beach City Manager Edwin Eaton is violating flag code by flying the flag at half staff indefinitely to honor military dead resulting from the war in Iraq.

    When I was in boot, I remember looking at an old picture hanging in the office building for MCRD’s 1st Battalion. The picture was of an MCRD recruit platoon being inspected by an officer. It was pouring rain and everybody was standing in mud. Since that day, I violate flag code by flying the flag in inclement weather to honor those who don’t get to come in from the bad weather. If soldiers must fight in crappy weather, then my piece of cloth can fly in it.

    Let’s not forget that people far away from here made up flag protocol, and many Americans disagree with many of them and unknowingly violate them every day.

    And people have always traditionally flown flags at half staff to honor non-government officials that had some importance in our lives. Utah is hardly the only place where this happens.

    I’ve heard at least one story where a city was flying their U.S. flags at half staff to honor a local soldier that had died. Yet again, against flag code.

    Utah, as we all know, is more than half Mormon in population. To imply that Huntsman “changed the rules” just because a Mormon is running for president is quite a ridiculous suggestion. Utah has a majority Mormon population, and Hinckley’s influence on the people of Utah was huge. That Huntsman also ordered the flag lowered for the Crandall Canyon miners shows a pattern… that he orders the flag lowered for prominent deaths that occur to Utahns.

    That Huntsman ordered this for someone of such great influence in Utah I don’t view as inappropriate at all, even if it does violate official flag code. I think we’ll survive despite Huntsman’s “blatant” and repeated violations of flag code.

  10. Nola

    Lets not forget folks that there are certain rules and criteria for lowering the flag to half STAFF (half mast is on a ship) And a religious leader is not one of the rules reguarding the flag of the United States of America. State flag you can do what ever the Gov. says but we must maintain the division of church and state and the Mormon president has nothing to do with the United States of America other than to be a citizen just like you and me. Put the USA flag back up the poll and act like Americans. Lower the state flag to half Staff and act like Utahns. Just because a Morman is running for president doesnt change the rules for our flag.

  11. Mikal

    Johnny Bravo:

    In my reading of the dialogue here, no one is being an asshole; rather, what I am observing is a very respectful and compelling conversation about the appropriateness of lowering the flag to half-mast upon the death of a religious figure.

    No one here–in my reading–has questioned the positive role of the LDS church in our society. For you accuse someone of bashing that institution seems way off base.

    The ability to have this conversation is the very basis upon which this democracy of ours is based. To attempt to turn this around by suggesting someone was disparaging a man who lead a life of good is shortsighted, narrow-viewed, and sure feels to me like an attempt to take the conversation in another direction.

  12. Heather

    “Some people (myself included) contribute his change to the fact that he was directly humbled by “the man upstairs.””

    What do you mean by this? I very interested. I have no idea what you are talking about

  13. Stu

    Hey Heather. I was talking about the Lord. I thought it was a common reference… or maybe only amongst Hulksters, as Hulk Hogan used to always refer to “The Big Man Upstairs.”

  14. dadrox

    thank for the info i was looking to see if indeed the gov had the flag lowered for a time up untill sunset the day of the funeral for a religious figure. and just last week didnt give the order until the day of the funeral for a army medic KIA
    guess who veterans are voring for this year?


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