End of an era’: Thousands say goodbye to Hinckley

By Clayton Norlen and Ana Breton

Updated: 2/2/08 @ 4:35 p.m.

Fellow church leaders and family members recounted the life of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley on Saturday by praising his commitment to family and the example of faith and humility he set for the world.

“(Hinckley) was our prophet, seer and revelator,” said Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the LDS first presidency and Hinckley’s likely successor. “He was as a lighthouse to the lost mariner. He was your friend and my friend.”

Nearly every chair was filled in the 21,000-seat Latter-day Saints Conference Center during Hinckley’s funeral services.

Thousands of others gathered around their televisions and computer screens to watch the service and mourn the passing of their prophet, who died from natural causes on Jan. 27 at age 97.

“Gordon B. Hinckley did not seek the many calls and assignments that came to him,” President Boyd K. Packer, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said. “But he didn’t shy away, either.”

His commitment to education, faith, compassion and vision where shared through the testimonials given at the service. ? “I thought it was a great, touching service,” said Kimberly Mabey, a recent U graduate in political science and economics. “

Mabey thought the service was bittersweet because she last saw Hinckley in person when attending a high school seminar at the conference center, where the president blessed the youth.

What many students remembered about Hinckley — who was the 15th president of the church — was his sense of humor and loving personality.

“He was always so personable,” Mabey said. “I loved listening to him talk. You could tell he cared a lot about everyone.”

Those in attendance were somber and occasionally laughed as they listened to the stories that illustrated Hinckley’s life.

Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy, said that during a meeting with the First Presidency where general authorities were all dressed in dark suits, white shirts and conservative ties, Hinckley entered “with a twinkle in his eye and a smile in his face and said ‘you all look like a bunch of penguins.'”

Even though students from universities across the state and surrounding areas attended the service, students from the U share an alma mater with the prophet, who he graduated from the U with a degree in Arts in 1932, and later earned an honorary degree.

“He had a great sense of humor and he was a great prophet. I felt a lot of spirit during the service,” said Craig Emett, a senior in chemical engineering, who attended the service. “It was a great goodbye.”

Emett said he looked up to Hinckley for guidance before he went on his mission in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “He was a great teacher who showed me what to do to be a better person,” he said.

Hinckley’s family shared stories about the prophet, who is survived by five children, 25 grandchildren and 62 great-grandchildren.

“Our father was adorable and he was a marvel to watch,” said Virginia Pearce, Hinckley’s daughter. “(He was) disciplined and courageous with an unbelievable capacity for work. He believed with growth.”

During Hinckley’s 12 years as prophet, approximately 75 temples were built and membership in the church grew from 9 million to 13 million.

Almost one third of current church members were baptized while Hinckley was prophet, Tingey said. ?Within hours of the president’s passing, more than 100 groups commemorating Hinckley were formed on social networking websites, like facebook.com.

In the groups, many of them based at the U, students shared their favorite quotes from Hinckley, posted tribute videos, talked about Hinckley’s famous “cane wave” and wrote about where they were and what they were doing when they found out that Hinckley had died.

“(Hinckley) was a man that changed my life,” said Nicole Hill, a freshman at Brigham Young University-Idaho. “I loved him even though I never knew him personally. I’m grateful to him.”

[email protected]@chronicle.utah.edu

Teresa Getten

Teresa Getten

Teresa Getten

Teresa Getten

General Authorites and community members, both members and non-members of the LDS faith, gather together to celebrate and mourn the passing of the President Gordon B. Hinckley. The 15th president’s funeral was held Saturday, April 2, 2008. Hinckley was buried in the Salt Lake Cemetery next to his wife who passed away more than four years ago.