Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Reaction late Sunday to the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley came from all quarters of the political, religious and business worlds, as well as from typical Latter-day Saints locally and across the globe.
Church spokesman Bruce Olsen told reporters Sunday night that the 97-year old church leader's health had been failing for the past few weeks, but President Hinckley maintained much of his schedule for the past few days. "He worked until the very end," Olsen said, adding President Hinckley underwent chemotherapy treatment for the last time early last week and became ill a few days later.
Funeral services are pending and will be planned by President Hinckley's family and church leaders today.
Among those reflecting on his death:
• President George W. Bush: "Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of our friend, Gordon B. Hinckley. While serving for over seven decades in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon demonstrated the heart of a servant and the wisdom of a leader. He was a tireless worker and a talented communicator who was respected in his community and beloved by his congregation. As President of his church, he traveled to more than 60 countries to spread a message of love and optimism to the millions of people around the world who shared his faith.
"A Mayflower descendent and the grandson of Mormon pioneers, Gordon was a deeply patriotic man. His leadership and service strengthened the Board of Trustees of Brigham Young University, the Boy Scouts of America, and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. In 2004, I was honored to present him with the Medal of Freedom, our Nation's highest civil award, in recognition of his lifelong public service."Laura and I will miss Gordon's friendship and wisdom. Our thoughts and prayers are with his five children and the rest of the Hinckley family."
• Mitt Romney: "I was impressed by his knowledge of the detail. We asked for the ability to use a city block, which the church owned, which had four parking lots on it ... for us to level the parking lot and turn it into a plaza for the medals ceremonies."It would seat, as I recall, approximately 10,000 people and another 10,000 would be standing and he turned to the other counselors that were there of his and said, Aren't the sewer pipes too close to the surface on that lot for them to be able to level it? He literally was aware of ... the sewer system for the lot well enough to recognize that was an issue."
• Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr.: "Mary Kaye and I are truly mourning tonight's death of President Gordon B. Hinckley. The president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has served as a transformational religious leader and tremendous ambassador for Utah with his unprecedented outreach to all corners of the world.
"We join with thousands of others, who have been touched by his words and deeds, in remembering all he has done for so many in our community and in the world. His leadership in humanitarian efforts around the world was matched only by his efforts in his own beloved state and community as a committed citizen. He has stood as a remarkable example of selflessness, charity and humility, and he will be greatly missed by all.
"We extend our deepest of sympathies to the family and the community who loved President Hinckley. May we all be comforted in the knowledge of his beloved positive outlook on life."
Huntsman's office said the governor has authorized the United States and Utah flags to be lowered in honor of President Hinckley. The flags will be flown at half-staff on all state-owned facilities until sunset on the day of his interment.
• Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah: "I know one thing: He's going to be overjoyed to be reunited with his wife. This is a man who I don't care what your religious belief is, I don't care what your educational standards are, I don't care what place you've reached in the world, etc. etc. you have to conclude this is one of the greatest men who ever lived on the face of the earth. A man of dimensions, intelligence, tremendous sense of humor and love for his fellow men and women I saw all of this," he said in a telephone interview.
"I loved President Hinckley. This is a sad day for us, but a wonderful reunion for him. ... This is a man God undoubtedly will say did what was right all his lifetime. ... I felt very deeply about him. I've known him a long, long time. I had many visits with him. And every time it was like walking into the presence of a man who was truly the most exceptional of people."
Later, in a formal statement, Hatch added: "I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley. He was a beloved prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His life was a true testament of service, and he had an abiding love for others. His wit, wisdom and exemplary leadership will be missed by not only members of our faith but by people of all faiths throughout the world.
"He was an articulate leader and defender of our Christian principles and had a unique gift and way about him to communicate with people from all walks of life and all religious persuasions. ... Elaine and I feel deeply privileged to have known such a remarkable man and been touched in so many ways by his life and example."
• Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah: "I have been privileged to know President Hinckley since my early 20s, and the thing that has impressed me the most about him has been his humility. He always viewed his assignments, no matter how great or small, as opportunities to serve rather than positions of prominence.
"He stayed fully engaged and completely up to date right to the end, and his legacy will be remembered long after all the rest of us are gone."
• Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah: "I am saddened to learn of President Gordon B. Hinckley's passing. In my experience, he was a man of tremendous foresight, with a keen awareness of current events and of the challenges and opportunities facing the people of the LDS Church, of the state of Utah and of our country. I will remember him as a devout, compassionate spiritual leader who showed much warmth and humor. I express my sincere condolences to his family."
• Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, said his family has a longtime, personal relationship with President Hinckley, who served in the British (LDS Church) mission "where my grandfather was the mission president. President Hinckley was a missionary with my father (Adrian Cannon). President Hinckley introduced my mother to my father."
"Many people don't realize that President Hinckley was a great wit, and sometimes his wit could be biting, although never harmful," said Cannon. President Hinckley always used to tell the men in the Cannon family that they married above themselves. "He really liked my mother and he was probably right we all did marry above ourselves."
Hinckley and Adrian Cannon were strong missionaries, said Chris Cannon. "For many years, no Mormon missionaries preached in Hyde Park" a famous free-speech area. "They would get beat up. But my father and President Hinckley started preaching in Hyde Park" with nothing too harmful happening to them.
President Hinckley had a great clarity of vision, said Cannon. And one reason that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is doing so well, even though he is a Mormon, this election year, is because President Hinckley over many years publicly spoke on various TV shows and in newspapers about Mormons showing the world the good side of his religion, said Cannon.
• Utah House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy: "I'll always remember the first time I met him and shook his hand. It was a great honor for me personally. This is a great loss not only to the LDS Church but to the state of Utah as well. He was a revered and respected leader."
Curtis said he doesn't yet know what honors will be coming from the Legislature, which is one week into its 45-day annual general session. "Certainly we'll have a moment of silence on Monday. A time for reflection on his life. Later, after the ceremonies of the funeral are announced, I imagine we'll do more."
• Utah Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem: "I feel like I've lost a good friend tonight," he said. "But, then, that was how President Hinckley made everyone feel like he was your good friend."
On Jan. 4, President Hinckley gave a dedicatory prayer at the rededication ceremony of the state Capitol. President Hinckley looked worn and tired, Valentine and a number of those present remarked.
But in a quick private meeting in the ceremonial Gold Room beautifully restored President Hinckley remarked to Valentine "about how remarkable the Capitol looked. He said we did a very good job of keeping the old parts of the Capitol and blending them in so well with the modern updates. He was very aware of what had been going on" in the three-year remodeling.
"He taught me by example, not only in his sermons, but his ability to respect all people, especially those who didn't belong to his religion.
"He wasn't afraid to talk to reporters, and his civility showed. He was a world leader, he had a world view, not just a church or Utah view," said Valentine, who also said there would be a short ceremony today in the Senate to honor President Hinckley.
• Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker: "I extend my deepest sympathy to the family of President Hinckley and the millions of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I appreciate the great care and concern President Hinckley had for our city. He has guided an unprecedented investment in downtown Salt Lake City that will be an example and catalyst for our future.
"He was truly one of Salt Lake City's greatest ambassadors. His compassion, sense of humor and wisdom will be deeply missed by our community. As the mayor of Salt Lake City, I hope all of us will follow President Hinckley's example of reaching out as individuals to serve our neighbors."
• Utah's Episcopal Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish: "Hearing of President Hinckley's death this evening I find it difficult to imagine the world and its faith communities without him. Leading the LDS Church for decades, he has been its heart and soul to many millions members and nonmembers alike.
"Like so many others, I have been deeply touched by his generous wisdom, kindly voice and delicate humor. In my youth and when I returned to Utah to lead another church, he has always been the quintessential 'good neighbor.'
"I pray for his family and close friends who must feel this immediate loss so keenly. His journey here was long and his faith so strong, that his very presence made us all want to embrace life as fully and well as he did."
• Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP Salt Lake City branch and of the NAACP of Utah, Nevada and Idaho: "I want to convey my deepest, heartfelt sympathy to President Hinckley's family and to church members. I was very fond of President Hinckley. I personally knew him, and I will truly miss his voice and his concern for the community....
"He was always concerned about other people and always concerned about how people were treating me. He was just a very, very good person, and I will miss him so much."
• Brigham Young University President Cecil Samuelson: "BYU has been very blessed by its significant association with President Gordon B. Hinckley. As long-time chair of the university's board of trustees, he has set the vision for BYU and the high expectations we strive to meet.
"The magnificent building on campus that bears his name could never be sufficient to match the legacy he has established for us. By having the faith and courage to show the world that great secular learning can be combined with an atmosphere that actively supports faith, President Hinckley has made an indelible mark in higher education, not just within the church, but worldwide."
BYU spokeswoman Carri P. Jenkins said BYU will fly flags at half-staff today, as directed by the church. Any updated events will be announced on BYU's Web page: www.byu.edu. At press time, the university was uploading a slide show on its Web site of President Hinckley's visits to campus.
• Utah House Minority Leader Brad King, D-Price: "This has really gotten to me tonight," he said, his voice cracking. "How do you sum up that kind of a life? Certainly, he was a great leader, but more importantly, a kind and gentle man. He will be missed by all of those who knew him. His personality and charisma transcended the bounds of religion. His are big shoes to fill. We send good wishes to his family." President Hinckley's grandson Joseph Hinckley is working as King's intern during the current legislative session.
"We wish President (Thomas S.) Monson and all the other church leaders good luck."
• University of Utah President Michael K. Young: The University of Utah family joins with millions worldwide who mourn the passing of President Hinckley ... a cherished alumnus of the U. Citizens of all nations will miss his great faith and boundless energy, his vision and spiritual resonance, and his compassion and gentle good humor. Truly the world is poorer today because of his passing.
"He leaves behind a rich legacy of courage and compassion. ... On countless occasions President Hinckley shared his personal conviction that all people be afforded the right of thought, conscience and belief. Such was the power of his conviction that hearts were changed and decisions were made that furthered religious freedom around the globe....
"He was a great friend to the U. and to many of us personally. ..." President Hinckley "spent a lifetime reaching down to lift others up. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and with all those who will feel so deeply the loss of this great man."
• Philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., father of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., has been a close personal friend of President Hinckley "for at least 35 years" and serves in one of the church's Quorums of the Seventy. Huntsman Sr.'s father-in-law was Elder David B. Haight, who passed away several years ago.
For years, sources said, Huntsman Sr. provided one of his corporate jets for President Hinckley to travel in. But that was just the latest connections between the families. "President Hinckley represented the very best in human spirit, he was a gifted leader. He was gracious and kind and a very dear friend," said Huntsman Sr.
"He will be greatly missed. He was my hero."
Huntsman Sr. said as he got to know President Hinckley better, they would often talk not only about their families, but also about business. Even though President Hinckley was a religious leader who spent the vast majority of his career working for and serving the church, he had an astute and keen mind about business, Huntsman Sr. said.
As the Huntsman Corp., which made Huntsman Sr. a billionaire, grew and acquired chemical firms across the world, Huntsman Sr. said President Hinckley gave advice as a personal friend on what turned out to be smart business moves.
"He loved to discuss business and understood business in great detail all around the world. He helped me immensely as an adviser. He was a friend. He attended all of our children's weddings. There was great love between our families" and he will be greatly missed, Huntsman Sr. added.
"We loved and admired him," he said.
• The campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, said Romney will make a comment Monday morning.
Reaction among LDS members who learned of the death Sunday night during church meetings reflected the love Latter-day Saints have for the man they considered to be God's prophet on earth.
Cell phones went abuzz at a Gresham, Ore., gathering of members receiving instruction about LDS temples Sunday night.
"We all got phone calls at the exact same time," Betsy Batman said. "Everyone just went out into the lobby and kept looking at each other to figure out if it was real."
After the fireside ended, Bishop Robert Nielson of the Kelly Creek Ward, Gresham, Ore., Stake, said the fireside topic was "a fitting subject to be talking about tonight."
"Tonight there has been a wonderful reunion," Bishop Nielson said. "President Hinckley has been reunited with his wonderful wife."
The congregation then stood and tearfully sang the hymn "We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet."
"Barely anybody could sing because we were all crying," Batman said.
Closer to home, youths attending a stake event in the South Jordan Stake Center Sunday night had their cell phones buzzing with text messages relating the news. As the meeting finished, stake President Blair Bangerter announced the death from the pulpit to a stunned and silent crowd, who reacted with a mixture of sadness, reverence and quiet comments about how the church leader will now be reunited with his beloved wife.
As news of their prophet's death spread, a small crowd of Latter-day Saints gathered at Temple Square to pay tribute. In the lights illuminating the square and the temple itself, a few dozen followers embraced and sang hymns. For most, emotions were mixed.
"It's a strange feeling for us when someone dies," said Justin McTee, a student at LDS Business College. "We're sad, but at the same time, there's a happy feeling. We know after this life, we'll be together (with loved ones) again."
Several followers said they believed President Hinckley's death was a blessing, an opportunity for the man to reunite with his wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, who died in April 2004.
That sentiment was affirmed by church spokesman Olsen, who said President Hinckley often expressed his desire to join his wife both in public and in private. The church leader also "had pled with the Lord not to have to linger," incapacitated by illness as a few of his predecessors had, Olsen said.
Between 8:30 and 10 p.m. local time, the church's Web site at LDS.org had registered more than 100,000 hits from people seeking details about President Hinckley's death, and many trying to access deseretnews.com were unable to connect, as the site was swamped with hits.
"He was universally loved and respected," said Olsen, noting President Hinckley was two months shy of serving 13 years as president of the church.
"He had a great love for the people and often said, 'I fall in love with them when I am with them."' He had a great affinity for the youth of the church, was tuned into their world and was "worried about it," he said.
With his death, the First Presidency was dissolved, Olsen said, and the church is now governed by the Council of the Twelve in what is called "apostolic interregnum." He said organization of a new First Presidency will likely take from a week to a month.
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