Politicians, leaders pay tribute to President Hinckley

Published: Monday, Jan. 28 2008 5:57 p.m. MST

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, stands to relate a recollection of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. The Senate allotted time to honor the leader, who died Sunday.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

The Utah Legislature held a moment of silence in honor of the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley before moving on to the business at hand Monday.

In Washington D.C., Sens. Bob Bennett and Orrin Hatch paid tribute to him on the U.S. Senate floor. And government and civic leaders inside and outside the state shared personal stories about their associations with him.

President Hinckley died Sunday of causes incident to age. He was 97.

The usual rustle in the Utah House and Senate chambers stopped for a minute as lawmakers stood and bowed their heads before debating bills in their morning sessions.

House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, seemed a bit overtaken by the event.

"I think this (moment of silence) is the best way to honor him. And then we all may worship in our private way his passing."

When the silence broke, Curtis said, "It may seem a little trite to go on with business." But the House did, as the law requires.

"He was a great community leader as well as a religious leader," Curtis said, in explaining it was proper for the government entity to recognize President Hinckley's contribution to Utah.

Calling it a "solemn occasion," Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, allowed his colleagues to express their thoughts about President Hinckley for about 20 minutes.

Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Cottonwood Heights, recalled the respect shown President Hinckley at the dedication of the remodeled Capitol Jan. 4, his last public address.

"As the prophet came and approached the podium, there was total silence in the Rotunda and reverence for that great man. Not all in the audience were members of the LDS Church, but there was a great deal of reverence for him as a leader in this community," she said.

"It strikes me how he had a big picture, eternal perspective. He thought outside the box. I think it behooves all of us to keep a big picture, eternal perspective."

Shortly after being elected Senate president, Valentine found himself sitting next to President Hinckley at the governor's inauguration.

"After we finished the inaugural events, I went over to shake his hand. He looked at me with those grey blue eyes he had, and he embraced me. He gave me a hug. He looked at me and said, 'President, lead well. Lead fairly. And lead with your heart.' He then took his cane and waved to everyone as he walked away."

Bennett, R-Utah, spoke on the U.S. Senate floor of President Hinckley's life and legacy, noting how connected he was to the world.

"He read the papers. He watched the television. He knew what was going on in the world outside the church, every bit as much as we did, and his memory was phenomenal. There are many people who were 20 to 30 years his junior who could not remember current items of news as well as he could," Bennett said.

"We do not mourn for him. He has joined his wife, his parents, and others who have gone before him who may have a little sense of, 'Gordon, what took you so long?' but he stayed at his job and fulfilled his stewardship in an impressive manner."

Said Hatch, R-Utah, "His love of God fueled his love of country. President Hinckley carried the torch of patriotism, and the spirit of America burned in his heart."

"But President Hinckley never let his love of the United States obscure his vision for the rest of the world. ... He traveled across the globe, setting an energetic pace that would have exhausted men half his age. The nations of the earth heard his voice and he brought them a knowledge of the truth by the wonderful testimony which he bore."

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