In addition to his many publicly visible talents, President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote poetry and gave permission just days before his death on Jan. 27 for one of those poems to become a hymn.
Latter-day Saints who attended, watched or listened to his funeral on Saturday heard his poetry as "What Is This Thing That Men Call Death," sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir after it was put to music by one of the faith's best-known musicians.
Janice Kapp Perry set the words to music just a few weeks ago, as a gift to her dying niece, who had found the church leader's poem among her files and received permission to print the words on her funeral program.
Kathy Blacker died Jan. 11, 2008,after urging her aunt to ask President Hinckley for permission to officially set the words to music as a hymn. The words were of great comfort in her final days, as she had some fears about the dying process, according to a story Perry shared with the Deseret Morning News.
Perry finished the music at the end of December and sent it to the church leader, anticipating that she might soon receive his permission to publish it as a hymn in an upcoming book of music. When she heard of his death, she feared it would never be.
But on Monday, a letter of permission from President Hinckley arrived. "The timing was so unusual and I was extremely grateful to receive the letter as a tender mercy in my life," she wrote. The same day, Tabernacle Choir director Craig Jessop asked for a copy to consider for President Hinckley's funeral.
Having seen the comfort it brought to her niece, Kapp said she wanted people throughout the world to have a free copy of the words to comfort them in times of loss. "This is just one more way his influence could be felt down through time."