Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
During a religion class Monday, Beth Petersen smiles as she remembers the first time she saw President Hinckley in person at a BYU devotional. Most BYU students said they heard of President Hinckley's death Sunday night via text message from a friend, from e-mails or on personal Web sites.

PROVO — While flags on campus flew at half-staff, students at Brigham Young University on Monday memorialized LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley in their own special, personal ways.

"It's like everybody has lost a friend," said Chris Mortorff, 21, of Atascadero, Calif., a sophomore majoring in business.

Some students at the school, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left flowers, cards and candles at the base of the granite sign outside the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center on campus.

Others dressed in their church clothes for the day to show respect.

Students said the atmosphere on campus was normal, with everyone still doing homework and going to classes, yet everyone was a bit reserved.

As part of the high-tech generation, most BYU students who were interviewed said they heard of President Hinckley's death Sunday night via text message from a friend, from e-mails or even on personal Web sites such as MySpace or Facebook shortly after his death at 7 p.m.

From there, the students said they immediately hit LDS-related news Web sites to see if the rumors were true. Many of the Web sites were jammed due to the overwhelming amount of hits. Students said they then turned on televisions or went to mainstream sites such as Wikipedia, which they said had President Hinckley's obituary up immediately.

Students said there was so much cell phone usage Sunday night it was impossible for a while to call out or receive calls on or around BYU campus.

"It was like a flood of information," Mortorff said.

Other students had more creative ideas of spreading the word and expressing their feelings. BYU student Joseph Peeples, 21, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., a senior majoring in organ performance, headed to the Bell Tower on campus. Peeples, along with three other students who play the carillon bells at noon each day, did a special performance of "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet" at around 10 p.m.

"We're not supposed to play past 8 or 9 p.m., usually, but we wanted to thank President Hinckley for everything," Peeples said, adding he got permission from his professor.

Mike Shouse, 18, of Mannford, Okla., a freshman majoring in music education, dressed up Monday by wearing a white shirt and a neon green tie with a Captain Moroni tie clip. "I was thinking about wearing a black tie but I wanted to wear a bright tie because it's more of a celebration of his life," Shouse said.

BYU administration encouraged religion professors to take a few minutes at the beginning of their classes to talk about President Hinckley, who as president of the church also served as chairman of BYU's board of trustees, and allow the students to discuss their feelings.

During BYU religion professor Scott Esplin's class, Gordon Bean, 23, of Annandale, N.J., a senior majoring in bioinformatics, told the other students he is named after President Hinckley. "My family really respected him," Bean said, adding his father, David, was named after David O. McKay.

BYU religion professor Guy Dorius presented to his class the slideshow of President Hinckley that the university has on its Web site, www.byu.edu. Many students cried as they watched.

"This prophet was your prophet in so many ways," Dorius said, bringing up the fact many of the students have known only one head of the LDS Church because President Hinckley was appointed when they were children.

"We were looking forward to getting our mission letters signed by President Hinckley but it will be cool to be one of the first ones to have our letters signed by the new prophet," said Logan McDermott, 18, of Suwanee, Ga., a freshman majoring in business.

Students eating lunch in Cougareat talked about experiences with President Hinckley that they remember and cherish.

"When they sang Happy Birthday to him and he was waving his cane," said Laura Wolthuis, 20, of Castlerock, Colo., a sophomore majoring exercise science.

Spencer Hafoka, 21, of Kahuku, Hawaii, a freshman taking general classes, said he remembers performing in a dance group as a child at a ceremony for President Hinckley when he visited BYU-Hawaii.

Icce Homero, 24, of Cuernavaca, Mexico, a sophomore majoring in business, said when President Hinckley spoke at BYU, it was wonderful hearing him speak in English instead of a translator speaking Spanish.

"It was my first time I had a chance to see a real prophet," Homero said.


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