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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
President Gordon B. Hinckley waves to the audience after a satellite broadcast by the First Presidency at the Conference Center in February 2003.

An apostle since 1961, a member of the First Presidency since 1981 and church president since 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley was the recipient of deep affinity from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But for the youths of the church, there will always be a special place in their hearts for the 15th president.

Whether it be the young deacon who knocks on your door to collect fast offerings or the Beehive who is this week's youth speaker, President Hinckley is the only prophet they've known.

President Hinckley's love for the youths of the church has been felt, according to high school and college students interviewed Monday, the day after the prophet passed away at age 97.

"I remember a talk he gave to the youth and told us we were the next generation, the future leaders of the church," said Andrew Loaiza, a senior at Viewmont High School. "I was impressed and excited ... It touched me how he cared for us. That talk lifted my spirits at a time I needed it."

Sabree Rogers, a junior at Viewmont High School, said President Hinckley's involvement with the youths of the church was a topic of discussion in her seminary class on Monday.

"Today we face so many problems, like pornography and how to handle our education," Rogers said. "He always told us to do our best."

Jephery Schmitt, 19, from Torrance, Calif., called President Hinckley "the ultimate role model." He referred to a video clip of the prophet that he saw while attending Especially for youth," a Church Educational System program for young men and women ages 14-18.

"He told us that he loved us, and you could just feel the genuine love he had for us," Schmitt said. "Even though I never met him, his dedication to the Lord made me want to be like him."

Provo's Nate Harrison, 23, said President Hinckley's words served as a guide through the teenage years and "all those high school troubles."

"He taught me who I am and, with straightforward teachings, showed me how even youth can stay true," Harrison said.

One of President Hinckley's attributes that was especially appealing to the youths of the church was the prophet's well-noted sense of humor. While it was a trait that was appreciated churchwide, Hayden White suggested that it was an effective means of reaching youths.

"The thing I remember most was his sense of humor," said White, a junior at Viewmont High School. "He was fun to listen to. He got and kept your attention with his sense of humor."

Jennifer Fielding, 25, of Orem, also appreciated the prophet's personality.

"He embraced life and made me feel a little more comfortable with the fact that you can be funny and still be spiritual," Fielding said. "He taught me that the gospel wasn't about being serious all the time. It's a place to have a good time and laugh, too."

Said Rogers: "He was like a grandpa to us. He was serious when he needed to be, but he could crack a joke and lighten everyone's life."

But it's not just about jokes. Those whose formative years coincided with President Hinckley's time as prophet will long remember his teachings, as well.

Landon Bodily, a University of Utah student from Lehi who recently returned from the Chile Conception Mission, said the prophet's emphasis on temple work made a strong impression on him. President Hinckley dedicated 85 temples and rededicated five others during his service.

"As a returned missionary, it has influenced me to make better use of the temples," Bodily said. "When I was in Chile, he rededicated the Santiago temple, and it was very impressive to see how the members appreciated him."

For McKenna Henkel, a 17-year-old from Orem, President Hinckley's encouraging of members to "stand a little taller" and his tireless work ethic will be remembered.

"That always kind of rang in my head," Henkel said. "When you see this 97-year-old man working hard every day, it's inspiring. I thought, 'If he can do it, I can do it."'

Contributing: Twila Van Leer, Elizabeth Stuart, Aaron Shill