There are thousands of stories behind the thousands paying their final respects at the public viewing of LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley. These are three of them:

Jay Flitton hobbled to the escalator, steadied himself with his cane and hopped on for the ride. Two weeks ago he had knee surgery. He tore the meniscus in his left knee while shoveling snow a bit too aggressively.

But there he was anyway, maneuvering his way through the Conference Center corridors to catch a final glimpse of the man he called prophet.

"I couldn't miss it, you know what I mean?" said the 49-year-old veteran of the first Gulf War who lives in Sunset.

He talked his friend, Brent Andrews, into coming with him. Brent drove.

"I'd have taken the bus if I'd had to," said Jay, a lifelong Mormon who went on a mission as a 19-year-old to Michigan. It was there that he personally met Elder Hinckley when he was an apostle.

"You know how his humor is," said Flitton. "He came and talked to us missionaries, and he started out, 'Buenos Dias, elders ... oh, sorry, wrong language.' He was just so down to earth and so impressive."

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Houston Hiskey, a junior at Spanish Fork High School, did Flitton one better. He dislocated his knee last Saturday on a snowboard jump behind his house that turned out to be a covered bridge. He was on crutches as he filed past the body of the 15th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With Houston were his parents, Bruce and Lana, and younger siblings, Shalee and Hunter, who are in the seventh grade.

Bruce and Lana each took the day off work and the three kids took the day off school for the viewing.

It was both the least they could do and the most they could do for, as Lana put it, "the only prophet these kids have known."

Hunter was named for President Howard W. Hunter, the LDS Church president who died the week he was born. Twin sister Shalee said when she has a daughter one day she'll name her Hinckley, after the person who became president the week she was born.

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It looked as if Maria Torres from Taylorsville was leading a preschool field trip as she descended the Conference Center escalator.

There were five children trailing behind her, all under the age of 6, including her granddaughters, Melina, Miriam and Natalia Morales, and brothers Ximena and Axel Ruiz, who just turned 5 months old.

Maria's college-age son, Ammon, was also there, and her daughter, Margarita Morales, as well as Denise Ruiz, a friend visiting from Mexico.

They'd planned this pilgrimage as soon as they heard the news of President Hinckley's death this past Sunday night.

"We've been talking to the children ever since," said Margarita. "We told them this was a good man and they should come here and see him and always remember that. It will help them in their lives."

Filing past his casket only reinforced that conviction.

"He is a man of God still," said Maria.


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.