Imagine 10,000 people wielding canes and white handkerchiefs on the sidewalks lining South Temple downtown, raising them in salute at a passing hearse.
That's the vision Kristen Smith has of what could happen Saturday if enough Utahns heed her call for a "cane wave tribute" to President Gordon B. Hinckley. She says it's a simple gesture of love and respect open to anyone who wants to participate.
After word Sunday night of President Hinckley's death, Smith and her friends started texting back and forth about how they wished they could do something to honor him, but how it was likely that thousands who wished to attend wouldn't get in to his funeral.
"We decided watching the funeral on TV that's not really a way to say goodbye. So we started brainstorming," and quickly came up with the idea of a "cane wave tribute" along the route that President Hinckley's cortege will take to the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Waving his cane had become the church leader's signature greeting to Latter-day Saints in recent years as he entered different venues around the world to share his faith and love.
"He was such a personable man," Smith said. "If you ran into him on the street, you knew you could say something to him, rather than feeling intimidated and backing away. He's the kind of guy you would want to run up and pinch his cheeks and tell him how cute he is before security got to you."
She said the cane and handkerchief wave is something organizers hope will be personally meaningful to the church leader and his family.
"They (his family) have had to share him for so long with the world," she said. Friends she is working with have learned that the Hinckley family does approve of the tribute. "We've been able to find out that they are pleased we would even think about doing this. It's a way to salute them while being respectful enough to stay away from the funeral party (at the cemetery).
"While this is all being televised to the world, it's also a private matter for family and close friends."
Organizers are asking participants to line up on South Temple east of State Street for several blocks, noting that a strict "no protest zone" has been established around the LDS Church campus downtown in accordance with a recently-passed state law.
Any organized demonstration whether supportive or otherwise is covered by the ordinance, and Salt Lake police plan to remove anyone in violation, according to church officials who have communicated with Smith and "are pleased" and "have offered thanks" for the effort, she said.
There is some concern about potential clashes with protesters from the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which has applied for a protest permit. They will be restricted to the same demonstration zone as the cane wave tribute, but Smith said she is asking anyone who participates to "remember who they are and why they're there and try very hard not to let protesters get to them.
"We've heard they are very aggressive, so I hope people will think before they act. This is their prophet and this is in tribute to him. We just really hope that people will just remember why they are there and what they stand for."
Though she has no way of knowing how many people will show up, Smith said word of the event has spread rapidly on the Internet and via word of mouth. Some people in other parts of the world have responded and plan to participate in their own areas, taking photos of their local events to post on a Web site that can be shared with others around the world.
"As church members, this can be a unifying event whether they are physically here in Salt Lake City or not. This is just a new phenomenon with new technology and the fact that we're able to get the word out so widely in such a short time. It's like those seminary students that texted each other to wear Sunday dress on Monday as a tribute.
"When people take it seriously, it will happen."For information, see Smith's blog on the web at canewavetribute.blogspot.com.
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