Randy Child spent most of Friday at the Salt Lake Temple and decided not to go home.
When Temple Square closed at 10 p.m., the Springville man opted to spend the night outside the north gates, wanting to make sure he was one of the 21,000 people to attend the funeral for President Gordon B. Hinckley today in the Conference Center.
"There's going to be a collective spirit in there of everyone who loves the prophet," Child said this morning. "That will be felt 21,000 strong."
Child, a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was one of several hundred people who bundled up to brave the freezing cold weather late Friday night and early this morning to be a part of the memorial service.
President Hinckley, who guided the LDS Church for nearly 13 years, died Sunday.
According to the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, the temperature downtown dipped to 18 degrees late Friday night. By 7 a.m. today, it had inched up to a still-frosty 22 degrees.
Child and those who joined him at the front of the line came prepared for the cold. He was layered in three pairs of pants, two coats and two sweaters. Marie Dalgleish, who joined Child in line shortly after 10 p.m. Friday, was decked out in two Peruvian hand-knit sweaters "because they're warmer than any (American) clothes" an Alpaca coat, hat, gloves and scarf, along with two full sweat suits, thermal underwear, six pairs of socks and three pairs of mittens.
Oh, and she topped off the ensemble with a sheet of plastic draped over her shoulders.
Dalgleish said her mother regularly took her to LDS General Conference, beginning when the Salt Lake City woman was an infant. Like Child, she wanted to personally experience President Hinckley's funeral in the Conference Center, joining the thousands of others who share her love and appreciation for the LDS Church leader.
"Gordon B. Hinckley's voice is something I've treasured all my life," she said. "I will greatly miss his eloquence."
Though the free tickets for the 11 a.m. funeral would not to be handed out until 9 a.m. and LDS Church officials advised the public not to begin lining up until 7 a.m., several hundred chose to ignore that counsel to make sure they didn't miss out on what some described as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
By 7 a.m., more than 1,000 people were waiting in a line that ran east from the north gate of Temple Square along North Temple and then south down the Main Street Plaza.
As it turned out, long waits in the cold weren't necessary to get into the funeral. Temple Square volunteers were still handing out tickets to anyone who wanted them as late as 10:30 a.m.
A large number of those who lined up early for tickets were in their late teens and early 20s. Deborah Allred, a 22-year-old student at Brigham Young University-Idaho, began her wait for tickets at 3 a.m., saying she wanted to pay tribute to a man she said has "been like a grandpa to me."
"I have such a deep love and appreciation for him," Allred said, shivering but smiling on the cold morning. "He is my prophet. He's been the prophet since I can remember. I always enjoyed listening to him and hearing him. It meant a lot to me to be able to come here."
Allred said one of her favorite memories of President Hinckley was a November 2000 address during which he shared the "six B's" of advice for youth: "Be grateful. Be smart. Be clean. Be true. Be humble. Be prayerful."
"I just loved how he always spoke to (the youth of the church) like he was a caring parent or grandfather," she said. "I knew he cared about me every single time he spoke. It made me listen more, I guess."
Those comments were echoed down the line by a group of college students and recent graduates who met Friday while in line for about five hours to attend President Hinckley's viewing. They decided to get together again today to wait in line for the funeral.
"He's our prophet," said Megan Lee, a BYU student from Nampa, Idaho.
Hailing from various parts of the country and rival schools (four from BYU and two recent alumni of the University of Utah), the group bonded in their shared love of President Hinckley.
"He's the prophet I grew up with," said Esmeralda San Miguel, who comes from Texas.
The group also shared a makeshift picnic breakfast of muffins, bagels, bacon, eggs, sausage, hot chocolate and more on the sidewalk along North Temple.
"He believed in the youth so much," said Ashley Makahilahila, a BYU student from Hawaii. "It really gave us hope."
Vince Heinrich of Bend, Ore., was part of another group of college-age friends who gathered outside the Conference Center about 10 a.m. with tickets in hand.
"He was the prophet of our childhood," Heinrich said. "He helped our generation through those awkward stages of adolescence."
Brynna Brockbank, an Ann Arbor, Mich., native now attending school at LDS Business College in Salt Lake City, said President Hinckley's love for all people was evident every time he spoke.
"Even if there were thousands of people in the crowd, you felt like he was personally talking to you, that he personally knew you," Brockbank said. "I think many, many people's lives have been touched from listening to them, as mine has. He's a great man, a great example."
President Hinckley also "brought the church into the 21st Century," said Kelly Buie of Salt Lake City, citing his participation in national media interviews. He sought out opportunities to help the world better understand the LDS Church and its members, Buie said.
"He really tried to fight the myths about the church and the misconceptions about what we believe," Buie said. "He's an amazing man, and he really did a lot to further the church around the world."
Friends Cora Montgomery and Kelly Butikofer flew in from Chicago to attend President Hinckley's funeral, saying they didn't want to miss this opportunity to say farewell to a spiritual leader who made a profound difference in their respective lives.
Montgomery said she gave President Hinckley the nickname "Sparky," "because he was such an energized person."
Butikofer recalled watching TV in 1999, flipping through channels when he saw President Hinckley talking about the construction of the Nauvoo Temple in Illinois. Butikofer was a member of the LDS Church, he said, but he didn't attend church and wasn't living all of its teachings.
Seeing the LDS Church leader on TV and listening to him speak "called me back," Butikofer said.
"I did whatever I had to do to come back to church," he said.
Jerry Washburn, mayor of Orem, recalled the influence President Hinckley had on his life."(President Hinckley) has had such an impact on my life personally," Washburn said as he waited for funeral services to begin. "His inspiration, his guiding words and example meant so much to me and my family, and just to be able to be here and feel the impact he has had, just to be able to be here and feel that spirit, and inspiration, I feel it's a privilege."
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