President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of Twelve, was sustained as an assistant to the Twelve on the same day Gordon B. Hinckley was called to serve as a member of that body.
On Saturday, President Packer recalled instances from more than 50 years of their shared service to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"Gordon B. Hinckley first arrived on the scene at church headquarters on his way home from his mission in England," President Packer said. "He had been asked by the mission president to report to the First Presidency. ... The 15-minute meeting lasted over an hour. He was asked to serve as secretary to the new Church Mission Literature Committee."
That first invitation to church service required young President Hinckley to find a space to set up, find a block of wood to prop up the short leg of a donated table and request "a ream of paper." Asked if he knew how many sheets of paper he had requested, he replied that he did 500 sheets. And what did he intend to do with so many sheets of paper?
"'I am going to write on them, one sheet at a time.' He never stopped writing," President Packer said.
Through years of shared meetings, President Packer recounted, he was often to "find him at his desk, writing out his talks in longhand."
President Hinckley's extraordinary talent for interacting with people from all cultures was demonstrated when an Islamic cleric, Dr. Abdurrahman Wahid, came to Salt Lake City for treatment at the University of Utah eye center. "I arranged for an audience with the First Presidency," said President Packer. With Wahid was Dr. Alwi Shihab, a professor of Islamic studies at Harvard University.
As the conversation continued, Wahid mentioned that he had been asked to run for the presidency of Indonesia. President Hinckley said that if he won such an election, "I will come and visit you in Jakarta." That promised meeting did occur, after Wahid was elected, with President Hinckley as the guest of honor at a dinner in the Presidential Palace.
When President Hinckley died, the first message of condolence President Packer received was from Shihab, who sent a large floral offering, he said.
"I have regarded this power of communication and charm in President Hinckley as brotherly love and humility. It was always apparent, whether he was with the laborers on a dusty road or a banquet in the Presidential Palace."
President Hinckley understood that the doctrines of Jesus Christ are "synonymous with family," President Packer said.
He also touched on the succession of church presidents, describing it as "a remarkable process" guided by scripture. "There is no aspiring for the position or place, no avoiding the Lord's will. ... Gordon B. Hinckley did not seek the many calls and assignments that came to him, but he did not shy away, either."As the Bible tells of Mary's visit to the empty tomb in which Jesus had been laid, the message to her that "he is not here, for he is risen" will be echoed in due course for Gordon B. Hinckley and Marjorie Hinckley, President Packer said. "They are not here, for they are risen and together."