Monday, January 28, 2008

We thank thee, o God, for a prophet

We've got a pretty bad storm going on right now. It's a blizzard of snow and hail with a lot of hard wind, not to mention the darkness the thick gray clouds are casting. Appropriate that we should get such a storm when a prophet leaves the earth.

The news came as a shock to me last night. It wasn't difficult to see in Conference that President Hinckley's passing would happen soon, but when it did happen, I wasn't ready. I took it really hard last night; my body became weak and I began to shake, insomuch that I could barely even type for a couple of hours. My emotions got the best of me, and despite all my knowledge of God's plan, I sunk into a depression over the prophet's death. I've never been good at handling death, and I always feel guilty about that because I do know the Plan. That guilt only makes me feel worse, because it adds feeling bad onto the bad I already feel. It's a vicious cycle.

But President Hinckley was a picture of optimism. In dealing with all things, that's the route he took. And so must we. My tears and the tears of the world flow for this beloved man, and for plenty of good reason. But we mustn't let them cause us to forget the greater good--the fact that all the Priesthood keys remain upon the earth, and that the Church remains strong and true; that it was our prophet's time to pass, and that the Lord will call a new one; that we know where President Hinckley is, and that he's happy and reunited with his beloved wife Marjorie; and that he left a lasting legacy that will help the work progress for generations to come. Gordon B. Hinckley lived in Christ and died in Christ, and there is no tragedy in that. I can only imagine the excellent reception he's enjoying in the Spirit World. As Heaven celebrates this man, so must I. This tribute is not and will never be complete, because there will always be so much to say about our beloved prophet. But I will say what I can, and I encourage all of you to add what you will.

Gordon B. Hinckley became President of the Church when I was only five years old. I'm too young to remember Ezra Taft Benson and Howard W. Hunter very well, so President Hinckley is the only prophet I have really known. He brought me through my youth and into adulthood. And though I doubted the Church for a while--even near to leaving it--during a long period of darkness, I always loved President Hinckley for his love and warmth. No matter how unhappy I was, I always knew the prophet was a great man who loved me, even if I didn't always listen to him back then. But after I gained my own testimony, my love for this man grew even greater than ever before. He inspired me in so many ways, and in listening to his teachings my desire to serve the Lord increased a hundred fold. Gordon B. Hinckley was the prophet when I decided I wanted to serve a mission. He was the prophet when I was given the Aaronic Priesthood. He was the prophet when I was baptized. Everyone has what they consider "their" prophet. Gordon B. Hinckley was mine. I would have died for him.

I remember the first time I was in his presence after I gained my own testimony. It was the Day of Celebration, July 16th, 2005. When President Hinckley rode out onto the field of Rice Eccles Stadium in a golf cart, the crowd of 45,000 teenagers greeted him like he was a rock star. Never before had I heard such enthusiastic cheering. Everyone there knew this man was a prophet. I knew he was a prophet, and the Spirit was too strong to deny it. I cheered for him with the 45,000, jubilant at having him there with us and having the opportunity to hear him speak. Then after he addressed us, we all sang The Spirit of God, and a procession of missionaries came out and joined us as we cheered for them, too. The entire stadium was alight with glow sticks and the Spirit. It was, quite literally, a life-changing experience, and one I will never forget.

Nor will I forget attending a session of the Fall 2006 General Conference, where for the third verse of the closing song the congregation spontaneously joined the choir. 21,000 of us stood and sang We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet, and it was the most powerful feeling of joy, where we all knew it was true. Then after the benediction, we all stood as the prophet left. He smiled and waved at us, and we smiled and waved back. He also blew us kisses. It was unforgettable; truly this man loved us with his whole heart, and we loved him.

I will miss seeing President Hinckley at Conference. I will miss hearing his voice and enjoying his sense of humor. We have lost a magnificent leader, one who loved all people and was loved in return. He served faithfully his whole life, and there is much to show for it. We truly have lost someone great. But we will never lose the head of our Church--our Lord Jesus Christ. He continues to lead His Church by revelation and the power of the Priesthood, and He will call a new prophet, who I will sustain and revere. I know it; why should I be troubled?

That Gordon B. Hinckley was a prophet of God is indisputable. The world--even other so-called Christians--may deny it. They may fight it and do everything they can to prevent the work from progressing. They may bear false witness against the Lord's Church, and attempt to lead its members astray. But false witness is all they have to fight us with. Nothing they can do, nothing they can say, nothing they can think, will ever change the truth, and the Lord God Almighty will hold them accountable at His judgment-seat. This is my declaration to the world that I know the Lord calls prophets in this dispensation. I know that Gordon B. Hinckley was a prophet of God. Earth and Hell may combine against me, but I will never deny it, because I know.

God bless you, President Hinckley. I'll see you when I get there.

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