Virginia H. Pearce, “A Daughter’s Tribute,” Ensign, Mar 2008, 17–19
I am honored to speak on behalf of our family at this solemn and sacred occasion. We desire to raise our voice in celebration of the life of our father and prophet and to bear testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ on this beautiful winter morning.
How grateful we are for the love shown toward our father and to us as his family. We thank you, each one of you, for your prayers and many kindnesses.
We thank the doctors and nurses who have guided his care and have acted with respect, diligence, compassion, and great skill.
We must thank Dad’s secretary, Don Staheli, an extraordinary man of humility, capacity, and generosity, who, along with a marvelous staff and wonderful security officers, have literally made it possible for our father to fulfill his responsibilities as the President of the Church.
We cannot find words to tell you of our love for our father’s associates and their wives. President Monson, President Eyring, and President Faust, whom we miss, have been counselors extraordinaire. President Packer and the Quorum of the Twelve, the Presiding Bishopric, the Quorums of Seventy, the general auxiliary officers—as quorums, presidencies, and individuals—we have found them to be devoid of selfish interests and completely dedicated to the kingdom. In that context they have helped, loved, and assisted our father and, by extension, us. There is nothing so touching to the human soul as to see men and women of great power extend private, thoughtful, and quiet kindness.
Sometime during the year of 1837 in the backcountry of Ontario, Canada, John E. Page came preaching the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Wearing the coat Joseph Smith put on his back in Kirtland, Brother Page and his companion taught the gospel to the Hinckley and Judd families as well as to many others. Lois Judd Hinckley (Gordon B. Hinckley’s great-grandmother) was among those baptized. With her children and other family members, she followed the Saints south. By 1843 they found themselves in Springfield, Illinois. Her son Ira Nathaniel Hinckley (then about 14 years of age) made his way to Nauvoo. He became a skilled blacksmith and builder. He married. In 1850 on their way to the Salt Lake Valley, cholera claimed Ira’s young wife and half brother. He buried them himself on the same day, then picked up his 11-month-old baby and finished the journey. Ira would spend the rest of his life answering the needs of a colonizing Church. Cove Fort stands today as the product of his able workmanship and devotion.
Ira Nathaniel’s son Bryant S. Hinckley (father of President Hinckley) was an educator, teaching at Brigham Young Academy and the LDS Business College. He was president of the largest stake in the Church for many years. He knew heartache and faced challenges that would test the faith of the strongest Saint, but he never wavered in devotion to the Lord and His Church.
Speaking at a devotional at BYU in 1999, President Hinckley recalled these “three generations of my forebears who have been faithful in the Church. Reflecting on [their] lives … ,” he said, “I looked down at my daughter, at her daughter, who is my grandchild, and at her children, my great-grandchildren. I suddenly realized that I stood right in the middle of these seven generations—three before me and three after me. … There passed through my mind a sense of the tremendous obligation that was mine to pass on all that I had received as an inheritance from my forebears to the generations who have now come after me.”1
As part of those generations who have come after him, we thank him and our mother for the tempered strength of their link between our forebears and us. Our parents loved us, taught us, corrected us, laughed and prayed for and with us. We honor them. And we likewise pledge to pass on to future generations our complete devotion to the Savior and His Church.
But this isn’t just about our little family: 5 children, 25 grandchildren, and 63 great-grandchildren. Because, as President Hinckley has often told us, we are all one great family—some 13 million strong—sharing an inheritance of faith and enjoying a covenant relationship with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, with responsibilities to help one another along the way.
Our father was adorable. And he was a marvel to watch. Disciplined and courageous, with an unbelievable capacity for work, he believed in growth. A favorite scripture reads: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24). That process of continual growth is the story of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that he loved to tell, as well as the story of his own life. That kind of growth requires faith, courage, discipline, and hard work—partnered with the gracious hand of the Lord.
At no time was this growth process seen more forcefully by us as a family than during the past four years, the capstone years of his life. Following the death of Mother, his grief was almost overwhelming. Characteristically, he acknowledged it—felt it, wept, and mourned deeply. He went to the Lord with his tears, thus allowing the loss to carve out an even deeper place in his heart for compassion and dig an even deeper well of faith and trust in God. Then, with that increase in compassion and faith, he put on his shoes and went back to work—in every sense of the word.
Two years later as he faced a diagnosis of cancer, he repeated the pattern. He did what all of us would do—he mourned the loss of good health and felt the fear of a disease that had taken his mother, his brother, and two of his sisters. Knowing that his life was in the hands of the Lord and feeling the power of the prayers of millions of you, he said that he felt compelled to do his part. And with the wonderful help of medical friends, he did just that—with courage and good humor. The result was a miraculous two-year extension of his life, when he could get up each morning, put on his shoes, and go to work.
Exactly one week prior to his death, he offered the dedicatory prayer of a renovated chapel in Salt Lake City. In that prayer, in a very unusual way, he petitioned the Lord for himself as prophet. He spoke with gratitude that “from the days of Joseph Smith to the present Thou hast chosen and appointed a prophet to this people. We thank Thee and plead with Thee that Thou wilt comfort and sustain him and bless him according to his needs and Thy great purposes.”
We bear testimony that his peaceful passing is evidence that the Lord heard and answered his prayers according to his needs and the great purposes of Him who reigns in the heavens, who died that we might live forever and in whose name we close—even the name of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, amen.
Background © comstock.com
Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other General Authorities line an entrance to the Conference Center as President Gordon B. Hinckley’s casket is brought in.