Martha and Mary sent word unto Jesus regarding the sickness of their brother, Lazarus. The Savior loved Lazarus.
He was his trusted and devoted friend. The Savior insisted unto his disciples that they travel to Bethany to be with him. It was a dangerous journey. The Savior was warned that he might be stoned or persecuted. He never hesitated. You see, Lazarus was his beloved friend, and it was essential that the Savior be with him (see John 11:1–46).
Such was the warm and gracious friendship of our beloved prophet and President, Howard William Hunter. He was a loyal, devoted, and loving friend to so many. To his neighbors, his home was always open, and his exuberance and warm affection attracted many. All the traits embodied by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, were beautifully characterized in President Hunter’s remarkable and selfless life. All mankind were his friends.
To those friends who may have transgressed or been offended, he welcomed them back to the fold.
To those friends who were hurt and struggling and afraid, he said, “Let us stand with you and dry your tears” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, p. 8).
To many of his neighbors’ sons and daughters who mowed his lawn or shoveled snow from his sidewalk, he would always call with a gracious expression of appreciation and surprise.
The President, with his profound knowledge and a background of such diverse talents, would often meet with those not of our faith—and he uplifted them. “Love all men,” the Savior said, and this gentle and kind prophet of God did just that. No one ever felt uncomfortable in his presence. He was our friend.
Several weeks ago President Hunter responded with such wisdom when one somewhat untutored in spiritual definition inquired of him, “Dear President, what is the most exalted position or calling—that of a dear and trusted friend, or that of a prophet of God?” The President pondered silently for what seemed like minutes; then slowly grasping the hand of his friend and turning his head squarely towards him, with a tear trickling down his frail cheek, he responded, “they are both sacred callings of trust.”
Thank you, dear President, for permitting us to learn from you humility and graciousness. How often you quietly listened while others were telling you something you already knew—and yet you thanked them, complimented them, and made them feel so very important. You were such a kind and thoughtful listener. You possessed a remarkable and quick sense of humor, particularly during times of physical or emotional stress or illness. It would always manifest itself in such delightful ways. To those who helped you to the podium, you would often say, “Brethren, I hope next time you won’t need my help.” To those helping you to your seat afterwards, you would quietly whisper, “Just drop me anyplace.”
Thank you, dear President, for reminding us of the sacred nature of the holy sacrament, when only the Sunday before your passing you suggested to those few present how joyous it would be to participate therein. Perhaps you knew far more than us that this occasion would represent your last Sabbath day in mortality. With humility and great honor, your friends knelt and blessed and passed the sacrament. Your remarks immediately thereafter were memorable. You stated, “Thank you, dear brethren. What a great honor and privilege to partake of the Lord’s sacrament.”
Thank you, dear President, for teaching humility and kindness and always ensuring the comfort and care of others even though you may have been suffering or going without.
Thank you, dear friend, for the exemplification of a tender and loving husband as you cared for your sweetheart Claire with such devotion and attention. The mere mention of John and Louine, Richard and Nan, or your eighteen radiant grandchildren, would cause your eyes to twinkle and your face to brighten. To you, Sister Inis Hunter, we honor your faithful role as handmaiden and wife to the prophet. We love you and will never forget your unwavering dedication.
Dear President, you always followed the Savior’s admonition to turn the other cheek (see Matt. 5:39) if others offended you, and you so ably taught us to honorably bear and revere the priesthood of God, that it is, indeed, the most treasured gift on earth, far more valuable than either position or possessions.
Thank you, dear President, for loving the Savior so deeply. You spent your life learning of him and speaking of him. He was your best friend. You helped us become closer to our elder Brother. You understood so well Christ’s atonement and the importance of the Resurrection. You became much like him. You gave hope to all of us who stumble as you gently lifted us and offered the light and the way. You provided a vital glimpse of your “sure knowledge” when near the end you sweetly stated, “Let’s look for each other on the other side.”
Good-bye for now, dear prophet and friend. Your Christlike qualities and goodness will be greatly missed. You are our hero. We love you forever and ever.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.