We each feel that something has been taken from our hearts with the death of President Hinckley. There was a sense of happy anticipation to look forward to his powerful witness of the Savior, to feel his love for us, and to know that he would bring us a smile and hope as he spoke of even the most difficult challenges.
In the last few days, I have remembered his voice. I heard that voice so many times when a difficult problem facing the Church was brought to him. He would listen carefully, perhaps asking a question or two, to be sure that he understood the magnitude of the difficulty facing us and that those who brought the problem to him knew he understood. Time after time, he would quietly say something like this, with a pleasant smile, “Oh, things will work out.”
He was an optimist. Some of that came from his great personal capacities. Many problems he could work out himself. He saw the way to build temples across the earth. He gave the credit to the faithful Saints who paid their tithes in good times and in hard times. But he was the one who sketched, as he returned from Colonia Juárez, Mexico, to El Paso Texas, the design for those smaller temples, which now bless people across the world.
He was the one who saw a way for young people in many countries to walk out of poverty by choosing for themselves a training program which would give them the capacity to repay a small loan from what he named the Perpetual Education Fund. He is the one who conceived of this lovely Conference Center, where thousands unite their faith to hear the word of God.
His personal legacy goes beyond that brief list and my power to describe. But his accomplishments have at least one thing in common. Always they were to bless individuals with opportunity. And always he thought of those with the least opportunity, the ordinary person struggling to cope with the difficulties of everyday life and the challenge of living the gospel of Jesus Christ. More than once he tapped his finger on my chest when I made a suggestion and said, “Hal, have you remembered the person who is struggling?”
He is in the spirit world today among the noble prophets who have lived on the earth. He is surely aware of our sorrow and our sense of loss at our separation from him. He knew at the end of his life the pain in his heart of losing someone he loved. If we told him of our grief, he would listen carefully, and then I think he would say something like this, with sympathy in his voice but with a sound in it that would bring a smile to our lips, “Oh, it will work out.”
It has for him. His optimism was justified not by confidence in his own powers to work things out but by his great faith that God’s powers were in place. He knew that a loving Heavenly Father had prepared a way for families to be bound together forever. He wanted so much to be in the temple in Rexburg, Idaho. Tomorrow was to be the day of dedication. He thrilled at the dedication of temples. He knew what they could mean for someone who yearned to be reunited forever with a loved one from whom they had been separated by death. Things did work out. He is with Marjorie again, the girl of his dreams. They will be companions forever in glory and in a family.
His optimism stemmed from his unwavering faith in Jesus Christ and the power of His Atonement. He was certain that we would all be resurrected because the Savior was. He was sure that we could all be sealed in families forever, to live in the presence of God the Father and His Beloved Son, if only we would make a choice to be true to sacred covenants with God.
He spoke of such a day of choice in his own life. As a discouraged young missionary in England, he received a letter from his father which said in essence, “Forget yourself and go to work.” In his room at 15 Waltham Road, he had been reading earlier that day these words of the Savior: “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” 1 I heard him say that he then went upstairs, knelt down in prayer, and promised the Lord that he would do his best. President Hinckley said of that promise: “I have been doing that ever since.”
President Hinckley’s best may be so much more than we can offer the Master. But all God asks of us is that we give our best. President Hinckley would understand our feelings of weakness. He once looked at the pictures of the prophets who preceded him in this dispensation. He said quietly, “When I look at those pictures and think of where I am, I feel so inadequate.” President Hinckley rarely showed emotion. But in that moment he began to weep, I think not out of fear but out of gratitude. He had consecrated all he had and was to the Savior’s service. Because of his trust in the Savior, he knew that would be enough. Faith in his heart left no room for doubt or fear.
That unfailing confidence in the power of God shaped what he was able to see in the progress of the Lord’s Church. No one was more aware of problems than he. And yet time and again he would say of the Church that we have never done better, and he would give you facts to prove it. Then he would say with conviction in his voice, “And the best is yet to come.”
His optimism came from his youthful choice to consecrate all he had to the Savior and His work, out of faith. He chose to put the gospel down into his heart by giving his best all his life. That brought to him a blessing he would want us to claim. He more than hoped that things would work out. He knew they would if only he would go forward in faith. I saw what that allowed God to do for him and his heart as his life closed.
Just a few days ago as President Monson and I greeted him, he smiled and extended his hand to each of us. He asked me, “Hal, how are you?” I gave a simple answer, “Fine.” I only wish I had answered: “Better than ever. And I know the best is yet to come because I was blessed to live when I could hear your voice and learn from your example.”
His example even changed what I read. I knew that he loved reading Shakespeare from his college days as a student of Benjamin Roland Lewis. So I got a copy of the collected works of Shakespeare. I mentioned to President Hinckley that I was reading it. He said: “How do you find the time?” And then he asked: “Where are you reading in it?” I said, “Henry the Fifth.” His reply was, “That’s a good place to start,” with the emphasis on the word start, to make it clear that there was much work ahead.
His example of courage and my reading in that play helped me understand a lesson he had tried to teach me years before about serving Heavenly Father’s children. When I was responsible for teaching the gospel to our youth in our seminary programs across the world, he had said, tapping his forefinger on my chest, “Hal, why don’t you do better in getting the gospel down into their hearts?”
He knew that only when it was down in their hearts, as it was in his, would they be strong enough and brave enough to qualify for eternal life. He loved young people. He knew their weaknesses and the fierce opposition which they would face. And he must have known the words which Shakespeare gave King Henry to speak when he was about to lead his small force into battle against overwhelming odds:
President Hinckley knew that God will steel and fortify us all as we choose to take the gospel down into our hearts. And he knew that the choice was made by consecrating all we are and have to follow the Master. He knew it was best to make that choice early, in the days of youth, because it might take years for us to qualify for the change in our hearts which comes because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
For all of us across the world, I express gratitude for such a prophet, such a teacher, such a father, and such a friend. He was a true witness of Jesus Christ and a prophet of God. We are better because of his influence and his example. And the best can be yet to come as we take the gospel of Jesus Christ down into our hearts, as he did. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.