All Is Well

At 7 PM MST (6 PM my time) today (or yesterday, given  that it’s about midnight here), Gordon B. Hinckley passed away. Gordon B. Hinckley was the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (AKA the Mormons), and served in that capacity for many years, and devoted virtually his entire life to building up the Church.

The preceding link is the official church article on his passing. Here are the Yahoo news and KSL articles on the topic.

But enough with the dry factuality. Now, to my own experience with learning of this. I very seldom discuss my religious feelings on this journal, but I’m going to now. Please indulge me.

As the Ward Mission Leader, I was conducting a baptismal service for Anne DavisSandgren at the LA Stake Center (which is also where my ward holds our sacrament meetings). I noticed my wife stepping out for a few moments and just during the early part of the proceedings, a number of congregation members got text messages (fortunately, all but one had their phones on vibrate, and the other one rapidly silenced hers). Just after the baptism itself and while one of our missionaries was doing a presentation, Kristen came back into the room and signaled that she needed to speak with me, so I took the opportunity (myself not being in the spotlight for the time being) to check what the matter was, knowing that she wouldn’t pull me from my position over something frivolous.

She advised me that the several messages she had just received were news that, about an hour prior, the Prophet had passed away. I returned to my seat by Bishop Hoyt and President White (a counselor in our stake presidency) and advised them of the news. President White had learned of this just before the meeting as well, and indicated  that he would prefer that he make the announcement after the welcomes portion of the baptismal service were concluded. I was very glad that he didn’t want me to issue that announcement. There was a great deal of emotion as he informed the collected brothers and sisters of President Hinckley’s passing, but even though we all miss and love him, and there were tears over that, all in all the attitude was one of hope and gratitude. Gratitude that we have had the chance to have him among us, and hope for the future. We know that he has returned to the side of his beloved late wife, and that he himself is happy – and therefore his passing is a joyous thing for him, even if it is painful for us to let go of him. We knew then and know now that the Church will go on without him, as it went on when President Hunter died, and even as it did when Brother Brigham or Brother Joseph did: in faith.

I found myself reflecting on the time and place of learning this news, and how appropriate it was. We were together to witness the baptism of a new member of our ward, welcoming her into our midst. We were where we needed to be, doing the Lord’s work, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else at that time. It was emblematic of so many things, not least the continuance of this work after our great leader’s departure. This work is bigger than any man, even a man of such grand achievements and drive as Gordon B. Hinckley.

Yes, we will grieve. We must. It is good and it is right. Yet while we grieve, we shall press on.

I last saw President Hinckley at our Stake Conference broadcast two weeks ago. He looked a shell of himself physically, and his voice was weak though his spirit was as strong as ever. I shall cherish the fact that I was able to hear him one last time so close to the time of his passing. His love and concern for us was so keenly apparent and moving.

He’s been the leader of the Church for my entire adult life, having entered office the year I graduated high school.

Now, he is on the other side of the veil, being welcomed home. Go in peace and be received in joy. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

I shall close this with the text of one of my favorite hymns, “Come, Come Ye Saints.”

Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
‘Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell-
All is well! all is well!

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
‘Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward,
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take;
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tell-
All is well! all is well!

We’ll find the place which God for us prepared,
Far away in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
There the Saints will be blessed.
We’ll make the air with music ring,
Shout praises to our God and King;
Above the rest these words we’ll tell–
All is well! all is well!

And should we die before our journey’s through,
Happy day! all is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again
To see the Saints their rest obtain,
O how we’ll make this chorus swell–
All is well! all is well!

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