Sunday, February 03, 2008

Praise to the man

"The president and prophet of the Mormon church, Gordon B. Hinckley, died last Sunday at age 97." Link

It's a difficult task to succinctly honor a person who has had a deep and abiding influence in your life. Thus, I'll do what only I am uniquely qualified to do: share my 60 seconds with President Hinckley. In doing so, I implore the reader to tread lightly; to date, I've shared the experience with precious few people.

Hinckley's devotional addresses at BYU campus have long been a perennial favorite of the student body. On November 10th, 1998, I was among a couple dozen students who met President Hinckley before he gave his annual address.

I chatted with my friends as we were led into the underground labyrinth of the Marriott Center. When we rounded the corner to the appointed conference room, my mind did a bit of a somersault as my eye caught his. In an instant, the gravity of the experience washed over me and I felt strangely under prepared.

As the students gathered, Hinckley gave the group a once over, cracked one of his trademark smiles and remarked, "Here are our future professors."

Shortly thereafter, we formed a line for some personal time and associated photo op. I remember that Jonathan Chan was ahead of me in the queue; he produced a photo picturing Hinckley and Jonathan's grandparents posing together many years back. Lacking any kind of personal connection with the prophet, I suddenly felt rather obscure.

Knowing I'd be unable to engage him with ancestral photos, I opted to appeal to President Hinckley's well known wit. I confidently shook his hand and said "I'm Bryan Wheeler and you don't know my grandparents." An eternity passed in milliseconds as I realized I just lobbed the biggest dud of my lifetime. My remarks clearly confused the man and our nascent conversation faltered for a couple of seconds.

Fortunately, Hinckley's 89 years of experience didn't fail him. Our conversation recovered quickly as he turned the conversation toward me. We chatted about Houston,the faithfulness of the church members there, and various other things I no longer remember.

Dazed and confused, I headed for the exit. I almost didn't recognize Henry B. Eyring as he shook my hand on the way out the door.


Over the past week, there has been talk of sadness at the passing of Gordon Hinckley. I don't feel it. His life is a model of a life well spent, ever in the service of his fellow man. Indeed, he's one of the few men I aspire to emulate.


Scott Parker said...

What a touching remembrance, Brian. I'm glad you shared this.

The Millers said...

Ah, one of the many perks of being a Hinckley scholar! You lucky boy. So fun to find your blog. I can't wait to read all about you! There is a link to my blog on my profile as well.
Rachel A. Miller