January 29, 2008

Head of the Mormon Church Dies Aged 97

by Rachael Grant

Gordon B. Hinckley, the 15th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since March 1995, died on Sunday, at the age of 97.

Groups of church members have gathered around the temple in Salt Lake City to commemorate his life. Utah Governor Jon Hunstman says of Hinckley that he ‘served as a transformational religious leader and tremendous ambassador for Utah with his unprecedented outreach to all corners of the world’.

At present, Mormonism is at the forefront of American news, with church member, and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Mormonism is considered one of the most affluent religions, with more than $5 billion annual income, and with almost 13 million members, half of whom live outside the US.

Hinkley’s funeral is expected within the next couple of days, after which a successor will be formally chosen by Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, where it is expected that the longest standing member will be selected, according to tradition. Thomas S. Monson, born 1927 is considered the next successor, under the process which Mormons consider divinely selected.

Huntsman, who considered Hinckley ‘a remarkable example of selflessness, charity, and humility’, has ordered that all flags on the outside of Utah’s state government buildings to be flown at half mast in respect of the Church’s loss.

Hinckley was born in Salt Lake City itself in 1910, and made his last public appearance in January 2008, where he spoke at the rededication of the Utah State Capitol building. He had travelled to more than 60 countries during his lifetime as a representative of the church, and in the year 2000, travelled more than 22,000 miles, and spoke to more than 26,000 people on an 11-day tour of the Pacific Rim.

Before his appointment of leader of the Church, Hinckley spent 20 years of his life as director of the Mormon Church public communications. Other notable achievements include being named as one of the most admired men in 2001, for the second year running, as voted by the American public. He also surpassed a self-imposed goal of erecting 100 temples built around the world, with the current figure reaching over 120.

Hinckley granted various media interviews to highlight the Church, and in 2002, he was granted the position of one of the Torch Relay Bearers, prior to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

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