My last draft that was sitting unpublished in my queue. Unlike the other two, one of which I had to finish and the other which was already done and ready to go, this one is both unfinished and unable to be finished. The stated goal was to get my feeling down while they were fresh, and I started to do that. I can tell I had more to write (since I ended in the middle of a sentence), and I wish I had written it at the time. But I didn’t, so I will publish it now as-is and call it good.
Originally written on February 5, 2008:
[Note: I am LDS. A Mormon. Whatever you want to call it. Like most other Mormons, the past week of my life has been deeply affected by the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley, who led our Church and served us as our prophet for the past 13 years. This is my attempt to get some of my thoughts into writing while they are fresh.]
Sometimes the only way I know to deal with things is by addressing the way they directly affect me. It’s self-centered, I’m sure, but I think we all need a bit of self-centered-ness once in a while if it helps us deal with things that need to be dealt with.
I was eight years old when Spencer W. Kimball died. I remember him, but I don’t recall whether his death affected me much. It was a long time ago, and I was a small child.
I remember the death of Ezra Taft Benson quite a bit better. It was the very end of my junior year in high school, and I spent most nights that year down at the Lake Elsinore Diamond, home of the Lake Elsinore Storm, who were at that time the Class A Minor League affiliate of the Anaheim Angels. The Storm had a pitcher on their team named Ryan Hancock, who was also LDS. I was talking to him after a game one night, and he asked if I had heard that President Benson died. I distinctly remember not being too shocked. I was sad, but it was kind of a superficial sadness. Maybe I was, at age 17, only capable of superficial feelings, or maybe it had to do with how long he had been sick; whatever the reason, I wasn’t devastated by his death.
Nine months later, as I approached the end of my senior year, Howard W. Hunter died. President Hunter had been sick long before he became the prophet, and I think that combined with the fact that I had just been through it nine months earlier to make it a non-event in my life. To be honest, I don’t even remember where I was or how I found out he had died. I’m sure it had some impact that I have forgotten, but that means the impact was, by definition, forgettable.
I loved Presidents Kimball, Benson, and Hunter. I had a great respect for each of them, and I truly valued the service they rendered to me as a member of the Church they led, and I loved them for it. But President Gordon B. Hinckley was different. He was something more.
Did I respect President Hinckley as a leader? Very much. Did I value and appreciate the service he rendered to the Church I love? More than you can imagine. But when I say I loved President Hinckley, it really doesn’t have much to do with those things. I loved the prophet, but I really loved the man.
In my life, I have been blessed with an extraordinary number of male role models in my life, and I could list many dozens of men who have had a tremendous impact on me as a priesthood holder. But there are three men who stand out among these powerful influences: my dad, Rocky Snider; my current stake president, D. Harold Draper; and President Gordon B. Hinckley.
What sets these men apart? It’s simple, really. It’s the understanding they each have (or had — it still seems weird to refer to President Hinckley in the past tense, so I will probably stick with the present for now) about what their individual roles are. Each of them understands that when you receive a calling from the Lord, it is your responsibility to do what He would have you do. If I ask my dad or President Draper a doctrinal question, I know with one hundred percent confidence that the answer will be based on true doctrine. I know that if I ask one of them for advice, their counsel will be based on their prayerful understanding of the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have known a lot of good men who couldn’t quite put themselves away and allow themselves to truly be an instrument in the hand of God — for that matter, I probably AM one of those men far too often. But my dad and President Draper are true disciples of Christ, and that example means more to me than I can express.
President Hinckley is the same way, except multiplied to an unimaginable degree. He truly turned his life over to the Lord many, many years ago, and he gave himself whole-heartedly to the Church that loved him so. As a young missionary, his father told him to forget himself and get to work, and that’s what he did. From that day on, until the day he died, he truly embodied the spirit of King Benjamin as he served God by serving his fellow men. Every action he took was based on his understanding of what the Lord would have him do. He accomplished more after his 85th birthday than almost anyone else has done in a lifetime.
But here I am talking about service and accomplishments and whatnot, when really what I want to talk about is love. President Hinckley loved everyone. Literally. He had more capacity for love than I ever knew possible. When his wife died four years ago, he continued to serve us in the Church because he loved us. The two great commandments, according to the Savior, are to love God and love your neighbor. President Hinckley is a shining beacon to us all as we strive to live those commandments.
The amazing thing about President Hinckley is that he managed to bless my life in two hugely significant ways even after he passed away.
First, there’s all that stuff I wrote about my dad and President Draper. I
[And that’s all there is. I wish I could remember what was supposed to come next.]