Mor­mon leader Hales memo­ri­al­ized

Church lead­ers re­mem­ber him as wise and de­voted

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - FROM THE COVER - By Brady McCombs

SALT LAKE CITY — Mor­mon leader Robert D. Hales was memo­ri­al­ized Fri­day as a wise, quick-wit­ted and de­voted church ser­vant at a pub­lic fu­neral Fri­day in Salt Lake City.

Hales, 85, died Sun­day from com­pli­ca­tions re­lated to his age. He is the fourth top leader of The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints to die in the last three years.

Re­fer­ring to him as “Bob,” fel­low lead­ers lauded Hales’ courage in deal­ing with health is­sues that be­gan in 1991 after his first heart at­tack to help guide the reli­gion by pro­vid­ing unique in­sight and in­flu­ence.

Hales was a mem­ber of a top church gov­ern­ing body called the Quo­rum of the Twelve Apos­tles since 1994 and served in lower-tier church pan­els for two decades be­fore that. The New York City na­tive was a fighter pi­lot in the Air Force and busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive be­fore help­ing guide the church.

Rus­sell M. Nel­son, pres­i­dent of the Quo­rum, said Hales’ New York can­dor and won­der­ful sense of hu­mor will be missed by fel­low lead­ers.

“With the courage of a jet pi­lot, the tenac­ity of a cham­pion ath­lete, the hu­mil­ity and de­vo­tion of a dis­ci­ple of the Lord, El­der Hales has com­pleted his life’s mis­sion in a most ex­em­plary way,” said Nel­son, next in line to be­come church pres­i­dent. “He has passed the tests of mor­tal­ity and re­turned home with high­est honors.”

About 2,500 peo­ple at­tended the pub­lic fu­neral in­side the reli­gion’s his­tor­i­cal Taber­na­cle in Salt Lake City. The Mor­mon Taber­na­cle Choir sang hymns cho­sen by Hales’ wife and fam­ily.

Hales was born in 1932 and grew up in Long Is­land in a Mor­mon fam­ily with a father who was an artist. As a high school base­ball pitcher, he dreamed of play­ing in the ma­jors. He never re­al­ized that dream, but he did get to throw out a first pitch at a Los An­ge­les Dodgers game in 2007 as part of Mor­mon Night at Dodgers Sta­dium.

Hales earned a busi­ness de­gree from the Univer­sity of Utah and a mas­ter’s in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion from Har­vard Univer­sity.

Hales was 42 when he was called into full-time church ser­vice, leav­ing be­hind a busi­ness ca­reer. He had been pres­i­dent of the Pa­per Mate pen com­pany, as well as an ex­ec­u­tive at a tele­vi­sion firm and at the man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany that made Vase­line.

Quo­rum mem­ber Henry B. Eyring said Hales was a leg­end in the busi­ness world but that he didn’t hes­i­tate to leave his ca­reer to join church lead­er­ship when he re­ceived a call from a top leader in the reli­gion in­form­ing him of the of­fer.

Eyring said that to Hales, hear­ing that call “was the same as hear­ing the Lord’s voice.”

He worked his way up through church man­age­ment tiers un­til he was called to the Quo­rum of the Twelve Apos­tles in 1994 and joined other men who left suc­cess­ful ca­reers to fill what they con­sider a church call­ing. Other Quo­rum mem­bers in­cluded for­mer Utah Supreme Court Jus­tice Dallin H. Oaks and Di­eter F. Ucht­dorf, who was an ex­ec­u­tive with Lufthansa, the Ger­man air­line. Nel­son was a sur­geon.

Hales’ com­bi­na­tion of ex­pe­ri­ence in pri­vate busi­ness and deep roots in the reli­gion made him em­blem­atic of Mor­mon lead­ers of his era.

Hales died at a hos­pi­tal sur­rounded by fam­ily in be­tween con­fer­ence ses­sions Sun­day. Hales’ death comes after fel­low Quo­rum mem­bers Boyd K. Packer, L. Tom Perry and Richard G. Scott died in 2015. Mor­mon lead­ers in the gov­ern­ing body serve un­til they die. A re­place­ment for Hales will be cho­sen at a later date, likely at the next church con­fer­ence in April. Most new Quo­rum mem­bers come from lower-tier coun­cils.

Church Pres­i­dent Thomas S. Mon­son, 90, wasn’t in at­ten­dance at the fu­neral be­cause of his ail­ing health. He also missed last week­end’s con­fer­ence and hasn’t been go­ing reg­u­larly to meet­ings at church of­fices be­cause of lim­i­ta­tions re­lated to his age since May.

Nel­son, 93, is the man next in line for the church pres­i­dency. He ap­peared in good health again Fri­day as he de­liv­ered a speech dur­ing the fu­neral.

Dur­ing the fi­nal prayer, Quo­rum mem­ber Ron­ald A. Ras­band made note of say­ing that Hales learned dur­ing his days as a fighter pi­lot in the U.S. Air Force what be­came his per­sonal motto, “re­turn with honor.”

“We know most as­suredly that this dear ser­vant has re­turned with honor,” Ras­band said.

Robert D. Hales

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