“Beloved” is a word that tends to be thrown around a lot when someone dies.
In the case of Mormon church president Gordon Hinckley, the adjective seems to be accurate.
The 97-year-old died Jan. 27 in his apartment at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquarters in Salt Lake City, having become its longest-living, most-traveled leader.
He was a onetime aspiring journalist who instead took a job with the church’s publicity arm after he returned from a two-year mission to Great Britain.
Hinckley masterfully capitalized upon the law-abiding, clean-living aspects of Mormon life to help overcome the church’s serious doctrinal differences with members of other Christian denominations.
This same quality worked when Hinckley was preaching to the choir.
“He had such a cute personality and was able to talk to people about what the church is about,” church member Roxanne Robson Tidwell told a reporter.
The number of Latter-day Saints temples more than doubled during Hinckley’s 13 years at the helm, and the church gained more than 3 million members worldwide.
Arizona Mormon church spokesman Don Evans may have captured Hinckley’s appeal the best:
“He had an optimism that sort of flew in the face of all the stuff that was going on in the world.”