Gordon B. Hinckley, 97, Dies; President of Mormon Church
Monday, January 28, 2008; 2:21 AM
Gordon B. Hinckley, 97, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and an energetic grandson of pioneers who led his denomination during a period of great expansion in membership and facilities, died last night at his home in Salt Lake City, a church spokeswoman said.
In 1995, after many years in leadership posts in what is often called the Mormon church, Hinckley became president. He was the 15th person to hold that post.
The president of the church is held in special regard by the members, who see him as a prophet of God "in the same way they revered the prophets of scripture," according to material posted on the church's Web site.
Hinckley underwent cancer surgery in 2006, but church spokeswoman Kim Farah said last night that "the cause [of his death] was incident to his age."
Despite his age, Farah said, Hinckley had remained active and was coming in to the office as recently as last week.
The church said it did not expect a successor to be formally chosen until after Hinckley's funeral "within the next few days."
During Hinckley's tenure in what is a lifetime post, the number of temples around the world grew rapidly; from 56 in 1999, the figure doubled in three years, a result of what the church said was his "personal drive and direction." Temples are special structures, reserved for certain sacraments and distinguished from the many places used for Sunday worship.
Hinckley's years at the head of the church also coincided with a growth in membership from a reported 9 million to what Farah said was more than 13 million.
In 2004, President Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
The church was founded in the United States in 1830 and has been described as perhaps the most successful religion or denomination to begin on U.S. soil.
"Of course we knew this time was coming," Farah said last night. "But it is still a time of profound sadness for the members of the church.
"President Hinckley was beloved, but it is also a time for us to reflect on his remarkable life and accomplishments," Farah said.