8 a.m. 31 January, 2008
Most days working at Church HQs, I long to be in Provo. This morning was a singular event of contrast as I exercised the privilege of attending the family/employee pre-viewing for President Hinckley.
We entered the north main door, went through security (where the metal flashlight I used to make it to the bus stop this morning remained undetected in my pocket.) I was thinking—what are you afraid of? Is the Prophet’s life in danger?
We went directly into the mezzanine level of the auditorium and walked behind the chairs all the way to the west side, back out into lobby , up the escalator to the third level, past the huge Book of Mormon mural, past the Steinway 9 foot grand piano (which almost got me fired), past the window waterfall, to the east side of the building to the President’s Hall where the busts of past presidents stand guard. Two temple square sister missionaries, one from Korea, were ahead of me.
The flow was walking-pace (later won’t be) and I was still wondering where he lay, when after passing a very large floral display, I realized without warning I was there. His coffin was in the center of the room, his head facing the East (symbolic?) His son Richard was standing nearby. Small groups in quiet conversation ringed the perimeter.
He looked so small. Similar but different than the man I had seen at the pulpit on so many occasions. Dressed in his temple white suit white shirt, white tie, an immaculately pressed pleated robe that almost escaped notice, his hands were resting peacefully and naturally. (Will he need those glasses in the next life? My irreverent personality surfaces momentarily.)
Having purchased slate pedestals, furniture, art, stone and having been in that room numerous times, this was so different.
My perpetual and often inappropriate humor is subdued as I realize all-at-once that this room was now a sacred spot—like a newly-christened ship and that I was passing the remains and probably the present spirit of nobility. Simple and majestic. A quick greeting and hug to my long-term friend, Craig Dimond, head church photographer, standing opposite the coffin embracing his camera.
We exited back into the auditorium, walking quickly, somberly, pensively. Back to the west side, out, down the escalator, out door 13 to the plaza.
I spoke with Mark Seethaler, the accounts payable manager, as we walked, listening to him explain his blood ties to Marjorie Hinckley. Thinking about how Ed Burgoyne who did the GA travel for years relate noting how weary President Hinckley appeared as he returned on a lengthy journey culminating with Africa. He said, “President, you look tired. You really ought to consider slowing down.” The response was uncharacteristic as he snapped back, “Why? The Lord has as much for me to do on the other side of the veil as he does here. What difference does it make?” (Like Isa 55-his thoughts and vision are higher—a different plane than mine will ever be.)
Getting off the bus this morning, I glanced up at his condo on the top floor of Gateway, noticing that all was dark. In my mind, I walked through the apartment, room by room, and glanced at the phone which was being installed by his bed while I was there in 1995. That personal number, etched into my brain, never to be forgotten, now silent—waiting the transition—the weight of the mantle of the prophet soon to rest on the future occupant—an already public persona to be ushered into those same surroundings, not of his choosing, for the sake of security—a casualty of an expanding marvelous work and a wonder.