Yesterday evening our beloved prophet and president of the church passed away peacefully at his home in Salt Lake City, surrounded by his family. President Hinckley was such a special man, and at 97, he kept going and going, so I naively thought he would just continue to do so. His daughter Virginia Hinckley Pearce was one of the speakers at a women's conference I attended in downtown Hartford last fall and she said at the time that he was doing pretty well health-wise. But of course we all must pass on to the next phase of life at some point. He seemed strong enough when he spoke at our last General Conference in the fall, and I remember that he said he hoped to be with us at the next Conference in April. Now he will be there in spirit instead.
President Hinckley has been prophet since 1995, when I was in high school. I saw him at two conferences in Massachusetts and it was such a good experience to see him speak in person. The audience was always especially quiet and reverent when he spoke, sensing something special about this chosen man and what he had to say. The last time Peter and I saw him was in June 2004 at Radio City Music Hall in New York, where there was a big celebration with the youth for the opening of the Manhattan Temple. He was such a well-traveled leader who spread temples and the gospel across the earth. He did so much for other people and he will be greatly missed. I'm happy that he is now reunited with his beloved wife Marjorie, who passed away in 2004. What a wonderful reception he must have received when he entered heaven. It's really a nice thought to have and brings much comfort and peace to know that he is very happy now.
President Hinckley will still be a part of my daily life. For years I have read a quote from him every morning from a little book called Stand a Little Taller, and it helps me to start my day out right. My favorite teachings of his were about the importance of living with faith and having a strong family. He was very encouraging about the fact that we just need to keep trying to do our best, day by day, however small it may be, and we will be blessed for that. His strong faith and testimony have been a great source of inspiration to me and have helped to strengthen my own testimony. I loved reading his book Standing for Something, and I wish everyone both in and out of the church would read it and benefit from its excellent guidance. Our society and our world would be so much better if people followed his wonderful, God-given counsel.