Elder Sackley eulogized at funeral as 'fearless defender of the faith'

Elder Robert E. Sackley of the Seventy, who died Feb. 22 in Australia, was remembered at funeral services Feb. 27 in Salt Lake City as a valiant soldier of Jesus Christ, a fearless defender of the faith, an untiring missionary, and a loving husband, father and grandfather.

At the time of his death, Elder Sackley, 70, was first counselor in the Pacific Area presidency. He died in a town about an hour's drive south of Brisbane, in the general vicinity of where he was born and grew up in Lismore, New South Wales, Australia. He and his wife, Marjorie Orth Sackley, immigrated to Canada in 1954. Memorial services were held in Brisbane on Feb. 22, and in Sydney, Feb. 23. (See Feb. 27 Church News.)President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, presided over and conducted the funeral in the Salt Lake Eagle Gate Stake Center. President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, addressed the service, as did Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve and Elder Marion D. Hanks, an emeritus member of the Seventy.

Prayers were offered by Elders Jack H. Goaslind and Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy. The funeral was attended by a number of General Authorities from among the Council of the Twelve, the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric.

One of Elder Sackley's daughters, Carolyn Woodruff, offered the eulogy, and another daughter, Jennifer Gardiner, spoke. Music for the service was provided by an ensemble from the Tabernacle Choir, with Jerold Ottley directing and John Longhurst accompanying.

President Hinckley read messages of condolence from General Authorities and Church leaders sent from around the world to Elder Sackley's widow and children: Carolyn Joan Woodruff, Jennifer Anne Gardiner, Kenneth Robert Sackley, Peter Edward Sackley and Wayne Mark Sackley.

President Hinckley described Elder Sackley as a man who was solid in his appearance and commitment. He noted Elder Sackley's posture was one of strength. "It made you feel you couldn't shove him around. He couldn't be pushed about," President Hinckley observed. "He was tough, but his was a certain kind of gentle toughness, a toughness that would not stand for any equivocation."

President Hinckley referred to Elder Sackley's experiences as a commando in the Australian forces during World War II. He and 10 others were ambushed on New Guinea about 30 miles behind enemy lines; more than half his patrol was killed. He was seriously wounded. After he was rescued, he was carried on a litter for six days by New Guinea tribesmen to an American encampment, from which he was transported to a hospital in Australia.

"It was a terrible experience he had," President Hinckley reflected. He commented on the "helping hands" who plucked the wounded soldier from the river, and his having been "saved by those who had love in that great conflict, at the risk of their own lives."

"That," added President Hinckley, "was the nature of Elder Sackley's service." He quoted John 12:24-26, in which Jesus said: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour."

President Hinckley said: "Elder Sackley in that wonderful way developed the capacity to lose himself in this cause which we call the gospel of Jesus Christ to reach out in salvation of others. In the process of that service he has passed on to a reward which will be certain and sure and wonderful."

President Monson said Elder Sackley loved hymns, and the one that perhaps epitomized him best is the one that contains a declaration of devotion: "I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord . . . I'll say what you want me to say . . . I'll be what you want me to be."

"Robert Sackley went where the Lord wanted him to go," President Monson affirmed. "Wherever the assignment happened to be, Elder and Sister Sackley were ready to go in an instant. I want the family to know that his assignments took him to the bloody battlefields of war, to the hallowed halls of holy temples, and to cherished chapels throughout the world. He always went where the Lord wanted him.

"And he always said what the Lord wanted him to say. His testimony has been borne with fervor, and with truth that sparkled in his eyes. Many are those who have embraced the gospel because of that testimony, which he bore so freely, so fervently, so far away.

"Elder Sackley has been and always will be what the Lord wanted him to be: a noble son of God, a devoted husband, a valiant warrior in the cause of truth.

"As I think of his exploits, his courage, his suffering in that great Pacific conflict, that cauldron of difficulty, and note what he accomplished, I think of the words of John Bunyan, who, in Pilgrim's Progress,' wrote:My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My works and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his battles who now will be my rewarder. So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side. . . .' "

President Monson said if he should choose one scripture to personify Elder Sackley, it would be the one in which the Savior said of Nathanael, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" (John 1:47.)

"There was no guile in Elder Sackley," President Monson said. "And when the Lord sees him from afar, coming to his heavenly home, I testify that He will recognize that here, in Robert Sackley, is one who lived a statement from the Apostle Paul: `I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.' " (2 Tim. 4:7.)

Elder Nelson commented on the opening hymn sung at the funeral, "Hark All Ye Nations," a number associated with missionary work. "The family would want a song with mood more rousing than sad, and with scope more global than provincial," he said. "Elder and Sister Sackley lived with a broad international perspective, having served in so many countries and continents of the earth."

Elder Nelson said: "If we contemplate the throngs who live upon the isles of the sea, in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, in Australia, and in the countries of Africa whose lives have been enlightened by Bob and Marjorie Sackley, we can appreciate, at least in part, the powerful influence of his worldwide ministry.

"Wherever he labored, Elder Sackley was equally at home among the humble or the noble of the earth. He and Sister Sackley were always ready for any assignment."

Elder Nelson described Elder Sackley's death as "a transfer from this world of labor to the next . . . a quick relocation."

Elder Hanks spoke of Elder and Sister Sackley's missionary work, particularly in the Philippines where Elder Sackley presided over two missions. "They were missionaries every day of their assignment, constantly on the road building and establishing the Church, as the Lord said of Alma," Elder Hanks related. "Elder Sackley went about establishing the Church with wisdom and warmth, and vision and responsibility."

He said Elder Sackley never mentioned the number of baptisms, but one example of his success as a leader is that from one mission five stakes were created. The Sackleys not only influenced lives of new converts but also helped bring back into Church activity many who had been less active. "In significant numbers, they came back into the fold or into the fold," Elder Hanks said. "Families were joined together, associations renewed, friendships and faith restored. In this Robert Sackely and his wife were uniquely gifted and remarkably powerful."

The spirit and method of missionary service, Elder Hanks said, is described in the Book of Mormon telling of Christ's visit to the American continent. In 3 Nephi, the Savior declared He is the light, the example, and instructed the people to do as they had seen Him do. The Savior told them to not cast the unworthy out of their synagogues or places of worship, but to continue to minister to them, "for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me . . . and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them." (See 3 Ne. 18:16-33.)

"Elder Sackley, with Sister Sackley, followed that light and walked that path, and were good examples themselves over a wonderful lifetime of devotion and contribution," Elder Hanks said.

"His guiding star was to seek first the kingdom and to do the will of the Father and not his own. This was a strong-minded man. He was deliberately and prayerfully and humbly a disciple. . . . This was a man of great courage. He was a commando. But he had another and even greater kind of courage: moral courage in the face of the enemy of all righteousness. I really believe he feared no man, and coveted nothing but the chance to serve."

After the service in the stake center, Wayne M. Sackley dedicated his father's grave in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

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