New apostle aware of heightened role

The year was 1944. Robert D. Hales, a brand new deacon, was sitting on the front row of the chapel in Flushing, N.Y., when he rose to bear his testimony for the first time. As he spoke, his eyes filled with tears and his voice choked with emotion.

Little has changed. "The Spirit was so strong that tears welled up in my eyes as I bore my testimony then; the same witness brings tears to my eyes today," said Elder Hales, who was sustained as a member of the Council of the Twelve during the Saturday afternoon session of the 164th Annual General Conference on April 2.At a news conference immediately after the session in which he was sustained and during the closing session on April 3 when he spoke for the first time in conference as a new apostle, he reaffirmed his testimony of Jesus Christ and the gospel restored to earth by a divinely appointed prophet. Although he has become more skilled in controlling his tears, he said, the emotion the 61-year-old apostle felt was the same as that of the 12-year-old deacon.

Elder Hales has worried about publicly showing his emotions in a world where "real men" don't show emotion. On one occasion, after accepting a call from President Harold B. Lee, Elder Hales asked that he might be blessed not to show emotion in public. President Lee's response was, "When you really have to worry is when you don't show emotion."

Sitting in their living room in Salt Lake City, Elder Hales and his wife, Mary Crandall Hales, spoke with the Church News a couple of days after he was sustained in conference to his new calling. He is not new to full-time Church service. He was Presiding Bishop of the Church at the time he was called as an apostle, and has been a General Authority since 1975. (Please see accompanying box.)

When he was first called as a General Authority, he said: "I dedicate my life and service, and as Paul declared in First Corinthians, `and my speech and preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

" `That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.' " (1 Cor. 2:4-5.)

"I say that again," Elder Hales told the Church News. "My commitment has not changed."

Consecration and commitment have been part of Elder and Sister Hales' lives ever since they married in 1953. Elder Hales said the decision to accept the call to serve as a General Authority wasn't nearly as difficult as the one he had to make when he was called as an elders quorum president when he was working on a master's degree at Harvard Business School. "I was concerned about my grades, and was afraid I was going to fail if I took time out for such a Church calling," he reflected. "But Mary and I pondered the call and said, We can do them both - school and Church service.' The next day I came home from school to find that Mary had taken some 2-by-4s and wall board and walled me off a little office in the raw basement of our apartment. She quietly said,That's your study room and office. You can get good grades and be a good elders quorum president.'

"That's when I put myself in the Lord's hands and trusted He would help me do whatever I needed to do."

Over the years, Elder and Sister Hales have had many occasions to employ their trust, not only in the Lord but also in each other. As he advanced in his career as an executive with national and international corporations, they moved to England, Germany and Spain, as well as many parts of the United States, including New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Albany, Ga., and Big Spring, Texas. They accepted Church callings in each location.

When they made the first of their many moves, Sister Hales gained a better understanding of the kind of man she married. "I learned early in our marriage that my husband expected me to think for myself and to make decisions that were important to our family," she said. "In the business world, when the husband is transferred, he is rushed out of town - in our case, out of the country - and the wife is left to take care of everything else to move the family. The first time we moved overseas, he said, You will need to finish selling the house and car, make the flight plans and take care of all the business that needs to be done before leaving the country.' I had never done anything remotely like that. I told him,You're the business graduate; you tell me what to do.' He replied, `You're capable. You can do it.'

"We sat down and worked out some guidelines and goals, and I handled everything from there. I'm so grateful he encouraged me, that he had that kind of confidence in me. When he delegates something, he delegates it totally. Whatever decision I made, he accepted. For me, that has been very beneficial. It's a much more rewarding relationship when one isn't doing the labor while the other provides all the brains.

"He has a wonderful sense of humor and is fun. He is the nicest person I've ever known and has a pure heart.

"One of the qualities that impressed me when we were dating is that he listened to me. My feelings mattered to him, and they still matter. We don't always agree, and we have our own minds, but I know he listens and values my opinion. That is very important to me."

More important, Sister Hales said, Elder Hales listens to the Spirit. "I learned a long time ago to not stand in the way when he has an impression he should go somewhere or call on someone," she said. "When we were living in England, we were having a dinner party. He called from the office and said he would be late getting home, that he felt he needed to stop by and see an elderly sister in the ward. He was her home teacher.

"I said, You know we're having company at dinner.' He said,I know. I'll get there as soon as I can.' This elderly sister did not have a telephone. She had learned that day that she had cancer, and she had to decide whether to be operated on or to let nature take its course. She knelt down and prayed, and decided she was going to ask her home teacher to help her decide. She had no way to contact her home teacher. She just prayed he would come by and help her.

"Bob was at work when he got the strong feeling that he should go see her. They prayed together, and she decided to let nature take its course. She died within a few weeks. The doctors said the operation would have done her absolutely no good. I thought, `What if I had said something to Bob about coming straight home, that we had obligations to our guests?' I've never wanted to stand in his way."

Elder Hales, after having listened to his wife recount that experience, said: "She has always been a great support to me. She often quotes a Quaker proverb: `Thee lift me, and I lift thee and we'll ascend together.' It's team effort lifting and strengthening one another; you give and take. You grow together. That's why we're told to pray and study together. If you pray together in the morning before you leave the house, you leave in peace. If you pray together before you go to bed and you've talked things over, you're never going to have little things become big things; you'll catch little problems before they become threatening to your relationship."

Elder Hales looks to his parents, John Rulon and Marie Holbrook Hales, as models for building a strong, happy family. He is the youngest of three children.

"My parents loved each other dearly," he said. "We had great respect for our mother and father. When I think of my mother and father, I think of them as workers in the temple. We spent a lot of time together. Every Saturday my father worked with us in the yard. Our parents went to Church with us. We prayed together, we studied the scriptures. In the morning, when we got up, we would go and sit against their bed in our pajamas and listen to them read the scriptures. We just went in and joined them. There was no pressure for us to do that; we just did it."

Elder Hales often speaks of great lessons he learned from his parents. "My father taught me respect for the priesthood," he said. He described how his father helped him, as an Aaronic Priesthood youth responsible for helping prepare the sacrament, clean the trays until they sparkled. "When I passed the sacrament, I knew we had participated in making the sacrament ordinance a little more sacred," he said.

Elder Hales spoke of family vacations to Church historical sites, such as to the Sacred Grove where the boy Joseph Smith had prayed to Heavenly Father and beheld God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and to Hill Cumorah where Joseph was led to the golden plates that were later translated into the Book of Mormon. "Father took me to the Susquehanna River, where, in 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic Priesthood from a visitation of John the Baptist. Father explained that the restoration of the priesthood was one of the most significant events in this dispensation."

Elder Hales vividly remembers the day he was baptized in Brooklyn. "It was the only font in all of New York," he said. "We lived on Long Island and came across the island for me to be baptized. I remember coming out of the font and having the Holy Ghost conferred upon me. I was still wet. Mother sat me down on a little metal folding chair and asked me what I had felt. She asked if I knew what I was experiencing. She wanted to make me aware that what I was feeling was the Holy Ghost. That was the first real lesson I had about the Spirit. I remember it as if it happened yesterday."

His mother also taught him about welfare principles, knowledge that became vital as he was called to serve as a bishop three times, as a branch president and as Presiding Bishop. "One of the conditions of getting my driver license was that I would drive Mother, who was Relief Society president, to distribute welfare to the poor and the needy," he said.

Elder Hales is deeply sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. And he is aware of the heightened role he has as the newest apostle, as a special witness of the Savior. "The 46th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants talks of gifts. My testimony is a gift that was given to me. There has never been a time when I have doubted.

"Having been given this gift, it is now my responsibility to share my testimony. `Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.' " (3 Ne. 5:13.)

Additional Information Elder Robert D. Hales

Family: Born Aug. 24, 1932, in New York City to John Rulon and Marie Holbrook Hales. Married Mary Elene Crandall in Salt Lake Temple, on June 10, 1953. Parents of two sons, Stephen and David; eight grandchildren.

Education: Bachelor's degree from University of Utah, master's degree from Harvard Business School.

Military service: U.S. Air Force, flying F84 and F100 aircraft in the strategic and tactical air commands.

Employment: Business executive with four national and international corporations, living and working in England, Germany and Spain, as well as many parts of the United States, including New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Albany, Ga., and Big Spring, Texas.

Church service: Presiding Bishop of the Church, April 1985-April 1994; member of First Quorum of the Seventy, 1976-1985; Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, 1975-76; former regional representative, executive administrator of Europe and the Central European district, president of England London Mission, counselor in Boston Massachusetts Stake presidency, bishop in Boston, Chicago and Frankfurt, branch president in Albany, Ga., and counselor in Seville, Spain.

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