"Was his passing unexpected?" President Gordon B. Hinckley asked while speaking at the funeral of Elder David B. Haight, who lived longer than any apostle in this dispensation. President Hinckley then answered, "No, when one is almost 98 years of age you know that the end can be imminent. But oh, how we shall miss him. How we will miss his sound judgment, his wise and convincing observations. How we will miss his quick humor, and most of all his stirring testimony."
Elder Haight's funeral was held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Thursday, Aug. 5. He died July 31, just 10 days after another member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Neal A. Maxwell.
Also speaking at a funeral for one of their fellow apostles for the second time in nine days were President Hinckley's counselors, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, and President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve. Speaking on behalf of the family were Elder Haight's son Robert P. Haight and son-in-law, Elder Jon M. Huntsman Sr., an Area Authority Seventy.
In his address, President Hinckley gave perspective to the intimate and personal relationship he had with Elder David B. Haight as he described the "deep and somber feeling of loneliness" he felt at Elder Haight's passing.
"He was the eldest among us, and I felt I had an older brother to whom I could look. Now he is gone. I am left as the oldest by seven years among the Brethren. . . .
"I feel I have walked much with death in recent times. It has been an interesting and sanctifying experience," President Hinckley continued. "It has brought a new perspective on life. Somehow there comes an added dimension to Alma's phrase, 'the great plan of happiness.' "
President Hinckley recounted his association with Elder Haight during a crucial time in Elder Haight's life.
"In the early Sunday evening of Jan. 16, 1989," President Hinckley said, "I returned from a conference in Portland, Ore. The phone rang as I stepped in my home. It was a nurse at the LDS Hospital emergency room who said the paramedics had just brought him in. He was unconscious. I told her I would come. . . .
"(David) Sayer (of Church security) anointed him and I sealed the anointing. I do not remember all I said, but I felt impressed to bless him that his life would be spared, that he had work yet to do."
President Hinckley described how the doctors soon arrived and diagnosed a very serious aortic aneurism, saying that emergency surgery was required.
Four months later, in May, Elder Haight rejoined his brethren for their weekly meeting in the temple. President Hinckley said, "I hope that I am not stepping beyond the bounds of propriety in repeating a few of his words as they were recorded on that occasion. Said he: 'I am here as the result of the faith and your prayers in my behalf and the blessing of the Lord.
" 'I am grateful for the blessing I received from President Hinckley. I did not know about it until later as I had lapsed into unconsciousness. . . . I had the feeling of being in the presence of holy personages. I talked to them and pleaded with them. I was taught by vision or inspiration or revelation as a result of my pleadings,' " continued President Hinckley, quoting Elder Haight, who described scenes from the Savior's life, including the suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane.
President Hinckley said of Elder Haight's illness and experience, "That traumatic and remarkable event occurred 15 years ago. How marvelous has been his influence, how wonderful his work during those 15 years. He has traveled widely over the earth."
Turning his thoughts to Elder Haight's wife, Ruby, he said, "They have been a remarkable pair. Both lost their fathers when they were children. Each was reared by a mother of great faith and who made great sacrifices."
President Hinckley continued, "While David's testimony of this work was rock solid, there was nothing of self-righteousness or arrogance about the man. He recognized that each of the human family is a child of God, and that we are therefore all brothers and sisters. . . .
"David Haight was an apostle. He knew his place and his unique responsibility as one who testifies of the living reality of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a disciple of the Master, inviting others to walk with him in the footsteps of the Redeemer of mankind. . . .
"And so David, my dear older brother and wise and kind and gentle friend, farewell for a season. May the Father of us all keep us strong in living in such a way that we who have known your association here may be worthy of that association in the life beyond."
President Monson, in quoting 1 Samuel 9:6, described his "longtime, treasured associate in the work of the Lord" as "an honorable man — even a man of God."
"There was no chink in his armor; there was no guile in his soul; there was no flaw in his character. Elder Haight loved the Lord with all his heart and soul and served Him with all his might to the very end of his mortal life."
President Monson, speaking with his customary warmth, noted that ever by the side of the beloved elder apostle "has been — and eternally will be — his beloved Ruby. . . . David and Ruby were partners in life; they will be partners through all eternity."
Continuing, President Monson recounted how on one occasion he and Elder Haight had gone to the mortuary viewing of a prominent person who had passed away. After leaving the more crowded room, the elder apostle walked across the hall to another viewing with only a few people in attendance.
"He said to the grieving widow, 'Hello, I'm Elder David Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve. I came from across the hall to extend to you my condolences and my sincere prayer for you in your bereavement.' The widow was comforted because this noble servant of the Lord, David B. Haight, had taken the time to show he cared. He had never before met her, but he had brought peace to her soul."
President Faust, during his remarks, spoke of his personal loss as he noted that until his call to the First Presidency, he had sat between Elder Haight and Elder Maxwell in the Quorum of the Twelve for 14 years.
President Faust remembered Elder Haight's "great personal charm."
"It was a blessing any time to receive his warm greeting with a twinkle in his eye and the wonder of his engaging smile," said President Faust.
Speaking of Elder Haight's life, which spanned almost a full century and reached into another, President Faust called his associate "intelligent, hardworking and enterprising."
But his greatest work, said President Faust, was among people as a devoted disciple of Christ.
"The length and breadth of his ministry was so great that it is not, and may never be, fully known. Thousands and thousands of lives have been directly touched by this unique, caring man. He was uncompromising in doing what was right and encouraging others to do the same. His outreach extended to every person he met, the humble as well as the great."
President Packer directed his comments to Elder Haight's grandchildren.
"You may not live as long as your grandfather did, but all of you can know as much as he knew about the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, about the Atonement, and about the Resurrection," he said.
President Packer challenged the Haight grandchildren to study the messages of salvation found in the Book of Mormon, saying, "You can learn from the scriptures and from the teachings of the prophets — and (Elder Haight) was one of them — much about what will happen to you when your time comes to leave mortality."
Grandfather Haight, he added, is in paradise continuing the work he did on earth.
"Study your grandfather's sermons," President Packer counseled. "Read the promises made to you in your patriarchal blessing. Draw strength from the blessings you receive from your fathers and from your grandfathers and from the leaders."
Elder Huntsman referred to Elder Haight as "my hero and trusted friend." But his relationship was closer than that, he explained, telling the story of "the beautiful Haight girl who was only 12 years of age" when, in 1951, young Jon, then 13, hitchhiked to stake conference to "glance a peek at" her. Her father became president of the Palo Alto California Stake at that conference, and "the beautiful Haight girl," Karen, later became Jon's wife.
Speaking of his father-in-law, Elder Huntsman said, "I reported to him last week that only a week before his seatmate in the Twelve, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, passed away, one of our sons and I visited Elder Maxwell. . . . Elder Maxwell made the following statement, 'I would rather be in the starting lineup on the other side than sitting on the bench here.' Elder Haight responded quickly with a twinkle in his eye. 'So would I.' Today, they are on the starting lineup and seatmates once again in serving the Lord."
Elder Haight's son Robert P. Haight shared some thoughts about his father and gave thanks to the members of the Quorum of the Twelve and everyone else around the world who has shown special love and devotion to him.
He also spoke of a trip on July 24 when he and his wife, Dorothy, drove his parents to his father's beloved hometown of Oakley, Idaho. Brother Haight recalled that as they crossed the state line from Utah, his father "broke into song with 'Here we have Idaho.' In Oakley, Dad was able to speak to the members assembled in the Oakley stake center and there testified for the last time a powerful testimony of the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ."
The prayers were offered by two of Elder Haight's brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Henry B. Eyring. The music was sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: "How Great the Wisdom and the Love," "O Divine Redeemer" and "The Morning Breaks."