Elder Robert D. Hales honored as pioneer of progress

Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver

After being honored with the 2017 Pioneers of Progress President’s Award, Elder Robert D. Hales walked — with determined effort — to the pulpit and said the greatest challenge in life is “enduring to the end.”

“I think that enduring to the end is the greatest accomplishment, to be able to give everything you have got,” said Elder Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a video featured during the program. “It is like the coaches say, ‘When you give everything on the playing field, you can’t ask for more.’ ”

The Pioneers of Progress Awards — sponsored by the Days of ’47, Inc. — were instituted in 1995 to recognize service and achievement in modern-day pioneering. Six Utahns were honored during this year’s event, held in the dowtown Salt Lake City Marriott Hotel.

KUTV reporter Daniel Woodruff introduced Elder Hales, noting the President’s Award is not given every year and goes to someone who is “eminently deserving.” (Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Most Reverend John C. Wester received the award in 2011.)

Woodruff said he asked an event organizer why Elder Hales was selected. In response the organizer lauded Elder Hales as friendly, warm, approachable, accepting, a pure gentleman and “finally someone with a tremendously positive attitude who has had to face tremendous challenges.”

Elder Hales, who will turn 85 in August, first became a General Authority in 1975, serving both as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He was Presiding Bishop from 1985 until his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in April of 1994.

In recent years, Elder Hales has dealt with serious health challenges which a 2011 statement from the Church said have “affected his mobility and endurance.”

Of his health challenges and his need to be assisted to the microphone, Elder Hales quipped, “It takes a village to get me here.”

During his remarks Elder Hales praised the other award recipients for their “gifts and talents” which strengthen the community.

Elder Hales then spoke of the pioneers who planted crops along the trail west for those who came after them to harvest.

“For me that is the ultimate pioneer,” said Elder Hales. “To be able to help one another, to lift one another, to strengthen one another, is the greatest attribute, I think, of being a pioneer.”

In addition to Elder Hales, the following were recognized with 2017 Pioneers of Progress Awards: Michelle Baker, a professor in the Department of Biology and an associate of the Ecology Center at Utah State University — science and technology; Dell Loy Hansen, founder and chief executive officer of The Wasatch Group and owner and chairman of Real Salt Lake — business and enterprise; Susan Memmott Allred, a pioneering costume designer for Utah Opera and other organizations — historic and creative arts; Kathleen Spencer-Christy, an educator assistant superintendent of the Salt Lake City School District — education, health and humanitarian assistance; and Donald Evan Moss, the late owner of Chuck-A-Rama Restaurants — Legacy Award (posthumous).

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