Friends, relatives, associates and admirers gathered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Friday, Oct. 6, for the funeral services of Elder Robert D. Hales — an apostle they remembered as a beloved husband, father and unassailable servant in God’s kingdom.
Elder Hales, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, died Sunday, Oct. 1, in between sessions of the 187th Semiannual General Conference. He was 85.
President Henry B. Eyring presided at the late morning funeral and offered the concluding talk. Other talks Friday were offered by two of Elder Hales’ associates in the Twelve — President Russell M. Nelson and Elder M. Russell Ballard.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the funeral services, which was filled to capacity in the historic Tabernacle. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed several musical selections.
President Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of his decades-long association with Robert D. Hales.
“I have observed Elder Hales, worked with him and learned from him,” he said. “We have shared experiences that stretched and strengthened us and some that tested us. I have in every instance learned from him and seen him grow in spiritual power.”
Elder Hales’ capacity to be a “perfectly loyal friend” was a spiritual gift. He was the highest sort of friend who was empowered and refined by his absolute commitment to serve the Lord.
President Eyring remembers being with his friend when they were both graduate students. Despite the grueling academic demands of school, Robert and his wife, Sister Mary Hales, decided to risk failure in class so he could accept a call to be an elders quorum president.
“In their acceptance of that call, they were perfectly loyal friends of the Master.”
Such loyalty, added President Eyring, was demonstrated over and over again in places all over the world.
“You may read or hear reports of his career as a business executive. You may hear of the fast track he ran on, from a starting job at Gillette to a leading role in company after company. But you may never hear what was said of him then, so I will tell you today: he was a legend in the business world in his own time, as a 42-year old.”
But then a phone call came from God’s prophet. He was asked to leave his business career and serve in the Church. “To Robert D. Hales and Mary Crandall Hales, hearing a call from the President of the Church was the same as hearing the Lord’s voice.”
President Eyring served as a counselor to then Bishop Hales in the Church’s Presiding Bishopric. He once again saw his friend’s “perfect loyalty” tested time and time again.
Elder Hales also faced many years of medical challenges and brushes with death. After one serious cardiac emergency his doctors offered a dire prognosis. But he survived, telling President Eyring from his hospital bed: “They made me come back.”
“I have no way to know if he was deceased for a brief time that afternoon or if it was a dream. But this I do know: he felt in a moment of intense testing that he was supposed to do something difficult, and he was loyal to the command he had received. For me, it was another moment, just one of the many I had with him, when — whatever the cost and however difficult the command — he was loyal to his family and friends, to the Lord, and to the Lord’s prophet.”
President Eyring witnessed Elder Hales’ loyalty to his mortal friends on many occasions, including many of the missionaries who served with him when he presided over a mission in England.
Elder Robert D. Hales and his wife, Mary, were given the power to keep the commandment to love the Lord and His children. Even in the days prior to his death, Elder Hales demonstrated his commitment to his apostalic calling by summoning all the strength he possessed to prepare a talk for general conference.
The Lord and the Lord’s prophet were truly counted as friends of Elder Robert D. Hales.
“This tribute to Elder Hales and Mary also bears a message of hope and comfort for their family,” President Eyring concluded. “After a short separation, the Hales family will find that loyalty to the Savior and to their covenants with God will bring them to eternal life, to live together forever in the presence of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.”
President Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, called Elder Hales “a valued member” of the Twelve for more than 23 years.
“His contributions to the entire Church and to each member of the Quorum cannot be overstated,” he said. “He was tireless in his ministry. In his 42 1⁄2 years as a General Authority, he has participated in nearly every council and committee at Church headquarters. His wisdom, insight and influence have had a profound effect on the rolling forth of the kingdom of God across the globe.”
Additionally, he “fully magnified” his apostolic calling as a special witness of the Savior.
“His associates in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will miss his New York-bred candor and his wonderful sense of humor,” said President Nelson. “In our discussions, he had a unique way of bringing perspectives that could easily escape those without his vast experience. Among other earlier and important callings, he had been a ward bishop three times and a mission president. He served in the Sunday School general presidency and, as has been stated, Presiding Bishop of the Church. For Bob’s brilliance and brotherhood, we are deeply grateful. We shall miss him.”
President Nelson said he knew his friend’s heart — literally. He stood at the side of Dr. Donald B. Doty two decades ago when Elder Hales’ was undergoing heart surgery.
“And having since served closely with Bob for so long, I know that his spiritual heart is pure. His deepest desire was always to cherish and care for Mary, to serve his precious family, members of the Church and be a courageous disciple of the Lord, whom he dearly revered.”
Elder Hales’ perseverance in the face of health struggles is legendary, he added. He carried on despite the unrelenting challenges to his health.
He never faced his challenges alone.
“Mary Crandall Hales has earned her rightful place as one of the noble and great women of this Church,” said President Nelson. “She has, with unwearyingness, supported, sustained and cared for her eternal companion. Mary, we thank you. We honor you. We love you.”
Elder Hales enlisted “the courage of a jet pilot, the tenacity of a champion athlete” in his service to the Lord.
“He has passed the tests of mortality and returned home with highest honors,” said President Nelson. “His apostolic responsibilities will continue there, on the other side of the veil. There he will labor with the same resolve that he so ably demonstrated in this life.”
In his remarks, Elder Ballard spoke of the 40-plus years he worked alongside his friend, Robert Hales, in various assignments and committees.
“Elder Hales' quick wit and sometimes very funny comments will be missed,” he said. “His wise counsel and his in-depth insights regarding the issues we face in the Church today will also be greatly missed by all of us.”
Both Elder Hales and Elder Ballard were products of the University of Utah and earned their professional stripes in the business world.
Elder Ballard used a quote from Elder Hales’ son, Stephen Hales, to demonstrate Robert Hales leadership capacity: “He is really good at taking a problem apart and building a solution. I think he has got a particular talent for getting things done through other people. He gives others the responsibility for solving their own problems and the power to do what needs to be done. When the problem is solved, he gives them the credit. He thrives on helping to get things done anonymously.”
Elder Ballard noted his “wonderful memories” of Elder Hales’ parents, Rulan and Vera Hales, and his wife, Mary.
“Mary, you are the light in his life and your support and love made possible the remarkable things he has accomplished,” he said. “You have always been there for him, your sons, your grandchildren and other family members.”
Elder Hales’ health challenges allowed him to rely upon the Lord. He was grateful for Christ’s atoning sacrifice and the goodness of God.
Elder Ballard shared a 2004 quote from his friend and hero that defines Elder Hales’ legacy of faith during difficult times:
“When the challenges of mortality come, and they come for all of us, it may seem hard to have faith and hard to believe. At these times, only faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement can bring us peace, hope, and understanding. Only faith that He suffered for our sakes will give us the strength to endure to the end.”
The invocation and benediction were offered Elder Neil L. Andersen and Elder Ronald A. Rasband, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
In his brief comments while conducting, President Uchtdorf expressed condolences to Sister Hales and her family. "We love you. You have been and will continue to be in our prayers."
President Uchtdorf also expressed thanks to Elder Hales' longtime secretary, Mary Berrey.
President Henry B. Eyring was expected to conduct Friday's graveside service at the Bountiful City Cemetery. Elder Hales' son, Stephen C. Hales, was asked to dedicate the grave.