President Hinckley says health is good

On the second day of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' biannual conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley the record straight about his health — despite major surgery earlier this year, he's doing fine.

President Hinckley, the 96-year-old leader of the Mormon church, was hospitalized for six days last winter after a cancerous growth was removed from his colon.

"My doctors have called the results miraculous," President Hinckley told the congregation at Sunday's session. "I know that the favorable results come from your many prayers on my behalf. I am deeply grateful to you."

Mormons gather in April and October to hear words of faith and inspiration from church leaders. The proceedings pack the church's 21,000 seat conference center and are broadcast worldwide via satellite and the Internet in 85 languages.

In April, President Hinckley skipped presiding over the two-day event for the first time in his 11-year presidency, saying he was conserving his energy. But his diminished role at the podium and the remark that he was "in the sunset of my life," sparked speculation that his death may be imminent.

But by late spring President Hinckley, who also suffers from a mild form of diabetes, had appeared to resume his normal, busy schedule.

In June, President Hinckley marked his 96th birthday with the dedication of a building that will bear his name at the church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo. He's also dedicated construction sites for new church temples in Draper and Sacramento, Calif., and last weekend presided over a conference for church women and girls.

Overseeing the work of a large, complex 12.5-million member church is no easy job, President Hinckley said Sunday, adding that the responsibility and stress are great.

The 15th president of the church, President Hinckley said he couldn't know how much time he has left, but that he would continue to "give my best to the task at hand."

"I feel well. My health is reasonably good," he said. "But when it is time for a successor, the transition will be smooth."

Mormon church presidents serve for life. When the president dies, the church's First Presidency — the triumvirate of leaders at the top of the church is dissolved.

Management of the church is then assumed by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the second tier of leadership, until a new president is appointed.

The succession of the next president is tied to the length of leadership service among members of the Quorum, who are all men. President Hinckley's current first counselor in the First Presidency, Thomas S. Monson, is in line to assume the role of president.

President Monson, 79, first became a member of the Quorum in 1963. In addition to serving as a counselor to President Hinckley, President Monson also served alongside two other church presidents.