Sen. Orrin Hatch was recognized for his service to God, family and country on Thursday, June 1, while being named the BYU Management Society’s 2017 Distinguished Utahn.
The society gives this award each year to a Utahn who exemplifies its vision to “grow moral and ethical leadership around the world.” The Utah Republican was honored at a gala in the Little America Hotel Grand Ballroom for his support of and contributions toward this goal.
“This has been one of the great evenings of my life,” Sen. Hatch said. “It’s been a privilege to be a United States senator, but it’s been a greater privilege to represent Utah.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were in attendence at the event, as well as Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé.
The gala program included talks from Elder Ballard and Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank, as well as musical performances from Kurt Bestor and Paul Cardall.
All proceeds from the evening’s event contributed to needs-based scholarships for Utah high school seniors to attend Utah colleges and universities or BYU affiliates.
In his address, Elder Ballard said one of the things he admires most about Sen. Hatch is his commitment to God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“I believe his unwavering commitment to God, his family, his church and his nation are good reasons why Sen. Orrin Hatch is a man of moral and ethical leadership, deserving this honor in every way,” he said.
Elder Ballard also praised Sen. Hatch’s wife, Elaine, for her efforts on behalf of her husband and family.
“Orrin could not have achieved what he has in the Senate without the behind-the-scenes work and support of his beloved Elaine,” Elder Ballard said. “He and his children praise her for her ability to always keep things running smoothly at home and in the family, so he could devote many hours to the work of the United States Senate.”
Anderson remarked that Sen. Hatch follows the Prophet Joseph Smith’s admonition to “concentrate all of our influence to make popular that which is right and sound.”
“It may seem strange to talk of God and politics in the same breath, but for the senator, he serves his God by serving his fellow men,” Anderson said.
Doug Wright and Deanie Wimmer of KSL acted as masters of ceremonies Thursday evening. Wright shared a personal story of a time when Sen. Hatch called him on Christmas Eve to ask how the Wrights were doing, having suffered a tragic loss in their family a few months prior.
“I told him how we were doing by crying in the phone for I don’t know how many minutes, and this good and decent man listened to me — just listened to me cry. He comforted me,” Wright said. “He has blessed my life, and that wasn’t the only time that Sen. Hatch called me to check on our family and told me that he was there for us — my entire family.”
Wimmer in her remarks said something she has always admired about Sen. Hatch is that he is a man of good contradictions, including his ability to reach across political party lines to “work for action and for solutions with people on the other side of the aisle.”
“He is the longest serving Republican senator, and yet has evolved to the point where his social media presence would rival any millennial’s,” Wimmer said. “He’s third in line to the presidency. He is a big deal, and yet … he makes others feel like they’re the big deal.”
In addition to his career as a politician, Sen. Hatch’s work as a songwriter was mentioned several times throughout the evening.
“He’s a poet and musician with a deep love of the arts,” Elder Ballard said. “He’s written the lyrics for 42 published songs, all of which celebrate God, family or country.”
In a tribute program before the gala, Sen. Hatch’s daughter Marcia spoke about her father’s kindness to others, even those who oppose or disagree with him.
“I know he believes that all children are children of our Heavenly Father and he treats them that way,” she said. “He does this, I believe, because he is striving to be like our Savior Jesus Christ. I know he has great love for Him and for His gospel and for all mankind.”
LDS Church leaders who have previously been named Distinguished Utahn by the BYU Management Society include Church President Thomas S. Monson (2004), former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), former second counselor in the First Presidency James E. Faust (2006) and General Authority Seventy Elder Robert C. Gay (2013).
The BYU Management Society was founded in 1977 by Merrill J. Bateman, who was then dean of the BYU Marriott School of Management. The organization has chapters in 30 countries and more than 50 U.S. cities.
“I’m very proud of you, Orrin,” Elder Ballard said. “I count you to be a very dear friend, and may the Lord ever bless you and your good family.”